Return to Transcripts main page


Secretary Clinton's Clot Between Brain And Skull; U.S. Will Go Over Fiscal Cliff; Obama Warns GOP On Spending Cuts; Interview with Rand Paul

Aired December 31, 2012 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, we're getting ready to celebrate here in the United States as well. But for now, there's breaking news we're covering. The United States of America is getting ready to go over the fiscal cliff even though a Senate deal maybe very close at hand. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'm reporting in Washington.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Lawmakers and Vice President Biden struggling all day on a deal, but no final vote at least so far. We'll get the latest from the Hill and show what this means for you and your taxes starting tomorrow.

BLITZER: Ali is going to be with us for the next hour of two or three, who knows. We're also watching a very serious health scare for the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She's now hospitalized with a blood clot. Doctors are revealing where it is. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We'll get to the fiscal cliff negotiations. There's movement right now, but first, startling new information we're learning about the blood clot that landed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the hospital this New Year's Eve.

Her doctors now revealing it's located in her head between her brain and her skull. Let's go straight to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the latest. They issued a pretty detailed statement, Sanjay. Walk us through what we know about the secretary's condition.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they have told us, just over the last couple hours, Wolf, is that there is a blood clot that is specifically located in one of the veins that drains blood away from the brain. It's called the cerebral vein or cerebral sinus in this case.

This is something that's a pretty rare event. It's very uncommon. It can be associated with head trauma, even mild head trauma. We also know that Secretary Clinton has had a history of a blood clot in the past. Very important what they also said, Wolf, about how she's doing.

Being very specific, saying she's had no evidence of stroke, no evidence of neurological impairment. They say she's up walking, talking, joking around. Someone described it to me as you wouldn't notice anything different about her if you ran into her in the hospital.

Let me show you this because I think it's important. I have a little model here just to illustrate. What we know, the clot we're talking about is on the right side of the head. For the purposes of this model, I'll show you the left side. This is obviously the brain. This is not a blood clot on the top of the brain. That was one of the concerns initially. It is not that.

Rather if you take the brain out and take a close look inside. You see these blue areas here. Those are veins that drain blood away from the vein. The particular vein in her case runs right in this particular area on the right side in this case. And it has a clot in it. That's what they're basically trying to address, dissolve, if you will, with this blood thinning medications -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A statement that her doctors has put out, I know you read it closely, I read it closely as well. It says to help dissolve the clot in her head. Her medical team began treating the secretary with blood thinners. She will be released from the hospital once the medication dose has been established. What does that mean?

GUPTA: Well, what that basically means is when you start someone on these types of medications you have to get the dose right. You don't want to give too much. You don't want to give too little. If you give too much, obviously their blood will be too thin and that could be a problem.

If you're not giving enough then you're not really addressing the problem of the blood clot. So usually that way it works, they start with the medication and they monitor levels. You can actually monitor the levels of how well the blood thinner is working.

Literally take some blood and see how well it's working. Usually it takes a couple days to sort that out. Sometimes it can happen more quickly. Sometimes it can go -- take even a few days longer. That's typically what's happening in the hospital.

She also had an MRI scan yesterday, on Sunday, that ultimately was the test that found this clot. At some point, Wolf, I'm sure that they're probably going to repeat that test. I don't know if it will be within the next few days or they'll wait longer, but that's likely something we're going to follow up on as well.

BLITZER: The MRI showed that there was no stroke, no neurological damage. That's pretty reliable, right?

GUPTA: It is reliable. And I tell you what is even more reliable is actually doing a neurological exam, having a doctor go examine in this case Secretary of State Clinton, ask all sorts of questions about is she clear on how she's speaking and is she oriented to where she is.

Is she having symptoms, headaches, that sort of thing, also testing the strength on both sides of her body, you can do a detailed neurological exam. That's going to be even more reliable I think, Wolf, but that MRI does tell you a lot of information. BLITZER: Typically, that medication, the blood thinner medication she's taken, what is it?

GUPTA: Well, you know, sometimes you may start with an IV medication known as Heparin, but ultimately, patients go home on an oral pill such as Coumadin. It's a common blood thinner, likely the one they chose. There are other options as well. It depends on how she's responding to the various medications, but that's a common one, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story, obviously high interest. We wish the secretary of state a complete recovery. I speak for Sanjay, I speak for all our viewers as well. Good luck to the secretary of state on this New Year's Eve. Ali, I know you wish her only the best as well.

VELSHI: Absolutely. We'll watch that closely and watching what is going on in Washington. Five hours from now, the U.S. will plunge over the fiscal cliff. It may not be long, but it will be nerve- racking for millions.

President Obama said today that a deal was in sight, but he slammed Congress for stalling and for failing to reach a broader agreement. Sources now say the Senate will try to vote tonight. We're not going to have a House vote tonight because the house has already adjourned until tomorrow, noon Eastern Time, which means we will not be able to solve this problem fully tonight if it gets solved at all.

That's still not entirely clear. Let's go to CNN's chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. Jessica, you know, if you've been watching over the last several hours, you get conflicting information. Is there likely a deal at all or not?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is optimistic there will be a deal. Republicans in the Senate are confident there will be a deal. Senate Democrats are still holding out for more changes in this deal.

And so right now, there's still that last haggling over certain sticking points that Democrats want to see in this negotiation. And it's one of the reasons we understand that Vice President Biden is set to go up there. Now, that's once the deal is done and sealed.

The reason the vice president would go up there, it's to sort of sell the deal, basically, and answer questions and reassure members about the points in it and also I would expect, about what the administration would do in the future so that they feel that they'll live to fight another day on the big issues that aren't resolved here, but they want resolved down the line -- Ali.

VELSHI: Here is the thing. We have been worrying for the last week that the fact that John Boehner and the president would discuss things, they would go back to their party, tried that Plan B, his caucus said no. Things sort of took a different turn today. We heard from a number of Democrats, including by the way, Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the show just a while ago, but we heard from Democratic senators who said everyone is worrying about Republicans saying no to this deal. There may be enough Democrats to want to say no to it. Is there a threat that the Democrats might settle the deal?

YELLIN: Yes, that is the concern. Now, it's not something that the White House is openly talking about, but that is exactly why there is sort of this pressure to get this resolved right now, because there's momentum, they want to act on it fast, get it done, get it done because if we go over the cliff, Democrats will feel they have more leverage to settle the deal and draw this out into a longer battle.

Now I will point out to you that the Treasury secretary has already sent out a letter saying he's taking extraordinary measures now to extend the nation's credit because our debt limit has been reached. So we are already in this period where we're trying to haggle with our own debt problems.

And so Democrats feel like we can take advantage, you know, we, as a nation, are in a position where Democrats can take advantage of the situation and get more out of the Republicans.

And the nation is already in a perilous position. One of the issues -- some of the sticking points that Democrats point to, Republicans are still arguing over the pay-fors in the spending cuts, how to pay for that, how to pay for this so-called doc fix and some of the changes to the estate tax.

VELSHI: Jessica, I love spending time with you. I didn't think a year ago we would be spending New Year's Eve together, but we may well be along with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, no fix to the debt ceiling in there, $16.4 trillion and that note, that letter that Jessica was referring to is that the Treasury secretary has confirmed that the United States has hit its debt ceiling, $16.4 trillion today.

They have about $200 billion in extraordinary measures, which can stretch it out for a few more weeks, but we have hit the debt ceiling.

BLITZER: Yes, it doesn't look like the debt ceiling is part of this deal right now. Ali, the Democrats, especially the president of the United States, deeply disappointed by that. We may be on the verge of a fiscal cliff short-term agreement.

The House of Representatives, however, will not vote tonight. Deal or no deal, there could be a significant impact on your taxes. Tom Foreman is joining us with more on this part of the story -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the simple truth is, if you're sitting at home right now and you don't care about the Democrats and Republicans, you don't care about the White House, and you don't care about Congress, you still need to be watching this number and paying attention.

Because if that reaches zero tonight and we don't have a solid promise that a deal is in the works, it could affect everyone's wallet because everyone's taxes are going to go up. Let me show you some examples here. Let's say you make $50,000 in your household. That's about the median income in this country right now.

Your taxes next year will increase $2,000 and they'll stay up $2,000 for every year after until this deal gets fixed. We wouldn't think it would go on forever, but that's a huge chunk to hit people like that.

Let's talk people who make $75,000. We're talking about households here, two incomes, not just one person, it's a little different if you're single, but not much. How much are they going to get hit, about $3,500, again, a huge impact in this economy, if you take it away from people.

Let's go to $250,000. If you go up to this much bigger number, look at that, $8,000 in extra taxes next year if this deal does not get struck. Now, none of this is going to happen if the current deal we're talking about comes through because right now we're talking about a threshold of $450,000.

Everybody below that will keep your taxes more or less where they are now. Everybody above that will see their taxes go back to the level they were under Bill Clinton so from around 35 percent right now to 39.6 percent. That would possibly raise about $600 billion for the economy.

That would help the federal government in terms of dealing with the deficit, but nonetheless, it still won't be enough, but it will be a start in that direction. That's the current cut off, but we don't have that deal yet.

Absent that deal and as long as the clock keeps ticking, all of this is on the table for all of us. One more thing I should mention, bear in mind this past year, all of us have enjoyed a payroll tax vacation. Payroll taxes were reduced across the country to help people deal with this bad economy right now.

That's ending. There's no sign that's not going to end. Everyone is going to pay a little more anyway. What we're worried about is this extra level on top. That is what many voters are paying attention to, Wolf, and that is the real bear in the woods that has Democrats and Republicans both worried about these negotiations.

BLITZER: That clock, as you point out, is ticking, ticking, ticking right now. Tom, thank you.

What's at stake for the millions of Americans already out of a job once the country goes over the fiscal cliff? That and much more when our special coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Republicans are still steaming over what they call the combative tone that the president took when he announced progress toward a fiscal cliff deal earlier in the day. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that sort of after today, we're going to try to shove only spending cuts down -- well, shove spending cuts at us.

That will hurt seniors or hurt students or hurt middle class families without asking also equivalent sacrifice from millionaire millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists, et cetera. If they think that's going to be the formula for how we solve this thing, then they have another thing coming. That's not how it's going to work.


BLITZER: You know, Ali, as you well know, a lot of Republicans, Senator McCain, Senator Graham, a lot of Republicans, they came out and made statements after the president's speech earlier in the day, saying it was totally inappropriate coming in a sensitive moment in the negotiations for him to go out there and do a sort of political pep rally, if you will.

VELSHI: Yes, you know, emotions have been running high. There have been a lot of things in the last few days that have seemed inappropriate, but I guess people are drawing a bit of a distinction with the president who has sort of come in at the last minute after his talks with John Boehner have not work.

You know, he brought in Joe Biden, the vice president, because Biden has a relationship with Mitch McConnell because the deal wasn't getting done at the Senate. So you know, nerves are frayed, emotions are running high.

But at this point, I got to tell you, outside of those circles of political commentary, the words most people are getting is that just get a deal done. Just get something done. It's kind of fascinating we're now at 20 after 7:00 on the east coast.

We're not even sure there is a deal that can be voted on by the Senate. We certainly know it's not going to be voted on by the House until tomorrow. Touchy times in Washington. We probably have to discount the way people say things more than what they do.

Let's go to Dana Bash who has been working this. In fact, we're taking a look now at the Senate floor. Dana Bash has been working her sources in Congress, talking to pretty much everybody out there with an opinion on it. Dana, what are you drawing? What conclusions are you drawing from what you're hearing so far?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me give you a little bit of color of what I witnessed, maybe better to say what I smelled coming over here. I took the back way through where senators have hideaways in the capital, and I smelled a lot of firewood.

It's smelled pretty good. People are lighting fires like they're in for a long night here on New Year's Eve. And perhaps that is a good sign that there is genuine optimism that they could have a vote tonight. That is what I was told by a senior Democratic source, that the goal is tonight, Senate Democrats insist they're not there yet.

There's still some outstanding issues on the Republican side, however, there was a meeting probably now about an hour, hour and a half ago, among all Senate Republicans, and many, many Senate Republicans came out and said they did believe we were very, very close, and they were sticking around for a vote tonight.

So that's where we are right now. But we are also anticipating, as Jessica reported earlier, Joe Biden to come up to the Senate to talk to his fellow Democrats, former Senate colleagues, and brief them and explain to them what is in the deal that he at the end of the day, worked out with the Senate Republican leader.

It seems to me, just reading the tea leaves and getting the vibes here, reading the body language, frankly, Ali, is the fact that some Senate Democrats publicly talked about how upset they were about some of the deals, some of the items in the deal that the vice president was making.

Might have sort of spooked Senate Democratic leaders or at least gave them some backing to push back against both the vice president, their fellow Democrat in the White House, and the Senate Republican leader. So Republicans think the Democrats aren't taking yes for an answer, and we'll see if that is the case at the end of the day when the clock strikes midnight.

VELSHI: So in other words, we don't have a sure deal, and it might be unsure because there are some Senate Republicans who may not like it and some Senate Democrats who may not like it?

BASH: That's right although I have to be honest with you. Yes, there are going to be Senate Democrats, if we do see a vote, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans who likely will vote no. No matter what.

However, the question at this point is, are they ready to write some kind of legislation and vote on it tonight. My sense is that push back is primarily coming from the Democratic side as opposed to the Republican side.

One kind of piece of behind the scenes color I can also give you is that talking to some Republican staffers, the legislation is already being written. In fact, what they have said is much of this is cut and paste from previous bills. So it's not that hard to do. And it's already in the works just in case they sort of kick the process along.

VELSHI: Dana, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this with you, obviously, and as soon as you get any further information, let us know.

All of this is raising questions for many Americans, especially those who are unemployed. CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a closer look at the impact on them -- Tom.

FOREMAN: You know, Ali, we are looking at the impact across the board, all evening, drawing closer and closer to the deadline, and unemployment is a big one out there because one of the things we're talking about is extended unemployment benefits.

Those will expire January 2nd. That's the day after tomorrow, if all that comes through. Who is that going to affect? Well, there about 12 million unemployed people in the country right now. About 2 million really need the benefits at this point.

If those run out, they're really in a pickle, the cost of extending them, about $30 billion. Again, Ali, this is right where the logger heads come simply because if you're trying to cut what your spending, you do have to eventually say we're going to cut something.

Democrats in particular are going to say, but you can't cut this. It's simply too important right now. Some Republicans might say the same thing because they say you can't have people dropping out of the economy right now at a critical time. Nonetheless, this is another thing that is on the line in less than five hours if we don't get a deal -- Ali.

VELSHI: Yes, and that is a major concern. Part of the dispute here, Tom, is this federal emergency unemployment was considered that, emergency aid. It's normally 26 weeks from the state government, and this was extra unemployment, there are some Republicans who say at what point does this stop being an emergency? The emergency was in 2008. This is more contentious than a lot of people think. We'll watch that closely -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Ali, it's interesting that earlier when I spoke to Grover Norquist, he said if he were a senator, he would vote for the deal, but Robert Reach, the former Clinton labor secretary said if he were a senator, he would oppose the president on this deal.

So you're getting a lot of confusion out there. You got Grover Norquist with the president. Robert Reich against the president. Have you seen anything like that before?

VELSHI: I was listening to that interview very closely. We're going to have him on later again. That was quite remarkable. I think that's what you're seeing playing out here. Everything doesn't fit neatly into the corners here.

There are Republicans who think that threshold above which people will pay extra tax is too high, doesn't bring enough revenue in, and Grover Norquist, I was very surprised when he told you he thinks this deal, he hasn't read it, meets the smell test and he would give approval for Republicans to vote for it.

BLITZER: Republicans in the House tomorrow as well. All right, stand by for a moment. The U.S. draws closer and closer to that fiscal cliff. The Defense Department is facing billions in budget cuts. How a furlough could affect civilian employees in the U.S. and around the world.


BLITZER: We're following two breaking news stories this hour. We now know the United States will in fact go over the fiscal cliff at midnight tonight. The Senate is closing in on a deal, but the House has said it will not vote tonight. Possibly take up any action tomorrow.

The other breaking news story we're following, new details emerging of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's blood clot. Doctors are now revealing it's located in a vein between her brain and her skull. They say it did not result in a stroke or any neurological damage. We're following both of these stories.

I want to bring in Tom Foreman on the fiscal cliff. The emerging deal that's out there, no deal yet and there is no deal until it's finalized, not only in the Senate, as you know, Tom, but the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president.

FOREMAN: Yes, Wolf. There's so many contentious details here. Any one of them might trip this up, but there are two big pillars we're talking about today more than anything else. The first one seems to have been successful. It has to do with the idea of where you're going to put the threshold for maintaining the Bush tax cuts.

Remember, the Republicans wanted to maintain the Bush tax cuts for everyone. The White House said no, not for everyone. We want to do it for middle income people, but wealthier people can pay more.

The president wanted to say anybody making over $250,000 as a couple in this country should pay more. They should go to a higher level of tax rates. However, the Republicans by and large said they didn't want anybody paying more taxes, but some said even, if you're going to do that, let's make it a million dollars a year or more.

Where we seem to stand at this hour, after all these negotiations, is somewhere down around here, around $450,000 a year per couple. This seems to be largely one of the coups today where the parties seem to agree that this is the cut-off point. I say that tentatively because as you know, this thing can change at any moment. But that seems to be where we're standing right now.

This would be the cut-off rate. Below that, everyone would keep their taxes basically the way the have them now. Above that, people would revert to the level of taxes that they saw under Bill Clinton -- so from 35 percent up to about 39.6 percent. That seems to be the first pillar, and that seems to be in place.

Beyond that, we come to this question of sequestration. That's pretty important because that goes into effect on January 2nd. Republicans seem to be leaning towards saying we must deal with this in some fashion now, even if you're going to delay it, they seem to be talking more about things like a three-month delay, a short delay, and get right to it.

Democrats seem to want a longer delay. We don't know the details, Wolf, but those are the two big pillars we're talking about tonight and upon which a deal may rest.

BLITZER: And there's no deal until it's finalized, as we've been pointing out. Tom, thanks very much.

Let's bring in now the former speaker of the House of Representatives, the former Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, who's joining us on the phone.

Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for joining us. If you were the current speaker right now, what would you do assuming the Senate were to pass this agreement tonight?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER (via telephone): Go home. I would just go home. I think this is a terrible way to govern. I think it is an insult to every American. I think it's an absurdity.

Callista and I have been with family in Wisconsin and Florida, and every day, normal people just think this is crazy.

BLITZER: So, what would you do, Mr. Mr. Speaker, if the legislation came to the House of Representatives tomorrow?

GINGRICH: I would have gone home. First of all, how is it going to come? What is it going to be? The Senate is going to deem something has passed, to be written by the staff later?

That's what they did with Obamacare. That's how the Senate has done on a bipartisan basis, tax bills for I think the last 30 years. They deem this stuff -- they voted. They go home and say, look what we accomplished.

Nobody knows what's in the bill. None of the details are clear. There have been no hearings, no markups, no amendments.

This is as bad as the original Obama passing a $780 billion stimulus that nobody had read. Or Nancy Pelosi saying you have to pass the bill to know what's in it. I don't think any Republican ought to be touching this stuff. This is the opposite of --


BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, hold on for a second. Ali Velshi is with us as well. He's got some questions for you.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Speaker, sorry to bother you while you're on vacation. But, listen, you called this an artificial creation of Washington. You have actually suggested the many things that make up the fiscal cliff be divided up and tackled, you know, separately.

I want you to just listen to what President Obama said earlier today and get your comment on it. Let's listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to solve this problem instead in several steps.


VELSHI: Speaker Gingrich, do you think that's the way to do this? I mean, we're at an impasse. I know you're frustrated, so as all of America, this is going on. Is that a way to do it?

GINGRICH: We're going to solve it -- we're going to solve it in several steps. Why aren't people trying to solve it a few hours before midnight on New Year's Eve?

VELSHI: Well --

GINGRICH: Everybody knows you can retroactively -- the president could instruct the Treasury tomorrow morning to hold all withholding rates at the current amount on the presumption that he and Congress will have, in fact, retroactively to January 1st fixed the taxes by March 1st. It's not a good way to do it. They had 13 months on a bipartisan basis, they failed.

They had 13 months. Everybody needs to remember this. For 13 months, they could have solved this. I warned literally in 2011, we would come down to the last possible minute of the last possible day to be told there's this terrible bill that nobody understands, nobody has read, but if you don't vote for it, bad things will happen.

I just think Republicans at some point have to stand straight and say, you know, we're not going to do this anymore, and we're going to calmly and methodically have regular order. We're going to have hearings, we're going to have markups, we're going to have amendments. The country will know what's in the bill before it gets to the president. If he wants to veto it, let him veto it. He's the president.

But the House has the obligation to legislate, not just negotiate. And I think they have been taken for a ride the last couple months and it's the wrong way to do business.

BLITZER: At that meeting at the White House last week, Mr. Speaker, the current speaker, John Boehner, made it clear that any legislation that passes the Senate, he will allow to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives, an up or down vote, which would be a significant development.

You think he would be making a mistake?

GINGRICH: I don't think he will do that if a majority of Republicans are opposed to the bill.

BLITZER: He didn't say that, though. When he was at the White House, he made it clear, at least according to multiple sources, that if it passes a bipartisan majority in the Senate, he'll let it come up for an up or down vote in the House.

GINGRICH: Well, you'll have to talk to Boehner about that. I always thought that Tom Foley had it right when he said he could not bring up a bill that did not have a majority of Democrats support it. You don't have 218 on your side, so you better have a majority of your caucus in your favor.

BLITZER: But if you -- here's the bottom line, Mr. Speaker. And you understand the urgency. Millions and millions of Americans, not just rich ones --

GINGRICH: This is nonsense.

BLITZER: Hold on a second. Not only rich people, but millions of Americans, their taxes are going to go up if there's no agreement.

GINGRICH: Yes, and the president -- the president, as I said, can issue an instruction to postpone them going up long enough for the Congress to solve this over the next 90 days. This is an entirely artificial problem being developed in an entirely artificial way by a group of people who are going to present us with something no one will have read because it won't even have been written. You can't physically write this bill in the length of time currently available.

BLITZER: We're told there are people writing the legislation right now and it does include that $450,000 threshold -- if you're making $450,000 or less, you won't see a tax increase. If you're making more, you will see a tax increase. That's pretty understandable.

GINGRICH: OK, well, my question to you is, OK, so who is writing it? Why do you trust them?


BLITZER: I assume there's the leadership, the Republican leadership of Mitch McConnell, the Democratic leadership of Harry Reid, I assume their staff people are writing it.

GINGRICH: You assume. My point is the legislator is I distrust any secret process that doesn't stand the light of day, doesn't have open hearings, isn't published.

Boehner promised at one point that he would publish things for three days before they voted on them. I thought that was a good idea.

Obama campaign promising the negotiations would be on C-Span.

I thought -- you know, what they're doing right now is fundamentally wrong and not likely to help very much, and just leads us to the next crisis, which will be over the debt ceiling, to be followed by another crisis.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to ask you to stick around if you can. I have to take a quick commercial break --

GINGRICH: Unfortunately, unfortunately, I can't.

BLITZER: You can't.

GINGRICH: But I do want to wish you a happy New Year despite the fact that you're in Washington.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, to you, Callista, and the entire family, we wish you a happy New Year as well. We'll see you back here in Washington at some point, I'm sure.

GINGRICH: Take care.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

We'll get Senator Rand Paul's perspective on what's going on. The Republican senator from Kentucky, when we come back.


BLITZER: Some tough words today from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on the Senate floor. He accused Democrats of just wanted to, quote, "stick it to those rich people." But a deal is taking shape. I later asked Senator Paul about that.


BLITZER: How will you vote on the legislation assuming there's a deal and it comes up tonight?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, you know, I have always said it's a bad idea to raise taxes on anyone, and it doesn't really matter whether they're rich, poor, or middle class. If you take more money out of the private sector and send it to government, most of what I have seen up here with the money that we receive is wasted, inappropriate, and counterproductive.

So, I don't think there should be more revenue coming in. I think we should actually have less revenue but a lot less spending because we don't do it very wisely.

BLITZER: So, will you hold your nose and vote in favor of it or will you reject it?

PAUL: You know, we're going to protect 99 percent of the people from drowning, which, you know, when used in the analogy of drowning, it makes everybody -- they should understand that basically raising taxes is drowning, it's a bad idea. So, we're going to save 99 percent of the people. We're going to make those tax rates, permanent, which is what I'm hearing, which is good.

The only thing that kind of confuses me is if it's good to protect 99 percent of people from a policy akin to drowning, then why is it good then to go ahead and throw the 1 percent overboard and raise the taxes on those? Maybe because they can afford it?

Well, the problem is that a lot of us work for rich people. You might sell a fancy car to a rich person or you might build a yacht that a rich person buys. So, we are interconnected with these people, so I don't think you can necessarily punish one segment of the economy and it not have repercussions on the middle class.

BLITZER: So, does that mean, Senator -- I'm sorry for being obtuse -- are you going to vote yes or no, in favor or against the legislation, the deal?

PAUL: I'm a likely no because there's a lot of new spending in it also. There's going to be tax increases, which I think are bad for the economy. There's also going to be increases in spending. We have a spending problem up here. And instead of trying to restrain spending, they took entitlements off the table and they have actually added in new spending. There will be new spending in this bill, which I think is the wrong direction to take the country in.

BLITZER: But, you know, of course, if you were in the majority and you voted no, and there was a majority in the Senate that voted no, millions of people in Kentucky would automatically see their taxes if you make under $ $400,000 a year as an individual or $450,000 as a family go up. That would be painful to 99 percent of the people out there.

PAUL: I agree completely. But you have to realize who's insisting on taxes going up.

PAUL: I agree. But you have to realize who's insisting on taxes going up. The president has created this fiscal cliff. He has said that he will not approve keeping the same tax rates for those 99 percent that people have sympathy for, that I have sympathy for in my state.

I'm one of the 99 percent. I'm not one of the 1 percent. Most of my friends I know are in the 99 percent. So, I do want to protect their rates. And I would protect everyone's rates.

The president is the one who has created this fiscal cliff. He insists on raising taxes. It's really his intransigence that endangers those 99 percent.

BLITZER: But the president is saying that he is now willing to do what the Republicans asked back in 2001, 2003, make those Bush tax cuts permanent. And he's saying yes, the Democrats now have agreed. Democrats say they will be permanent. There will be no tax increases for 99 percent, for people making under $450,000 a year. Those will be permanent taxes.

You support that. But because 1 percent are going to have to pay a little more, they're going to go from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, if you're making more than $450,000 a year -- you're going to be willing to see all those millions of other middle class families suffer?

PAUL: It's actually not that. Actually, if it were only that bill, Wolf, if it were just protecting the 99 percent, while I want to protect 100 percent, I would vote for a bill that protected 99 percent. Heck, I'd probably vote for a bill that protected 80 percent, because I want to protect anybody from big government.

But the thing is, is it's not just that. They're heaping on new spending. So, not only are they raising taxes, maybe on a small percentage of people, but a large amount of money, but they're also going to spend more money.

So, it's a spending bill. It has stimulus spending in there. It's going to give a five-year stimulus spending to some of the president's plans from 2009.

So, I object to increasing spending and increasing taxes. That's really the deal killer for me. If it were just tax rates and you told me I had the choice of protecting 99 percent, I would vote for -- you know, when the House bill came up that would have protected 99 percent, I would have voted for that because it didn't have new spending.

This has new spending which I think is taking the country in the wrong direction.

BLITZER: But just put on your political punditry hat for a moment. I assume you agree that if Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell put it up on the floor and there's a vote tonight, it will pass the Senate despite your objection?

PAUL: Yes, I think it will pass with bipartisan support in the Senate. And the House is a little more unpredictable. I think it will end up, once Democrats sign on board in the House, it should pass as well. But it's going to require Democrats and Republicans, it probably in both bodies, in order to pass.

I personally just don't like it because I think we're kicking the can down the road and we aren't really addressing the real crisis, which really, to tell you the truth, was not the fiscal cliff that everybody has been talking about. It's a debt crisis, where we're spending over $1 trillion each year we don't have, where we now owe more per person than they do in Greece. In some -- by some measurements, we're worse off than Greece now. And this deal will do nothing to help reduce the deficit.

BLITZER: Happy New Year to you and everyone out there. Thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Please pass along my best regards to your dad as well.


BLITZER: Ali Velshi is still with us.

Ali, I know you disagree strongly with some of the comments that we just heard from Senator Paul.

VELSHI: Very strongly. I want to clear up something because Senator Paul says, others say it too. He referred to -- we have more debt per capita, per person than Greece does. He's not -- that's not untrue.

Greece is the 32nd largest economy in the world. The U.S. is the largest economy in the world. Our GDP per capita is the eighth in the world. Greece is the 32nd or something like that.

So, everything we have is bigger than Greece. The idea we will be like Greece is just entirely incorrect. Greece can't issue its own bonds, the U.S. can. The U.S. can borrow money at a rate of about 1.7 percent for 10 years.

So, we just -- you know, he has a lot of points and a lot of it is just differences in ideology and belief, and that's OK, but those facts are very misleading. I hope he would stop saying that and others would stop saying things like that.

The United States cannot be compared to Greece on about 99 percent of the levels other than the fact we're human beings and eat food.

BLITZER: Good point, Ali. All right. Stand by, we have a lot more to worry about as far as the fiscal cliff is concerned.

We're following the other breaking news, including the secretary of state.

But out of the Senate, another scathing report today on the deadly September 11th attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Mary Snow is back with that and some of the day's other top stories -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the new report says terrorists walked right into the consulate compound before torching it. And the report hammers the State Department for ignoring requests from the consulate for more security. A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in the attack.

It's a temporary court victory for the founder of Domino's Pizza in his legal battle against the health care reform bill. A federal judge blocked enforcement of part of the bill that requires most employers to provide contraceptive coverage. The case will continue to be heard in federal court. Thomas Monaghan is Catholic and argued the requirements violate his religious right.

And here in the Eastern United States, the New Year is still more than four hours away, but in cities around the world, it's already 2013. We brought you the celebration in London at the top of the hour.

Similar celebrations have been unfolding all day across the globe all day.

And, Wolf, a very happy New Year to you and all our viewers.

BLITZER: Happy New Year to you, too, Mary. Thanks very much.

Ali, happy New Year to you.

VELSHI: And you, wolf. I did not predict you and I would be spending our New Year together, but it is my pleasure --

BLITZER: Thank you.

VELSHI: -- after all these years of friendship and fellowship with you. However, not a whole bunch of Americans will be toasting Congress at midnight, even if lawmakers do strike a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

We're going to hear from some of them when we come back. Stay with us.


VELSHI: All right, this holiday season, most Americans are not feeling all that much good will toward Congress.

CNN's Mary Snow has just some of the outrage over the fiscal cliff.


SNOW (voice-over): Boutique owner Deborah pays less attention to designers these days and is focused instead on Capitol Hill and fiscal cliff negotiations putting a dent in her clothing business.

DEBORAH KOENIGSBERGER, OWNER, NOIR ET BLANC: I'm really angry that America has not just stood up and screamed and like stormed Washington and said, we're paying you to do a job. Show up for work and do your job. We're paying you.

The American -- you know, they get paid. They're on vacation. They're taking breaks. Meanwhile, we're going to hell in a hand basket. I mean, I just don't understand how we're allowing this to happen.

SNOW: Deal or no deal, Koenigsberger says the uncertainty over what will happen has made her customers tentative.

KOENIGSBERGER: Their answer is, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, you know? That kind of tomorrow has been hanging in the air and kind of got better, we were on an upswing, and here we come with this fiscal crazy cliff, that back where as Americans, we're being pushed off, you know? And it's a scary place to be.

SNOW: While Koenigsberger worries about her business of nearly 24 years and whether she'll have to cut back, Josh Cohen blames fiscal cliff negotiations for throwing a wrench into his plan to expand his franchise. He started a business to remove junk from homes and businesses and now has about 50 employees.

JOSH COHEN, CEO, JUNKLUGGERS: I'm just frustrated and angry. And I just want to move on and grow our business. And help to support the economy and all of the people that we employ. But instead, again, we're just kind of on hold here.

SNOW: With so many sectors of the economy bracing for financial pain, patience has worn thin among Americans filing iReports like Missy Lefler (ph) of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: This fiscal cliff mess shows how incredibly out of touch you are with the way people really live in this country. You are off in la la land, and ever everyone is saying how you're acting like spoiled brats who are more interested in being right than doing the right thing and actually representing the people who elected you.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


VELSHI: More interesting, being right than doing the right thing for your country. CNN's coverage of the fiscal cliff continues with Wolf Blitzer and me right after this.