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112th Congress to Convene; Robert Gibbs Stepping Down: New Royal Wedding Details; Republicans Ready to Rule the House

Aired January 5, 2011 - 11:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Live from Studio 7, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The big stories for this Wednesday, January 5th,

The 112th Congress opens for business one hour from now. Republicans will formally take control of the House of Representatives. Ohio Congressman John Boehner will become Speaker. That ends the four-year tenure of the first female Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

Delaware police have found a former Pentagon official, John Wheeler's car, inside a Wilmington parking garage. Wheeler reportedly stumbled into a different garage two days before his body was found at a landfill. The attendant says he was disoriented, wasn't wearing an overcoat, and had one of his shoes in his hand. Police want answers.


LT. MARK FARRALL, NEWARK, DELAWARE, POLICE: We haven't located the crime scene yet, so that's another challenge. It's trying to figure out where this happened, which hopefully, one we can find, if we can find the location where this happened, that will lead us hopefully to the killer.


WHITFIELD: A bullish jobs report today. Payroll processor ADP says new private sector jobs grew by 297,000 in December. That's triple the November number. Analysts say the economy may finally be ready to create enough new jobs to make a dent in the unemployment rate.

And there are two winning tickets in the $355 million Mega Millions lottery. They were sold in Idaho and Washington State. The winners will split the jackpot.

Stick around. We'll tell you why the winning numbers aren't lost on sci-fi fans.

And we're about one hour away from the start of the 112th Congress, as I mentioned. Republicans are ready to rule the House after their midterm election victories.

And as you can see, Democrats have dominated the House since 1933. Republicans were in charge just 14 years during that period. But they are back in control, vowing to slash spending and reduce the size of government.

Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar is covering the personal power shifts on Capitol Hill.

Brianna, set the scene for us. What happens when the new Congress convenes?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, things are going to kick off here in about an hour, when the House begins their business today. And at that moment, Fredricka, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will no longer be the Speaker. We're going to be seeing a lot of pomp and circumstance as we watch, ultimately, what I think is going to be a pretty interesting moment that plays out over the next couple of hours, once the House begins their business.

We're going to see Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing Speaker, introduce the incoming Speaker, John Boehner. And he is actually going to be sworn in by the dean of the House, who happens to be a Democrat, the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, John Dingell of Michigan. And then we're going to be seeing all of these incoming members of Congress who are going to be sworn in.

There is going to be a whole lot of pomp and circumstance, but shortly after that they're really going to get down to business, and we're going to be seeing some votes here over the next couple of days -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boy, just four years ago, it was Boehner who was handing over the gavel to Nancy Pelosi. And so give me an idea -- what's the first order of business once Boehner gets that gavel, becomes the new House Speaker?

KEILAR: One of the first orders -- I think one of the most significant orders of business is what we're going to be seeing on Friday. This is right out of the gate. We're going to be seeing House Republicans challenging President Obama on health care reform.

This is going to be a procedural vote, but it's going to lay the groundwork certainly for next week, which is a vote on the outright repeal. Not expected, of course, to clear the Senate, certainly would never get past the president's veto pen.

But today we're also going to be seeing Boehner, even before -- even before he swears in members of the new Congress, he's going to be delivering some remarks. He's given us a preview of those. His office has released excerpts.

And one of the things he's going to touch on, Fred, is just to say that this election has been a reminder that the power Americans give us is temporary, and that what we have we owe to them. So, certainly touching on something Republicans have said, which is that this wasn't an election so much about them, but they feel it's an election about Democrats. And they are just sort of talking about what a temporary situation it is that they need to remember so that they can hold on to power -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill.

Thanks so much. We'll be checking back with you throughout the afternoon.

Meantime, this day is far-reaching. A new Congress will be embracing the new media. Soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner plans to stream the opening day, pomp and circumstance, live on Facebook. Boehner's director of digital media calls the move unprecedented for the House of Representatives. Facebook users will be able to offer comments and feedback as well.

So stay with CNN as incoming Speaker John Boehner ushers in Republican control of the House. The gavel comes down, and our coverage begins at the top of the hour, noon Eastern. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will be joined by "The Best Political Team on Television."

Meantime, not far from Capitol Hill, at the White House, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, and a close confidante to President Obama, has confirmed to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that he is indeed stepping down. The departure comes amid news of some other big changes to the West Wing staff.

Suzanne Malveaux joining us now with more on this -- Suzanne.


Well, Robert Gibbs is ultimately a multitasker. We were able to e- mail back and forth while all this was going on.

I went up to his office. They closed the door. And he was able to confirm that, yes, he's met with his staff, that he is stepping down.

At the same time, he was able to get "The New York Times" on the phone with the president, President Obama, to get reaction to all of this. So he has been very effective as a press secretary.

But he says that he's leaving after the State of the Union Address. They have not chosen his replacement yet. We expect to learn that in a couple of weeks or so.

He's going to be taking on a role of speaking and advising outside of the White House. He will be on cable television he says quite a bit. So we're not going to miss him all that much. But he's definitely taking on a different role.

I mean, this has been six years or so, since 2004, when he was part of President Obama then running for the Senate. And he has been with the president ever since.

He is very loyal. He obviously is an advocate to the president, as well as the press. You might recall it was just recently, his trip to India, when he took on the Indian government, and he had threatened to pull the president from a meeting if he did not allow the press corps to walk in and to actually see some of the initial part of that meeting that was supposed to be open.

This is somebody who I spent a lot of time with him during the campaign. Very accessible, very -- kind of a funny kind of guy, if you will. But he is done with this job and he feels very confident that he can help the president in other ways outside the White House.

I want to read to you real quick, Fred. This is what the president has said to "The New York Times" over the telephone, just within the last 20 minutes or so.

He says, "Robert on the podium has been extraordinary." He says, "Off the podium, he's been one of my closest advisers. He is going to continue to have my ear for as long as I'm in this job."

And, Fred, this is one of the kind of press secretaries who's had extraordinary access to the president, and he does sit in on all of his major meetings. The president really does reach out to him to get a sense of what the message is and how he should be dealing with reporters.

They are very, very close. We expect that they will continue to be close.

Now, who is going to replace him here? The press office, these guys, they're sitting on their hands, their mum. But we've been asking.

Bill Burton, he's' the deputy. His name has been mentioned as a possibility. Jay Carney, I've reached out to him as well. He's not commenting. He's the vice president's spokesman. So those two are in the running that we know of, and we should be able to find out that within a couple of weeks or so.

And Robert Gibbs is going to have his briefing in about 30 minutes. So we expect he'll give us a little bit more on his thinking behind his decision on this -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. So maybe he'll explain at that point why, why is he departing, unless you know that answer already.

And the second thing I'm wondering as well, you mentioned that he'll be speaking and advising outside the White House. But does this mean that he's still kind of working for the White House, working for the Obama agenda?

MALVEAUX: He's going in the private sector. He will be consulting. And so this is really kind of an outside advisory role, if you will. This is not a direct government job.

This is the kind of thing that, you know, like David Axelrod, for instance, he'll be working on the campaign. So he is going from inside the White House to outside the White House.

Then they're bringing in some other folks inside, like David Plouffe, who used to work for the campaign. He will actually be on the payroll as an official adviser. So, you've got kind of this musical chairs that's going on. I think, Fred, you know, he's been doing this a long time. He's married. He has a 7-year-old son. He will be staying close in the area.

But it is time for him, he feels, to move on. You know, to be able to make some money as well. But he will be serving the president. He's very, very loyal to the president.

But clearly, he sees that this is a time for somebody else to kind of take the mantel. The White House sees it as a natural transition, about two years or so, to have these kinds of changes taking place.

You've got the chief of staff, you've got the press office, you've got the economic adviser, all of these things that are happening pretty much around the same time to give those folks who need a break, who want a break, a chance to take one and to get some other people who are very loyal to the president inside in an official capacity.

WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much.

Of course we'll be hearing from Robert Gibbs, who will give a better explanation as to why he's leaving and what he's going to be doing, in about 30 minutes, as Suzanne was mentioning there, from the White House.

OK. So this is a big day today for Capitol Hill, the White House. And then in about three months, a big day for most Americans.

April 15th is a date that most Americans instantly recognize. Why? It's Tax Day. But not this year. The IRS is announcing a big change for 2011.

Alison Kosik is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

So, what's the new deadline now?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Fredricka? For procrastinators, this one is for you.

You're going to get an extra three days to crunch those numbers. The tax deadline is not going to be April 15th, it's going to be April 18th. And it's not because the IRS is feeling charitable.

It's because of a little known holiday called Emancipation Day that happens in Washington, D.C. It celebrates the freeing of slaves, and that's really what bought you those extra three days to do your taxes -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so also news for early birds, or people who actually like to file as early as possible. What's the change for them?

KOSIK: Exactly. And this is also really important, because if you do like to file early, the IRS really wants to you wait until mid-to-late February, because if you remember, we had some new tax policies pass late last year in December. So what the IRS is trying to do is make up some time and update their processing systems.

So you really want to pay attention to this. If you're one of those filers who itemizes deductions on the Schedule A form, if you're a student who claims tuition deductions, or if you're a teacher that claims out-of-pocket expenses, you're going to want to wait to file. You're going to have to wait until mid-to-late February to file -- Fredricka.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much.

Alison Kosik.

All right. Many Americans waiting for April because of Tax Day, and then the world can't wait for April because this is going to be a big wedding month. Some specifics, hopefully, about what to expect when Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot.

Live to London for the royal wedding details.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk royals, actually, right now. Only about four months to go before Prince William and Kate Middleton say, "I do." Buckingham Palace is revealing more details about what's planned for the big day.

Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance joins us now from London.

What more are we hearing about the plans and who might be on the guest list?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, April 29th is the big day, Fredricka, so some time yet. But we've heard from Clarence House, which is the official residence of Prince Charles, of course the father of the groom, Prince William, that the arrangements are as follows.

Basically, Kate Middleton, who will be marrying Prince William, will leave Buckingham Palace, behind me, in a car, down the Mall, through (INAUDIBLE) into White Hall, into Parliament Square. So right through official London, on her way to Westminster Abbey, where she will get married to Prince William.

Then, when she comes out, they'll get into a horse-drawn carriage, because remember, she will be a member of the royal family by then, not just an ordinary commoner. A horse-drawn carriage, and that will lead her in the exact same way, back to the Mall, where there will be a couple of parties, one hosted by the queen, a reception for a select few guests who were at Westminster Abbey.

Then in the evening, Prince Charles will be hosting a bigger party for the friends and family of the couple, and there will be, we're told, dancing and music included in that. So keep your calendar free -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now -- so, Matthew, it sounds a little bit more intimate than the last big royal wedding that people remember of Charles and Diana. Was that kind of the natural intent?

CHANCE: Yes. It's certainly not such a big deal in terms of its size and scope as the 1981 wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. And I think that's on purpose as well.

First of all, Britain is in the middle of an austerity era. There are huge cuts in public expenditure here, there's an economic crisis. And I think the royal couple are very much aware of that.

It's not a state occasion. So heads of state like President Obama, for instance, not necessarily going to be invited. Clarence House says there may be some heads of state there, but only if they are friends of the family.

And so, in that sense, it's a much smaller affair. But, still, tens and thousands of people, Fredrick, , are expected to be lining this entire area. It will be a big security operation. It will be a very costly one as well. So it will cost the public purse quite a lot of money.

WHITFIELD: Because is it still true, there will be some tickets or greater access for the general public to be close, nearly front and center, at this royal wedding?

CHANCE: Yes. I mean, definitely.

I mean, this whole procession route will be under tight security. Again, we'll have thousands of people, probably tens of thousands of people, who will be lining all of these streets, and there will be celebrations of the kind we've seen in royal weddings in the past, people waving flags and things like that.

And so it will be a big celebration, and of course the party inside Buckingham Palace is expected to go on into the night as well.

WHITFIELD: Oh, fun stuff. All right, April 29th, calendar marked.

Matthew Chance, thanks so much, from London. Appreciate it.



WHITFIELD: One and a half million Americans filed bankruptcy in 2010. The CNN Money team's Stephanie Elam is here with today's "Top Tips."

So, Stephanie, there are a few things to think about before filing bankruptcy.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's for sure. You really have to weigh the pros and cons here when you take a look at this story, Fred. And bankruptcies, they were up nine percent in 2010, and have increased every year since 2005. That's according to the American Bankruptcy Institute and the National Bankruptcy Research Center.

Now, while it can be a way to get out from a huge mountain of debt, no doubt, it does come at a cost. And that's what you need to remember.

First, bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years and will affect your ability to get any loans, credit cards, even a job. And when it comes to your credit score, filing for bankruptcy will knock off about 300 points from your credit score.

So, take this into account. John Ulzheimer with says the elite score is 750. And if you look at this chart that we got from John, you can see that the range of the credit score scale -- well, if you're looking at one, you can see that -- there we go -- you can see that it ranges down around to poor credit, 600 to 649.

So, if you look at where your credit probably is within there, you probably already missed some payments, think about what it would be like after you go for bankruptcy.

WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. But then there are cases in which a bankruptcy is good. I mean, you really have no other better option.

ELAM: Right. Well, take a look at it this way. If you've had your wages garnished, you can't see paying off your debts in three to five years, or maybe if your car has been repossessed, these are all instances where you might want to consider bankruptcy. You can find a longer checklist of situations on the Consumer Bankruptcy Center's Web site, at

Now, as for the major difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, you may hear about those. It's all about how much you pay.

Chapter 7 is a two-to-three-month process where your property is sold to pay your debts, like credit cards or medical bills. Chapter 13 is more of a reorganization of your debt. So it takes about three to five years, and you pay a portion of your debt under a court-ordered plan, and this allows you to stay in your home.

But, Fred, this is one thing I've got to remind people. It really doesn't matter which type you file. Neither is going to wipe away student loans, it's not going to get rid of child support, or your tax debts. So what you want to do here is find a consumer certified bankruptcy attorney in your area. You can do that by going to the American Board of Certifications Web site at to discuss options there -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes. But at least Chapter 13, I see there you get to stay in your home. So who wants to be homeless and be bankrupt? So you just have to weigh your options there.

ELAM: It depends on your conditions, right.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Thanks so much. We'll be checking with you again.

We're going to be talking to you about some alternatives to bankruptcy. We'll get back with you in minutes from now.

All right. Here's a coincidence. It turns out that four of the six winning numbers in the Mega Millions drawing are numbers that a character on a hit television show "Lost" actually played and won. Check this out.

"Lost" character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes hit a jackpot using these numbers: 4, 8, 15, and 42. So now fast forward to the real world. Those who matched just four out of the six numbers are only getting $150. The fictional Hurley, however, won $114 million.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that makes tonight's Mega Lotto jackpot drawing 4, 8, 15, 16 and 23, with the mega number 42. Whoever has those numbers has won, or will share in the near-record jackpot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, Mary Jo (ph), because this is the 16th week without a winner.


WHITFIELD: All right. That's the fictional stuff.

Now, real world stuff, in case you haven't heard, two tickets sold in Washington State and Idaho that won the Mega Millions, the real-life one. The winners will split the jackpot, $355 million.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about your money again. And say you're facing bankruptcy -- let's get some "Top Tips" again from Stephanie Elam.

So, there are alternatives to bankruptcy that don't sting as much. Like what?

ELAM: Well, you know, we talked to Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, who is the money coach now, but she actually got herself out of $100,000 in debt. So I think she may know one or two things about this.


ELAM: But she says there are four actions you should take before deciding on bankruptcy.

First, reorganize your budget. Figure out where you are wasting money right now.

Then, after that, negotiate with your creditors to work out a payment plan. It's much better to stay in contact with them than to just miss payments. And if that doesn't work, find an accredited counseling service, and head to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You can find them at, or you could always look into a debt management program which won't impact your credit rating or your score.

The other thing to keep in mind, Fred, is make sure you've exhausted all of your options. Look to family members for help, consider selling your home, your car, maybe even taking on another job. When you look at it, the whole picture, bankruptcy really should be a last resort -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. And she was in $100,000 debt. How long did it take her to I guess finally, you know, get above water?

ELAM: I have to check with her, but I think it took her a couple of years, for Lynnette to do that. And it's something that she really worked on. And now she's passionate about educating people. We have her on here all the time. So she's a great talker about the reasons why people should do this and how they should go about doing it. She's done it herself. So that's what's so good to talk to her about it.


All right. Stephanie Elam, thanks so much. Appreciate that from New York.

ELAM: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, it could take more than a year for parts of Australia to recover from that massive flooding. At least 10 people have lost their lives. The flood zone in the state of Queensland is bigger than France and Germany. The hardest hit area, the coastal city of Rockhampton.

An update now from Erin Edwards with Australia's 7 Network.


ERIN EDWARDS, 7 NEWS REPORTER (voice-over): Port Curtis, 300 people all isolated, abandoned, too, according to some. Across the paddock from Depot Hill, the pub is under. Cars are submerged on streets and driveways. Every house is surrounded by more than half a meter of water. They've had few visitors and no phones for two weeks.

No one's been around to tell us anything. We didn't even know nothing about anything, no cancels. Told us nothing. Yes, I think we're wiped off the map sort of thing.

EDWARDS: The Russells' are new Jericho (ph) Street. What they couldn't move to higher ground is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know anything, so it's a bit frightening. I'm over it now.

EDWARDS: They've been told if they leave they won't be allowed back in. It's a risk few will take.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop everyone from coming and knocking all of your gear off.

EDWARDS: Gayle (ph) Buckingham lived through the '91 flood. Back then, she was evacuated with her newborn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to get out because they were turning the power off and we had a little baby and now he's 20.

EDWARDS: They've been helping neighbors delivering food and kindness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been in contact with people in the neighborhood that don't have boats. (INAUDIBLE), let them know we're here.

EDWARDS: Going to a mate's place needs precision. (INAUDIBLE), there's a plank to cross water.

Brown snakes are everywhere.

(on camera): It was here during the '91 flood a boat rolled. A father and son drowned, they've been out checking homes, for Curtis has never forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are so many in Rocky (ph) that are far worse off than what we are, so we've got nothing to gripe about.

EDWARDS: Except for isolation, inundation, and soon, mud.

In Rockhampton, Erin Edwards, 7 News.


WHITFIELD: Very bad situation. Wonder if it's going to get any better for those folks there in Queensland area.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this country and what's trending online today. Combining computers and Congress, actually. How the incoming House speaker is using social media to make sure all of his friends see his swearing in ceremony.


WHITFIELD: All right. You're online and so are we. We're tracking all of the stories that are trending for you. The big story in politics is also the big story online. But with a social media kind of twist, of course.

Sandra Endo is live on Capitol Hill.

So, Sandra. A first-ever for Facebook and Congress today. Explain.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Fred. Just take a look at the frenzy here, first of all, the media frenzy. There's a flurry of activity here on Capitol Hill. And that's what is trending really today, because also, the incoming House Speaker, John Boehner, is planning to live stream his swearing in ceremony on Facebook. And the page is Pledge to America. And that's going to start at noon when the gavel comes down for this new Congress.

Now, keep in mind, the youngest member of Congress now is a new member who's 28 years old. So, certainly part of the Facebook and social media generation. And all of the rage now is to really tap into that market and all of those people out there that could be connected and reconnect through the social media.

WHITFIELD: And so I wonder, John Boehner in particular, is trying to kind of take the lead on this by making sure that Facebook is very actively involved with his swearing in.

What more details do you know about that?

ENDO: Yes, absolutely. His whole oath of office, really, and the swearing in is going to take place on Facebook. It's going to be the first time ever that it's going to be live streamed.

But, Fred, I have a couple of more things to get through, if you have time for this. Real quickly, singer Jerry Rafferty has passed away. And, of course, we want to remember his songs. He was famous in the 1970s for that song "Baker Street," and also this familiar tune.


ENDO: Oh, yes. That became popular, once again, in the early '90s if you remember in that movie "Reservoir Dogs."

And lastly trending is this really wild and wacky story, Fred. A United Airlines pilot spilled coffee all over the communication's dashboard. It made the controls all crazy, sending emergency signals, even a signal that the plane was hijacked. Now, this plane that was going from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, did have to be diverted and it stopped in Toronto. So certainly an uh-oh moment for that pilot.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's a big old, ut-oh, big old embarrassing moment.

ENDO: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sandra Endo, thanks so much. We'll check back with you throughout the day on other things that are trending.

All right, meantime, we are counting down to the top of the hour when the 112th Congress will convene. John Boehner will be sworn in as Speaker of the House. But who's in charge until that happens? That person hold as lot of power in Washington today, even if it is for a very short time. The answer, straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: John Boehner will be sworn in as Speaker of the House today. We asked you before the break, who is in charge until that ceremony happens? The answer, Lorraine Miller. She's the Clerk of the House. Miller will call the Congress to order at noon. She'll be in charge for about two and a half hours.

All right, top stories right now. A false alarm at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Firefighters were called after a leaking container was discovered in a cargo area. It was first thought to be leaking radioactive material but reports say the substance was not hazardous or dangerous.

And positive signs for the economy. Private sector jobs climbed 297,000 last month. A much bigger increase than expected. That word from payroll processor ADP. A separate report shows 2010 was the lowest year for job cuts in 13 years, with employers cutting 530,000 jobs.

And White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is quitting his job. Gibbs tells CNN that he's leaving after President Obama's State of the Union address later on in the month. He plans to become a political pundit.

Pomp, pageantry, and a political power shift on Capitol Hill. Just a few minutes from now, the 112th Congress convenes, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives. We'll bring you live coverage, of course, as events unfold starting at the top of the hour.

Meantime, CNN's Wolf Blitzer has a preview. He'll be leading our coverage of that swearing in, the changing of the guard.

So, Wolf, walk us through what's to be expected beginning at noon.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, it's real history, Fred, as you know, and as our viewers fully appreciate. Nancy Pelosi will no longer be the speaker as of noon Eastern. There will be a new speaker, John Boehner, the Republican Congressman from Ohio.

He won't formally be sworn in, as you point out, for at least two hours, maybe two and a half hours, because there are a lot of events that unfold between the gaveling right at the top of the noon hour and the formal swearing in ceremony for John Boehner who will become the 61st Speaker of the House of Representatives.

It's a very emotional day for him. I don't know if he's going to start crying. We have seen him cry on several recent occasions. He's -- that would be fully understandable. Ten of his eleven siblings are going to be watching. A lot of the members of his family have come from Ohio for this historic day. After Joe Biden, he's next in line. God forbid, if something happened to the president and the vice president, he would then be in line to be the next president of the United States.

By the way, in the Senate, Daniel Inouye, the Democratic senator from Hawaii -- he's going to be the senator -- Senate pro tem -- Senate pro tem leader, and he would be next in line after Boehner for the presidency. He'll be sworn in, as well, Senator Inouye. A lot of the day, the next few hours, Fred, we'll have a split screen, what's happening on the Senate floor. Harry Reid will be sworn in as the -- continuing as the Senate majority leader. Mitch McConnell will be the minority leader. There'll be 53 Democrats in the Senate, 47 Republicans.

It's a huge change, though, in the House of Representatives because the Republicans gained 63 seats in the November 2nd elections, and they're going to be fully in the majority in the House, and they'll be able to do, basically, whatever they want. They don't have the arcane rules, filibusters and all of that, super-majorities, that they have in the Senate. So Boehner and company will be able to push forward legislation.

And item number one on their agenda starting in these coming days will be to repeal President Obama, Democrats' health care reform law. They'll get that repealed in the House, but it won't be repealed in the Senate. Even if it were, the president would veto it. It's largely symbolic. They told their supporters they would repeal the Obama health care law, and they will do so in the House, but it's not going to go anywhere in the Senate.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's an interesting message, is it not? Because you heard from the Republican leadership shortly after the mid-term elections that Americans were saying loud and clear that too much time was spent on health care, and here this now becomes the first order of business for this new Congress. It seems like a mixed message that's being sent.

BLITZER: Yes, that's the criticism because the key issue is, as everyone knows, jobs and the economy. What the Republicans are arguing is the Obama health care law does hurt job creation, expands government, and so they're arguing it is job-related. That's going to be an argument that the Democrats will dismiss. They'll point to the Congressional Budget Office, which says it -- over 10 years, it cuts spending. It reduces the deficit because of efficiencies in the new health care reform law.

But that's a debate that's going to take place over the next week or so until the final vote, which is now scheduled, I think, a week from today or a week from yesterday in the House of Representatives. As I say, they have a big majority, the Republicans. They'll be able to repeal the health care reform law, but it isn't going to go anywhere in the Senate.

WHITFIELD: There was a lot of compromise between the White House and Congress during the last few weeks of this session, 112th session. So you have to wonder if this is sort of setting the pace for what's to come with this new congress, if the White House and Congress will indeed be working -- trying to work hand in hand, trying to compromise a bit more.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if they do compromise. We'll see what happens. I don't think there'll be much compromise on health care, to be sure. I'm sure both sides will try to cut spending, but they have very different priorities in terms of cutting spending. The Republicans don't want to touch, for example, defense spending. A lot of Democrats say that there's plenty of fat over at the Pentagon budget, there are plenty of very expensive weapon systems that don't necessarily need to go forward and there's plenty of opportunities to cut spending at defense. But there's going to be a fight over that issue, for example, among many others, when it comes to cutting spending in the current and next fiscal year.

WHITFIELD: All right, Wolf Blitzer, we'll be watching at top of the hour, about 12 minutes away from coverage that begins with you leading the mantel (ph) there and the "Best Political Team on Television." Stay with CNN. Right here, incoming Speaker John Boehner ushers in Republican control of the House. The gavel comes down and our coverage begins top of the hour, noon Eastern time. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will be joined by the "Best Political Team on Television."

All right, meantime, a major talent is discovered standing on a street corner. Wait until you hear one homeless man's voice. We'll show you what happened to him when this video went viral.


WHITFIELD: All right, some fisherman off the coast of Australia had a close encounter with a great white and they captured the moment on tape. Take a look. Oh, my goodness! Talk about a close call there. The shark hit the small boat's propeller, as you see there, almost knocking those men off (INAUDIBLE) You can see they decided to just scram.

All right, then take a look at this. A remarkable vocal talent is discovered. He's homeless and holding a sign on a street corner in Columbus, Ohio.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to make you work for your dollar. Say something with that great radio voice.

TED WILLIAMS, HOMELESS: When you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies, you're listening to Magic 98.9. Thank you so much. God bless you. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, what a voice! A reporter with "The Columbus Dispatch" actually posted this video on the paper's Web site. And as you can imagine, it's gone viral. The man's name is Ted Williams. He says he is a former radio announcer who fell on hard times.


WILLIAMS: The voice just became something of a development over year, and I went to school for it. And then alcohol and drugs and a few other things became a part of my life. And I got two years clean.


WHITFIELD: Wow. Put that man on the air! Because of the video, Williams now has a lot of job offers. He spoke to the CBS "Early Show" and has cleaned up his look, as well. He says he looks forward to the future and reuniting perhaps with his mother.


WILLIAMS: One of my biggest prayers that I sent out was that she would live long enough for me to see me, you know, rebound or whatever. And I guess God kept her around and he kept my pipes around, you know, to maybe just have one more shot.



WHITFIELD: All right, we are just minutes away from the changing of the guard on Capitol Hill. The 112th Congress convenes at the top of the hour. Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, and the Speaker's gavel passes from Nancy Pelosi to John Boehner. Stay with CNN and the "Best Political Team on Television" for live coverage as the events unfold just four minutes or so from now.

So John Boehner -- his political journey started with his blue-collar roots in Ohio. When he was a child, he worked in a bar owned by his father. Well, senior political editor Mark Preston is at that very bar, Andy's Cafe in Cincinnati. So Mark, give me an idea why this place is so significant, so important for John Boehner.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, Fred, this is where it all began. The American dream for John Boehner began here in this tavern in north Cincinnati. Andy's Cafe was founded by his grandfather back in 1938. It was ran by his father. At the age of 10, he worked here. He was one of 12 children, Fredricka, who would come in here. He'd clean the floors. He'd wash the bottles. He would tend bar back here.

Well, it's no longer in the Boehner family hands, however, John Boehner's sister does still tend bar here. The Boehner brothers and sisters still come here. They're not here today. They're back in Washington to see the historic moment where John Boehner has risen from here in this bar in north Cincinnati in this blue-collar neighborhood to become one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, in arguably the world. So Fred, no longer is John Boehner wielding bottles of Jim Beam behind this bar. John Boehner's going to be swinging that Speaker's gavel in just a couple hours -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mark Preston, thanks so much. And we'll check back with you because I know that folks have turned out in big numbers there at that bar. What a perfect place to watch the swearing-in ceremony of John Boehner as it happens later on.

Meantime, the coverage of the new Congress begins right now with the "Best Political Team in Television" led by our Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're looking at a live picture of Capitol Hill right now. Within only a couple of minutes, less than a minute, a couple minutes from now, the new House of Representatives will be gaveled in. And then about, what, an hour or two later, there will be a new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, the Republican senator -- the Republican congressman from Ohio. He's here with his entire family. Ten of his eleven siblings from Ohio have actually come to Washington.