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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

President Promises to Allow Tax Cuts for Rich Expire; Attorney for Casey Anthony Writes About his Experiences; U.S. Government Paying Unemployment to Some who are Ineligible; Syria's "Days Are Numbered"; Assad Fires Back; Zimmerman Out On Bond; Barney Frank Marries Long Time Partner; Thunderclap Send Players Umps Running; President Obama's Tax Plan; Battle Over Tax Cuts; Congress Back To Work; House Republicans Trying To Repeal Health Care; "Phoenix" Rises From Ashes

Aired July 9, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: STARTING POINT begins right now.

That's from my playlist, a news junkie. Welcome everybody. Good morning. With us today on the panel we have Marsha Blackburn, Republican from Tennessee, Jose Baez, the famous defense attorney, also has his new book out "Presumed Guilty," and Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Clinton and writer for NewYorker.com. Welcome to all of you.

A very busy Monday morning, and we're starting this morning with the president and his plans to resurrect this discussion over the Bush tax cuts. The president will be surrounded by working class Americans later today when he speaks in the White House Rose Garden. He's going to be calling for an extension of tax cuts only for people earning $250,000 a year or less.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the president is totally committed to getting rid of the tax cut for those making $250,000 or above.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's make progress on our spending by doing away with tax cuts for people that, quite frankly, don't need them, tax cuts that haven't worked, and have them pay their fair share.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that a yes or no. The president is completed committed to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's 100 percent committed to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I heard this before. Dan Lothian is here. If we rewind the tape a couple of years ago we were having the same discussion, the president did extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. But it sounds like this is going to be a high priority for this campaign/White House right now.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And you're asking how high. Well, the campaign is launching a major push in key battle ground states in New Hampshire. There will be a press conference with middle class families and other events in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, involving small business owners as well as state and local officials.

The president over the last few weeks or so has really been ramping up this message of providing help for the middle class families. And as we heard last week during his bus tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania, not only those in the middle class but those trying to get into the middle class.

And what you're seeing here appears to be a shift away from the negative job numbers that we saw last week and a shift towards tax cuts, or these tax extensions rather, which will benefit the president. At least that's what the campaign believes because he's able to draw contrast between his message and message of the GOP and message specifically of his opponent Mitt Romney. The president can say, I'm fighting for those who need the most help and that other guy is fighting for the wealthy. Christine.

ROMANS: Dan Lothian, I want to talk more about the president's tax plans now. Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is here with us. Our STARTING POINT team is here as well. You're the Republican deputy whip. So tell me, are you going to accept this line in the sand of $250,000 or is it all or nothing?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: What the American people tell us regularly is, look, just extend this. One of the biggest problems we have and I'm sure Richard hears this, uncertainty about regulation, uncertainty about taxation.

ROMANS: The Republicans are vowing more uncertainty about health care reform too, not putting that uncertainty to bed.

LOTHIAN: I would differ there. I think that there's a way to bring some certainty to this. But the uncertainty that is penetrating the environment in Washington, D.C. is so difficult. I think that Senator McConnell had it about right yesterday when he said, let's take it as it is and extend everything, do it for --

ROMANS: Let's listen to what he said, what Senator McConnell said yesterday. Oh, darn it, we don't have it. Sorry. She did a night buttoning it up.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKBURN: The thing is, if you say OK, as they are, the o 103 cuts, let's extend them for another year and get to comprehensive tax reform. We're going to hear from Congressman Brady about that.

ROMANS: Comprehensive tax reform would be so nice if anything thought people in Washington could get it done.

BLACKBURN: We won't get it done this year. But I think next year you're going to see it on the table. RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: When Marsha says it, it sounds so reasonable. But --

BLACKBURN: Because it is.

SOCARIDES: The truth is that we need to have this debate in this country about whether or not we're going to continue providing tax cuts for the super-rich --

ROMANS: What is super rich? Can we agree what is super-rich?

SOCARIDES: I certainly over a million, if you have $100 million IRA, you're super rich.

ROMANS: Some Democrats are saying maybe $1 million should be the line.

SOCARIDES: I think $250,000 is a reasonable number and the number that makes sense. I think we're going to have this debate in the context of the election. You said President Obama talked about this before and then agreed to lower -- to continue the tax cuts for everybody. The truth is he did that evenly because he needed to do it to make a deal. Now in the context of this election, we'll have a debate about where the line should be.

ROMANS: Jose, let me ask you, outside of this Bermuda Triangle of New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., what do people in the rest of the country? What is rich?

JOSE BAEZ, AUTHOR, "PRESUMED GUILTY:" You know --

ROMANS: A Florida jury, do they think a million is rich, $250,000 is rich?

BAEZ: When you look at other places in the United States, $250,000 sounds like a lot of money to a lot of people. But when you go into the more urban areas, it doesn't seem that -- like it's a whole lot of money. What I don't understand is what are we talking about when you say, Marsha, about the uncertainty? What exactly does that mean?

BLACKBURN: The regulatory uncertainty. Last year 80,000 pages were added to the federal register, over 4,400 new regulations. And when you are a business owner -- let's take one agency for instance, EPA. And you're trying to deal with rules and regulations, if you're a small business manufacturer in my district in Tennessee, say you're a just in time supplier for the auto industry, the uncertainty that is there. If you are a community bank, we have a very strong state charter bank system in Tennessee and you've got FDIC regulators that don't really know the banking industry who are coming in to regulate you. That is a level of uncertainty that is there.

If you're looking at the tax code and the IRS is -- you know, you don't know what the tax code is going to be this year and Congress is late in passing the extensions, we do that extenders bill every year, it provides a level of uncertainty. And what people want to know is what they are looking at so they can develop a business plan.

ROMANS: I need to move on, and we'll talk more about this when we come back. But on top of this uncertainty is the fact that the economy is not doing well.

BLACKBURN: That's right.

ROMANS: That is the real problem here. It's demand for small businesses. They are not seeing the demand they like to see and can't quite figure out what is the magic elixir that will fix this. We will talk more with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, is going to talk to us about all of this a little bit more about the Bush tax cuts. She's from Ohio and she'll join this conversation. Let's get to Ali for the rest of the day's top stories.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm not wearing my cheap business correspondent cap so I'm not going to do that right now. I didn't say anybody say the FDIC is a problem regulator because this is the best regulator --

ROMANS: Here we go.

VELSHI: That's not my job. Many people waking up in the dark with their computers dark, a crippling internet virus may be infecting hundreds of thousands of computers this morning. At midnight eastern time the FBI shut down servers that had been protecting as much as 300,000 pcs from the Internet doomsday virus that will knock you entirely offline, including those with macs and iPads. Online security firms were offering free diagnostic checks. Now it's past the deadline and if you don't have the internet, you'll have to call your internet service provider and they'll instruct you as to how to get back online.

Not much relief from a brief cold front that moved through the northeast this week because it brought with it a fresh round of storms slowing down recovery efforts in Virginia, causing more damage in hard hit areas. More than 160,000 customers in nine state and the District of Columbia still without power this morning. Some of those people have not had electricity for more than a week.

Well, now that needed rain has fallen and temperatures have cooled down a bit. Colorado's governor has lifted a statewide ban on fires. The Waldo Canyon blaze which we've been covering, blackened 18,000 acres and destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs. The most destructive fire in the state's history and it is however, 98 percent contained this morning.

(WEATHER BREAK)

VELSHI: On the security watch, police in Britain are reportedly arresting a terror suspect who may have been scoping out the Olympic park in east London according to the Sunday telegraph. The would-be suicide bomber with ties to Al Qaeda traveled near Olympic park on five separate occasions. Security officials are on high alert with the games expected to begin later this month. And a presidential power play in Egypt. Reports say the country's parliament will reconvene tomorrow at 12:30 local time after President Mohamed Morsi's defiance of the military. Morsi called Egyptian lawmakers back into session, overriding a military decree to dissolve parliament. Egypt's generals have called an emergency meeting to discuss the move by the newly elected president and it's repercussions.

Christine, that's it for me. I'll see you in a little while.

ROMANS: Thanks, Ali.

Up next on STARTING POINT, a banker goes missing and so does $17 million. Authorities are saying his own suicide was just his latest scam.

And $44 million, not bad for a day's work, a golden parachute that will make the 99 percent's blood boil.

Inside the Casey Anthony trial, her former attorney Jose Baez is out with a new book, making the case for her innocence. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Ali Velshi. Minding your business, with the economies in Europe close to cracking, investors here in the United States have something else to worry about this week, second quarter earnings. I call it the report card for wall street. Alcoa always the first big name to report. That happens today. Already 42 public companies have lowered their earnings expectations, among them, Ford and Texas Instruments, most blaming the slowdown from Europe.

U.S. stock futures are trading lower ahead of the opening bell this morning. Markets are down worldwide after that disappointing jobs report on Friday here in the United States.

And a Georgia banker has gone missing, so has $17 million. Aubrey Lee Price is accused of defrauding more than 100 investors. Price disappeared and left what appears to be a rambling suicide note. But "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" says federal investigators believe that price is still alive and possibly in South America.

And $44 million, not bad for a day's work. For a few hours this week, William Johnson was the CEO of Duke Energy. The former CEO of progress energy, where he worked, signed a three-year contract to head up duke once the two companies merged. He assumed the position on July 2nd. The next day, by so-called mutual agreement, he was out, replaced by Duke's former chief executive. Johnson leaves with a severance package reportedly worth $44 million. Christine, we've got to do a little digging to see how he earned the $44 million. It certainly sounds a little odd to get $44 million for a day's worth of work. ROMANS: And mutual agreement isn't always mutual agreement. That could mean the board kicked him out and had to pay him out for the three years or the fact he was going to work there.

VELSHI: I'm going to look into it.

ROMANS: Thanks.

VELSHI: It's been a year since the whole country watched as Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. Since the controversial verdict, we know she's been serving probation in an undisclosed location in Florida. We don't know much else about Casey's life after the trial until now. Jose Baez was her criminal defense attorney and has a new book called "Presumed Guilty." Welcome to the program.

BAEZ: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

ROMANS: A lot of buzz in the newsroom. Everyone has a lot of questions. Fire away.

Let me ask you first, it's so interesting and the very beginning you thank Casey Anthony forgiving you permission to tell this story. Are you still in contact with her? Do you still talk to her? She is aware of the book.

BAEZ: Yes. You know, I talked to her about as frequently as I do other former clients. Casey was -- because I represented her for so long and the trial lasted so long, she's somewhat special. We've spoken a little bit more frequently. But I've moved on to other cases and she's trying to get on with her life. Writing the book provided me with an opportunity to get it all out there and be done with it.

ROMANS: Let's get it all out there. So you say when Caylee was reported missing. She led them on this wild goose chase and the police quickly made up their minds and arrested her. You call that a crucial moment in the investigation and horrible decision. This is what you write, you say "They should have stopped and realized, wait a minute, we're not here dealing with someone who's playing with a full deck here. Rather than thinking this is a guilty person, why wouldn't they consider this is a person who has built some kind of fantasy world and lives within mythical reality?" Does she need mental -- is this a mental situation do you think?

BAEZ: I think that there's a lot there. There's a lot there that has yet to be pursued. When law enforcement initially started investigating this case, the red flags were everywhere. Here she is walking them down to Universal Studios with purpose, to use their words, turning left in a building then going right, my office is over here, knowing that there's no office there.

And all of a sudden stops when she reaches a dead end and says, OK, I don't work here. The police already knew then that there was a fictitious nanny, that the nanny didn't exist and the apartment had been vacant for almost half a year. And every single thing she was talking about and every single thing that her family was talking about, just wasn't right. And rather than rush and arrest her, without any evidence, they should have taken a step back.

ROMANS: You have a missing baby and a woman lying, lying.

BAEZ: So what are you going to do, water board her? No, I think the right thing to do at that point is take a step back and say, OK, let's see if we can get somebody in here to talk to her. There might be mental health issues. The police know that a majority of the people who commit crimes do it because they either have a drug problem or mental health issues. Very few people actually commit crimes knowing right from wrong and do so. I think that given the circumstances, the gravity of the situation, that this was a child that was missing, could have been alive and was either in the hands or not in the hands of someone who is all there should have --

ROMANS: We know she wasn't alive.

BAEZ: Correct.

ROMANS: We now know this child is gone, I think there was a spokeswoman for the department of corrections, called her one of the most hated women in America. She is the most hated woman in America. I couldn't think of anybody who got -- you called it "Presumed Guilty," the title of your book. Does she still live in a fantasy world? Is she trying to rebuild a life?

BAEZ: I haven't spoken to her about children and things like that. We usually spoke about her case. And in investigating her case, the fact she had so many imagery friends, I put up a big board in closing arguments with every single person. There was once where her and her mother waited in a parking lot for a person who didn't exist, waited an hour and a half. She didn't exist. So these are the types of things --

ROMANS: The real most important person in her life was dead and buried and she was lying about it.

BAEZ: Quite a traumatic event that spiraled out of control.

ROMANS: These guys have a lot of questions. The book is called "Presumed Guilty." Nice to see you, thank you.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, the federal government complains there's a lack of money. Maybe it should stop playing unemployment to people who aren't eligible, people in prison. Wait until you hear how much money the government is wasting and who is getting it pretty easily. Don't forget you can watch CNN live, head to CNN.com/TV. You're watching STARTING POINT

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back, I'm Ali Velshi. A woman who witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy has agreed to testify on behalf of the man convicted of killing him. Nina Rhodes Hughes says she's been contacted by Sirhan Sirhan's lawyers for his upcoming legal challenge. Rhodes Hughes says she told FBI investigators way back in 1968 that there was a second gunman. Tragic news for Usher's family. Reports say the singer's seven- year-old stepson has been declared brain dead following a boating accident. Kyle Glover was riding in an inner-tube when he was struck by a jet ski on Georgia's Lake Lanier.

Actor Ernest Borgnine being remembered for his long and distinguished film and television career. He starred in McHale's Navy during the 1960s, but a decade earlier he won an Academy Award for his role in the film "Marty." Ernest Borgnine was 95 years old.

ROMANS: And a tremendous talent, tremendous talent. Thanks, Ali.

Now it's time to get real. Be careful before you cash that unemployment check. The government is trying to get back unemployment benefits it paid out to people who weren't eligible, billions in benefits. Labor department and states paid $14 billion in fiscal year 2011. How much is that? That's about 11 percent of all jobless benefits paid out. Let me say that again -- 11 percent of all jobless benefits paid out last year were paid out to people who weren't supposed to get them.

Most benefits do go the right people but there are three types of people who get the wrong benefits. They go to the people not actively searching for a job or those people fired or quit, those who still file claims even though they returned to work. That happens a lot.

Sometimes it's because of government error. It's an employer or the worker or sometimes all three. Sometimes this is because of fraud schemes, guys. This is really interesting. People set up fake companies and people in prison who somehow manage to get benefits. There was one case somebody, I think he had $30,000 waiting in a Los Angeles county jail for a murder conviction, illegal immigrants, a lot of other categories of people who apply for benefits and get the benefits.

But what really surprised me about this, 11 percent of all benefits paid out last year made out to people who weren't supposed to be getting the money. We're already living in a country, Marsha Blackburn, that is living beyond its means and people are legitimate people are seeing their benefits run out while people who should not be getting them are getting them. It's outrageous.

BLACKBURN: It is outrageous, when you're out talking with constituents, sometimes people will come up and say, Marsha, where can I report someone who I know who they know is defrauding the system? And they want to make certain those individuals get turned in because if you're playing by the rules, if you're working hard and if you're searching for a job and working three or four jobs and see somebody getting benefits they are not entitled to. It really does cause people to get a little bit up in arms.

ROMANS: Even in good times this has been a problem. I can remember inspector general reports for the past 10 years just a survey of prison population, how many people are getting them. This is -- the government presumably, Jose, can go in and try to get -- claw these backs. But if you don't have money, they are not getting money from you.

BAEZ: Most of the people who are actually committing these frauds don't have a lot of money to begin with, and it goes and disappears. But being a small business owner, one of the things I noticed, I've had people quit, and before I get a notice that they are collecting unemployment benefits, they are already collecting a paycheck.

ROMANS: Isn't the onus on you to say, no, they can't? You have to do the paperwork to say you can't get the unemployment benefits.

BAEZ: You do, but you don't get it until they are already receiving checks. A lot of things can happen. This gets put on the bottom file, doesn't get done.

ROMANS: I can't really get to that at the moment, I have a Casey Anthony murder trial right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BAEZ: I have to get back to you later, or you end up sending it in and the person ends up having to pay money back. Good luck in collecting your money.

ROMANS: That's the get real.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, I want to turn to Syria where the dictator, blaming the U.S. and terrorists, blaming everyone but himself for the carnage in his country. Can there be peace with sim him still in the picture? Setting up an election year war with Republicans, president Obama wants to renew the fight over the Bush tax cuts with four months until Election Day. Congressman Marcy Kaptur joins us.

And Congressman Barney Frank ties the knot and blazes a trail. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. In a few minutes, the latest on our breaking news from the White House this morning.

President Obama restarting the fight over the so-called Bush tax cuts as a fragile economy threatens his re-election chances. He'll be holding a news conference in just a few hours.

What it means for your job and for his job. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Ohio, will join the conversation coming up.

But first, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Syria this morning. He met with President Bashar Al-Assad and his mission described as a last ditch effort to salvage his peace plan for the region.

He's calling his talks with Assad candid and constructive and says they agreed on an approach to peace that he'll now share with opposition forces in Syria.

His visit follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's warning to Assad and to his backers that demise to his regime is a, quote, "bloody inevitability."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The future to me should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime, the days are numbered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Arwa Damon is monitoring the situation in Syria. She is live from Beirut this morning.

Arwa, the -- I can't -- I mean, it's almost shocking, a lot of people this morning are saying, the Syrian leader, Bashar Al- Assad blaming the U.S. for destabilizing Syria and for the bloodshed within his own country. What is he saying?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is, Christine, although it's not exactly the first time that we've heard him levelling blame against the United States other western and Arab nations too.

The government from the onset of this uprising has effectively blamed the violence on these foreign backed terrorist gangs refusing to take on any measure of responsibility for what's happening inside the country.

We heard from the Syrian president in an interview with a German broadcaster as defiant as ever. And just listen to what he had to say about America's role in the uprising.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: It's part of the conflict. They give the umbrella and political support to those gangs to create disability, to destabilize Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: So President Assad effectively blaming the United States for politically backing the opposition. He was also pointing the finger of blame to Saudi Arabia accusing two governments of providing weapons to the armed rebels.

But he said he had no concrete evidence to that effect. But once again, we're seeing the Syrian president blaming just about everyone, except for himself -- Christine.

ROMANS: Meantime, 15, 16 months now bloodshed continues and opposition groups reporting 60 people killed in Syria just yesterday. Kofi Annan just wrapped up his meeting with Al-Assad. What are the two sides doing? Are they any closer to a peace plan here? DAMON: Well, it doesn't really seem as if they are. Kofi Annan was calling the talks constructive and said he had the approach that the Syrian president agreed to that he was then going to be presenting it to the armed opposition.

But there are still a lot of question marks. This new revised peace plan that the United Nations Security Council agreed to on June 30th calls not only for a cease fire, but for a transition to some sort of national unity government.

Now the Syrian president again in this interview with the German broadcaster said that there's no need for a national unity government because from his perspective one already exists in the country.

The opposition for its part has said it will absolutely not sit down at the negotiating table unless the president himself steps aside. This new Kofi Annan proposal does not in fact call for that.

So it most certainly seems as if there's a lot of dialogue going on, but no concrete plan that both sides are going to agree to and perhaps more importantly, stick to.

ROMANS: Yes, a lot of dialogue back and forth and the killing continuous. Arwa Damon, thanks so much.

I want to bring in the congresswoman for a quick second. You know, when he says something like this, Bashar Al-Assad, and Arwa's right, he has blamed the U.S. before, puts us -- what is the U.S. supposed to do it here. What' the reaction, the appropriate reaction of the United States?

REPRESENTATIVE MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think that one of the things that we have to do is to make certain that we send the point once again, no, this is not our fault. You know, the entire region concerns us.

When you look at what is happening in Lebanon, when you look at what's happening in Syria, the situations in Egypt. All of it is of concern. We're a stabilizer. We are not a de-stabilizer.

And it is almost one of these situations where something begins to run off the rails and who are they going to blame. They look at us and try to blame us.

I think that most the countries around there, if you ask them, do you want the U.S. here or do you want them gone? They want us. They want our presence that is there and repeatedly has been in and out of that region.

That is one of the things that I see. They say they don't want us, but they sure are glad that we're there.

ROMANS: He's searching for some legitimacy there and blaming the U.S. as a pretty easy get. RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Don't you think the government's response -- we've been pretty aggressive there, right and Secretary Clinton, I mean, that was -- she said your days are numbered. That's pretty aggressive.

ROMANS: Right, true.

BLACKBURN: That is very aggressive, but there again, Richard, I think that if given the choice of having the U.S. around or the U.S. out, people want us and neighboring countries want us there.

ROMANS: All right, let's go to Ali Velshi quickly for the rest of the morning's headlines. Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

Just in to CNN, we've confirmed that George Zimmerman is waking up in a safe house this morning somewhere in Seminole County, Florida. He left jail on Friday after posting additional $85,000 in bail.

The money came from the legal defense fund set up by his supporters. Now his lawyers say he'll need additional donations to pay for his defense against second degree murder charges that he's facing in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Barney Frank has become the first member of Congress to marry someone of the same sex while still in office. The Massachusetts Democrat tying the knot over the weekend with his long time companion, Jim Reedy.

The Boston ceremony was officiated by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Frank and his partner have pledged to love each other in sickness and in health and quote, "under Democrats or Republicans."

Want to see a bunch of pro-baseball players run for their lives, look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. That knocked -- the players are coming off the field whether they want them to or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: That was nuts. A crazy Thunderclap sent players and umps running at the Texas Rangers game in Arlington, Texas last night when a bolt of lightning struck just outside the stadium.

Josh Willingham, the runner at first even dropped to his knees. Twins center fielder tweeted said that's the loudest noise I've ever heard. I thought Jesus was coming. During the 46 minute delay that followed, everybody is OK.

ROMANS: Look, baseball is a religious experience so -- VELSHI: It was one last night.

ROMANS: Especially in Texas. All right, thanks so much.

Back it our top story, President Obama changing the subject of the campaign this morning to taxes. In just a few hours, he'll hold an event in the Rose Garden to announce his plans to extend the Bush era tax cuts for one year for people earning less than $250,000 a year.

The Obama campaign's senior adviser, Robert Gibbs, says this is a priority for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": So the president is totally committed to getting rid of the tax cut for those making $250,000 or above?

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Let's make some progress on our spending by doing away with tax cuts for people that quite frankly don't need them. Tax cuts that haven't worked and have them pay their fair share.

CROWLEY: So is that a yes or no? The president is completely committed to this. He won't allow it to happen.

GIBBS: He is 100 percent committed to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president's move will likely set up a new fight with Republicans. They already have a vote planned to extend tax cuts for all Americans and are expected to block his proposal unless extensions apply to those making more than $250,000 a year as well.

Congressman Marcy Kaptur is the senior member of the Appropriations Committee. She is also a member of the Budget Committee. Good morning.

You know, a couple of years ago, the president said I'm committed to tax cuts, extending the Bush tax cuts just for 250 and less and in the end, he extended them for everyone.

In fact, some budget hawks called them derisively the Bush Obama tax cuts for the rich. Do you think this time he'll really be able just to pass them for the 250 and under?

REPRESENTATIVE MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: The president just made a sweep through Northern Ohio and talked about his desire to keep the tax burden on the middle class light.

And he didn't mention this new dimension that has been referenced this morning. But I think initially he had to give fuel to the economy to get it going trying to get consumer spending up.

Now we face a little bit of a different situation. The economy has been growing. It has been -- every month we've been creating jobs --

ROMANS: Not enough though, not enough.

KAPTUR: Well, not enough, you know when gas prices went up and with the European debt crisis. There have been some pretty tough hurdles here that we had to get over.

But nonetheless, the economy continues to produce jobs and in the part of America that I represent, we see in the manufacturing sector and in the automotive sector, continuing job growth and even contributing to our added exports.

ROMANS: Do you think the president is trying to change --

KAPTUR: We have to keep that going.

ROMANS: Do you think the president is trying to change the page -- the job growth is not enough. I mean, in some parts -- it just isn't enough, 80,000 jobs created last month.

Is he trying to change the page and put the middle class people behind him, we'll see at this event later on today in the Rose Garden. And try to say, look, one thing I can try to control is your tax bill because I can work with Congress on that?

KAPTUR: Yes, and you know the president has helped the middle class if you look at the payroll tax cut, middle class Americans have been experiencing, that has contributed to the job growth that we see to the car sales, to additional consumer spending.

So he's right smack dab right in the middle of the middle class. He talked about that in Ohio at every stop, whether it was in Parma or Sandusky, Toledo, he was very clear on that.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about this. Other Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they have said, maybe extend the cuts for everyone who earns up to a million dollars.

I guess, setting up a definition of what is rich, who is rich, how much money do you have to be rich in America. But are Democrats not on the same page? Is that a potential problem here?

KAPTUR: Well, at least we know that we want to protect the middle class. I think where you put that line, whether it's million and above, $250,000 and above, that's to be worked out.

But I think it's clear that we want to keep the economy growing. We want jobs continuing to be created and that tax cuts on the middle class can help.

SOCARIDES: I mean, I really don't think this is part of an effort to change the subject. I think that this has been the subject all along.

And you know, Mitt Romney's main plan for the economy is to cut taxes on the wealthy. So I think this is the president framing this issue at $250,000 and below.

So I wouldn't really say it's an effort to change the subject. I think this proposal today is an effort by him to frame very important issue that's going to be before the electorate.

ROMANS: I think framing is still a message though. You know, when you frame the issue and I think, Congresswoman Kaptur, that's what's going to be interesting there is you got a president, gas prices are going down.

You still have the Europe problem. You still have the problem not enough jobs growth. People who even have jobs are still talking to other people who are concerned about jobs.

How can the president at this point and the Democratic Party I guess more broadly, into November show, look, we can help people get jobs? Whether it's putting more money in their pocket and allowing jobs to grow down the road? I mean, that's really what is going to decide this election, isn't it?

KAPTUR: It sure will in places like Ohio. I think when the president said last week that he was issuing a trade complaint against China and its practices in terms of trade.

That helps in regions like ours where we're trying to move product into countries like China. They continue to do some very unwise, take very unwise steps in terms of allowing our products in and making it difficult for our automotive sector to compete.

So he's taking steps on the tax front, on the trade front, on the job creation front. He just signed the bill on transportation, my goodness, we've been waiting for that one for months for the Republicans in Congress to clear.

That's a job creator, assuming those contracts can be let. So I think he's playing piano on all keys not just one.

ROMANS: All right, well, we have to leave it there. We'll talk to Marsha Blackburn more throughout the hour as well. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Ohio. Nice to see you this morning, have a great Monday morning.

KAPTUR: Thank you.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, Congress getting back to work today after a Fourth of July break. Why the first thing House Republicans plan to do cannot possibly succeed.

And a baby golden eagle, inspiring millions after surviving being burned alive. A really amazing story here, some incredible pictures. I promise we're going to make you feel good coming up.

This is Richard Socarides' playlist, Legend's "Take Me Away." You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: I can't lie, Clever. Clever, Clever, Jose Baez.

All right, Congress is back to work this morning after a Fourth of July recess. In just two days, House Republicans plan to call a vote to repeal the president's health care overhaul law.

But it's mostly symbolic, a symbolic vote because any repeal effort would likely die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And of course, the Supreme Court has ruled on this, it is the law of the land, health care reform.

Yet Republicans want to fight it to the bitter end and I'm wondering, should Congress people be spending more time helping constituents comply with the law rather than continuing all of this uncertainty?

BLACKBURN: Well, when you have 2,300 new regulations and 158 new federal bureaucracy that is are created by this law, then there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of we don't know exactly how it's going to be.

ROMANS: Do you have people in the back office who are answering the phone calls saying if you have fewer than 50 workers, small businesses, don't worry, it doesn't apply to those who have fewer than 50 workers?

BLACKBURN: We have all sorts of information on our web site, Facebook.

ROMANS: So you're going to help people comply?

BLACKBURN: Yes. It's the law of the land.

ROMANS: We're going to make this not come true, not here is how we're going to help you get your business --

BLACKBURN: Our goal -- our goal is going to be to get this off the books. Here is what we want to do --

SOCARIDES: This is like a piece of thread, all right. This is not going to get through the Senate.

BLACKBURN: Let me tell you this is not a piece of theatre.

SOCARIDES: So you're just doing it to make a point.

BLACKBURIN: No. It is not a piece of theatre because what the American people want to hear Congress say is that Obamacare was a mistake.

SOCARIDES: So you're making a statement.

BLACKBURN: It gives us --

SOCARIDES: Political theatre in an election year.

BLACKBURN: Not at all. It gives us the opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate. There are five things that people want --

SOCARIDES: You don't think this is going to be repealed, right? The Senate is not -- the Senate is controlled by the president's party, the president's signature legislation.

BLACKBURN: Richard, don't get started --

SOCARIDES: Well, you are making a point. That's my only point, you are making a point. You'll agree you're making a point. You're not doing this to repeal it.

BLACKBURN: I'm doing it to repeal it and get rid of it. I think it is the worst thing --

SOCARIDES: But you realize you only going to make a point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is why you put me between them.

BLACKBURN: The thing is this. The most important step of any journey is the first step.

SOCARIDES: That's good.

BLACKBURN: We are once again going to go back and repeal this bill. It's terrible -- and we're going to do it again.

SOCARIDES: How many times?

BLACKBURN: We're going to do it again.

SOCARIDES: How many times?

BLACKBURN: I wish we could do it every day.

SOCARIDES: Every day. We're going to do it every day. You heard it here, the Republicans leadership. We're going to vote to repeal health care every day instead of working to put America back to work. I think that's a great -- listen, I'll take it.

BLACKBURN: Well, look at one of the things that is prohibiting jobs growth. Number one issue, jobs, the economy, health care, our national security, we're talking about all of these this morning. And when you talk about an inhibitor to getting people hired, the Obama care --

ROMANS: But wait. One point, I just have a real question -- not that your question wasn't real, but I'm just saying -- strike that from the record, counselor. But isn't it creating more uncertainty?

BLACKBURN: Not at all.

ROMANS: When I talk to small business people they think this is going to crush them and I say, wait a minute, you have fewer than 50 employees, but they're hearing --

BLACKBURN: But it does affect them.

ROMANS: They're hearing their Republicans representatives say -- give me an example.

BLACKBURN: A constituent last week, they have six employees in their company. Their health insurance went up 54 percent this current year. Next year, it is going to go up another 56 percent. They had to let one employee go.

ROMANS: Health care costs and premiums have already been going up.

BLACKBURN: And --

ROMANS: With or without health care reform.

BLACKBURN: When they talk to their insurance provider, the insurance provider says because of the new regulation that are going to be contained in Obamacare, this is what is happening to your insurance costs.

ROMANS: So how did you counsel them?

BLACKBURN: I do not counsel them. That is not -- when they contact us to get provisions or information, we give that to them. But there are five things they want to us do, to get rid of this and put in its place.

ROMANS: We'll talk about those when we come back because we're going -- speaking of paying the bills, right to a commercial break.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, thank you, Congresswoman. Utah's miracle baby. We're going to tell you about a golden eagle rising from the ashes of a wildfire.

And this is Congressman Blackburn's play list, the Oak Ridge Boys, "American Made."

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ROMANS: A Phoenix rising from the ashes. This baby golden eagle is recovering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Utah after he was burned alive by a wildfire that consumed his nest.

He was found among the ashes of his charred home a few weeks ago with singed feathers and burns to his feet and his beak. A volunteer went looking to collect a tagging band that he had placed on this little one just a few weeks before.

He assumed this eaglet was dead, but the eagle's resistance has earned him the name Phoenix for the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.

Buz Marthaler is a board chair of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah where the bird is recovering. Welcome to the program. You first saw this Phoenix on July 4th. How did he look? Were you surprised he was still alive?

BUZ MARTHALER, BOARD CHAIR, WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTER OF NORTHERN UTAH: Yes. Based on the conditions that we saw him in, we were quite surprised that he lived through it.

ROMANS: We're going to show some pictures of the nest before and the nest after it was burned. It was initially found 25 feet below the nest by that volunteer who placed the identification band on him.

Look at that. Look at the before after, unbelievable. Eagles usually start flying, what 75 to 80 days. We think maybe Phoenix's days might be younger, not quite old enough to fly. How do you think he survived the fire?

MARTHALER: You know, that will always be a wonderment, but we're assuming that the fire started obviously from the bottom and as it engulfed the nest that he eventually jumped out onto the area that had already been in flames and was no longer in flame.

ROMANS: How is he doing now?

MARTHALER: He's doing pretty well. We're still guarded about his condition, but we're hopeful.

ROMANS: You're not handling him too much, right? He's kind of an angry little bird.

MARTHALER: He is and that's good. We want to show fight and he's showing us a lot of fight. He wants human hands away from him unless they have food and then he's a pretty eager eater.

ROMANS: You don't want him damaging his it talons if he gets angry and fighting back. Buz Marthaler, we wish you the best of luck. Keep us posted, will you please, on Phoenix and his rise from the ashes. I know you are guarded about his condition, but we want to be hopeful about him. Thank you, sir.

MARTHALER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, missed him by that much. A fisherman comes face-to-face with a huge shark while kayaking. Almost becomes shark bait. We're talking to the expert who was first on the scene.

Plus, relief at last for millions of Americans sweltering in triple digit heat, but it won't last for too long. So don't get used to it. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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