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House Holds Attorney General In Contempt; Obamacare Upheld, Republicans Pounce

Aired June 28, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Attorney General Eric Holder held in criminal contempt of Congress. Republicans push through this criminal action against Holder only moments ago. We're standing by for more action against Eric Holder. In the House, a second motion is about to pass, civil contempt of Congress.

Plus, President Obama's Supreme Court victory today. It's getting some Republicans even more fired up about trying to boot him out of the White House. This hour, the politics of the healthcare ruling and what it means for your family.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: A day that began on a very high note for the Obama White House is ending with an unprecedented slap at the president and his attorney general. The breaking news this hour, the Republican-led House of Representatives has voted to hold the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, in criminal contempt of Congress.

We heard Eric Holder live on CNN call the vote in his words misguided and politically motivated. It all stems from the failed "Fast and Furious" gunrunning sting operation and the administration's refusal to hand over certain documents related to it. Some democrats, a lot of them in fact, simply walked out of the House in protest just before the contempt vote. They refused to even vote.

Now, another vote is coming up to authorize civil action against Eric Holder. The first vote that passed cited criminal contempt of Congress. Let's bring in our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns. He watched it all unfold. Set the scene for us. History unfolding on this. It's never happened before, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, I think it's certainly true that if anybody was asking for Eric Holder to hang his head and walk away in shame, that certainly did not happen. This was a defiant statement from this attorney general, the first attorney general held in contempt of Congress ever in the United States. Reading now, today's vote may make for good political theater in the minds of some, but it is as base both a crass effort and a great disservice of the American people. They expect far better. And then, he made the turn to the future battle that will occur in the courts over this very issue of the "Fast and Furious" gun running operation.

He said, as a result of the action taken today by the House, "An unnecessary court conflict will ensue. My efforts to resolve this matter short of such a battle were rebuffed by Congressman Issa." And he goes onto say, ultimately, their goal was the vote that with the help of special interests talking about the National Rifle Association now, that they have now engineered.

So, clearly, a defiant statement from him. Meanwhile, as you said, Wolf, there were a number of members of Congress, Democrats all, who walked out of the House of Representatives rather than vote on this contempt citation.

I talked earlier today to one of the men who spoke at a news conference outside the capitol just a little while ago that would be House minority whip, Steny Hoyer. Let's listen to what he said outside the capitol after the walkout.


REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: And the reason we have walked down those stairs and into this courtyard is to call the attention of the American people who are angry about confrontation, angry about gridlock, angry about the fact that we are not focused on their priorities, jobs, investment infrastructure, the environment, education, innovation, building our economy, who are angry at the politization of the deliberations of the people's House.

That's why we're here in this courtyard to say to our Republican colleagues, shame on you. Shame on you.


JOHNS: Strong symbolism on both sides, and it sort of begs repeating, Wolf, House Republicans say they've been trying again and again and again to get information from the justice department led by Eric Holder about "Operation Fast and Furious," and the justice department simply has not complied.

So, the symbolism then of the attorney general being cited for contempt of Congress also with the symbolism of Democrats walking off the floor of the House of Representatives in protest and in support of Holder. Quite a day here in Washington, Wolf.

BANFIELD: Indeed. All right. Standby. I'm going to get back to you with certainly a high-stakes weapons crackdown with a catching name, but there, apparently, are some misconceptions out there about the so-called "Fast and Furious" program, at least that's what a new "Fortune" magazine investigation suggests.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look at that for us. What are you finding out, Brian? What did "Fortune" magazine report?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this investigation by CNN's partner "Fortune" magazine dissects the "Fast and Furious" program and reveals what it says are distortions in media reports and an accusation leveled by members of Congress. Now, essentially, the "Fortune" piece says the ATF did not intentionally allow guns to walk into Mexico as an operational tactic.

Five law enforcement agents involved in the program tell "Fortune" that it was just the opposite. That they seized weapons whenever they could, but that they were hand strung by weak laws and by prosecutors who would often insisted that they didn't have enough evidence to wiretap or to bust people.

Now, what really blew up this case, the murder of this man, Brian Terry. He was 40 years old, a Detroit area native, a former U.S. marine, part of an elite border patrol unit that was attacked by Mexican bandits on December 14, 2010. Terry was killed in that attack. We have some pictures of the scene right here.

He was killed in that attack. And the bandits left two semi- automatic weapons at the scene. A trace of the serial numbers reveal that they've been purchased nearly a year earlier at a Phoenix area gun store by a "Fast and Furious" suspect. Now, ten weeks after Terry's murder, an ATF agent told CBS News that his supervisors had intentionally allowed firearms to be trafficked into Mexico.

Well, then Congress got involved in about four months after that agent's allegations and several months after Brian Terry's murder. Brian Terry's family appeared before a House committee.


MICHELLE TERRY BALOGH, BRIAN TERRY'S SISTER: Brian was about making a difference in justice. And I just feel that this country owes it to him because he spent his whole life fighting this country in some way or another.

ROBERT HEYER, BRIAN TERRY'S COUSIN: If the guns used in Brian's murder were part of this operation, then, we'd want to know, will everyone in that operation that had to deal with those specific weapons be brought up on charges of facilitating the murder of Brian Terry?


TODD: So, as with so many scandals, this started with a personal story, the tragedy of Brian Terry's death. It started with grudges within that ATF unit in Arizona tracking the guns. Grudges which led to this getting blown up in the media and in Congress.

And now, a year and a half after the death of this border patrol agent, Brian Terry, we've got a contempt of Congress vote against the attorney general -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what happened to some of the key members of that ATF unit?

TODD: Well, "Fortune" magazine says that unit's now been blown up since this has all come out. That that unit's been basically dissipated. The leader of the unit, David Voth, transferred to a desk job in Washington. Now, much of that "Fortune" piece was based on David Voth's account. Other members of that unit were transferred to ATF field offices, and they're all still working for the agency, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd with some good background. Thank you.

And the White House now reacting to the House of Representatives' decision to hold attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, in criminal contempt of Congress. Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. I take it they have released a statement, Jessica. What did they say?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. they have the statement comes from the communications director here, Dan Pfeiffer, and his statement says in part, quote, "At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced one of their top priorities was to investigate the administration and insure that President Obama was a one-term president.

"Despite the major economic challenges facing the country, they talked openly about devoting taxpayer funded congressional oversight resources to political purposes." The statement goes onto say that the gun walking program was a, quote, "field-driven tactic," Wolf, that started under President George W. Bush's administration and Dan Pfeiffer says that it was this administration's attorney general who ended it.

He also calls this vote, quote, "political theater, a transparently political stunt." Those are his words. And he also points out that the administration has turned over 7,600 pages of documents and offered more this week. This is full battle for the White House which sees this as a baldly political move by a Congress that is making an effort just to try and embarrass the White House in an election year.

As you know, when they said they're trying to make the president a one-term president, that was a reference to Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who made that statement in 2010, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, standby because there's other important news we're following as well, but I want to get some immediate reaction to this historic moment right now. Angry reaction from Eric Holder, angry reaction from the White House, but what does it practically mean?

Nancy Pfotenhauer is here. She's the former spokeswoman for the John McCain campaign, Paul Begala, our Democratic strategist, also senior adviser Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama Super PAC, and our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

For all practical purposes, Jeff, this is -- the criminal contempt of Congress will be referred to the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, that's probably not going to go anywhere. The civil contempt of Congress will be referred back to the courts. That could take two to four years to do anything there. So, this is largely a symbolic move by the Republican majority of the House.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is very embarrassing for Eric Holder, but that's all it is. Nothing is going to happen. There are no consequences. He's not going to be led off in handcuffs because he's been found in criminal contempt. At best, this will wind up in the courts.

And with -- you know, 132 days before the election, there's not time to have this resolved probably even in the district court much less on appeal and the D.C. circuit and then potentially the United States Supreme Court. This was designed to embarrass Eric Holder.

I think it is embarrassing for the attorney general of the United States to be held in contempt. But in terms of practical ramifications, I don't think there are any.

BLITZER: Same thing happened to the Republicans during the Bush administration when top Bush White House officials were held in contempt. But, you know what, it took so long for the courts to consider what was going on. The Bush administration was long out of business by the time anything could have been resolved.

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN FOR JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: Yes. That's true. I think that the primary political ramifications, though, is that this is now clearly with it being all about executive privilege. The president owns this moving forward. And so, the American people will ultimately decide who was more reasonable? Was it Chairman Issa?

Was he doing that exact -- was he playing the exact role he's supposed to play and oversighted this where a U.S. border patrol agent was killed, more than 300 crimes were committed with those weapons over in Mexico? Is he playing his role or is he not? But the executive privilege is a serious issue, and President Obama now owns this going into the election.

BLITZER: It's clear also, Paul, that if there was going to be more documents, more cooperation from the executive branch to the legislative branch of the U.S. government, I suspect that's over with certainly between now and the election. This will be a political issue going forward.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It will. I disagree with Nancy on this point. The House Republicans own this now. Under the Republicans, Congress' approval ratings an-all time low of 12. After today, it will go to six. People don't like this kind of political circus. This is, I say again, a legitimate thing to look into.

And Mr. Issa, by the way, has not been as extreme as many Democrats feared. I want to defend him on that. But I think propelled by the National Rifle Association, this thing has gotten in the hands of the crazies. And just like they did under Bill Clinton, they're taking it too far and they're going to hurt themselves. The same clowns who are holding Eric Holder in contempt impeached Bill Clinton 15 years ago, and all my Republican friends now think he's the greatest president of their lifetime. Twenty years from now, they're going to watch, they're going to say Eric Holder is --

PFOTENHAUER: Yes. But the democratic leadership that did the publicity stunt of walking out of the U.S. Congress are the same people that don't hesitate to trample on process if it achieves their political objective, and they did that multiple times on healthcare.

TOOBIN: The other thing that I just find puzzling as a journalist in all of this is, you know, we talk about executive privilege. These documents are covered. They're not covered. What are the documents? Could we have a little more about what the documents are rather than --


TOOBIN: So, we can make an independent judgment about whether executive privilege is valid or not?


BEGALA: "Fortune" magazine has 2,000 documents that they said were -- that they got from some source.

PFOTENHAUER: But they're supposed to have a log of the specific documents and what they are in order to exert executive privilege, and we're still waiting on that log.

BLITZER: Now, they're voting on the civil contempt charge against the attorney general. That will pass overwhelmingly as well. All right. We'll take a quick break. We'll continue to watch what's happening on the floor of the House of Representatives and historic day for the first time ever in U.S. history.

An attorney general of the United States has been held in contempt of Congress. There's other breaking news we're following getting more reaction on the historic decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold, uphold the president's healthcare reform law. Much more on that. All the day's breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: The other historic news we've been following today, the United States Supreme Court ruling that President Obama is right in supporting his healthcare reform law. He is saying, the president, this is a victory for all Americans. Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to put their spin on the bombshell decision upholding the president's healthcare reform law.

The debate over what's called Obamacare may be an even bigger presidential campaign issue. Now, let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice-over): Inside the White House, officials describe elation over the court's ruling, but on camera, no spiking the ball.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family's financial ruin.

YELLIN: The president emphasized the more popular parts of the bill appealing to key constituencies.

OBAMA: Young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parents' healthcare plans. Seniors receive a discount on the prescription drugs. They won't be able to charge you more just because you're a woman.

YELLIN: Already, Republicans are campaigning off the ruling. Governor Romney quick on the assault.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It's bad policy today. Our mission is clear. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama.

YELLIN: On Capitol Hill, House Republicans vow a vote to repeal the bill next month. From the Senate, a new line of attack.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: Well, the Supreme Court has spoken. This law is a tax. The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.

YELLIN: What's he mean? The court found it's constitutional to require people to pay a fee if they don't get health insurance because it's a tax just like any other federal tax.

NEAL KATYAL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROF., GEORGETOWN UNIV.: What the chief justice said today is, look, it quacks like a tax, it looks like a tax, it functions like a tax, it is a tax.

YELLIN: It's no secret taxes are not politically popular. When the president was selling the bill back in 2009, he told ABC News.

OBAMA: For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.


YELLIN (on-camera): And, Wolf, expect the fight over whether this is or isn't a tax to continue through Election Day. As for how the president found out about the decision, well, initially, he heard just like most of the public, by watching TV. And initially, he was watching two stations, Fox and CNN, that reported it wrong. And then, he was standing there when his White House counsel walked in and gave him two big thumbs up telling him that the healthcare mandate -- that the healthcare law would stand. We're told that there were hugs and smiles all around. And his first call went to Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general, who argued the law. We're told he said to Verrilli, congratulations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you. Let's dig a little bit deeper right now into this healthcare law, the ruling upholding it. Joining us once again, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He was inside the U.S. Supreme Court when the decision came down. Also joining us, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

I think it's fair to say, Sanjay, for a lot of Americans, this was a life and death decision by this U.S. Supreme Court.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think you're absolutely right, Wolf. I think you can say that for many different reasons, you know, just life and death. That statement alone about 26,000 people according to a lot of estimates people die prematurely because of lack of health insurance every year. Just think about that. 26,000 people a year dying prematurely.

But it's also the number one cause of personal bankruptcy as well in the United States. Lack of health care insurance. And, finally, Wolf, you know there's a certain population of people out there who have significant illness that cannot get healthcare insurance at any price.

They've not been able to do that starting in 2014 for a lot of these people. They're going to be able to get healthcare insurance for the first time. So, I think you're absolutely right, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin is here. This is the decision, Jeff, and you can see light reading if you have some free time.


BLITZER: It goes on for page after page after page. It's a pretty thick document. What's going to be -- in your analysis and your on authority on the Supreme Court, you've written one best- seller, a second one is about to come out, the impact on the chief justice of the United States who made this decision to go with the four Democratic appointed Supreme Court justices and rule in favor of what's called Obamacare?

TOOBIN: John Roberts was supposed to be and has been the perfect George W. Bush appointee, someone who embodies the modern Republican Party, someone who is very conservative, who has ruled with the conservative colleagues in Citizens United, in cases striking down integration plans in schools, in ruling against civil lawsuits in many, many different cases.

This was an exception. This was a dramatic exception where he sided with the four liberals. The number of cases in which the court has split this way, Roberts along with the four liberals, that is Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan is tiny, and that he would do it. In this case, frankly, it's stunning to me. What makes this even more remarkable is that the main issue in this case, we all thought, was the commerce clause. Did the president and the Congress have the power under the commerce clause to enact this law? Roberts joined the conservatives and said no.

But, he said the taxing power was enough to justify the individual mandate, the requirement that people have insurance. He departed companies with his conservative colleagues and saved the law for President Obama.

BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, it's looking to take years for all aspects of this affordable healthcare law to be implemented. Several years. But when all is said and done, right now, there are 15 million uninsured Americans. This will deal with maybe 30 million of them. There will still be 20 million or so uninsured Americans. So, what happens to them?

GUPTA: Well, you know, a significant percentage of them are undocumented workers as well. So, throughout the, you know, sort of inception and creation of the law, they took that into account. And you know, they're not part of this Affordable Care Act. So, I think that that's -- but then there's also a certain number of people who can opt out.

They, for various reasons, will not be a part of this, or they can pay the penalty and not get healthcare insurance that way. We talked about the penalties earlier, Wolf, that when it's fully implemented in the year 2016, penalties will be roughly $695 or 2.5 percent of your income.

The greater of those two numbers you'd pay in penalties. So, that accounts for a lot of the disparity between the 30 and roughly 50 million (ph) number.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this story coming up. Sanjay, thanks very much. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks to you, of course, as well.

A lot happening -- and they're voting on the second contempt of Congress charge against the attorney general of the United States. He's already been filed with a criminal contempt of Congress now. This is a civil contempt of Congress. We're watching the breaking news on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Democrats, though, simply protesting this vote. Many of them not even participating. They're disgusted by the Republican tactics against the attorney general. More on this and the U.S. Supreme Court decision coming up.


BLITZER: A second, repeat, a second contempt motion against the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, about to be approved by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Already 199 votes. You see right there, 74 Democrats opposing. Most democrats simply not participating. They're disgusted by all of this. They walked out in protest. Now, you see 200, you need 218 for a majority in the House of Representatives.

They'll get that momentarily. Joe Johns has been watching all of this unfold. Joe, just want to remind our viewers never before in American history has the nation's highest ranking law enforcement official, the attorney general, been held in contempt of Congress.

JOHNS: That's right, Wolf. And in some ways, this vote that's just wrapping up now on the House floor is the most important of the two votes because it's the vote that's going to allow the House Oversight Committee to go into court to seek a judgment to get the information that the oversight committee was requesting in the first place, which led to the contempt citation against the attorney general.

The previous citation passed with the help of something like 17 Democrats voting in favor of it and two Republicans actually voting against it. I think it's important to say, Wolf, that even though this is a very partisan atmosphere here on Capitol Hill, there is some common ground on these issues relating to the "Operation Fast and Furious" gun running deal that has caused so much controversy here.

Republicans say they want to get to the bottom of it. But I think the other thing that's very important is that everybody says the operation didn't go right, there were big problems. The bottom line question is whether the attorney general ought to be held in contempt over that. And that's what the fight's about -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's just went over the 218 mark, 221 you see there. Yays so far, 80s nays. 19 Democrats going along with the Republicans, now 223. So, the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, held in criminal contempt of Congress, also in civil contempt of Congress.

But, Joe, very quickly. Now, it's going to go before the courts, the civil contempt. The criminal goes to the referral goes to the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia. This could take months and months, maybe even years adjudicate.

JOHNS: That's for sure. And it's just not clear which way it could go, because the attorney general says he's got a case and his case says there's a lot of information he can't give the Congress. He's bound as an officer of the United States court, the highest law enforcement officer in the United States government.

He says he can't give out certain information, and there are other reasons. There is the executive privilege that's been cited by the White House over these very documents. So, those are his reasons.

On the other hand, the Congress has a right of inquiry and a right to investigate that's been upheld again and again and again by the courts. So, there are these two ideas that will clash in civil court, and it could take a long time to resolve if the sides don't get together and negotiate something out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly will. All right, Joe. Thanks very, very much. Joe Johns, reporting from Capitol Hill.

The other big story we're following, the United States Supreme Court decision -- the Supreme Court decision upholding what's called Obama care, the health care reform law. Mitt Romney promising to repeal it on the first day of his presidency if he's elected, but what would he really be able to do to make that happen? That and all bunch more on that coming up.

Also, a dramatic photo of house consumed by fire. Imagine it's your home and you found out it was gone, gone, by looking at a newspaper's Web site. You can see more of those photos at And you can hear more about this dramatic story.

The fires in Colorado and, a lot more news coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney is promising he'll do what the Supreme Court refused to do today, get rid of President Obama's health care reform law. That's a tall order even if Romney is certainly elected president. Let's talk about what is ahead.

Joining us are two guests, the former U.S. senator Jim Talent. He is a Missouri Republican, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. Also with us, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a tall Democrat of Connecticut, the state's former attorney general.

He says repeal and replace. The first thing he does on day one if he's elected, Mitt Romney. A lot easier said than done give the legislative process. You need majorities in the house and the Senate.

JIM TALENT, SENIOR ROMNEY ADVISER: That's true. It's one of the reasons he's campaigning so explicitly on this. I mean, he - look, he thinks this law's a loser for the American people. Raise premiums, throw people off their private health insurance under the government rules, cost $2 trillion, you know, to the federal government. But we can replace it with a series of empowering individuals to have different choices for health care. Things like health care pooling, allowing people to buy across state lines. Where we go would be popular and would able to pass them.

BLITZER: You think those that alternatives are better than what exist right now? I suspect the answer is no.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: No. And I think between now and then more and more people will realize the real benefits in patient protections on this. You know, I have unique perspective, Wolf, because as 20 years, I served in attorney general. I combated the misuse of pre-existing conditions, the caps on coverage. The other kinds of practices, very unfortunate practices, that this bill is designed to eliminate.

And I think the American people will realize the benefits of the bill. And I think, also, we're going to turn to jobs and the economy. BLITZER: Would Mitt Romney repeal some of these popular aspects of Obama care as it's called for example allowing children to remain on the parents' health insurance program until age 26, for example. Pre-existing conditions, if you're pregnant for example, you're not going to lose your health insurance.

TALENT: Look, there's lots of ways of doing that without doing it in the context of a law that's going to throw what CBO has set up to 20 million people off of their private insurance under the government rules. Something is wrong with the law that you have to force the states try to dissipated --

BLITZER: But Romney did that in Massachusetts when he was governor of Massachusetts. He forced people in Massachusetts with a mandate in Massachusetts. They had to buy health insurance otherwise they would be penalized.

TALENT: Very different proposition.

BLITZER: Why is it very different?

TALENT: Because there was hardly any additional state spending, because there was no burden on small business, because it didn't force people off their private health insurance. Big difference between sayings.

Look, a state saying you have to buy one of a number of products in a market where costs are going down and the federal government says there's a one-size fits all product you got to buy in a market where product where --

BLITZER: You're from Connecticut, right next door to Massachusetts. Is he right?

BLUMENTHAL: You know I think, Wolf, if you look at the total law, there are such great benefits in terms of health care, preventive health care without deductibles or co-pays. These young people that will stay on their parents' policies toll age of 26; more and more people will realize that the whole law fits together. But most important I hope we will not be re-litigating or re-battling these old issues and move onto jobs and the economy. And I think both candidates --

BLITZER: You remember Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate. He always used to say in the debates that I moderated that Mitt Romney was the worst person to represent the Republicans when it comes to health care because of what he did as governor of Massachusetts.

TALENT: We've got an awful lot of support from the Republicans today just because the governor reaffirmed his pledge.

I mean, Look. I don't think it's re-litigating so much, senator. I mean, the Supreme Court said that the question, as you know, the question of the constitutionality is different very distinctly different from question of whether this bill is good for the American people. And that's a question the people are going to resolve in the election. And they have a clear choice.

BLITZER: Will this be a winning issue? Was the president really going to talk about it on the campaign trail right now? Because so far he talks about it occasionally, but certainly he hasn't been using it as a wedge to try to beat up on the Republicans.

BLUMENTHAL: I think the president's going to talk about what's really on the minds of the American people, which is getting America bark to work, getting Connecticut back to work. And the benefits are going to become increasingly apparent and dramatically so the American people as they realize to take another example, no discrimination against women. No unreasonable increases in premiums. Sixty eight percent of the people in Connecticut are already covered under their employer's policies. The numbers of people affected by these issues, this so-called tax, are relative --

BLITZER: Same question to you, Senator Talent. Is the Republican nominee in this particular -- is he going to be making this a major issue despite some of the so-called baggage he might bring together.

TALENT: We have done it today. I mean, you've heard him doing it today. Well of course, we're also going to talk about economic issues. And this is economic issue. I mean, because the additional burden on small businesses is going to cost a lot of jobs in this country. So yes, he's going to keep litigating at least in the campaign context.


BLITZER: I'm sure you'll be debating this and a lot more coming up, four months or so to go before the election in November.

BLUMENTHAL: Four months is a long time, but I think the benefits of this law will be apparent. And I agree that we need to care about small business and the president does. But ultimately this will drive down the costs.

TALENT: What about the benefits? The costs are already apparent because it costs are already apparent. I mean, look, you know, premiums going up already around the country.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks so much for that Jim talent and Richard Blumenthal. Good discussion.

We're going to Colorado right now. The fire is out there. Horrible what's going on right now. Pain staking, heartbreaking, we have the live report right after this.


BLITZER: What a day here in Washington, D.C. Let's talk a little more about the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding President Obama's health care law.

Joining us now, "Time" magazine managing editor, Rick Stengel. It is a pretty - extraordinary, I must say. You had one cover already out, Rick, correct me if I'm right, but another cover now coming out as well. That one cover, "the revolution that wasn't." And you have a second cover as well. What happened?

RICK STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, this really is a historic day and a historic decision and something that will be a flash point during the rest of the election. And we thought it really needed to be explained to the readers to people around the world. So we're closing tomorrow a cover on the Supreme Court's decision upholding Obama care.

BLITZER: So you have one cover on what's called Obama care, the other cover on what's going on in Egypt. That's the revolution that wasn't. That was the original cover story why the generals remain Egypt's real rulers. Tell us what the gist of that cover story is.

STENGEL: The gist of it, Wolf, is that we have gone through this seemingly transformational period in the Middle East with Arab spring. And yet in the centerpiece of that in the case of Egypt, what you had is the reassertion of power by the military, by the generals who have in effect been ruling that country for decades. So the revolution that we had been talking about, the Arab spring we had been talking about hasn't really happened.

BLITZER: Because you have a line in there in the article, let me read it and put it up on the screen "though sheered of much of its own power, the presidency is still a huge opportunity for the Muslim brotherhood, a push for political and social change. However, Morsi presidency, this is the Muslim brotherhood leader who was elected president may also be of some advantage to the military."

You're suggesting that there will be an alliance, if you will, between the Muslim brotherhood and the military. Is that right?

STENGEL: Yes. I think they become an alliance of strange bedfellows. I do think it's enormously significant that you have a Muslim brotherhood president of Egypt. But it is in the interest of both the Muslim brotherhood and the generals to have stability for them to work something out.

I mean, the Muslim brotherhood as you know, Wolf, they have become as pragmatic as they can be in order to rule. And I think what we'll see is if the Muslim brotherhood continues to cooperate with the military, you'll have them gain even more power.

BLITZER: Let's get back to the second cover that's going to come out tomorrow on health care reform. The president scoring a major, major win today. Were your guys over there at "Time" magazine surprised by this? We see "Roberts' rules." I remember a few weeks ago you had a cover on the decider, Anthony Kennedy.


BLITZER: He wasn't the decider, John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States turned out to be the decider. STENGEL: Yes. I mean, I confess, I was surprised. I thought the individual mandate would be struck down. Now, in some sense Roberts did strike it down in a sense that he redefined it. He redefined it as a tax rather than a mandate, something that wouldn't work under the commerce clause but does work under the constitutional taxing power.

It's a fascinating decision on Roberts' part. He himself has straddled the middle by embracing the doctrine of the four liberals. And in fact, it's starting a new narrative, I would argue, in American politics of the kind of return to the center of a determination to find some compromise. I think it's terribly significant.

BLITZER: Very significant, indeed. Rick Stengel is editor of our sister publication, "Time" magazine. I'm looking forward to more on covers, 'Egypt" as well as "Roberts Rule."

All right, thanks so much. "Roberts' rules," I should say.

STENGEL: Thank you, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What you can expect from the health care law, much more on the Supreme Court decision coming into the SITUATION ROOM. Standby.


BLITZER: So whether you agree or disagree with the United States Supreme Court, the ruling today upholding the president's health care reform law certainly a law certainly a huge deal for the entire country. After all, every American needs medical care at some point in his or her life.

CNN Tom Foreman is joining us right now to drill down on what the decision means for you, for your family. What are you finding out, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf. You're right. We are all going to need it at some point. And a lot of us really haven't seen any sign of this.

Look. Since 2010, when it was signed into law, get an instant coverage for your adults, if you had college kids in your family, might make a difference. These are just some of the high points from it. This day saw the Supreme Court ruling that this is going to be OK, it is going to stand. But this thing is ratchet up a lot for of a lot of people as it moves on.

Next year, there is going to be cap on flex spending accounts, as so many people use at work, tax free money. You are going to have a limit how far you can go with that.

And then 2014, this is a big, big year in this. That's the year you're going to have to buy insurance, the penalty up front if you don't do it, $285, or one percent of your income, whichever is bigger. To help you out, there will be insurance exchanges at the state level. Those will be established where you supposed be able to buy affordable care if you can't get it through your employer. There is no disqualification for existing conditions in that year, and expanded Medicaid for the very poor. Big year in 2014.

But look at the top number. Look what happens when you get to 2016. The penalty jumps way up, $2,000 or 2.5 percent, whichever is greater if you don't get it. This was the mandate everyone has talked about. And the penalty on top of it, which the court is affectively said today is, a tax.

The changes continue from there. By 2018, you will see that tax on "Cadillac" plans, the very big insurance plans to some employers offer. These are an awful lot of questions in all of this, Wolf, though, these are just the high points of what we will see as years march on here, where many, many more of us haven't seen a result so far will see them. And the big question hanging over all of it, how will this affect us individually. This is generally how it effects the population. But you may fall under this or that provision. Some people who right now think they don't have "Cadillac" plans may find the plan they have by this time is a "Cadillac" plan.

They're paying taxes they didn't expect to. That's the devil in the details, Wolf that Democrats and Republicans have been fighting about all along. And the only way we're going to know how the money works out is by that march of years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Over the next 6, 8, 10 years, hundreds of provisions included in the legislations. Now the law of the land will be implemented. And we will learn a whole lot more as it unfolds.

Tom, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, a family learns their home was destroyed in the Colorado wildfires after seeing it in a newspaper photo engulfed in flames.

Stay with us, we'll tell you what's going on. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Now to the devastating Colorado wildfires, and what officials now say could take weeks to get under control. Thirty six thousand people have been chased from their homes.

CNN's Jim Spellman met up with one family that learned their home was destroyed after they saw it on a newspaper cover.


JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the flames tore through his Colorado Springs neighborhood, Major Ted Stefani, an army sergeant, knew it was time to get out.

MAJOR TED STEFANI, LOST HOME IN FIRE: I looked up in the mountains and saw flames shooting over top of the mountain. SPELLMAN: With minutes to spare, he packed up his car, and raced out of the neighborhood, meeting his wife, Kate, and son, Caleb, at a friend's house. Then the wait began. Would their house be spared? The answer the next morning when they saw this picture on Denver post Web site. Their neighborhood in flames, their house on the left, a bonfire.

TED STEFANI: That's when we saw the photograph initially, it just kind of shock.

KATE STEFANI, LOST HOME IN FIRE: That's our house and it is in flames and I just started crying. There was no way around it. I was never going to go home again, so it's pretty sad.

SPELLMAN: The photo went viral. Also published on and the front of "The New York Times." More photos can be seen at

TED STEFANI: It was total shock to see our house in a fireball. But I think that was also therapeutic, too, because we knew over the last couple days where there are a lot of families that don't know the outcome of their home, we knew from pretty much the get go that we lost the house.

We got these boxes, top boxes that I had from Iraq and Afghanistan.

SPELLMAN: While managing to escape with these boxes of books important documents, there were many precious items left behind, Ted's medals and one of Caleb's beloved toys.

TED STEFANI: Crazy, it is this little teddy bear thing that scout and Caleb played with that all the time.

SPELLMAN: But then, they saw another scout for sale at a bookstore, Caleb lit up.

TED STEFANI: It was an emotional event.

KATE STEFANI: Yes. We both about lost it in the store and our son just beamed when he saw that bear, and hugged him and he just said scout, scout.

SPELLMAN: Piece by piece, they insist they will rebuild, beginning with a small bear.


SPELLMAN: Wolf, they're still battling this fire with helicopters and on the ground. You can see smoke here in the mountains. This is the U.S. air force academy behind me here. The good news is all day today and yesterday, they didn't lose any more homes. So hopefully they'll be able to get control of this fire, no more people like the Stefani's' will have to get bad news from the newspaper or a person from officials that they lost their home -- Wolf. BLITZER: How far are the fires been, shall we say, from downtown Colorado Springs?

SPELLMAN: Well, they got into actual Colorado Springs proper, where the Stefani's live was in the city of Colorado Springs. It sort of -- the city is sort of divided by a freeway that goes north and south. The whole west side between the mountains and highway was evacuated. So it got into the city of Colorado Springs. Weather has been a little better today, Wolf, they hope it won't return to the actual city, and will stay in the hills.

BLITZER: Let's hope it does. Jim Spellman on the scene for us, thanks very, very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Remember, the conversation continues. You can follow me on twitter @wolfblitzer.

And the news continues next, on CNN.