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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

GOP Doesn't Back Boehner; Interview with Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York; Miss Universe is an American; A Run on Guns

Aired December 21, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning, welcome everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, extreme weather, more than a foot of snow stranding thousands of travelers, the latest on a blizzard that's ruining holiday plans nationwide.

Plus the House goes home for the holidays without a fiscal cliff deal, after a huge blow to House Speaker John Boehner. Has he lost the support of his party?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look away from your 401(k) this morning. The stock market tumbles as investors lose faith in Washington. It's likely going to be a rough Friday before Christmas in stocks. Is the fiscal cliff already here?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": America on top again, Miss USA beating out contestants from all other countries, all other galaxies to become Miss Universe. We'll talk to her live straight ahead.

O'BRIEN: It's Friday, December 21st and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Ron Brownstein is with us. He's the editorial director for "National Journal". Charles Blow is an op-ed columnist for "The New York Times." Will Cain is a contributor for TheBlaze.com. "EARLY START" co-anchor John Berman sticks around with us.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is House Speaker John Boehner. He's got press conference this morning, a news conference this morning. It's going to happen in just about two hours, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

There's no doubt a lot of the focus will be on exactly what it was that happened last night. House Republicans abandoning Speaker Boehner, forcing him to cancel the vote on "Plan B", which is what would have extended the Bush tax cuts on incomes below a million dollars. Now, lots of folks are asking what happened in those negotiations, and what are the implications of what happened in those negotiations?

Our senior congressional correspondent is Dana Bash. She was there watching it all unfold. How -- did it feel like the train wreck it feels like this morning, last night?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It actually did. You can see it in slow motion all day yesterday. I watched Republican leaders, scrambling for votes, twisting arms, cajoling fellow Republicans on the House floor and elsewhere. And then by early evening, the scramble really turned into panic, Soledad.

It became clear that the speaker had a high number of his fellow Republican members willing to defy him and it was clear he didn't have the votes. I'm told it actually wasn't even close.

And what was so stunning about this was how far out there Boehner was with this "Plan B" bill and how much of a miscalculation it was, because every day since Tuesday this week, he argued the House will pass it to prove Republicans want to keep taxes low for most Americans, non-millionaires. And as they decided to pull the bill there was a ruckus meeting, I heard boos from outside the door where Boehner's allies lashed out at so many Republicans for undercutting the speaker.

Listen to one of his allies talking to reporters afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: This weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority. It's the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party, and we are going to be seeing it more and more as this bunch of extremists that can't get a majority of our own people to support policies that we're putting forward. That's -- if you're not a governing majority, you're not going to be a majority party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But just walking around and talking to rank-and-file Republicans yesterday, it was clear even from some members of the leadership there were a surprising number of Republicans who didn't want to take this vote to raise any taxes even on millionaires especially without spending cuts to go along with it.

But the speaker is not shying away from this big failure. He's going to have a press conference in about two hours.

O'BRIEN: He's going to have to. I mean, what he's going to do. We can't shy from it. It's all we're talking about this morning. He's going to have to have a press conference. People have lot of questions for him.

Dana Bash this morning -- thanks, Dana. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to Congresswoman Nan Hayworth. She's a Republican from New York, a member of the Financial Services Committee. So, explain to me why the speaker would hold this vote for something he doesn't have the support for but even if he did, wouldn't necessarily would have had an impact anyway?

REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: You know, Soledad, I have every bit of faith in the speaker and I've watched this entire process. He's really trying to do the best he can under the circumstances for the American people, for everyone, 100 percent of the people we're serving.

He's faced, we all know, with an exceedingly difficult challenge. And the fundamental fact is this, that we really do face a terrible decline in our economy if we don't have growth in the committee and the only way to get growth, growth rates are not where they need to be for us to keep Americans employed, for us to keep the great programs, the social net going and our defense going unless we have better than 3 percent growth in the economy.

The way to do that is to provide tax relief and regulatory relief and the speaker's been doing all he can to try to promote that cause.

O'BRIEN: Ron wants to jump in.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Congresswoman, 10 years after the Bush cuts were passed, there were fewer people working on the day they passed. So, the idea the tax cuts by themselves are a panacea is questionable. But on the more immediate choice you face, would you rather accept a deal that raised taxes on voters above some level at this point, something lower than a million, or would you rather go over the cliff and see where things stand in January? I mean, it seems to be the only choice Republicans have at this point.

HAYWORTH: I certainly -- speaking only for myself but I think there is certainly a broad desire among the House Republicans not to go over the cliff. We don't want to go over the cliff. What we want to do is provide every measure of relief that we can.

So, raising taxes in this economy and the president said it two years ago, he was right. Raising taxes in a bad economy is a bad idea. So we're trying to work as hard as we can to relieve as much of that burden as possible.

O'BRIEN: But the vote last night said we will not raise taxes on people who are making under a million, raise them on people with a million and above.

HAYWORTH: Right.

O'BRIEN: So, isn't the message we're not going to raise taxes? I mean, it did not pass.

HAYWORTH: Sure, well and in fact, we passed -- a good couple of months ago, we passed a bill to keep the '01 and '03 tax cuts relief going for another couple of years while we approach broad reform. I personally think that would be the best thing we can do, but I know that the president feels very differently about that, and the speaker, of course, knows that as well. So, he's trying to find that middle ground.

(CROSSTALK)

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I'm sorry. How does he find middle ground if the Republicans are saying is that they will not compromise in any way no matter how high that threshold is raised on taxation? Is it part of governing, isn't it part compromising at some level, giving away something that you love?

O'BRIEN: Right.

BLOW: Is what's happening the Republicans saying, we will not, no matter how high you raise this bar, give you the majority of the votes in the House for that? Is that what I'm hearing?

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: Right. You know, Charles, we've seen this play out before the 112th Congress. Of course, the majority of the House of Representatives in 2010 was elected promising that they would do all they could, certainly, to provide tax relief and regulatory reform and long-term growth in the economy and assurance that future generation will have great opportunities. That's still what we want to do.

So, you know, we've always been facing the challenge between what's really, what's ideal and what's doable, you know? And, of course, that thing we find in all aspects of life.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a question, Ron, if I can. Can I ask you a question, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: I'll ask one, too.

O'BRIEN: OK. I'll ask you and you go back. Sorry . So Republicans said, we will not raise taxes, even if you're making over $1 million, you will not have your taxes raised.

BROWNSTEIN: It's not enough to them, right. Now, the question is a different deal might not need all the Republicans to vote for it, because at a lower threshold, more Democrats would vote for it.

O'BRIEN: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: My question to you, Congresswoman, can John Boehner hold his speakership if he brings to the floor a budget deal that a majority of Republicans oppose and one that would pass with a majority of Democratic votes? Could he hold his speakership if he did that?

HAYWORTH: You know, I -- that clearly is an issue for the Republican conference in the 113th Congress to deal with. I have had great confidence in the speaker's ability to navigate very difficult waters in terms of policy and politics. This is -- this will not be an easy job going forward. So --

O'BRIEN: That might be an understatement of 2012, Congresswoman.

HAYWORTH: I think he's got a great temperament and a lot of institutional knowledge and a lot of common sense. So --

O'BRIEN: A big, big challenge. Nice to see you, Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, with us this morning. Have a nice holiday if we don't get a chance to talk to you before the New Year.

I don't know. What do you think the answers to that question?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Give me (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Yes, if he does some kind of compromise.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: Majority of Republicans oppose, and pass with mostly Democratic votes, could he hold his speakership?

CAIN: I don't mean to understate something, but he's got some real challenges.

O'BRIEN: Why is everyone saying that today? I can't get a yes or no question. It's the phrase of the morning.

We've got to take -- oh, we've got to take a look at some of the other stories making news today.

BROWNSTEIN: There are?

O'BRIEN: John Berman has got that. Yes, believe it or not, there are.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

Flights canceled, people stranded, nasty weather in the Midwest making it dangerous to get around.

Victor Blackwell is bundled up in Cleveland where the wind so strong. I think you just blew your lights over, Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did blow the light over. And we had to run and catch it

The wind is the real story, because right now, we're not seeing flurries. We saw snow for about six hours this morning, from about 2:00 a.m. to about just before 8:00 Eastern, and we know that this is the break before what's over Lake Erie right now. That could bring more snow and start that accumulation.

We found out from Ohio Department of Transportation that the roads, some of the streets and interstates here and around Cleveland are below freezing, and that could start the accumulation that we have not seen yet.

We're waiting for an update from the Chicago Department of Aviation on what will happen at one of their busiest airports in the country, O'Hare. Two hundred twenty thousand people expected to move through that airport. Yesterday, 350 flights there were canceled, another 150 at Midway in Chicago. Again that update comes at 8:30 Eastern.

This has been a deadly storm, seven deaths across four states still, and at last check which was yesterday, about 100,000 customers without power in the Midwest because of this storm.

We'll have updates as they come in. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Victor Blackwell in Cleveland -- thanks very much. Look out for those lights, Victor.

I want to go now to meteorologist Rob Marciano now in the weather center in Atlanta. Rob, where is this storm headed next?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right now, the center of it, John, is pretty much right over Victor. And it's one of the reasons he's not getting a tremendous amount of wind. It begins to pull away as they'll start to get more in the way of a huge storm affecting people from Canada all the way down to the Gulf Coast.

And not only the snow but the wind and the rain affecting travel especially across the Northeast right now. Ground stops at JFK, LaGuardia and Teterboro, and over three hour delays in New York, just gusted to 50 miles an hour at JFK.

So, the winds are incredibly strong right now on both sides of the system itself. Lot of snow dropping across parts of Michigan and through northern Indiana. Ohio, wind chills in the teens and snow blowing sideways in spots with winds gusting 30, 40 miles an hour.

And the rain shield is about to push through New York. You get a dry slot here. You got upstate, we're making a mix of some sleet as well, but it's mostly a rain event as you go through the I-95 corridor. So, ponding on the roadways with the gusty winds the main threat really from Maine, all the way down to central Georgia. And back through the Ohio River Valley, wind advisories and wind watches and warnings for potential gusts over 50, we've already seen that, miles an hour.

Snowfall forecast mostly just east of the Great Lakes and in through the mountains. No snow expected across the cities but enough wind and rain to keep us busy today.

BERMAN: All right. Rob Marciano in Atlanta, we'll be following the storm all day. Thanks a lot, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

BERMAN: So, the sound of silence this morning in Newtown. People in Connecticut and around the country will open a moment of silence at 9:30 Eastern Time, exactly one week after the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children, of course, six adults were killed inside that school. Church bells will ring 26 times to honor each of the victims, three more funerals will be held today.

Connecticut's governor asked for this to be an official day of mourning.

President Obama plans to observe the moment of silence at the White House. He responded to petitions on reducing gun violence in a video message that was just released this morning. While the president says he supports the Second Amendment, he says he'll do everything in his power to prevent tragedies like Newtown from ever happening again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's encouraging that many gun owners have stepped up this week to say there are steps we can take to prevent more tragedies like the one in Newtown, steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The NRA will hold a news conference on the Connecticut shooting in a few hours in Washington. The gun lobby expected to share its ideas on how to prevent future gun tragedies after that horrible event one week ago. After days of silence, the NRA has pledged to make meaningful contributions in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.

And this just in to CNN, riot police firing tear gas at protesters in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. That's according to state run Nile TV, clashes broke out between pro and anti-Morsi protesters following Friday prayers today.

So, pro-hockey fans you're not going to like this. The NHL canceled games through January 14th, this is half of the schedule wiped out because of the lockout. There are arguments and negotiations. Players could decide if they want to claim the lockout is illegal and sue the owners. Still looking for a solution but doesn't look like it.

BROWNSTEIN: Highly dysfunctional professional sports.

O'BRIEN: You think? Wow.

BERMAN: Congress and the NHL.

O'BRIEN: And do they have grounds for a lawsuit?

BERMAN: This is what happens in collective bargaining with these types of suits. What would happen if they win is that it could go to an arbitrator. It's just one more step in this whole mess.

O'BRIEN: Even messier than before. All right, John, thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: she is the first American to win the Miss Universe crown in nearly 15 years. Newly crowned Olivia Culpo will join us live to talk about her big victory. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. For the first time in 15 years, an American has won the Miss Universe crown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Miss Universe 2012 is -- USA! Olivia Culpo is the winner, Miss Universe!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: She's like shouting, yes! Olivia Culpo, self-described cellist nerd from Rhode Island, is the new Miss Universe. She defeated 88 other contestants, and she's joining us live from Las Vegas this morning.

It's nice to see you again and have you back on the show. Congratulations to you. How are you feeling?

OLIVIA CULPO, MISS UNIVERSE 2012: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. You bet. How are you feeling going into it? Did you feel like I got this nailed, I'm going to win? Or were you worried about it and you didn't think you were going to win?

CULPO: No way.

O'BRIEN: Really?

CULPO: You're never certain that you are going to win, ever. I was with 88 other girls from around the world that were drop dead gorgeous. I had no idea I was going to win. They -- I don't know how the judges choose. It's really difficult. They were all gorgeous. I did not think I was going to win.

O'BRIEN: You were Miss Rhode Island. You won Ms. Rhode Island. How long ago was that?

CULPO: That was a year ago in October -- about 15 months. I can't believe it.

O'BRIEN: Fifteen months ago, Miss Rhode Island, then onto Miss USA, and then onto Miss Universe, which is just stunning. And I read about your Miss Rhode Island competition where you had a dress that you bought for, that you rented for $20, it had a rip in it. Could you ever imagine --

CULPO: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- back then that you'd be where you are today?

CULPO: No.

O'BRIEN: No?

CULPO: Absolutely not. I thought I was awful on stage. I had never done a pageant before. I decided to do it over the summer. I got my dress the night before. It was too short, there was a hole in the back of it. And here I am today. I never would have guessed that this would be where I am today, never.

O'BRIEN: I'm looking at pictures of, I believe you, in a fabulous bathing suit and I'm wondering, you know, for people who think that and some of the criticism is, you know, you're being judged for a great body and you're being judged not necessarily on things that are of substance, how do you fight those criticisms or you just not care?

CULPO: No. I think that there's so much more to it and so much more that you're saying by these portions of the competition. Swimsuit portion is confidence. It doesn't matter if you're in the greatest shape or if you're not in the best shape out of all of the 89 contestants; it's about feeling comfortable with yourself being and open to others, being confident with the things that you are given.

Everybody has things that they don't like about their body, so I think there's a lot to be said for girls that are confident enough to walk on stage. It's supposed to inspire other women. And also there's interview portion, there is the top five question, which sometimes, the questions can be a little silly, I'll admit, but it's not all about beauty. It's about brains and it's about your ability to be open to the audience and open to others, which I think is really important as a woman in society.

CAIN: Olivia, I'm sorry, rather, Miss Universe, do we need to refer to you as Miss Universe now?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

CULPO: No, but I have the crown right here.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Olivia, excuse me, Miss Universe.

O'BRIEN: That would be Miss Universe to you.

CAIN: When you go into these pageants, is there like a handicapping? Do you wonder when you go in, oh, Miss Jamaica, she's the frontrunner this year. I got to keep my eye on her. Or you just kind of go in completely blind, I have the same chance as everyone else?

CULPO: Well, you have to go in with the idea that it doesn't matter if you win or lose. You can't ever compare yourself to other people, but it's a challenge because, of course, you really are surrounded by beautiful people. So that is a challenge, but you can't think of it as a competition against anybody else but yourself.

You just have to go there and be the best that you can be, be comfortable with yourself, celebrate your differences and your uniqueness. That's what a pageant is all about and that's why it's more than just beauty. It's about dealing with what you have, feeling good about yourself, and inspiring others in that way to do the same thing, and also helping others.

BROWNSTEIN: Sounds a little like the morning table at STARTING POINT.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's right. Inspiring others, helping others, and wearing my bikini for confidence.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Olivia and I are showing women that it's all possible.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm doing that next week in January, that's my New Year's resolution because Olivia has inspired me.

BROWNSTEIN: It's flu season.

CULPO: Exactly, right? You have a beautiful body.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's right, Olivia. I'm sticking with whatever you say. Thank you for being with us. Congratulations. It's been so much fun to get a chance to talk to you and the last year with all of your really great wins. We're really proud of you. That's great news.

CULPO: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. You bet. We got to take a break.

Still ahead, we're going to talk a little bit about gun culture, the military-style assault rifles are now selling out following the Newtown shootings. We'll tell you why experts say we're seeing this massive spike in sales.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Big sell-off expected in the stock market this morning. Stock futures down sharply more than one percent for all the major averages. The Dow futures are down more than 160 points right now. World markets are down. They're disappointed by the impasse in those fiscal cliff talks in Washington.

The run on guns following the Newtown shooting is intensifying now. Gun shops nationwide are selling out of military-style rifles like the one used in the school shootings, including in Newtown, Connecticut. Listen to what gun shop owner, Ron Rando, said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON RANDO, RON'S GUNS STORE OWNER: I could sell more if I had them. I sold all I had. There was a kid that came here yesterday, grabbed AN ar-15 off the shelf, walked over, and laid it down. I mean, that thing cost 1,200 bucks. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yes. The price point 800 to 1,200 bucks, and they're flying of the shelves. One gun analyst I spoke to explained the spike in demand for semi-automatic military-style rifles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMMEL DIONISIO, SENIOR VP OF EQUITY RESEARCH AT WEDBUSH SECURITIES: There's been a sharp consumer preference shift in the last several years to tactical rifles, modern sporting rivals from the traditional bolt action rifles and hunting rifles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He says it's because they're easy to shoot. They shoot very quickly, and gun owners expect tougher laws on what has been a very fast growing part of the gun market. Soledad, we don't track gun sales in this country, but we do track the background checks for them and I can show you in a graphic just what kind of demand we have seen for firearms. These are firearm background checks, really one good measure of demand doubled over the past ten years.

O'BRIEN: Why don't we track gun sales?

BLOW: Because that's prohibited. The ATF is prohibited by Congress from tracking gun sales in this country, which is one outrage. And the second thing is that even though those are background checks and it's the best data we can get, you can --

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: -- because you can go and say I want to buy five guns today. You get one background check.

ROMANS: Big fast growing group of gun owners is first time gun owners that are then very quickly becoming multiple gun owners. So, that's a very fast part of the market.

O'BRIEN: And a huge portion doesn't even do a background check at all.

BLOW: Right. If you're at a gun show, I'm just a guy. I have the gun (INAUDIBLE). I'm not a gun dealer, per se, and I want to sell my gun.

O'BRIEN: Raffles. There's been lots of gun raffles.

BLOW: You can do that, and you don't have --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: By the way the presence of a gun in the home, a huge political divide. On one side, people have a gun at home, very different from those without. O'BRIEN: Of course. Yes.

All right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, gusty winds and snow moving from the Midwest toward the east. Of course, this just days before Christmas and it's causing a travel nightmare. We've got an update for you straight ahead.

Is Facebook charging to you send messages? Why you'll be paying to find some new friends? That's also ahead. We're back in a moment.

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