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CNN NEWSROOM

Public's Pulse on Fiscal Cliff Deal; Drilling Rig Aground Off Alaskan Island; Two Dead in New Year's Eve Shooting; Ford Focus is World's Top Selling Car; Cantor: No House Vote Today on Fiscal Cliff; Interview with Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota; New Year, New Laws; Private Pot Club Now Open; First Same-Sex Weddings in Maryland; Bounty on U.S. Ambassador to Yemen; Seven NFL Coaches Sacked

Aired January 1, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, Happy 2013. From the East to the East, America rings in the New Year. It's a time of new hope, new optimism and a visit from Kathy Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: Rihanna will be here.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Someone on Twitter was saying there was going to be a drinking game every time I giggle nervously.

GRIFFIN: Calvin Harris and Swedish house mafia.

COOPER: Who is Calvin Harris?

GRIFFIN: Ok, grandma. You know what --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: From the giggles to the glitter ball, highlights and low lights from the big night.

And private pot party. A New Year and a new place to light up in Colorado -- members-only clubs where you bring your own. Opening time 4:20.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good morning from Washington. I'm Joe Johns sitting in for Carol Costello.

We begin with this morning's fiscal cliff and the drama that now shifts to the House. That's because overnight the Senate overwhelmingly passed a compromised measure.

The move delays the spending cuts that could have plunged the nation back into a recession. For most Americans, here's the bottom line, taxes would stay the same for almost everyone but top earners.

But the measure is now up to the House. Lawmakers take up the matter in two hours and could vote later today. And Republican leaders in the House aren't making any promises that it will pass. This morning both parties say more work needs to be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm disappointed that we weren't able to make the grand bargain as we have tried to do for so long, but we tried. If we do nothing, the threat of a recession is very real and passing this agreement does not mean negotiations halt far from it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We have done some good for the country. We have taken care of the revenue side of this debate. And now it's time to get serious about reducing Washington's out of control spending. That's a debate the American people want and it's the debate we'll have next and it's a debate Republicans are ready for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: We're covering all the angles of this story as it unfolds. Brianna Keilar is at the White House. Christine Romans breaks down the numbers and Alison Kosik is getting an earful from Americans inside a New York diner.

Let's begin with Brianna. Does the White House expect the Republican- led House to take up this measure today and how sure are they that it's going to pass?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they expect it will be taken up. Today is still to be seen. I will tell you that, Joe. House Speaker John Boehner will be meeting with his Republican members at 1:00 p.m. on Capitol Hill and will be having a better idea of how they are going to proceed after that.

But I think the White House is certainly prepared that this could happen as early as today. The question is once John Boehner meets with Republicans, what do they do? He has said the House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it's passed.

That means that there will be a vote. He said decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members and the American people have been able to review the legislation.

So two pass here, one they just take up the Senate bill, they vote on it or they try to change it. They at least try to amend it. Perhaps succeed in amending it and then send it back over to the Senate.

Now that in itself could actually be done pretty quickly, but we're not going to have a real sense until after this meeting on Capitol Hill once it wraps up after 1:00 p.m.

JOHNS: There's just still just kicking this thing down the road though and two months away, they are going to have to do it again, right?

KEILAR: Well, this was -- the fiscal cliff was incentive to get something done on dealing with the long term fiscal health of the country, of trying to deal with deficit reduction. So this is dismantling really the sort of consequence of not dealing with the bigger issue.

The bigger issue is still going to be with us here in the next couple months because now as the debt ceiling is set to be hit in late February or early March, this will all come into play.

Republicans aren't going to budge on increasing the debt ceiling until they get some of the things they want on deficit reduction. They want entitlement reform, tax reform and so do Democrats want tax reform, but they have different ideas about how to do it.

So it's kicking the can down the road and that there is more time to deal with the big issues, that the speaker and the president were trying to deal with but failed to deal with. There will be a lot more ahead on this -- Joe.

JOHNS: Brianna Keilar breaking it down for us at the White House. Thanks for that.

Eight senators voted against this compromised measure, but the opposition didn't fall along party lines. Senate Democrats, Tom Harkin, Tom Carper and Michael Bennett all voted no. So did these five Republicans, Senators Mike Lee, Richard Shelby, Rand Paul, Chuck Grassley and Marco Rubio.

OK, let's put the politics to the side just for a minute and ask the question most of us are wondering. What does this measure mean for you and your wallet? Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi is crunching the numbers. Ali, good morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe. Well, the first thing is the payroll tax holiday goes away. So everybody is going to get a little less in their paycheck every month. That's actually going to hit the economy. It's not a tax increase. It is a tax holiday that you all had that we're losing now.

If you earn more than $400,000 as an individual or $450,000 as a household, you'll be paying higher taxes in 2013. That won't hit you yet. In fact, there is nothing on your 2012 taxes that will be affected. The alternative minimum tax was going to hit about 30 million people on their 2012 taxes. That is now going away.

So that's not going to be a problem. So generally speaking nothing that you file for your income taxes are going to be affected, your payroll, your check will be affected just a little bit. For 2013 however, and you'll deal with this on your taxes for the next year.

If you earn more than $250,000 you will have a limit on some of the deductions that you can itemize. That's the stuff that hits you, Joe. The bigger problem is how it hits the economy. If any of this starts to hurt the ability for people to spend in a way that generates economic activity, you start to feel that around you.

That's where you see layoffs and you see people spending less. If we have gone fully off the cliff, you probably would have seen more. We're just having people look at these bills and economists come out with their predictions of what it is going to do to the economy.

It will still slow things down a little bit because an increase in taxes tends to do that, but for the moment, probably no net effect. Here's the thing to worry about, Joe. We're going to be talking about this in February again because the debt ceiling.

We're going to talk about it in March again because we have pushed forward that sequestration and the spending cuts decision. So we're not in the clear just yet. For the moment, the only difference you'll see is the payroll tax cut having gone away, which means a little bit less out of your paycheck.

JOHNS: You bet and the spending cuts, obviously, that's a huge deal that really was just sort of glossed over almost.

VELSHI: Absolutely. It won't be glossed over though. It will be the political fight of the year. There's no question. A lot of those Republicans have said now that the tax battle is out of the way, they could perhaps focus.

When you're not distracted by the tax battle, which was much more political sounding, you can get on to the spending cuts. So I think we'll be talking about that over the course of the next few months.

Remember, they just put it -- as you say, just kicked the can down the road. They just put it off. We still have to have that debate.

JOHNS: Ali Velshi, in New York, really good to see you. Happy New Year.

VELSHI: And to you, Joe.

JOHNS: The Senate missed the fiscal cliff deadline and it's not clear what the House will do. So how are Americans viewing the latest stalemate in Washington? Alison Kosik taking the pulse of the public and with the clock running it's only appropriate she's at a New York diner.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Tick Tack Diner, this is a great diner because, Joe, it doesn't only have people in here from New York. It also has people from all across the country. So we're getting lots of different opinions, but the one comment seems to be frustration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely. I know that this morning they just delayed the decision again. I think a lot of it has to do with people being uninformed. You can vote in everything, but realistically our options are pretty slim and that's kind of how I'm feeling.

KOSIK: What about the option of voting in the next election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there is that option but the candidates, I feel like it's a lose-lose in everything.

KOSIK: What are your thoughts on what got done or away is getting done? Is it enough? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely not. I think a lot of it's just big fancy speeches and political rhetoric and nothing is happening. It's just day after day. It's easy to go through our lives and not pay attention, just keep going, but realistically nothing is happening. I think people need to speak up and make stuff happen.

KOSIK: I know you have a bus to catch. A lot of people here at this diner today, Joe, are actually heading home after spending New Year's here in New York City. Princess here has something to say. I know you were talking to me earlier. Politicians did get something done, right? What did they get done?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they finally got a deal that did not have what we thought would come out of this. After such a long wait and the deal is on, the deal is off, we're about to get a deal, and then when we came down to the last 11th hour, we come up with a deal that seems to have more to do with both parties avoiding going over the cliff than dealing with the deficit and the economy.

KOSIK: That, Joe, seems to be the biggest issue. Talking to everybody, it's more of that, quote, "kicking the can down the road" with those spending cuts -- Joe.

JOHNS: Alison Kosik working the room there in New York. Thanks for that.

Hundreds of thousands of people rang in the New Year in New York's Times Square. Millions watched and celebrated from home. Check that out. South Korea rang in the New Year with a big bell.

While Dubai just about showed up the entire world with their elaborate show stopper, lighting up the tallest building in the world with fireworks one floor at a time, all 160 of them. That's spectacular.

It's the ride no one wanted to take, a trip over the fiscal cliff. We have already gone over. Now a deal is in the works. But will it have the same support in the House that it got in the Senate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Checking the top stories. A royal Dutch shell drilling unit has run aground on an uninhabited Alaskan island. The company and Coast Guard crews had been trying to get the rig to Seattle. The rig went adrift near Kodiak Island off the south Alaskan coast.

Winds of up to 60-miles-an-hour and waves as high as 28 feet made the recovery treacherous. The Coast Guard says there's no visible sheen in the area surrounding the rig. They are planning another flyover later this morning.

A shooting at a New Year's Eve event in Sacramento kills two people and wounds three others. Some 40,000 people were at a fireworks show when gunfire rang out as a fight at a sports bar spilled into the street. Witnesses later saw police took a man into custody.

When the final figures are in for 2012, Ford says its Focus model will be the top selling vehicle in the world. Overall Ford says it sold more than 2 million vehicles in 2012, the only auto maker to top that level.

Here's a great excuse to watch Bowl games today. A storm system is moving east bringing rain from Texas through the southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic states. There could also be a rain-snow mix from Northern Virginia through Southern Ohio.

In a little less than two hours, the House of Representatives is expected to at least take a look at the fiscal cliff deal and its future is uncertain. We have already gone over the edge. Just eight hours ago, the Senate finally approved the deal, two hours after the midnight deadline. The plan is a late night piece of legislation that affects all Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Middle-class families will wake up today to the assurance that their taxes won't go up $2,200 each. They'll have the certainty to plan how they'll pay for groceries, rent and car payments paltering next year.

MCCONNELL: As I said, this shouldn't be the model for how we do things around here, but I think we can say we have done some good for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: We have just a bit of developing news here. U.S. Republican Leader Cantor says no decision on taking the Senate bill to the House floor will be made at least today. A decision will be made soon.

Now Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota joins me. Senator, you're expecting your fellow Republicans in the House to vote for this bill today, is that right?

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Happy New Year, Joe, good to be with you. You know, the expectation was that they would be voting on the bill today. Obviously, it had had a big vote in the Senate, 89 votes in favor of the legislation.

It's important. I mean, there's a lot more to do here, but it takes that first big step of making sure we're not raising taxes on hard working American taxpayers.

JOHNS: Now you voted yes on this bill, but some Republicans voted no including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. What do you say to the people who are arguing that this just doesn't do enough to solve the country's big debt and spending problems?

HOEVEN: We have to do more. We have to get our spending under control. We need entitlement reform. I pushed for a big deal along with others, but we have to get the work done for the American people. So we can't get it all done.

We need to start doing it in pieces or in chunks. We did this on the tax piece. Now we need to go to work right away and get the spending under control. Get into entitlement reform. More to do, but we have to get results.

JOHNS: A lot of Republicans are complaining that there weren't enough cuts in spending to justify the amount that was compromised on the tax rates. Is that your view?

HOEVEN: We do have to do more on spending. What we did is we took the tax argument off the table. The president was pushing higher tax rates. We took that argument off the table. We preserve lower tax rates including capital gains, dividends, estate tax, again on our hard working American taxpayers for households up to $450,000.

But we have made clear all along we have got to find more savings, more reductions in spending. We go into this debt ceiling debate with a clear message that we've got to get spending under control.

JOHNS: This sets up a political battle in a couple months or more. Is that a good idea? A lot of people say that's no way to run the government.

HOEVEN: Well, look, we have to get the results for the American people. We have to work in a bipartisan way to do that. To get our deficit and debt under control, we have to find real savings and to save our entitlement programs for the long run, we have to have reforms. We need to get after it. It's got to be bipartisan and the president has to lead. He's got to join us in this effort.

JOHNS: I also want to ask one question on gun control. It's obviously a hot topic right now. The president has said he wants to put his full weight behind a bill during this first year of the second term. Do you have any interest in working with the White House on gun control legislation or is that a nonstarter?

HOEVEN: Clearly we have to have a serious discussion and determine what we can do to make sure we protect our children and our society safer. That's got to be a comprehensive approach. It includes the discussion on guns and how we approach that, what we can do, but also security in our schools, the violence in our movies and video games, all these things have to be part of it.

JOHNS: Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, thanks so much. Good to see you.

HOEVEN: Thank you, Joe. And again, Happy New Year.

JOHNS: Happy New Year to you. Colorado rings in the New Year not with champagne but with marijuana. Almost two months ago, Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana use and on New Year's Eve the first private pot club opened its doors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: New Year, new laws, starting today several states have new rules going in place. In Maryland, same-sex couples can marry. It's the 9th state to allow same-sex marriages. Meanwhile in California, clergy members will not have to perform same- sex marriages if they object. In Illinois, sex offenders will not be able to dress up like the Easter bunny or Santa Clause and hand out candy.

And in Oregon, employers will not be able to advertise a job opening if they won't consider those who are unemployed.

How do you celebrate the New Year? Maybe a nice dinner, some champagne, for some in Colorado, it's with weed. Back in November, you remember, Colorado voters approved marijuana for recreational use.

So yesterday, just in time for New Year's celebration, Club 64 opened its doors. It's a private club where you can get stoned. Jim Spellman joins us now. Jim, you were there for opening night. What was it like?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it's a big celebration, Joe like a lot of people celebrating New Year's Eve. But most of the people that were there, it really marked the end of what they see as a civil rights struggle.

To legalize marijuana, stop arresting people for this, stop using law enforcement resources. Years they tried to get to this. So there was a lot of celebration and a sense of accomplishment. I was able to speak with a couple people there. Take a listen -- Joe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB CORY, CLUB 64 OWNER: No, you cannot buy marijuana from the club, but you can come in here, you can bring marijuana, you can share marijuana, you can have others share with you. And you can associate with others in private in a discreet environment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to be able to exercise my vote to get together with my common man and express ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SPELLMAN: It's really unclear exactly what these clubs will look like going forward, but last night they were starting to stretch their wings and find out what exactly the freedoms that they come with this amendment will really look like -- Joe.

JOHNS: So was this a big crowd, big turnout or not so much?

SPELLMAN: Not a huge crowd. Honestly, it was one of the events where the journalists outnumbered the patrons, but it was at first night. There's a year-long waiting period where local and state governments can come up with a regulatory structure to sell pot.

So you can't buy pot at Club 64. It's really unclear exactly if this is legal yet. So it was kind of on the down low. You had to pay a $29 membership fee online. Then they would e-mail you the address.

So it still has one foot in the underground world and one in the legal world. But they hope it's a baby step towards legalizing it and all the forms that will take here in Colorado.

JOHNS: So you touched on this, the legality question is a big question. Legal according to state law, illegal according to federal law, was there any type of law enforcement presence there?

SPELLMAN: There wasn't. Even after the amendment passed, some people were smoking on the capitol steps to celebrate. It is legal now after the law passed. It was signed by the governor to possess a small amount and grow a small amount of marijuana.

You cannot sell it, but a private club is not addressed in the amendment. Until the State House comes together and comes up with a rule, it's really unclear. The man who started this, he's a long time pro marijuana advocate here. And honestly, he likes to ruffle feathers and push the limits.

That's what he was doing last night. They have taken an arm's length view of it. But advocates are concerned as to whether that will continue. It's still against federal law.

Until they work that out between states and the federal government, it's hard to know whether establishments where the whole legalization of marijuana thing will really be able to go forward.

JOHNS: Which leads to the next question, how do people find out about clubs like this? Do they advertise in the newspaper or what?

SPELLMAN: There's a robust community of marijuana enthusiasts here. We have had medical marijuana here for years. There are over 500 medical marijuana stores here in Colorado. Over 100,000 people on the medical marijuana registry.

Around that comes a whole culture. There's even sporadic newspapers published about marijuana. The word got out about Club 64. Then you have to do the e-mail thing and pay by PayPal and find the address. But people in that community, they know how to find it.

JOHNS: Jim Spellman reporting out of Denver, Colorado, thanks. We'll be watching that closely. A lot of stuff to talk about in that story.

Hillary Clinton spending her New Year's Day in the hospital, but that doesn't mean she's not calling the shots. We'll have a live update from the State Department.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Checking the top stories now, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor says there's no decision yet when the House will vote on the fiscal cliff deal, which was approved by the Senate overnight. House lawmakers return to work in about 90 minutes. The Republican- controlled house could approve, reject or amend the measure, which keeps tax rates unchanged for most Americans.

While Congress is focusing on the fiscal cliff, the U.S. hits the debt ceiling on Monday. Lawmakers now have about two months to raise the borrowing limit or risk the government defaulting on its financial obligations.

According to "Politico," the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association is calling for a nationwide boycott of the "Journal News" advertisers and any business that advertises with the paper's owner, Ganett. The "Journal News" published an online list of names and addresses of pistol permit holders. The paper says it will continue adding names to the map.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being treated for a blood clot in her head and is expected to make a full recovery. But that doesn't mean people are not concerned.

Joining us live now from the State Department is our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. Jill, how long is the Secretary expected to be hospitalized? Do we know?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We don't actually and the reason we don't is because right now the doctors in New York we understand are administering this anti-coagulant, a blood thinner which is designed to kind of dissolve that blood clot that is between her brain and her skull.

So once they decide that they have the right combination, you know the right amount, et cetera, then they potentially could release her. But they won't really do that until they are sure that -- they've got it. So at this point, we don't know. Maybe we would hear some more today. They were originally indicating that she would be having this blood thinning -- this medication for about 48 hours and she went in on Sunday. So that would mean maybe today. But again not clear. They want to be very, very sure that everything is done correctly.

JOHNS: Do we know if she's working while she's in the hospital. Is she able to?

DOUGHERTY: They haven't said that she is, but she has been described as very engaged with her doctors, her family, her friends who are visiting her. And that there would appear to be no impact on her daily life -- and what I -- well, she's in the hospital, but in her interaction with other people and how she is functioning. And that seems to be as they say the prognosis so if everything goes according to how it's going, she's making very good progress and could make a full recovery.

It's actually something that doctors do say she can live a normal life, even if she had to be on this kind of anticoagulant for awhile or maybe for her entire life. But people function with this. It's not, at least at this stage, anything that's life threatening or could keep her theoretically from carrying out her duties.

JOHNS: But definitely no clue on whether or when she could return to work?

DOUGHERTY: No. We did know even before this happened, you know after she had the stomach flu after she had the concussion, that let's say her travel was on hold. That they said that she wouldn't be traveling at least you know the earliest until the middle of the month. And certainly that would be obvious prediction that she won't be doing very much traveling.

But it really totally depends on how she is feeling. Don't forget that this came up Sunday night. It was something that was not expected. She was to all intents and purposes recuperating from that -- that hitting her head during the bout with the stomach flu and people thought that she would be back she certainly did too. So this was a curveball they have to deal with and they have to make sure they've got it right.

JOHNS: Now as far as we know, she's still expected to testify before the Congress on Benghazi. Do we know if this situation is affecting that?

DOUGHERTY: You know, cognitively, I mean the way she can relate and testify theoretically, again this is all theoretically but according to what the doctors are indicating, she should be able to do that. The question would be when and whether they release her and when she decides and they decide that she can actually do it.

But she has indicated a number of times that she does want to do it and don't forget there's been a couple reports that have been damning of the State Department. So people in Congress, members of Congress are saying we definitely want her to testify. We want her to explain what happened. And then after that, theoretically, you could have the man whom President Obama wants to be the next person in line of Secretary of State that's John Kerry he could go through his nomination hearings and we could move forward.

But look where we are. Its three weeks before the inauguration. Time is really moving fast.

JOHNS: That's for sure. Thanks so much Jill Dougherty at the State Department. We're all wishing the Secretary the very best.

Wedding vows and not New Year's resolutions are being recited today as another state allows same-sex marriages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Same-sex couples are now tying the knot in a new state this morning. When the clock struck midnight same sex weddings were allowed in Maryland joining Washington State and D.C., Maine, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Kim Dacey from affiliate WBAL in Baltimore was at City Hall for the first wedding

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM TASKER, GROOM: Jim and I met in 1977 and at that time I just really didn't believe that gay people would ever see the day that they could marry.

KIM DACEY, WBAL: After 35 years as a couple, Bill Tasker and Jim Scales were the first same-sex couple to be legally wed at Baltimore city hall. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as mayor and an ordained minister presided over the ceremony herself. MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, BALTIMORE: It's a very emotional night, incredibly meaningful night. There are so many people who have the chance now to have the life that they wanted for themselves and for their family. And I'm so proud of Maryland that we chose equality over hate.

DACEY: Seven same-sex couples took their vows at city hall 12:30 this morning, the culmination of what has been a long battle for supporters of marriage equality. The same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot in November was hotly debated but ultimately passed.

JIM SCALES, GROOM: I'm very happy. This is as happy as I've ever been and to be able to spend the rest of my life with Bill legally and to just show the gay community this can be done.

DACEY: And Jim and Bill have some advice for other same-sex couples thinking of making a lifetime commitment.

SCALES: Just don't abuse it. Be sure it's love before you say "I do".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: That was Kim Dacey from our affiliate WBAL reporting.

Less than four months after the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was killed, safety concerns are now being raised for the U.S. ambassador to Yemen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: There are safety concerns for the U.S. Ambassador in Yemen this morning after an alleged al Qaeda group put a bounty on Gerald Feierstein; U.S. authorities are looking into the threats. Brian Todd has details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Less than four months after the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, word of a specific threat to another American envoy in another Arab country where al Qaeda is dangerously strong. A bounty of $160,000 worth of gold has been placed on Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen.

According to site intelligence group which monitors jihadist on the Internet the bounty was announce in audio clips and screen grabs posted by militants.

We can't verify the clip's authenticity, but the U.S. and Yemeni governments are taking them seriously. The militants also offered $23,000 for the killing of an American soldier in Yemen. Analysts say those militants may be affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's powerful branch in Yemen.

GREGORY JOHNSEN, AUTHOR, "THE LAST REFUGE: YEMEN": They've really been looking for a way to hit the United States whether the U.S. Embassy in Yemen which they attacked in September of 2008 or carrying out more attacks here in the United States.

TODD: This is the same group that came close to detonating a bomb in the underwear of a militant in the 2009 Christmas day plot to bomb an airliner bound for Detroit and an attempt to decent printer bombs to the U.S. the following year and tried again this year to bomb a plane bound for the U.S. It's also not the first time al Qaeda or an affiliate has offered gold for the killing of a prominent American.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The example that lead to mind is the Paul Bremer who of course is the most important American in our military official in Iraq during the George Bush administration. And Osama bin Laden himself offered substantial gold reward for basically for his death.

TODD: No one got to Bremer. The odds of an assassination this time, a Yemeni official says security is being stepped up around the U.S. Embassy and the areas where diplomats live. Analysts say the Ambassador Feierstein may not need to reinforce his personal security detail too much.

JOHNSEN: Wins and all, you essentially have this little mini green zone in which all the people who work at the embassy essentially live within a very secure corridor there right next to the embassy. And so they travel from this secure housing location to the embassy and back and forth and they don't really get out which makes them very, very difficult targets.

TODD: But one deadly asset that al Qaeda in Yemen has may tip the ballots.

(on camera): That's this man, Ibrahim al-Asiri (ph), the young master bomb maker for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Intelligence officials say he was behind that Christmas Day attack three years ago and the printer bomb plot. He once placed a bomb inside the body of his own brother, which came close to killing a top Saudi official. Ibrahim al-Asiri is still at large and experts say has been able to train others on his techniques.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Checking top stories. Just in, there will be a 1:00 p.m. meeting on Capitol Hill of Republican conference members in trying to figure out what to do with the fiscal cliff. A decision on the House vote will likely be made, we are told, after that meeting.

House lawmakers return to work in a little more than an hour from now. The Republican-controlled House could eventually approve, reject or amend the measure passed by the Senate, which keeps tax rates pretty much unchanged for most Americans.

The family of cancer-stricken president is asking supporters to ignore rumors that his health is failing. The Reuters News Agency, quote, "Hugo Chavez's son is saying the 58-year-old leader is stable." Chavez has not been seen in weeks and the government has repeatedly described his condition as delicate.

2012 saw gas prices hit their highest average ever. According to AAA, the average price last year was $3.60. That's 9 cents higher than 2011. Hurricanes, refinery outages and tensions in the Middle East all contributed to those rising prices.

Snow, heavy rain and airport delays can slow down your day if you're hitting the road or the airport. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is here to show us what to expect now -- Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, 2013 gets off to a very soggy start especially along the Texas Gulf Coast region. In Galveston they have already seen 75 percent of their monthly rainfall totals. They saw over three inches of rain, normally they see just over four inches for the entire month.

We move on towards the Tennessee River Valley and a number of flood warnings have been issued including along the Tom Bigby River where you should see a couple of more inches of rainfall as we go throughout the day.

In the Mid-Atlantic, it's going to be kind of an icy mixture in portions of Virginia, higher elevations also into West Virginia as well.

We told you about some of the arctic air that's been spilling in across the north central U.S. Take a look at these temperatures. We saw single digits and teens. Right now we're pretty much staying in that same area but those overnight lows, they were incredible -- double digit below zero degree readings; so, a very cold start there.

Look at the wind chill values we have: International Falls, the nation's icebox, minus 24 degrees, that's what it feels like. Minneapolis it feels like minus 5. And tomorrow we'll talk about the Santa Ana in Southern California -- Joe, Happy New Year.

JOHNS: Same to you Karen. Thanks for that.

The clock ticks, the anger builds. Business owners say all that uncertainty over the fiscal cliff is hurting their bottom line. We'll let them explain why.

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JOHNS: The 124th Tournament of Roses parade steps off at the top of the hour in Pasadena, California. This year's theme is "Oh the places you'll go." Police expect as many as 900,000 people to attend.

Besides a parade there are, of course, a number of college football games today. Here are four big ones to watch. The Georgia Bulldogs take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl from Orlando at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. It's the same kickoff time for South Carolina against the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl from Tampa. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena pits Wisconsin against Stanford at 5:00 Eastern. And Northern Illinois takes on the Florida State Seminoles in Miami's Orange Bowl beginning at 8:30 eastern. Black Monday is cruel day in the NFL. The day after the regular season ends is a traditional time for NFL teams to fire coaches who didn't win enough games. A total of seven coaches got pink slips yesterday. Not all had losing records. One had been in his job for 14 years. Three had coached Super Bowl teams. One of those three coaches Lovie Smith is leaving the Chicago Bears after nine seasons.

Sean Jensen is a "Chicago Sun Times" columnist covering the Bears and the NFL. He joins us from the Bears facility in Lake Forest, Illinois. Good morning.

SEAN JENSEN, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES" COLUMNIST: Good morning.

JOHNS: Lovie Smith had a career-winning record and a winning season this year, but he's out. Why is that?

JENSEN: It's a cruel, cruel business. Frankly in a big market like Chicago, the expectation is not just to have winning record or even just make the playoffs, but ultimately that was his undoing. In five of the last seasons the Bears did not make the playoffs and they squandered a 7-1 start this year. That's what ended up costing him his job.

JOHNS: Seven firings in one day, it sure sounds like a lot. Is this the worst black Monday that you can remember?

JENSEN: It is the worst Black Monday, I believe. Thirteen head coaches were relieved of their duties after the season. But in terms of one day, I can't remember seven going on the first day. So it really is a big change.

Let's not forget that five general managers have also been ousted. There's going to be a lot of change in the NFL this off season.

JOHNS: Lovie Smith sure surprised me. Were there any firings that surprised you?

JENSEN: Smith's firing was a little bit of a surprise because the McCaskey family that owns the Bears tend to be conservative and Lovie has done a good job and endeared himself to the family and to the locker room.

The players were devastated yesterday and they learned that it was (AUDIO GAP) Lovie Smith was going to be let go. So it's a little odd that a coach would be fired after a 10-6 season, but again you have to go back to the fact that the Bears have missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

JOHNS: I imagine that some of these coaches who got fired are actually going to end up as a head coach of another team maybe even next year.

JENSON: Absolutely. I fully expect that Lovie Smith is going to have some options. I know that he does want to coach in 2013. So I think he will end up on a sideline very quickly and there are some excellent candidates out there. Andy Reid did a terrific job of turning the Philadelphia Eagles into the worst program in the NFL to one that competed in the Super Bowl and was a playoff contender.

JOHNS: Now, there were five general managers who also lost their jobs. In the case of the Jets, GM got fired and the head coaches still in place. So a lot of people will look at that situation and ask if Rex Ryan is safe.

JENSEN: Rex Ryan is safe. The owner yesterday, Woody Johnson, made it clear that Rex Ryan is safe and that he's going to make a change at the top. That makes a lot of sense because a lot of the issues with the Jets is they have a terrible roster. They didn't have very much talent to work with. Mark Sanchez who presumably the General Manager picked didn't end up being the franchise quarterback that they are looking for. On top of that, last off season they gave him an extension that really locked him into place even for next year, despite the fact that he was benched this year and just doesn't look like he's going to be a confident starting quarterback in the NFL.

JOHNS: One ugly Monday, thanks so much Sean Jensen, NFL columnist for the "Chicago Sun Times". We'll be right back.

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JOHNS: Just about an hour from now, the House of Representatives is expected to go back into session at some point today -- perhaps not today -- they will consider a measure that could steer the U.S. economy from the fiscal cliff. It's not clear if they will vote today at all. The decision is likely to come up after GOP leaders meet with Republican lawmakers at 1:00 Eastern.

The Senate passed a compromise measure early this morning, but it's not clear if the Republican-controlled House is, of course, going to follow suit as that political uncertainty and the political gamesmanship that have many Americans fuming. CNN's Mary Snow explains.

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MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boutique owner, Deborah Koenigsberger (ph) 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, BOUTIQUE OWNER: 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." They get paid. They are on vacations and they're taking breaks. Meanwhile -- we're going to have a handbasket -- 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. That kind of tomorrow has been hanging in the air and kind of gotten a little better and we were on an upstream and now here we come with the fiscal crazy cliff that Americans are being pushed off of, you know. And it's really 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 in expanding his franchise. He started a business to remove junk from homes and businesses and now has about 50 employees.

JOSH COHEN, BUSINESS OWNER: I'm just frustrated and I'm 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 Leflore (ph), of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

MISSY LEFLORE: This whole fiscal cliff mess shows how incredibly out of touch you are with the way people really live in this country. You are off in Lala-land and everyone is saying how you're acting like a bunch of spoiled brats who are r more interested in being right than in doing the right thing and actually representing the people who elected you.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: I'm Joe Johns. Thanks for joining us today. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.