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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Powerball Fever; Rice Trying Again; The Right to Fight; 34 Days Until the Fiscal Cliff; Interview With Rep. Diane Black

Aired November 28, 2012 - 06:30   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Powerball fever. It could be your last chance to get tickets to one of the largest jackpots ever.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Trying again. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice gets another shot at soothing Republican lawmakers unhappy with her comments in wake of the Benghazi attack.

SAMBOLIN: The right to fight. Female troops suing the Pentagon to try to get into combat.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Nice to have you with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman today. It's about 31 minutes past the hour.

SAMBOLIN: So imagine, Christine, having a bank account that ends with eight zeros.

Five hundred million dollars. That is tonight's record-shattering Powerball jackpot and it is expected to climb even higher. Millions of Americans in 42 states trying to parlay two bucks into a life- changing fortune.

Alison Kosik is live from Times Square this morning. And, Alison, 60 percent of ticket sales are expected to be made today. Share with us the odds of winning, if you must.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINES CORRESPONDENT: You know what's interesting? You talk about 60 percent of ticket sales happening today. One happening right next to me.

Rick is buying -- how many tickets, five tickets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bought five more tickets.

KOSIK: Five more. So that means you already have how many?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now have 20.

KOSIK: Twenty. But what are the chances you're going to win? You think you're going to win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not. I don't have a chance in the world. KOSIK: Then why buy them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about the hype.

KOSIK: It's all about the hype. And we're all buying into the hype, aren't we?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're here, you should get one.

KOSIK: I did get one. In fact I think I have the winning ticket, Zoraida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll trade my five for your one there.

KOSIK: I'm not trading, no way. I have the winning ticket, Zoraida.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: You have the winning ticket.

And this number keeps on going ka-ching, ka-ching. We understand that was perhaps because the rules changed. Tell us about that.

KOSIK: Yes. You know, what's interesting what's happened is lotto officials wanted to try to increase sales revenue. So what they did was they hiked the price on the Powerball ticket from $1 to $2. This happened in January.

Now, what they saw was sales fell off, but then they got back into the swing of things and the sales started going up and up and up, especially since the jackpot started getting so big. And that's also part of the reason why you're seeing this jackpot so big at $500 million. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that this jackpot has rolled over 16 consecutive times, the last time someone won was October 6th.

So it's just the buzz of this jackpot growing that is getting more and more people to continue buying tickets. But there's an irony to this because the higher the jackpot goes, the more tickets people buy, of course, but also your odds of winning, they fall. People do it because we want to dream.

SAMBOLIN: What are the odds right now?

KOSIK: One hundred seventy-five million to one. That's why we dream.

SAMBOLIN: And you think you're the one?

KOSIK: Free to dream.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

KOSIK: I am the one, yes. You won't see me at work tomorrow. Or maybe you will.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you so much. Yes, I'm sure we will. Thank you.

KOSIK: Thanks a lot.

SAMBOLIN: Check this out, folks. This is Indiana. People are getting free Powerball tickets.

Can we show that picture? Do we have it?

But we're getting it for you. We're getting it for you. Seven locations around the state.

Hoosier lottery is handing 500 free tickets at 500 free tickets alone at each location. This is the first time that they've handed out free lotto tickets. It has happened several times this year. Usually happens when the jackpot gets over $200 million. So if you happen to be in that area, head over.

ROMANS: If you don't want to spend 5 bucks on tickets, you could put it in a 529 today. That would be nice.

SAMBOLIN: You've got to dream a little, Christine. You've got to dream.

ROMANS: All right, all right.

SAMBOLIN: We have the pictures. Here you go.

In case you need an incentive there, you've got a little mascot helping you out. So, this is in Indiana where they are giving away free tickets. This guy is just standing there waiting and giving them away, right?

ROMANS: I know. And it's 3,500 tickets at seven different locations. First 500 people at each of those spots is going to get a free ticket. Wouldn't that be something -- what are your chances of winning a lottery and never buying a ticket?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh!

ROMANS: That would be something.

SAMBOLIN: That would be a great story. Still I want that ticket to be sold here, locally.

ROMANS: All right. Susan Rice, the President's U.N. ambassador and one frontrunner maybe to be his next Secretary of State of state, she returns to Capitol Hill today for a second round of meetings with Republican senators.

Rice failed to win over her sharpest GOP critics yesterday. They're still troubled about her comments following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya she said sprang from a spontaneous protest.

One of those senators telling CNN's "A.C. 360" that Rice misled the American people. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: She would say that. She'd have to say that because she began our meeting today admitting that the representations about the video and the protests were wrong. And the impression left the American people was misleading.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain say they are more concerned now than before meeting with Ambassador Rice and they're still not willing to consider her as Secretary of State.

SAMBOLIN: Four American servicewomen want the Pentagon to drop its policy that excludes women from thousands of ground combat positions. So they have not filed a lawsuit. All four women are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two have received a Purple Heart, as well. They maintain the combat exclusion rule is discriminatory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. ZOE BEDELL, MARINE RESERVES: The policy limits my future in the Marine Corps. I would be assigned to positions based on my gender, rather than on my qualifications or my accomplishments. This didn't make sense for me personally or professionally and it frankly doesn't make sense for the military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Captain Bedell also said the exclusion policy creates a dangerous set of rules that prevents commanders from deciding the best way to fight.

ROMANS: Protection with teeth. Coming up: gators instead of guard dogs. We've got some pictures you don't want to miss --

SAMBOLIN: Imagine that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Soledad is back and she joins us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: So much ahead. We're going to talk this morning about entitlements. Should they be off the table in these fiscal cliff negotiations? Can there be a deal any other way?

We'll look at that with the assistant majority leader, Senator Dick Durbin, joining us. Former Governors Tim Pawlenty, Christine Todd Whitman also our guests this morning.

Plus, seven protesters showed up naked, look at that. That's House Speaker John Boehner's office. They were demanding on a serious front demanding funding to fight AIDS.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

O'BRIEN: Seven of them will be joining us -- fully clothed I'm hoping -- to talk about what sparked their protest, what they're hoping to gain, if they think it was effective.

Plus, she sold 100 million records in a decade, a career that spanned five decades. Dionne Warwick is our guest. Going to talk about her new album, my father is in love with Dionne Warwick. So he'll be all excited about that. Me, too.

Much more coming up this morning on "STARTING POINT." We'll see you right on top of the hour.

SAMBOLIN: Did you invite your father in?

O'BRIEN: He can watch it on TV, of course.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: We'll be getting up --

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh, Soledad.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

ROMANS: Black ice and snow causing some trouble after yesterday's storm in the Northeast.

Now, new storm's rolling into the Northwest this morning. Alexandra Steele in the extreme weather center where -- putting the extreme in extreme weather.

SAMBOLIN: It looked pretty yesterday for a minute.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, I bet. Six inches in portions of New Jersey.

So we've got two things happening. One exiting storm producing black ice. And then an incoming mammoth storm which is the pineapple express, kind of a little Dairy Queen moment this morning.

All right. There goes the rain, the snow into the Northeast. Here's a look at how much we've seen thus far. We'll see six inches in West Milford, New Jersey. Two and a half inches in Millbrook, New York. That's in the Hudson Valley of New York.

And it's the Hudson Valley, southern Connecticut, and northern New Jersey seeing the black ice this morning, with temperatures low, the moisture left over from the rain and melting snow. So, just be mindful of that as you head out.

Here's the big story: a big player in the West, kind of just arsenal of moisture. It's this pineapple express, and it's moisture that goes all the way from Hawaii to the West Coast here. And this, today, is just kind of a teeny little beginnings of it. We've got a five-day affair with this thing.

And really, where we'll see the worst -- northern California and southern Oregon. So the rain begins to move in today, but lasts straight through the week, even into the weekend, and Sunday. By Friday, four to eight inches of rain from Sacramento potentially, to Redding. And then by Sunday, another two days of potentially up to 12 inches of rain.

Heavy Sierra snow, heavy Bitterroot snow to boot. Biggest areas being impacted: San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles. Twenty to 30 foot waves, potentially, off the coast of south coast of Washington and California and Oregon. Heavy snow, and, of course, rock slides, mudslides so a huge affair lasting through the weekend.

Today, though, pretty quiet around much of the country. It's cold, though, guys in the upper Midwest, but mild through much of the country and the Southeast.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Alexandra Steele live in Atlanta -- thank you.

STEELE: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date.

This is unimaginable horror for a family on New York's Long Island. A 6-year-old boy was killed when a bus crashed right into their home last night. Police say the driver actually swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian, and then went crashing right into the house. Eleven people on the bus suffered minor injuries, as well.

ROMANS: Talk about protecting your investments. Police say a Washington state man used two five foot long alligators to guard his marijuana growing operation. They're investigating to see if the pot was grown illegally or for medical purposes. And while the gators may be dangerous, they were not seized.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my.

All right. So there is movement in the long standoff between the Justice Department and the House Oversight Committee over Fast and Furious. That was the government's controversial operation where guns were tracked across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Guns linked to the program were found at the site where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.

The two sides are in talks to settle a lawsuit over certain documents that the Obama administration has refused to give Congress, citing executive privilege.

ROMANS: And 30 Rock ready for its close-up. The annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting takes place tonight here in New York City. For the past two weeks, they've been decorating the tree with more than 30,000 multicolored LED lights. Tonight, tens of thousands of people will crowd the sidewalks in midtown for a glimpse of the worldwide symbol of the holiday season.

SAMBOLIN: In honor of my first Christmas here I am going tonight.

ROMANS: That's right. Good for you.

SAMBOLIN: I'm very excited.

ROMANS: All right. Tonight's Powerball jackpot is half a billion dollars, expected to climb even higher before the big drawing tonight.

SAMBOLIN: It is the second largest jackpot in lottery history and a record for the 42-state game. The cash payout for a single winning ticket right now is $324 million.

ROMANS: And right now the state of Indiana is giving away 3,500 free Powerball lottery tickets. It's first come, first serve.

Right now, we have Jessica Hayes of our affiliate WISH live in Zionsville, Indiana, with a dancing Powerball mascot behind her. How is it looking out there, Jessica?

JESSICA HAYES, WISH REPORTER: Good morning to you. Well, it's been a really busy morning here. We had folks lined up before they started giving the free tickets away.

You can see we have the mascot here handing the tickets out. We're also joined by Al Larson (ph). He's with our Hoosier lottery.

We wanted to bring you in to ask you -- why do the free ticket give away? It's something unique to Hoosiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a historic day for Powerball nationwide. And we're no different here in Indiana. This gives a chance to kind of share the excitement with those who want to play.

HAYES: And we had 500 tickets to give away starting at 6:00. How many do we have left?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably about 300 tickets left right now. So they're going steady and we've got more. So if you can hear it, get here and get yourself a shot at this jackpot.

HAYES: All right. So they're encouraging folks to come down and get the tickets. Now, you've done the giveaway before. Is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have. We do this quite often. It just gives us a chance to support these big jackpots and give people a shot at it.

HAYES: All right. Al, thanks very much.

And one thing we talked to the first woman in line this morning. She got here a little after 5:00 to get her ticket. And I said, what are you going to do if you win? You know, you always think about what you would buy, how you would spend the money, guilty pleasures? She said the first thing she would do is change her phone number. So we got a kick out of that.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: Guys, let's send it back to you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Hey, listen, can you send us some of those free tickets in a little envelope FedEx, please?

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: I know. I actually had to buy mine this morning. So --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: All right. Jessica Hayes, thanks.

HAYES: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Counting down to the fiscal cliff. Can the lawmakers strike a deal to fend off this fiscal disaster? We're talking to a member of the House Budget Committee, Tennessee's Republican Congresswoman, Diane Black, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Thirty-four days until the United States faces down or falls down the fiscal cliff, and it's campaign 2012 all over again. Both Democrats and Republicans trying to sell you, the American people, on their plan.

A live look at the White House right now, where today the President will meet with middle class Americans and deliver remarks on those Bush era tax cuts set to go up on January 1st. Tax rates set to go up on January 1st.

Now, while Republicans will hold events in Washington and in their home districts, they're going to be talking about how raising taxes on those earning about $250,000 a year will be a job-killing move, all while politicians try to hash out a deal behind the scenes as the deadline looms closer.

Congresswoman Diane Black is a Republican from Tennessee. She's also a member of the Budget Committee. Good morning, congresswoman. You know, there's so much going on in Washington right now, and so much of it has to do with whether -- whether Democrats will agree to big spending cuts and whether Republicans will agree to raise revenue and raise taxes.

You had signed this pledge not to raise tax rates. Other -- others of your colleagues are saying, maybe they would rethink that. Would you go against your pledge and raise revenue if it meant cutting deductions, limiting deductions, or raise tax rates?

REP. DIANE BLACK, (R) TENNESSEE: Well, good morning, Christine. It's good to be with you this morning. We absolutely have a lot of work to be done here on the Hill. No doubt about that. But, my constituents sent me here to do the job of balancing this budget. And I -- you know, I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge. And my constituents certainly don't want me to go to Washington to raise their taxes.

But there are ways that we can balance this by increasing revenue, by pro-growth tax reform. So, we know that there is a way to do that without raising taxes. As a matter of fact, Christine, if we look at what the President said just two years ago, when they were looking at extending these Bush-era tax cuts, the President said we shouldn't tax anyone at this point in time when the economy is so bad. And our economy is worse now than it was then.

ROMANS: So, are you willing to wring some revenue out of loopholes and deductions? That's how you can raise tax revenue without raising tax rates, although, technically, that goes against Grover Norquist's pledge.

BLACK: Well, we've already put a plan out in the Budget Committee. As you said, I am a part of that Budget Committee.

And we put out the fundamentals of that where we would have a plan where we would have pro-growth tax reform, and that means something fairer, flatter, and simpler, and a portion of that is to look at the deductions that right now really do benefit those in the upper income and that we're willing to look at those and to make sure that what we do does bring in more revenue by robust economy.

ROMANS: And it wouldn't be a violation of a sort of a marriage vow to Grover Norquist. He has said that violating his pledge is somehow akin to, you know, violating your marriage vows. You don't -- your deal is with your constituents, not with Grover Norquist.

BLACK: That's right. That's exactly right.

ROMANS: All right. I want to talk a little bit about the debt ceiling because this is coming into play here. Grover Norquist, again, has written an op-ed mentioning the debt ceiling specifically. A new report for the Bipartisan Policy Center says the ceiling must be raised before the end of February to avoid default.

This is what he said. He says Republicans should use that as leverage, congresswoman, in the fiscal cliff deal. The debt ceiling that Obama plans lump into every month or so for the next four years provides plenty of leverage for the GOP to trade for spending cuts as done in 2011 or continuing the lower rates. Are you willing to do that, use the debt ceiling in this as leverage?

BLACK: What I'm willing to do, is to talk about, and a very serious conversation, which I don't believe we're really having here on the Hill right now, and that is we have a spending-driven problem. You can't keep on spending a trillion dollars more than what you bring in every year.

And until we look at both sides of this issue and a balanced approach on this where we're looking at what is driving the debt and making sure that we're balancing our budget, it's both revenue and spending.

And we've got to talk about both of those, and we've got to be serious about. Look, these are difficult conversations, because you're talking about entitlement reform, which any time you talk about taking something away or changing, people get nervous. But it's got to be done for the benefit of all Americans, current Americans, as well as our future.

And look, I came here to Washington because I have six grandchildren. And I want to be sure that they know the same kind of America that I did as I was growing up and have the same opportunities.

ROMANS: I mean, you mentioned why you came to Washington and that you have six grandchildren trying to be, you know, you are a role model in the Republican Party and you are a role model for your family, no question.

And I want to ask you about the makeup of the committee chairmanships. Politico points out that the Republican leadership chose only men to lead all of the major House committees in Congress. There are two chairs still left to be named. After this election that shows the coalition the Democrats have built among young people, minorities, and women, do you think that your party has missed an opportunity here?

BLACK: What I will say is let's take a look at our leadership. We just had an election by our own body, and the leadership, we have three of our top positions are women. Our chairman of the conference, our vice chairman of the conference, and also our secretary are all women. And I think that speaks very highly about our conference and the fact that we respect women in our conference and what they have to offer.

ROMANS: So much work to do.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: So much work to do before the end of the year. Thank you so much. Congresswoman Diane Black, Republican from Tennessee, member of the Budget Committee.

All right. Today's "Best Advice" coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: We're going to wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

ROMANS: And today, we hear from NASCAR star Danica Patrick about the best advice she ever received. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANICA PATRICK, NASCAR DRIVER: I think the best advice I've ever received is to plan for the future and to save your money, and especially in an athlete's career. That is not always as long as others maybe, to -- to plan for the future in a way that you can have the same lifestyle after you're done doing your job that you had while you were doing your job. And that takes some planning and thinking and saving. So, that's what I've been doing for awhile, and --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Hallelujah!

SAMBOLIN: That is music to Christine's ears.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Look, especially on lottery day. You know, someone saying plan for the future. Save, more cars, and try to, you know, live off the earnings as long as you can. I mean, here's some live lottery pictures for those into saving.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: This is in Indiana and there's their mascot. And they're giving away free lottery tickets today. When we checked in earlier, they're giving away 500. I think they were up to 300 tickets given away. Where is that in Indiana? Somewhere --

ROMANS: Zionsville.

SAMBOLIN: Zionsville, Indiana. So, if you happen to be in the area, head over there and get your free lottery ticket and call us if you win.

That's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad starts right now.