Return to Transcripts main page


GOP, Dems Fight over Fiscal Cliff; Colorado Businesses Want Pot Law Stopped; Invisibility Cloak for the Army

Aired December 5, 2012 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Just about 10 minutes ago, Republican House Speaker John Boehner reached out to President Obama on television before reporters and said he wanted a counteroffer to the Republican's offer to avoid the fiscal cliff. That offer includes an $800 billion in tax revenue, but does not include any tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

Also, our own Dana Bash, our congressional correspondent, asked John Boehner why Republicans met today to talk about the fiscal cliff and then are going to go home after the meeting and await for the President's response. Here's what Mr. Boehner said.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Today is Wednesday and the House is going to leave today with two days left in the week. I understand that you are saying that there's no legislation that's been on the floor. But when it comes to just pure optics of the House leaving with the fiscal cliff right in front of us --

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'll be here and I'll be available at any moment to sit down with the President to get serious about solving this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, does the conference perhaps realize that you don't seem to be negotiating from the start in all of this?

BOEHNER: Our members believe strongly that raising tax rates will hurt the economy. Closing loopholes, especially on those who are wealthy, is a better way to raise this revenue than raising rates because raising rates will hurt the very people that we're expecting to help create jobs in our country.

Thanks, everybody.


COSTELLO: All right, House Speaker John Boehner. Let's head back to Capitol Hill and check in with Dana Bash. So the President has already looked at this offer and Jay Carney, his spokesperson, called it fairy dust. So what did the Republicans really expect in return?

BASH: He called it magic beams and fairy dust just to be exact, Carol. Look, what do they expect in return? What they say that they want is just to talk. That is something that should be emphasized I think for our viewers which is what we are seeing back and forth in the public, the latest public discussion of course just happened moments ago is what's going on?

You know, generally what happens in these kinds of high-stake negotiations is you have the public posturing and then you have the private discussions where the real deals are being made. By all accounts there aren't private discussions going on right now, which is frankly a little bit alarming I think by any measure. And what Republicans are saying is, please, Mr. President, let's -- let's you know come back to the table.

Now, you might ask, well, why aren't there discussions going on and one answer that I've gotten from Democratic sources is that they feel that they really have a winning strategy here because they are right when it comes to public opinion, they say, on the idea of wanting to raise those rates for the wealthiest Americans and the alternative is that at the end of the year if we go off the fiscal cliff, then they really believe that Republicans will get the blame.

So that's why maybe they are sort of running out the clock a little bit making it even harder for Republicans to negotiate more at the end of the day.

COSTELLO: So just to make it clear, because the Republican plan does not include a tax increase, a tax increase on the wealthy, the President isn't going to deal? He's not going to get on the phone with John Boehner. He's not going to do anything?

BASH: Well, it's hard to imagine at some point that they are not going to get on the phone, that they are not going to have real negotiations. But right now, they are not. And so that's why the House Republican leadership says they are just sending their members home.

And they also say, the Speaker didn't mention that here but in sources that we've talked to that one thing that they want their members to do when they're back in their districts is to try to galvanize the public's support for their position that the President is trying to do for his position as he tries to sort of campaigns on that.

So but you're exactly right when it comes down to I think it's probably important to underscore this over and over again, where they are in the divide is over what kind of tax increase there's going to be. The President is absolutely firm. The line is deeply in the sand that it's got to be a rate increase for the wealthiest Americans.

And as you just heard from the Speaker, his member simply do not think raising that rates for the wealthiest American is good for the economy and that really is the big difference. It has been and it still is.

COSTELLO: Dana Bash reporting live from Capitol Hill this morning. we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Within the next few weeks you will be able to grow and smoke marijuana legally in Colorado. But it will still be against federal law. Well, the group of 20 Colorado organizations have now sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter asking him to enforce federal law. This is part of the letter sent by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance.

Quote, "Today we ask that you and the Department of Justice remain consistent in your commitment to the Controlled Substances Act and federal law to provide the bright line we as employers in Colorado seek."

Sandra Hagen Solin is the executive director for the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. Welcome.


COSTELLO: I understand your concerns and many people do but still the voters of Colorado have spoken. They want marijuana legalized. So why are you still fighting it?

SOLIN: Well, we -- we aren't fighting it as much as we're seeking clarity of law relative to our obligations as employers and our relationship to our employees.

COSTELLO: So as employers, what are you afraid of?

SOLIN: Well, there's -- there's many concerns we have. There is uncertainty about our ability to -- to terminate employees if they come to the job impaired. There's obligations we have under the safe work place and drug-free workplace. There's just a lot of questions that have arisen as a result of the passage of Amendment 64.

COSTELLO: But wouldn't it be sort of the same if an employee showed up drunk?

SOLIN: Well, there's -- there is -- there's questions about that very question. We don't know. At the end of the day, we don't know what our obligations are. But there are folks who come -- who may take indigestible (ph) or smoke pot off the job and once they come on with the job what are our obligations, what are our liabilities, what sort of recourse do we have. So there's just a lot of questions.

COSTELLO: So what do you want the Attorney General to do exactly?

SOLIN: Well, we would like to see enforcement of federal law. We believe that -- that is very clear with regard to our obligation and liabilities. We believe that he has -- he has been consistent thus far in expressing concerns about the legalization of marijuana and we'd like to see him continue that consistency in -- in the case of Colorado and Washington.

COSTELLO: But specifically how? I mean, do you want FBI agents who are you know federal police, so to speak, to -- to arrest people? I mean what exactly do you want the Attorney General to do? SOLIN: Well, we would like to -- we're looking for his intentions relative to the enforcement and determination as to what that looks like. We aren't asking for specifics about what that looks like but clarity about what his intentions are in that regard.

COSTELLO: So just going back to your concerns, that employees may like get high before they go to work or get high on the job and it's perfectly legal, I'm just not clear in understanding how that's different from -- from drinking on the job and being impaired when you show up to work because employers can certainly act against employees in those instances.

SOLIN: Right, yes. Absolutely, employers have rights relative to employees who smoke on the job. There's no question about that. The real question becomes when they are off the job and the time in which they -- the distance between the time in which they use marijuana and their potential impairment once they land at the work site.

You have employees who are utilizing heavy equipment. What -- but perhaps smoked off the job. What level of impairment is inappropriate and is not OK and gives the employer the right to terminate.

That's where the question that lies is the off-duty, particularly the off-duty is and that's where our concerns primarily stem from.

COSTELLO: It seems like the train has already like passed the station, though, and that the legalization of marijuana is in place in Colorado and there's not much really you can do about it. So if -- if the U.S. Attorney General doesn't act, what do you do?

SOLIN: Well, if he doesn't act, we obviously have to -- we will then take the next steps to assess our legal rights and we expect the legislature to provide -- hopefully provide a little bit of clarity. We'll pursue discussions there. Certainly we expect it to be legal discussions in the courts as well and hopeful that that provides some clarity as well.

We think the first step, though, is asking the attorney general for his intentions around the Controlled Substances Act. Colorado has become ground zero for the national debate and we understand that and we believe that he has the opportunity to make it very clear and set a precedent for the nation and for Colorado employers who require and need certainty in their business decisions.

Sandra Hagen Solin, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SOLIN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We appreciate it.

SOLIN: Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

We're back after a quick break.


COSTELLO: Forty-five minutes past the hour, checking our "Top Stories" now.

A typhoon blamed for the deaths of at least 274 people in the Philippines. That storm also destroyed close to 3,000 homes. The storm is now moving offshore after leaving washed out roads, downed power lines and other damage.

Citigroup plans to cut 11,000 jobs worldwide including positions at 44 branches here in the United States. The company's CEO says the cuts are part of a plan to reduce expenses. We don't know when the layoffs will begin.

An American astronaut has a lot of work to do. Scott Kelly preparing for a mission that will see him and a cosmonaut spend a full year in space on the International Space Station. He talked about that mission moments ago.


SCOTT KELLY, NASA ASTRONAUT: On a personal level, I look forward to the challenge. You know, I've flown a six-month flight on the International Space Station already and I was willing to do that again. I wanted to do it again but, you know, more than doubling that time will make it even more of a challenge.

And I recognize it's not going to be easy to spend a year in that kind of isolated environment but it's something that, you know, I think I'm up for that challenge and certainly at this point I look forward to.


COSTELLO: Wow. Kelly would set the record for the longest trip by an American in space on a single mission.


COSTELLO: All right.

You're looking at a live picture of the business roundtable at Washington headquarters. President Obama has been meeting with its members for the past few minutes talking about how to avoid the fiscal cliff. You can see the presidential seal on that podium. That means the President will speak at any moment now. When Mr. Obama begins speaking, of course, we'll bring you back to Washington and the business round table headquarters.

OK. Remember Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, a piece of fabric that can make a person completely disappear? It sounds like something out of a fairy tale but the army might start using something just like that to camouflage the troops, making them completely invisible.

Here's Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Camouflage can be the difference between a soldier getting shot and going home. So a lot is riding on the next generation design to outfit troops. It's only been eight years since the army spent $5 billion on camo that critics say didn't fool anyone. Soldiers complained to the point that the army abandoned its one-size fits all universal pattern.

(on camera): They were looking for camouflage that they could use everywhere?

GUY CRAMER, DESIGNER: Correct. And it didn't work anywhere.

LAWRENCE: Guy Cramer is one of the designers competing to win the army's next multimillion dollar contract. This summer he showed us the science behind every shape, size and shade of these pixels.

You now have your camouflage. We're trying to trick the brain into seeing things that aren't actually there.

LAWRENCEW: Digital patterns recreate shapes already found in nature; 3-D layering creates depths and shadows where none exists. That's today's design. The developers already have one eye on tomorrow.

CRAMER: What's coming up down the road and very quickly is the Harry Potter cloak.


LAWRENCE: With that fictional cloak, Harry isn't just camouflaged, he's invisible. How invisible are we talking here? If I walk into a room with a soldier wearing one of these cloaks --

CRAMER: You wouldn't see him at all. He would be completely invisible to you.

LAWRENCE: This isn't make-believe. The military has seen the so- called quantum stealth technology. It works by bending the light around an object, even concealing most of a person's shadow. Imagine what that can could do for a sniper hiding in a field or the American pilots who ejected over Libya when their fighter jets crashed last year.

CRAMER: They could actually pull out very similar to what they carry with a survival blanket, throw it over the top of them. And unless you walked right into them, you wouldn't know that they were there.

LAWRENCE: So what was once firmly in the world of make-believe could quickly become quite real and the science is in the special fabric. You don't need a power source or some instruction manual to make it work. Theoretically, any soldier, even in the most remote location, could quickly put it on and put it to work.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.


COSTELLO: Wow. I want three of those puppies.

We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Dr. Phil offers his strategies on how to have sensitive conversations with your children.


DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": Number one, talk about things that don't matter with your children so you have some practice when it comes time to talk about things that do matter. Talk about music, talk about sports, talk about silly things so when it comes time to talk about something important like being bullied or feeling uncomfortable, that channel of communication is open and well used. And then number two, don't make the child feel conspicuous. Instead of sitting down nose to nose and knee to knee, I used to always go out into the driveway and shoot baskets with my boys or we would walk the dog around the block where we weren't looking at each other and we can talk a little and then not; and then talking and not. The net effect was a huge amount of information gained by not making them feel so conspicuous.


COSTELLO: Dr. Phil. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me today. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Ashleigh Banfield begins after a quick break.