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CNN NEWSROOM

Republicans Back Away from Tax Pledge; Garment Factories in Bangladesh; Suh Suspended Two Games Last Year; Egypt's President Faces Growing Anger

Aired November 26, 2012 - 09:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "CNN NEWSROOM with Carol Costello begins right now. See you back tomorrow.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Horror in Bangladesh. Two giant clothing factories there go up in flames. They might have made the clothes that are in your closet right now. Thousands of workers protest the deaths of their colleagues. Were safety warnings ignored?

Republican rebellion? Lindsey Graham, the latest lawmaker to buck a powerful GOP lobbyist and his anti-tax pledge. We'll have the view from the edge of the so-called fiscal cliff.

One of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood lends his voice to a pro-same-sex marriage ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Freedom, justice and human dignity have always guided our journey toward a more perfect union. Now across our country, we are standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Morgan Freeman pointing out why he's behind what voters in three states did on Election Day.

And your $2 could be worth 425 million bucks. Powerball reaching a new record. Let's dream the dream together, shall we?

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning to you. Thank you so much for being with me on this Monday morning. I'm Carol Costello.

We begin with the so-called fiscal cliff. Thirty-six days from the crisis and new signs of just how concerned lawmakers really are. More Republican lawmakers now say they will work toward a compromise, even if they have to break a promise not to raise taxes.

That promise, that pledge, the brain child of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, a long-time power broker in the GOP. But the vote faced its first test last week when Senator Saxby Chambliss said he was willing to break the promise. Congressman Peter King also said he'd bumped the pledge in order to strike a bipartisan deal. And now Senator Lindsey Graham has become the latest Republican to say he would violate the pledge if Democrats also show a willingness to rein in the nation's debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs. But I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country. Only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: OK. So let's bring in CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser.

OK. It's three Republican lawmakers. It's not exactly a rebellion, right?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Not a rebellion yet. And Grover Norquist, Carol, was on CNN on "STARTING POINT" just an hour ago. And he said you know what? If any of these lawmakers do break the pledge they have explaining to do to their voters. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: If you want to go to your voters and say, I promised you this and I'm breaking my promise, you can have that conversation with them. But you don't have that argument with me. You've made a commitment to your voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: And Norquist also said that nobody who signed the pledge has ever voted to raise taxes. So stay tuned on all this as negotiations really get under way. What do Americans think about all this, Carol, with 36 days to go until the fiscal cliff? Take a look at these brand-new numbers from CNN/ORC, a national poll. And we asked the effect of this fiscal cliff. If the country goes off the fiscal cliff, the effect on you.

Look at that. 24 percent say it's a crisis, 44 percent say major problems, only 33 basically say that there would be minor problems or no problems at all.

Who would be responsible if there is no agreement? The blame game, I guess you could say. Take a look at -- well, take a look at that number as well right there. Put that back up. Who would be most responsible? Forty-five percent say the Republicans in Congress would be blamed more than the president. Only 34 percent say he would and about 15 percent, Carol, say that both sides should be blamed.

One other takeaway from our brand new poll? People want compromise, Carol. They want to see a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases.

And Carol, they're not very optimistic a deal will get done.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about Grover Norquist for just a bit, Paul. So most Americans want taxes raised on the wealthiest Americans. And we just saw your poll there that 45 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if there's no compromise reached to avoid this fiscal cliff. So why is Grover Norquist still so powerful? Like why does any Republican care?

STEINHAUSER: Well, this pledge has been around for 25 years. That's a long time. It stood through a lot of different crises. Take, instance, Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham. Both Republicans, both up for re-election in 2014. Both would have to go into Republican primaries. If you break the pledge, if you break the pledge, that could be very detrimental. If you're running for election, you have to go through a Republican primary. Politics at play here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It's because Grover Norquist is a powerful lobbyist and he puts money behind candidates that support his pledge? Is that it?

STEINHAUSER: You know, he does -- he does have some influence in the Republican primary process. And that's why a lot of politicians may be very hesitant to break this kind of pledge. And also, you know, you look at the Tea Party movement and others who would hate to see a raise in taxes. That could come back to hurt you if you're a Republican politician running for re-election next time around -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Paul Steinhauser reporting live from Washington.

Another possible sign of compromise in Washington? Republican Senator John McCain now says he is open to changing his mind on Susan Rice -- Susan Rice rather if she's nominated to become the next secretary of state.

McCain has been one of her most vocal critics. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is under fire for initially saying that it was protesters and not terrorists who launched that deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. McCain now says he will not block Rice's nomination and he'll give her a chance to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I'll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Rice has said that her description of the attack was based on the best intelligence at the moment. Republicans have accused her of downplaying an obvious terrorist attack for political motives.

Other stories we're watching this morning, a huge gas explosion in Springfield, Massachusetts, that hurt 21 people was the result of human error. The state fire marshal's office says a utility worker inadvertently poked a hole in a high pressure gas line. That line was incorrectly indicated by sidewalk markings.

On Friday afternoon the gas built up and eventually it ignited. One building was destroyed. Dozens more were damaged.

Police are investigating the death of a suspected shoplifter at a suburban Atlanta Wal-Mart. Several reports say the man left the store with two DVD players. He was stopped by store employees and a security officer and got into some kind of physical altercation with them. By the time police got there, the victim was unresponsive, bleeding from the nose and mouth. He died later.

For the second time in a few days a Bangladeshi clothing factory goes up in flames. Just this morning a fire started inside a 10-story factory. It took firefighters four hours to get the blaze under control. No one died. But 10 people were hurt. But on Saturday, at least 117 people were killed in another fire. And more victims could still be found inside. Two thousand people were at work at the time. It's unclear just how many people actually got out.

Clothing is big business in Bangladesh. It's the world's second biggest exporter. And you're likely wearing some of the clothing that they make. It's probably in your closet right now. Companies like Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, and Kohl's. Also clothing made in that Asian country.

Alison Kosik joins now from the New York Stock Exchange.

So this is just such a sad story. So many things went wrong, including people couldn't get out because there were no fire exits.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know. It's really terrible. I mean working conditions in these factories, Carol, are notoriously poor. And according to clean -- the Clean Clothes Campaign, that's an anti-sweat shop advocacy group, more than 500 workers have died in fires over the past six years.

Now these factories are accused of not taking simple precautions to protect their employees. Because many of these shops, they're in cramped neighborhoods. They don't have enough fire escapes, as you said. They don't follow basic safety measures. You know, some experts call these death traps.

Some advocacy groups are calling on these employers and the government in Bangladesh to invest in some kind of countrywide inspection program to make sure that these buildings where literally thousands of people work, you know, try to make these buildings up to par. But the problem is, for many of these Bangladeshis here, this is their best option for work and when they speak out against the wages, which are among the world's lowest, or maybe safety issues, they say they're harassed by their employers.

As for the retailers, experts say they need to take more responsibility, too. But for their part many say they're trying to improve. But you know it just doesn't some like it's enough. Wal- Mart does what's called a global responsibility report. Wal-Mart says it stopped working with almost 50 factories in Bangladesh last year because of fire safety issues.

H & M also is making a big effort toward fire safety and increasing the minimum wage in Bangladesh. But you know this change can be slow to come. In the meantime these tragedies, they continue happening. And it kind of builds that ick factor. You know? When you think about that, gosh, I shopped at H & M and look what happens to the people who work to make those clothes that I buy.

COSTELLO: What, well, now that 117 people are dead and there are reports out there that the fire started, an alarm went off and there was an announcement over the loud speaker that said ignore that alarm, no worries here. Go back to work. And the workers went back in and began working again and ended up dying.

KOSIK: It's nuts. Today those safety precautions need to be put in. And they certainly have to be in these factories in a big way, Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange.

Several batches of a popular anti-cholesterol medication are being pulled from pharmacy shelves. Forty-one lots of the generic version of Lipitor have been recalled. The drug maker Ranbaxy Pharmaceutical says the product might contain small glass particles. The drugs affected include the 10, 20 and 40 milligram tablets.

Question for you this morning. What would you do with $425 million bucks? You might be able to come up with a few answers if you win the Powerball lottery. Wednesday's drawing will be the biggest jackpot ever for the Powerball. If you win and take the cash price, that's $278.3 before taxes. Powerball is played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Turning our attention to sports now. The NFL says there's no -- there's no benefit of the doubt when it comes to repeat offenders. So Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should expect no leniency when the league reviews this play today. Suh kicked Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin, at least it seemed that way, during the Lions Thanksgiving Day game.

Jamie Samuelsen of 97.1, The Ticket in Detroit is here with us now.

Good morning, Jamie.

JAMIE SAMUELSEN, 97.1 THE TICKET/FREEP.COM: Good morning, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: I'm good. So the NFL is supposed to review this play. Do you think it's already made up its mind, though, about Suh?

SAMUELSEN: Why it sure sounds like it. And Ray Anderson, the vice president of football operations, was quoted extensively over the weekend. He said exactly what you just said. And that is that past actions, past indiscretions will come into play. There was already a report from Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com that Suh will be suspended for at least one game.

So it's like you said when we -- saw the highlight there. Apparently he did kick him in the groin. And I think when you look at that tape and we've all looked at it over and over again since Thanksgiving Day, he does roll over. It's hard to say he has control of his leg. But there's that kind of secondary motion where it sure looks to me, I think it looks to a lot of people like he intentionally strikes Schaub right where he did.

COSTELLO: OK. So the NFL suspends Suh maybe for a game. And we're just assuming here. Because we really don't know. Do you think that will change Suh's behavior? Because nothing else seems to have worked. He's been suspended before. He's been fined before. What will it take?

SAMUELSEN: It's a great question, Carol. He was suspended as you alluded to a year ago after ironically enough a Thanksgiving Day game where he stomped on Evan Dietrich Smith of the Green Bay Packers who suspended two games for that. And that suspension came on the heels of a meeting that Suh himself initiated with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to find out why he was being penalized so hard for his aggressive play on the field.

Look, it's a violent game. We all know that. I think Suh is a very violent player. I think he plays right on the edge with a certain amount of rage. And I think he crosses that line sometimes. So will a one-game suspension get to him? I don't think so. Because a two- game suspension didn't get to him.

He doesn't seem to think he's doing anything wrong. He still refers to the play last year against the Packers as trying to remove himself from the situation as opposed to stomping on the other player's arm. We haven't heard from Suh since the game on Thursday. He usually talks to the media here in Detroit on Wednesdays. But if he's suspended, he won't be at the practice facility. So we may not hear from Suh for another week or so to find out exactly what his take is on the action. But normally when he talks about these kinds of kinds of things, he's in a certain state of denial.

COSTELLO: Jamie Samuelsen, from 97.1. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

SAMUELSEN: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Here's a light moment. From the Seattle/Miami game. Did you see this? The action stopped in the third quarter when the automatic sprinklers came on by mistake. No word on what went wrong. But maybe the Dolphins wanted the -- wanted their guests from the northwest to feel more at home on the wet field. You know, kind of like rain. It didn't help the Seahawks who wound up losing and are now 1-5 on the road this year.

Coming up in the NEWSROOM, protests escalating in Egypt. People angry over the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and what they call a power grab. We'll take you live to Tahrir Square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Sixteen minutes past the hour.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is facing more anger over his move to grant himself extensive new powers. Protests are escalating. And today, Morsi meets with the nation's highest judicial body. According to state news media, it calls Morsi's power grab, quote, "an unprecedented attack on the young democracy."

CNN's Reza Sayah is in Cairo this morning.

Good morning.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

New developments today in Cairo that could further entangle and muddy what is an already complicated conflict. We have confirmed that next week, on December 4th, a court in Cairo will hear several cases brought against the controversial decrees declared by Mr. Morsi last week.

Now, here's where the intrigue comes in. Last week, one of his decrees banned anyone, any authority, even the judiciary from questioning and overturning any of his decisions since he took office. So, we'll see how that plays out.

In the meantime, protests continue. And there doesn't seem to be a resolution to this conflict. The leaders of the opposition factions have dug in, saying we're not going to have dialogue until Mr. Morsi rescinds his decrees.

A few hours ago, we spoke to one of his top advisers and we asked him, is that a possibility?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: What kind of concessions are you willing to make.

DR. ESSAM EL-ERIAN, VICE-CHMN., EGYPTIAN FREEDOM & JUSTICE PARTY: This decision is up to the president, not for us.

SAYAH: Is it possible -- is it possible he will rescind his decrees?

EL-ERIAN: We are ready dialogue with our competitors (ph).

SAYAH: Are you prepared to consider rescinding, adjusting some of these decrees?

EL-ERIAN: Decree is up to the president. We are accepting it. We may have some reservations. But as a whole, we must take a step to -- forward, not to backward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: That was Dr. Essam El-Erian, one of the top advisers for Mr. Morsi. It was tough to get a read on his position. He seemed to say if there is dialogue, we'll consider, consider some concessions. But, of course, the leaders of the opposition faction saying, we're not talking until he reverses his decrees, Carol.

COSTELLO: Reza Sayah reporting live from Cairo, Egypt, this morning.

As you know, Egypt has been a key player in brokering the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Today in Cairo, mediators continue talks with Israel. Topics will include opening border crossing and easing Israel's economic blockade in Gaza. The ongoing talks come as the Palestinian Authority leaders go before the United Nations this week to renew their bid for statehood.

Also new this morning, Israel's defense minister says he will leave his post in January. Ehud Barak says he wants to spend more time with his family. But there's been a lot of buzz that he's forming a new party. Barak has led Israel's military for the last five years and served as the nation's prime minister for a couple of years before that.

Is it over, Grover? Republicans back away from Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. But what do Republicans want in return? That's our talk back question today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, what should Republicans expect in return for new taxes? OMG. This is big.

Two more prominent Republicans are throwing anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist under the bus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can't cap down deductions and buy down debt. What do you do with the money? I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs. But I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country -- only if Democrats do will entitlement reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: I ask you is that the statement of a poopy head as Grover Norquist might say? Or maybe it means the gig is up, Grover.

Not so fast, though. You see, Mr. Norquist, a powerful lobbyist, has long had a lock on nearly every Republican in Congress. He's the guy that keeps reminding us George H.W. Bush lost the election after violating his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORQUIST: If you want to go to your voters and say, I promised you this and I'm breaking my promise, you can have that conversation with them. But you don't have any argument, you made the commitment to your voters. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Still, Democrats are heartened by the new "Grover is over" mini-movement. Although they shouldn't do the happy dance just yet, because Republicans will want payback, as in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

So for all of you who want tax hikes for the wealthy, what are you willing to give up in return? On Social Security? Raising the retirement age to 70? On Medicare, a total revamp as in instead of the government paying your Medicare bills, you pay them with help from the government? You tell me.

Talk back question this morning: what should Republicans expect in return for new taxes? Facebook.com/CarolCNN, Facebook.com/CarolCNN. Your comments later this hour.

More Republican lawmakers -- well, as I just said -- they're willing to break that no new tax pledge. We'll talk about that with our political panel, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: And good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me.

Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM:

You don't usually see an archbishop ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. But that's exactly what Cardinal Timothy Dolan is doing today. He's the archbishop of New York and he's raising awareness about New Yorkers in need, both Catholic and non-Catholic charities.

Dow, by the way, back over 13,000. But futures down this morning as investors keep an eye on, you know, those fiscal cliff talks.

Demonstrators are filling Cairo's Tahrir Square, saying they will not leave until the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi backs down. Morsi's meeting with Egypt's highest judicial body after slashing its authority. State media says critics are calling Morsi's power grab an unprecedented attack.

For the second time in as many days, a fire starts inside a Bangladesh clothing factory. No one was killed in today's fire which took firefighters four hours to get under control. But on Saturday, at least 117 people were killed in another fire at another factory. And because of those fires, thousands of workers have taken to the streets, protesting the deaths of their colleagues.

Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak is resigning. He says he's quitting politics to spend more time with his family. The announcement comes as Israel tries to keep a fragile cease-fire with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Their eight day conflict, as you know, killed more than 160 people, most of them in Gaza.

More than one Democrat is tempted to do the happy dance over some Republicans' renunciation of Grover Norquist's no tax pledge. One of the latest is Republican Representative Peter King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: So I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed -- supported a declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed and the economic situation is different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said, quote, "Country is more important than pledges. So, sorry, Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist, I'm out."