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Fiscal Cliff Looming; Floor Statements by Senator McConnell and Senator Reid; George H.W. Bush in Intensive Care; Controversy Over Arming Teachers

Aired December 27, 2012 - 15:56   ET


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: -- bipartisan agreement for months, literally for months, a plan that would simplify the tax code, shrink the deficit, protect the taxpayers, and grow the economy.

But Democrats consistently rejected those offers. The president chose, instead, to spend his time on the campaign trail. This was even after he got re-elected. And congressional Democrats sat on their hands.

Now, Republicans have bent over backwards. We stepped way, way out of our comfort zone. We wanted an agreement, but we had no takers. The phone never rang and so now here we are five days from the new year and we might finally start talking.

Democrats have had an entire year to put forward a balanced bipartisan proposal and, if they had something to fit the bill, I'm sure the majority leader would have been able to deliver the votes the president would have needed to pass it here in the Senate and we wouldn't be in this mess.

But here we are, once again, at the end of the year staring at a crisis we should have dealt with literally months ago. Make no mistake, the only reason Democrats have been trying to deflect attention on to me and my colleagues over the past few weeks is they don't have a plan of their own that could get bipartisan support.

The so-called Senate bill that the majority leader keeps referring to passed with only Democratic votes and, despite his repeated calls for the House to pass it, he knows as well as I do that he himself is the reason it can't happen. The paperwork never left the Senate, so there's nothing for the House to vote on.

As I pointed out before we took that vote back on July 25th, the Democratic bill is, quote, "a revenue measure that didn't originate in the House, so it's got no chance whatsoever of becoming law," end quote. That's what I said back on July 25th.

The only reason we ever allowed that vote on that proposal, as I said at that time, was that we knew it didn't pass constitutional muster. If the Democrats were really serious, they would proceed to a revenue bill that originated in the House, as the Constitution requires and as I called on them to do again last week.

To repeat, the so-called Senate bill is nothing more than a glorified sense of the Senate resolution. So let's put that convenient talking point aside from here on out.

Last night, I told the president we'd be happy to look at whatever he proposes, but the truth is we're coming up against a hard deadline here and, as I said, this is a conversation we should have had months ago.

And Republicans aren't about to write a blank check or anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff. That wouldn't be fair to the American people.

That having been said, we will see what the president has to propose. Members on both sides of the aisle will review it, and then we will decide how best to proceed.

Hopefully, there's still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly, wholly preventable economic crisis.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: And that, of course, was Senator Mitch McConnell.

And here we have the majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid.

Let's listen to him a second.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: ... in the House of Representatives.

The House, as reported by the press, and we all know, one of the plans, it didn't have a name. It wasn't plan B. I don't know what plan it was, because they have had a number over there. But this plan was to show the American people that the $250,000 ceiling on raising taxes wouldn't pass in the House.

Why didn't they have that vote? Because it would have passed. They wanted to kill it. The speaker wanted to show everybody that it wouldn't pass the House. But he couldn't bring it up for vote because it wouldn't pass.

Republicans -- a myriad of Republicans think it's the fair thing to do. And, of course, every Democrat would vote for that. The Republican leader finds himself frustrated that the president has called on him to help address the fiscal cliff.

He's upset because -- quote -- "The phone never rang." He complains that I have not delivered the votes to pass a solution the fiscal cliff, but he's in error. We all know that in July of this year, we passed in the Senate the relief that would give -- it would give to middle-class Americans.

That passed the Senate. Now, we know that the Republicans have buried themselves in procedural roadblocks everything we try to do around here. And now they are saying, well, we can't do the $250,000 because it wasn't blue-slipped -- because it will be blue-slipped.

Mr. President, how does the American people react to that? There was a bill introduced by the Ways and Means Committee in the House, Sandy Levin, that called for this legislation. The speaker was going to bring it up to kill it, but he couldn't kill it. And then we moved to plan B, the debacle of all debacles. It's the mother of all debacles.

That was brought up in an effort to send us something. He couldn't even pass it among the Republicans, it was so absurd, he meaning the speaker.

So it's very clear now, Mr. President, that the speaker's number one goal is to get elected speaker on January 3. The House is not even here. He's told me he will give them two days to get back here, 48 hours, not two days, 48 hours.

They don't even have enough of the leadership here to meet to talk about it. They have done it with conference calls. People are spread all over this country because the speaker basically is waiting for January 3.

Now, the president campaigned on raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year. The Bush era tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. Obama was elected with a surplus of about three million votes. He won the election. He campaigned on this issue.

Again, the speaker can't take yes for an answer. The president has presented to him something that would prevent us from going over the cliff. It was in response to something the speaker gave to the president himself, but again I guess with the dysfunctional Republican Caucus in the House, even the speaker can't tell what they are going to do, because he backed off his own -- even his own proposal.

Mr. President, the House, we hear this so often, is controlled by the Republicans. And we acknowledge that. I would be most happy to move forward on something that Senator McConnell said they wouldn't filibuster over here that he would support and that Boehner would support, if it were reasonable.

But right now, we haven't heard anything. I don't know -- and it's none of my business, I guess, although I am very curious -- if the speaker and the majority leader, the Republican leader over here, are even talking. I mean, what's going on here?

Mr. President, you can't legislate with yourself. We have nobody to work with, to compromise.. That's what legislation is all about, is the ability to compromise. The Republicans in the House have left town. The negotiations between the president and the speaker have fallen apart, as they have for the last three-and-a-half years.

We have tried mightily to get something done. I will just go over what the -- the little drill here, Mr. President, to remind everyone how unreasonable the Republicans have been. Senator Conrad and Judd Gregg came up with a proposal to pattern what they want to do after the Base Closing Commission.

A commission would be appointed. It would report back to us, no filibusters, no amendments, yes or no, like we did with the base closing. And we did a great job there. We closed two bases over two different cycles, saving the country hundreds and billions of dollars. So we brought that up here. I brought it up.

We have plenty of votes to do it, except Republican co-sponsors walked away and wouldn't vote for it. That's where Bowles/Simpson came from. Again, people talk about, well, why don't we do Bowles/Simpson? One problem. The Republicans appointed there wouldn't vote for it, generally speaking.

Then we went through the months and months of talks between the president and Boehner. Both times, Boehner could not deliver, because they refused because of Grover Norquist to allow any taxes for revenues whatsoever.

We had meetings with the vice president, Biden and Cantor. Cantor walked out of those meetings. He's the majority leader in the House. And the gang of six, the gang of eight, we had this super committee, and they were doing good things, good things, dealing with entitlements and revenues. And a week before they were to report, by virtue of statute, I get a letter signed by virtually every Republican, too bad about the super committee. We're not going to do anything with revenues.


I think that's a good place here for us to end this. That's -- what you're hearing is a history of what has happened to bring us to this point.

I want to bring in our congressional correspondent, our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, I was just sitting here imaging someone turning on their TV thinking, what are these people talking about? And I think I would sort of boil it down to this. When they are talking on the floor, that's never a good sign. They should be talking in a backroom. They have gotten nowhere. We are where we are and nobody even agrees on whose turn it is next to come up with something.

Am I about that?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is pretty good, Candy. I think that is exactly right.

And I was actually thinking something similar as we were watching, that this is the kind of stuff that we watch and that people who watch C-SPAN watch, but people who are really tuning in to find out what matters to them, which is are their taxes going to go up in five days, got a pretty good idea of why things are so deadlocked, because they're speaking in important terms when it comes to process here, like blue slip, which is just a question of process, tax bills, can they start in the House or the Senate, and as you said, talking about the history of where things went wrong.

But that's not what people want to know. People want to know what's going to happen going forward, and they really got their answer, which is, it is tied up in knots. What has been talked about behind the scenes is -- and the president actually talked about this publicly last week, is whether or not with just these few days left the Senate can pass at least a scaled-back, scaled-down plan, which is effectively the president's tax plan to keep tax cuts in place for 98 percent of Americans.

We have heard him say it over and over again. But the question is whether they can get that Democrats in the Senate can get enough Republicans to sign on.

And what's happening right now is a back and forth between the Senate Democratic leader and the Republican leader. You just heard them there, the Republican leader saying I can't do anything until I actually see the details and he says he expects to see them soon. That's where we are right now.

CROWLEY: Dana, stick with us.

And let me bring in Ryan Lizza to our conversation here.

Ryan, when you're watching this, I get the sense the only movement we have had is the president came back from his vacation and now the House is coming back from theirs. But it's movement at this point with no meaning. It's the optics I think that probably bothered them more than anything.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's better that the House will be back rather than all dispersed to their districts if something is going to happen before the deadline.

We have got the president, he is going to have a meeting with the congressional leaders. We have Boehner calling back Republicans to the House to potentially vote on something. So there's some non-zero possibility that something gets passed between now and the end of the year. But for all of the attention on the Senate, the sticking point is still the House of Representatives. It's still the one Republican- controlled institution in town and John Boehner having control of his Republican conference and squeezing something through the House of Representatives.

And so far, I don't think there's been any movement there. There's been nothing public that suggests that Boehner can suddenly magically pass something that even the Senate and the White House agree on.

CROWLEY: And, Ryan, I should have said you're a correspondent for "The New Yorker" and join us often. So I know our viewers already know you.

Dana, let me bring you back in and ask you, it seems to me that anything that this Congress has gotten done -- and by this Congress, I mean when it's been divided between Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate -- it has been that both parties, that is, the left of the Democratic Party and the right of the Republican Party, are kind of left to vote yea or nay by themselves and they form a consensus in the middle.

Does John Boehner need Nancy Pelosi in order to get anything passed?

BASH: Yes, absolutely, no question about it. That became incredibly obvious when he couldn't even get his own Republicans to effectively save them from themselves and at least have some political cover by voting to keep taxes -- tax cuts in place for everybody except millionaires, because the Democrats held the line and said they wouldn't help him with what they call a political ploy.

So, to Ryan's point he was just making that the focus still is the House, I think that's true, but actually talking to people on both sides of the aisle here, because the ball is now in the Senate -- the Senate's court, the feeling is that if they can kind of break the dam in the Senate and if something actually passes, we have already seen over the past two days House Republicans saying something that they hadn't said before, which is if the Senate passes something, we will take it up.

And if that's the case, the sort of betting is that with the help of the majority of the Democrats, probably most of the Democrats, and maybe, you know, a few dozen, maybe more Republicans, that's how it would get passed.

But, Candy, it's still a big if, as we just witnessed on the Senate floor, whether they can even get to that point to break that dam in the Senate first.

CROWLEY: And, as a wrap-up, Dana, I want to ask both you and Ryan this. We have heard from Republicans it's the president here that's driving this. He doesn't want a deal. He wants to go over the cliff. He thinks it will enhance his bargaining powers because people blame Republicans.

We now hear Harry Reid say several times today, we know what this is about. Boehner is gone because he's really just waiting until he gets reelected as speaker on the 3rd. But truth-tell both of those for me. Are those justifiable concerns on either side?

BASH: Yes, they are actually justifiable political concerns on both sides. Both of those men are truth-telling to a certain extent, not so much I think about Boehner wanting to be reelected, but more about, as we talked about before, the fact that after December 31, what happens is everybody's taxes go up, so that House Republicans when they take a vote if they take a vote after January 1, that vote will be to cut taxes, which, as you well know, is a very different political vote than voting to effectively raise taxes.

So Harry Reid is true -- is right about that when it comes to House Republicans. And Republicans are right that the president doesn't really think that he's going to get much political fault and damage if we go off the fiscal cliff because all the polls show a majority of Americans will probably blame Republicans for not passing at least tax cuts to extend for 98 percent of Americans. So both do have a good point.

CROWLEY: I mean, it makes -- it makes -- it begs the question. I want to you answer that. What are they all doing here, if nobody is interested in getting this deal?

LIZZA: As Dana pointed out, lots of House Republicans would rather vote on something after January 1 than before. It might not be the end of the world for us to do that.

On the White House, I haven't seen any indication from Obama or the people around him that they are OK with going over the cliff. They really do seem to want to do something before the deadline. In fact, they seem desperate to do that.

Plenty of liberals who say, you know what, go over the cliff, because once the cliff -- moves all policy in Washington in the Democrats' direction -- big cuts in the Pentagon and big tax hikes. The White House, from all indications that I've seen, is they don't want that to happen. They are scared of what could happen to the markets. They're scared of our credit rating going down.

CROWLEY: If they're scared, why aren't they dealing with Boehner? I mean, you know, they're that scared -- I mean, Dana, be go ahead. Jump in here.

LIZZA: I think they think they lost their negotiating partner once Boehner's ploy last week failed. And the only -- as Dana pointed out, the only thing that can sort of push Boehner now is get something passed in the Senate and put some pressure back on the House Republicans to do something.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The one thing I will say about what Ryan said is that I think that you're right when I said that Democrats don't think that the president will have much political damage. That does seem to be coming more from Democrats here in Congress than in the White House. Democrats here in Congress feel that it's really a win-win for them politically.

The one thing I will tell you very quickly, this tale that a -- the pushback on this narrative that I heard from Senate Republican leader in the hallway here a couple of days ago. He said, do you remember who the speaker was during the Hoover administration, Herbert Hoover's administration? I said, no.

He said, that's my point. Nobody will remember in history if we go off the fiscal cliff and our economy goes back into a recession, who the speaker was. But it is the president who tends to, you know, have the fault if something really calamitous happens.

CROWLEY: CNN's Dana Bash and CNN contributor Ryan Lizza -- thank you so much for joining us.

LIZZA: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: Some serious health concerns for the first President Bush. He's in an intensive care in a Houston hospital. We'll take you there live for an update on his condition.


CROWLEY: We're following the condition of former President George H.W. Bush. He's in intensive care after being hospitalized for more than a month.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there for us.

Miguel, what's the latest you're hearing about the 41st president?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is doing well but not going to get out at this point. He is still in intensive care and doctors put him there because he had a persistent fever they couldn't quite knock down. He beat a bronchial infection early on after being admitted on the 23rd of November, and then this fever popped up. And it won't go away. They've tried several things.

So they've put him in intensive care now to sort of monitor him across the board. And they are going to keep him there, it seems, on a day by day basis, see how he gets on, and hopefully, the family says he will be out soon. That's the best that we know at the moment. It sounds like he's in great spirits.

He's had some family members come in here. His spokesman said he can guarantee us that his humor -- his trademark humor is intact and the guy sounds like he's just been cooped up in the hospital for a long time, really wants to get out. But doctors want to keep him until is he 100 percent beyond and past whatever it is that's keeping him now for now, Candy.

CROWLEY: Miguel, it sounds a lot better today at any rate. Thank you so much -- keeping up to date on the condition of George H.W. Bush for us.

Now, the president of the NRA is opening up to CNN, insisting that most Americans back his group and telling us why a gun registry would be a bad idea.

And shoppers get the surprise of their life at a shopping mall when an aquarium unleashes a flood of water and some sharks.


CROWLEY: A controversial proposal to arm principals in Arizona schools.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that along with other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa.


Well, Arizona's attorney general wants to arm the principal or one other employee at each of the state's schools. Tom Horne says this is the next best solution to having a police officer at each school which the state can't afford. He described the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary as preventable and says the bill to arm principals will be introduced in the legislature.

A winter storm left thousands of travelers stranded, especially in the Northeast. More than 400 flights were canceled early Thursday according to the Web site One American Airlines pilot told passengers he blamed his company for flight delays saying, they, quote, "don't have a clue what they are doing." Wow. The airline said it was focused on ensuring everyone's safety.

And shoppers at a Shanghai mall -- wow, they got quite a surprise when -- look at these pictures here -- an aquarium burst open. The massive tank held 33 tons of water with lemon sharks, fish and turtles. At least 15 people were injured and three sharks were left dead. Officials think cold weather may have weakened the glass, which is only about two years old, Candy.

So, you can see those pictures there. You saw those people running for cover, too, which I think was a smart move. Get out of the way of the sharks.

CROWLEY: Wow. That's pretty amazing. Thanks so much, Lisa. Appreciate it.

Guns in schools and the Second Amendment -- the president of the National Rifle Association talks to CNN about that and more in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.


CROWLEY: The president of the National Rifle Association is speaking out. David Keene is talking about new calls for gun control in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting and the NRA's controversial proposal to put armed volunteers in American schools.

He spoke to CNN's Carol Costello.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: -- in American schools. He spoke to CNN's Carol Costello.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The question of firearms in this country is a question on which people disagree very deeply. And some people tend to personalize it. I'll telling you this, though, recent Gallup polls show that the NRA is quite popular, certainly more than the political parties, although that's a pretty low bar, I'll have to say.

We asked voters in Wisconsin following the recall election of Governor Walker up there whether they agree with the goals and principles of the National Rifle Association and 45 percent of them had a simple answer. That answer was yes. So, yes, there are people who are detractors. Yes, there are people who disagree with us on policy and, yes, there are people who think that because we support firearms rights are crazy. The fact of the matter is that most Americans don't feel that way and all and most Americans support the second amendment.

When Wayne Lapierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen and should happen, that in every school district, administrators, teachers, and parents should sit down and find out what is need to protect that school.

Some of them will want police officers there. Others will want private security guards. They may want some places where volunteers to do it. We're willing to work with everyone on those questions.

CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEWSROOM": So someone who sells a gun, should they have to report that somewhere --

KEENE: No, if I sell a gun to my son, my wife, if I sell a gun to my cousin, the answer is no.

COSTELLO: So what if that gun is used in a crime and police can't find where that gun came from?

KEENE: We do not keep -- this country does not keep and should not keep a national gun registry.

COSTELLO: Why is that?

KEENE: Because a national gun registry can on the one hand lead to the sort of thing that happened in New York, which was the purpose of this interview. And, secondly, because history shows that nations that register guns are in a position then to take the guns away from the citizens.

We have a right under the second amendment in this country. Unless we're criminals, unless we're in a prohibited group, unless there's a law against us having a firearm, we have a right to have one.

COSTELLO: There's got to be some middle ground. It's not either/or and you're kind of making it sound that way. Like there is no middle ground on this. This is the way it should be, period. And that gets us nowhere and that's the problem we have in this country.

KEENE: You know, if you expect me to say, let's jet this on the second amendment.

COSTELLO: I'm not asking to you do that at all.

KEENE: The second amendment is valuable and worth preserving.


CROWLEY: Joining me for today's "Strategy Session" are Democratic strategist and pollster, Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. He is here with CNN contributor Erick Erickson who is the editor-in-chief of

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here. I want to look at this, quote, "gun debate" that we're having and it seems that there are three debates and neither debate is integrated into the other.

There's a debate on how this country deals with mental health there is a debate on the kinds of guns that are available and there's a debate on school safety. Looking at this, Cornell, can you see something in the NRA's school safety program that you think is a good idea somewhere to start a conversation?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, it's problematic. Because I think that the NRA is -- and I watched their press conference the other day. I've got to tell you, just as a consultant, someone who consults organizations and people in politics I think it was absolute disaster.

They blamed everyone but themselves. They positioned themselves as being victims and then didn't really sort of offer up anything new or change. Look, you know, what happened in Connecticut was a moment that I think changed the conscience of Americans.

It was a jolt to the conscience of Americans in the same way that 9/11 was a jolt so the conscience of Americans. The NRA's position is simply not tenable. When you have in your own CNN polling 70 percent of Americans thinking there should be some restriction on guns.

And, yes, we should have a registry for gun owners and for the NRA to say, well, any sort of laws or amendments that you make, you know, it sort of takes away our ability to have guns or, once again, the second amendment, that becomes real problematic. They are not where the majority of Americans are. The majority of Americans are not where the NRA is on this issue.

CROWLEY: Erick, let me try this with you and then go back to Cornell. I guess my point is, when you are looking at this discussion, it's not a discussion at all. Everybody has their sort of own area that they want to talk about and no one is discussing, well, maybe we should discuss school safety.

And the NRA makes this point, when we want the make the president safe, he's surrounded by people with guns. When we want to make money safe at banks, we put men with guns there. So it's not as though it's a foreign concept to protect what is dear to people, what is important with guns.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Candy, I'm really frustrated with the conversation because people are talking past each other and not too each other. The gun control advocates, gun rights advocates.

You know, if you look at Columbine in 1999, it was after the semi- assault weapons ban. There was an armed police officer there. The casualties would have been much more extensive had he not engaged the people evacuating from the school. That's a conversation worth having. The problem here for gun rights advocates is a desire to do something in the face of this tragedy. We didn't have it last year in the Colorado shooting. We've got it now after the campaign is over. But what are they going to do?

Last time they did an assault weapons ban that really didn't do anything. The Violent Prevention Center said it didn't really cause any problems. It caused them to make guns look less scary.

CROWLEY: Cornell, to Erick's point, when you look at it from a PR standpoint, everyone piled on the NRA. I guess what I'm asking is, is there room for a broader conversation than people just sticking to positions that they had, quite frankly, before this shooting.

BELCHER: I don't think everyone is sticking to positions because this is a conversation that now the American public is moving in an interesting way on this. Who is taking the position is the NRA who hasn't come up with anything sort of new and just doubling down on what they've said in the past.

I think it's a false equivalent. Yes, we can have a discussion about having armed security guards in schools. Fine, let's put armed security guards in schools. That doesn't go far enough.

We can't do commonsense legislation like have a registry of gun owners. We can't close the gun show loopholes. Weapon can't have any commonsense legislation on guns because of the NRA.

ERICKSON: Where do you get that idea?

CROWLEY: All I'm saying, Cornell, is exactly what you're saying. There seems to be no discussion on the part of the NRA or on the part of those who want gun control. You're right.

The NRA has said we don't see any need for further gun restrictions so they are not entering into the conversation. But when the NRA brings up these issues about school safety, everyone says, no, it's about guns.

BELCHER: No, I don't think everyone says it's about guns. You probably have got a majority of Democrats right now on the Hill that would side on to something around security guards more security guards in school. That's not the holdup.

Putting more security in school, I don't think anyone would be against that. But what the holdup is, you've got people dug in their ideological positions. They won't move.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I've got literally -- Erick.

ERICKSON: Because of the polling, when you poll people on this issue, they say they want restrictions but then they can't agree on the restrictions and you've got a number of Democrats for states up for re-election that Barack Obama and John Kerry both lost. They are not going to go along with this. Where is the common ground? There probably isn't any. And sometimes bad things happen and you can't prevent them.

CROWLEY: OK, I've got to go. I got two subjects for you so you each get a one word answer, a yes or no. Are they going to avoid the fiscal cliff, Erick?


CROWLEY: How about you, Cornell?


CROWLEY: My goodness, unanimity. Thank you. Happy new year to you all. Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, I appreciate it.

A ban on Americans adopting Russian children, Vladimir Putin's signature will make it official and it will crush hundreds of families.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We rely on our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ and that's what is going to get us through this, but it would just be devastating for those kids.



CROWLEY: The hopes of hundreds of American families are a pen stroke away from being crushed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign a parliament bill that will ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children, a move that would tear apart families already in the making. Here is CNN's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Jenny and Aaron Moyer describe Vitali as the sweetest 4-year-old boy you could ever meet.

AARON MOYER, ADOPTIVE FATHER: He is our son. In our hearts, he is our son.

ROMO: Vitali lives in an orphanage in Russia where the Moyers visited him a few months ago with the intention of adopting him.

JENNY MOYER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We know that there are an orphan crisis particularly with children with special needs children in that area of the world and that is something that we are open to and the child that we are pursuing, Vitali has down's syndrome.

ROMO: But even though the adoption process is nearly complete, the Moyers who live in Georgia are facing what could be an insurmountable obstacle. The Russian parliament has approved the bill to bar American couples from adopting Russian children. President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign it into law. ADAM PERTMAN, DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: If what they say is going to happen really happens, those families are not going to be able to adopt the kids even if all the legal processes already have been in place. But much more important, let's focus on the children. What it means is those children will remain institutionalized.

ROMO: Some see the Russian bill as retaliation for an American law that places financial restrictions on Russians accused of human rights violations. It also denies them visas for travel to the United States.

(on camera): According to statistics by the U.S. State Department, the number of Russian children adopted by American couples has increased significantly in the last few years. In 2004, the number was more than 5,800 compared to only 962 last year.

(voice-over): Over the last 20 years, Americans have are adopted more than 60,000 Russian children, more than any other country.

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We remain committed to supporting inter-country adoptions between our two countries. The welfare of children is too important to be linked to political aspects of our relationship.

ROMO: The bottom line, says this expert, it is ultimately the children who will suffer because there aren't enough families in Russia willing to adopt.

PERTMAN: There are, by some estimates, 700,000, 750,000 children in orphanages, in institutions in Russia. They don't have that many families stepping up.

ROMO: The need is especially great for children with special needs like Vitali.

JENNY MOYER: We rely on our faith and hope in Jesus Christ and that's what is going to get us through this. But it would just be devastating for those kids.

ROMO: The Moyers already have two biological children, both boys, and one adopted American girl. They say their children are just waiting for their brother to come home. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


CROWLEY: Groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had urged Russian lawmakers to reject the bill.

The weather was a headache for lots of travelers in the northeast today, but it was more than us pleasant for those on board this flight in New York.

And panic in a mall as shoppers run from what sounds like gunshots, but turned out to be a different kind of threat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: A flight from Long Island to Tampa took a surprised detour off the runway into the mud. You've got to hear how the pilot broke the news to air traffic controllers. CNN's Sandra Endo has the story and the recording.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, a Southwest Airline Boeing 737 departed Long Island, New York this morning, veered off course just seconds after pushing away from the gate. Listen to what the pilot told the control tower.


UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: We just made your day very exciting. At least ours is going to be. We just taxied off the taxi way into the grass here.


ENDO: The flight with 129 passengers and five crew members on board was heading to Tampa this morning. The plane ended up stuck in the mud. Here's more of the transmission between the pilots and the tower just after it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: We are going to have to deplane the people and get something in here to tow the aircraft back on the pavement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on the phone right now with fire rescue and they are going to I'll close here for now and I'll just take everyone around the runway. It's no big deal. Let me know if you need any more assistance.



ENDO: The airline says maintenance crews are working to move the aircraft and evaluate it for damage. The FAA is looking into what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started backing out of the gate right on time, everything was going nice and smooth. We're cleared for takeoff. The next thing you know, you feel this -- the brakes got hit. You felt yourself get pushed back and forth and then the next thing you know we're listing to portside.


ENDO: The passengers were taken off the plane and boarded another jet to their final destination -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bottom line, nobody hurt. Retailers recall a popular brand of baby recliner after several deaths. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring several top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what have you got on this?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of parents are going to be interested in this story, Candy. Major U.S. retailers are recalling something called the "Nap Nanny Recliner" after the reported deaths of five infants.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the "Nap Nanny" poses a substantial risk of injury and death to infants. Pictures show how babies can hang or fall out over the side of the recliner. The company told CNN it stands behind the product 100 percent.

A mall in Sacramento, California, was locked down after a brawl in the food court. Shoppers left screaming from the site. Three teenagers were arrested for starting the brawl, which involved around 20 people.

People panicked as they mistook loud sounds for gunshots, but a mall security said no shots were fired during or after the fight.

And a security camera recorded this incredible video of a tornado sweeping passed a Walgreens in Mobile, Alabama. A storm pounded the city on Christmas day. High winds blew through the store's front door as workers and shoppers took shelter in the back.

A Walgreens manager said the tornado came about 100 yards from smashing the store to pieces. Look at those incredible pictures, Candy.

CROWLEY: I don't know what we did before we had security cameras. That's amazing. We see a lot more of the story.

SYLVESTER: I know, a lot of video that you could watch all day, right?

CROWLEY: Exactly. Lisa Sylvester, thank you.

A looming strike that could shut down some of the country's busiest ports. We'll show how it could impact you.


CROWLEY: It was a wild ride to Election Day 2012. CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta has the top ten campaign stories of the year.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The year started off with a surprise in a sweater vest, counting down the top campaign stories of the year at number ten, the primaries. Rick Santorum's stunning performance in the Iowa caucuses -- kicked off a battle for the Republican nomination that few in Washington had expected. The GOP's odds on favorite, Mitt Romney stumbled in some of the early contests. He refused to release his tax returns allowing another rival Newt Gingrich to take South Carolina.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We proved here in South Carolina that people of power with the right ideas beats big money.

ACOSTA: But that big money eventually cleared the field and Romney set his sights on the president.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's still about the economy and we're not stupid.

ACOSTA: At number nine, Bain. Not that one. That one. Almost as soon as Romney had had locked up the nomination, his former private investment firm, Bain Capital, was savaged by Democratic super pacs and the Obama campaign.

The attack ads put Romney on defense for months. The president also got a lift from the Supreme Court, which at number eight, upheld his embattled health care law. Romney vowed to strike it down himself.

ROMNEY: I'm not one that's going to get rid of Obamacare.

ACOSTA: At number seven, gas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney, do you feel that your gas has overshadowed your foreign trips?

ACOSTA: The candidates' verbal missteps often dominated the news cycle.


ACOSTA: Or in Romney's case, his entire foreign trip where a campaign aide lashed out at reporters, a gaffe that went global. And then at number six, the conventions were remembered less for the nominees and their running mates and more for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. Can't do that to himself.

ACOSTA: The warm up acts that stole the show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that we're all in this together is a far better philosophy than you're on your own.

ACOSTA: At number five, the September 11 attack in Benghazi injected foreign policy into the race.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Justice will be done.

ACOSTA: But a week later, the campaign shifted again to the hidden camera video of Romney's comments on the 47 percent and an instant Obama attack ad. Number four, among the year's biggest moments.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of him who are with him.

ACOSTA: The GOP contender needed a breakout moment and got one at number three. The debates and President Obama's lackluster performance in the first face-off put Romney back in the hunt. The president would have to redeem himself and polls show that he did.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I said if I got Bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot.

ACOSTA: But at number two came the mother of October surprises, Sandy. The devastating superstorm put much of the nation's focus on the president's handling of the crisis. And the high marks he received from a top Romney surrogate, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I can't thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state.

ACOSTA: Polls show the race moving to the president who won handily.

ROMNEY: This election is over, but our principles endure.

ACOSTA: The sizable margin of victory blindsided the Romney campaign.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The task of perfecting our union moves forward.

ACOSTA: Making election night no surprise the biggest campaign story of the year. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


CROWLEY: Don't miss our "Top 10 of 2012" special as CNN revisits the stories that captured the country's attention. It's this Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.