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Fiscal Cliff Meeting; Chicago Hits Grim Milestone

Aired December 28, 2012 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everyone, I'm Don Lemon.

The time is now for that last-ditch effort to avert the fiscal cliff. If they're sticking to the schedule, the president is sitting down right now at the White House inside that building you see right there.

He's sitting down with the top four leaders of Congress. They're trying to find a way to prevent the January tax increase that's about to wallop taxpayers. A short time ago, we got a glimpse of House Speaker John Boehner. He was on his way to the White House. And just moments ago, we saw the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, pull up to the west entrance, and into the White House through a side door.

Jessica Yellin, standing by for us at the White House on the lawn, set the scene for us if you will. It is very dramatic.


It is game time here at the White House. If they're going to reach a deal, this is the meeting where they will do it. I understand both Leader Reid and Leader McConnell from the Senate have arrived. We have not seen Speaker Boehner or Nancy Pelosi, Leader Pelosi, walk into the White House yet. Before I plugged in at least she hadn't -- they hadn't arrived.

But it is just a matter of minutes then until they should all take their seats in the Oval Office and begin the discussion that should help resolve whether or not the nation will go over the fiscal cliff in the next few days.

This won't end the discussion, but it should launch us into the next steps. Can they hash out the basic form of an agreement, a scaled- down agreement? If they reach that threshold, can the senators assure each other that they have the time to get this done and no senator will filibuster it? If that's the case, they bring it to a vote tomorrow, and/or Sunday, and does the House agree to bring it to a vote on the floor of the House?

Does Nancy Pelosi agree that she has the ability to get enough Democrats to vote yes? Those are an awful lot of ifs and we have until just Monday night to get it all done.

LEMON: You will be standing by, watching it all with every single detail. Thank you, Jessica Yellin.

I to turn now to CNN's Lisa Desjardins. She's live on Capitol Hill for us.

So, Lisa, I just caught you talking with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Here's what he said.


SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: If we don't have a deal within the next 24 hours, the question is, where do you buy a parachute? Looks like we will be going over the cliff, because the closer we get to the end, the less likely it is you're going to be able to compress an agreement into place that will have enough votes to pass.


LEMON: Compress is probably a nicer word. Ram it through is probably what is going to have to happen in order to -- OK, so, listen, he just said 24 hours, Lisa, to reach an agreement.

Let's say that happens, maybe some kind of deal at the White House today. What would the mechanics of rushing the deal through Congress and getting it passed into law in the next few days? Give me those mechanics.


Let's break this down so people are really clear on how this could possibly happen. There are some hurdles that Congress would have to get passed, of course, some they set up themselves. The first, the House has a 72-hour rule, they have to have bills printed 72 hours before they vote on them. But the House has certainly gotten around that before.

They have to do that again, ignore or vote around that rule. Second, you heard Jess talk about this, they would have to also avoid a Senate filibuster, either overrule a filibuster or more ideally not even have one, because, in truth, Don, it could take up to a week to go through all of the possible filibuster procedures. They need to try to avoid that.

Finally, here is the deal, Don, Congress, this Congress could actually work until January 3 at 12:00 noon. That's the exact minute when the new Congress comes in. But they say that they could still stay in session until the last possible minute and work on this deal or, Don, as we're trying to hear, too, maybe they go over the cliff, past January 3, vote January 4, January 5.

We're starting to hear more people talk about those kinds of dates now. I think in the end, Don, I don't mean to confuse people, but I think the truth is people don't know what is going to happen. There are a lot of options, but the truth is this Congress could still get out a deal by the time of the fiscal cliff deadline, or just after.

It is hard, but possible.

LEMON: Oh, boy.

DESJARDINS: They can't blame the clock if it doesn't happen, I guess is what I'm trying to as well.

LEMON: Lisa, let's keep in mind, the House isn't even in session. It is to convene on Sunday evening to do what?

DESJARDINS: Well, there is a lost things the House could do. But the truth is the House is coming back because of the fiscal cliff. They're coming back in case there is a potential deal, in case there is something to debate and discuss.

Now, there are other things they can do if there is no fiscal cliff deal. Namely, Hurricane Sandy supplemental might need some work. They can also work on the farm bill, which is also overdue. So, there are other things, plenty of business they could work on, but the truth is, Don, they're coming back because of the fiscal cliff, in case there might be a deal, and also to show that they're working until the last minute.

LEMON: Lisa, I love you, but you just depressed me.


LEMON: Probably a lot of people who are watching. I know.

DESJARDINS: Have faith. Have faith. Honestly, it is not -- these guys are best at the last minute. I think we're far from the last minute, though it feels that way to a lot of people, especially, say, the unemployed who are losing their benefits tomorrow. It is a serious matter. But these guys are very -- best at their last minute and we're not there yet.

LEMON: OK. We shall see. Lisa, thank you.

DESJARDINS: Try to smile.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I will try. And I'm sure many Americans are trying as well.

We have talked about the effects of hitting the fiscal cliff on American taxpayers. What about businesses? What about businesses?

Rick Newman of "U.S. News & World Report" tells us they're cutting back already.


RICK NEWMAN, CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": To say that big business leaders are anxious I think is an understatement.

I think they're thoroughly disgusted because you couldn't run a business like this, and they all know that. It is just kind of driving them crazy. But business leaders have been watching this for a long time, Don, unlike a lot of consumers who may have just started paying attention over the last couple of weeks.

Business leaders have known this is coming for a long time. They know how ugly and dysfunctional it was in 2011 when we went through something similar with the debt ceiling. And they have more or less been expecting the same thing. So what we have seen over the last couple of months is that business activity has really slowed down.


LEMON: Rick Newman, "U.S. News & World Report."

OK. Why don't we remind you once again, let me remind you that meeting is under way at the White House, at the White House, between the president and the top four leaders of Congress. We have got our eyes on the White House for you. If we hear something out of that meeting, you will be the first to know. .

He's being honored and remembered as a liberator, not a conqueror. Tributes pouring in today for General Norman Schwarzkopf known as Stormin' Norman. He died yesterday in Tampa. He became a household name in the '90s when he led coalition forces during the first Gulf War. But he once told Larry King he hated war. President Obama calls Schwarzkopf's death the loss of an American original.

General Colin Powell says his leadership inspired a nation. Norman Schwarzkopf was 78 years old.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be back in the office next week. Clinton has been recuperating at home from a stomach flu and concussion suffered when she fainted and fell. Her doctors have told her not to travel overseas for the next few weeks, but she is expected to testify before Congress on the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Put the harps back in the closet, that is the word from former President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff. She says the condition of the 88-year-old former president is not dire. His family is also expressing confidence that he will soon be released from an intensive care unit. He's being treated for high fever at a Houston hospital.

A grim milestone in Chicago, as the city marks the 500th murder this year.


REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: They are helpless to stop the guns from coming in, drugs coming in and jobs going out.


LEMON: Up next, Reverend Jesse Jackson and a Chicago reporter weigh in on what, if anything, can be done to curb the violence.


LEMON: Grim milestone reached Thursday night in Chicago. We will get to that. Pardon me. I want to get you to the White House, though, as this is happening right now. You see the White House there in the middle. Really, it is all pictures of the White House entrance. The one on the right is the entrance, the one on the left obviously where they will be exiting once they're done with this meeting.

Harry Reid in there with Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and also the president, trying to strike out a deal, come up with a deal before we head over the fiscal cliff and we get all the tax hikes. It's going to raise the taxes of the average American. So we will keep an eye on the Oval Office as we report other news here. You will be the first to know it if we hear anything.

Now on to that grim milestone reached Thursday night in Chicago. When a man was killed in the city's West Side, it marked the 500th murder this year, up more than 50 from a year ago. It is the first time since 2008 that 500 people have been killed in that city.

Earlier today, the Reverend Jesse Jackson told CNN Chicago officials can't do much to stop the bloodshed.


JACKSON: it Is a grim reminder of how desperate we are. We've been riveted by the killing in Newtown, the massacre of these children who'll never see Santa Claus again, who would never have an Easter Bunny -- something about that grabbed us. I think the President's focus that was well focused, but he serves to illuminate the crisis here in Chicago. There might be 32,000 American are killed by gunfire here across the country.

Here is the problem. We don't sell guns, no gun shops in Chicago. Guns come in from suburbs and drugs come in from Mexico. And we know the three gun shops that sell most of the guns that come to Chicago. One gun shop alone in Riverdale sells half the guns that kill people in Chicago.

The mayor is -- Mayor Daley working on it. Mayor Emanuel has worked on it. They're helpless to stop the guns coming in, drugs coming in and jobs going out.


LEMON: Last hour, "Chicago Tribune" columnist John Kass joined me to discuss the city's losing battle with violence.


JOHN KASS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": There is a gang war in Chicago on the West and South sides. The police are outmanned, undermanned and outgunned. And the criminals are killing each other to climb up, you know, the next wrung on the ladder.

We make the Sandy Hook, which was a tragedy, a big deal. Why don't the politicians come to the funerals of the dead African-American and Latino kids who get killed by the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. The media has ghettoized these children, these homicide victims, pushed them to the side.

I'm not diminishing the others. I'm just saying, President Obama, show up at a funeral here in Chicago once in a while too.


LEMON: John Kass, everyone.

Just over 2,000 guns are now off streets of Los Angeles, a record- breaking number for the city's gun buyback event. That's according to "The L.A. Times." Along with the guns that were exchanged for grocery gift cards, two rocket launchers.

No word on whether the launchers were the real deal. The L.A. police chief told "The Times" that the weapons would not be checked for connections to crimes in fear of deterring people from turning them in.

And in Utah, about 200 teachers are learning how to use a gun. They attended a free gun training class geared towards helping them fight back if needed.

Fighting back is something educators are thinking about since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Some teachers feel knowing how to use a gun is necessary.


DONALYN SHOCK, TEACHER'S ASSISTANT: I think it is important to have, you know, protection, because if you don't have it, I feel like we're sitting ducks.


LEMON: CNN's Ali Velshi spoke to the chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council earlier. It's in charge of the training the teachers received yesterday. Here's his tape on the courses he offers.


CLARK APOSHIAN, CHAIR, UTAH SHOOTING SPORTS COUNCIL: For the past 12 years, we have taught school employees free of charge and we had a fantastic turnout yesterday. We continue to do this. We're not necessarily arming teachers, in fact, far be it.

It is completely up to them whether they want to obtain the permit after the training and get a firearm. Even if they get a firearm, it is still up to them whether they want to carry it in the schools. But I tend to think after the events in Connecticut and/or Colorado that a lot more teachers are going to go to school armed.


LEMON: Utah is one of the few states that allows teachers to carry concealed weapons in public schools.

The Mississippi River water levels are down -- how that can impact barge traffic and in turn jobs right after this break.

Before we go to break, fiscal cliff meeting at the White House right now, four top members of Congress meeting with the president in the Oval Office. Can they avert us going over that fiscal cliff? We will see.


LEMON: All right, we're back.

Happening right now, live pictures of the White House, four top ranking members of Congress meeting with the president, trying to avert a fiscal cliff. As soon as we get word, you will be the first to know.

No strike for at least a month for workers at ports on the East and Gulf coasts. It would be a big deal for the nation's economy if the International Longshoremen's Association does strike. The contract was due to expire a minute after midnight Sunday, but good news, good news today as both parties agreed to a partial deal to keep talking. They were able to work out a major sticking point that extends the contract for a month. So stay tuned.

More water is drastically needed in the Mississippi River. The need is so dire, barge traffic may shut down as early as next week. That means thousands of shippers may lose their jobs. Low water levels and ice forming in the river right now makes it difficult for the ships to pass through.

Ships carry about $7 billion in goods on the river in December and in January. That's according to a Bloomberg report.


LEMON: The president is meeting with the top members of Congress and they're talking about that fiscal cliff that we have been reporting on. This could be the breakthrough. Let's hope so. We're heading to Capitol Hill right after this break.



As we look to the White House, we sure hope that they are getting something done, the fiscal cliff meeting at the White House right now. What were the mechanics of rushing the deal through Congress and getting it passed into law?

What would that look like in four days?

Lisa Desjardins joins us now. OK, what will it look like?


Well, there is a couple of possibilities, Don. One is that they take sort of the remnants of one of the bills that has passed either the House or the Senate and they just change it. They add whatever is in this deal to it. They have a whole bunch of vehicles that are possible for that. One sticking point, though. Because this deal would most likely deal with our taxes, there is a rule in the Constitution that has been interpreted by most every side to mean that it would have to begin in the House, that revenue measures begin in the House.

They need a bill that starts in the House. OK, they have got lots to do that. Then the trick I think, Don, would be making sure they have the votes. And I think that if we see anything come out of tonight's meeting, anything substantial, that's what is going to happen this next day-and-a-half. Leaders on both sides would have to make sure they have got the people on board to do this.

One last thing, Don, that is really important. They would have to make sure there is not a Senate filibuster. That's something that could ensure no deal would go through by January 1. And it is funny, Don, I just ran into Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's known as a Tea Party firebrand, he's known as someone who is willing to stage a filibuster on his own. I said, what would make you stage a filibuster if anything on this?

He said, well, if it extends the debt ceiling permanently, probably, and then he also said, I'm also concerned about how much money might spent on unemployment. He said he's watching that. He hasn't made any decisions yet. But it is something to watch because it is an issue that the Democrats and the president are likely to bring up soon, expiring unemployment benefits. So how about that?

LEMON: Did you read between the lines there? Basically, he's saying, if we don't get exactly what we want, then I'm going to filibuster.

This is going to be crazy. You said if, you know, if there is no guarantee, if there is a guarantee of no one filibustering. You can't guarantee that.

DESJARDINS: Well, you have to remember on all sides there is interest and pressure in actually getting something done.

And really the reason we have reached this impasse now is not necessarily politics. Politics, I think, is why it's these -- these two sides have such a hard time talking to each other. That's politics. But I think at this moment when we're facing what could be a national crisis, literally, the impasse problem is about philosophy and that these two sides have very different approaches.

They're both concerned about very different things, about how you tax people and who you tax and also about who gets the benefits of government and how, how you care for the poor, how much government spends on the poor. They're very different. And I think those philosophical differences are why they are really at loggerheads at this moment.

The politics has not helped.

LEMON: Yes. DESJARDINS: But, right now, I think we're dealing with philosophy.

LEMON: Absolutely. Lisa, don't go anywhere.

Do we have Ali Velshi? Is Ali Velshi there?

Ali, you have got more coming up, I know.



LEMON: Help me out here, though. They're not that far apart, are they? Is it really just politics at this point?


LEMON: They're not that far apart.

VELSHI: No, this is all politics. They're not that far apart. All the hard work has been done. And the danger of not getting a deal done far exceeds the danger of paying a little extra tax.

I'm going to talk to you about that when I come back, Don.

LEMON: See you after the break.

VELSHI: All right.