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Senate OKs Fiscal Cliff Deal; Interview with Congressman Sandy Levin of Michigan; Hillary Clinton's Health Scare; Biden to Meet with House Dems

Aired January 1, 2013 - 11:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Joe Johns.

Hi, everybody. It's nice to see you this morning.

Let me just start with this, the fiscal cliff. We went over the fiscal cliff. Yes, at midnight and then just a couple hours later, the Senate came up with a solution. How about that?

So, now, it's off to the House. The House has to sign off. And they're going to get back to work this afternoon.

So, what is in the deal?

Well, it starts with the new income tax threshold. Those folks agreed to let the taxes go up but only on the families who make over $450,000 in combined income. So, if you're under that, you skated it.

The itemized deductions are also going to be capped at $300,000 for families.

And the estate tax - that was a big sticking point for lawmakers -- and now the tax rate goes up to 40 percent for estates that are valued over $5 million. So, if you're under $5 mil, you skated there too.

Other key points are an extension of the long-term unemployment benefits. The renewal of tuition and child care tax credits.

And then something called the doc fix. If you didn't know what that was, it reimburses doctors who take Medicare patients.

And then what about the automatic spending cuts that were supposed to go into effect today? You know, doomsday, over the cliff -- yikes! Well, they put those off -- but only for two months.

That's the plan that the Senate stayed up real, real late to accomplish. But it's time for the House to have its say. You didn't think it was over, did you?

CNN senior correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill. She works late, she works early. She hasn't stopped.

This has been a frustrating several weeks for people. It seemed there was some goodwill, especially with an 89-8 vote. But that's the Senate. How different might things be when it comes to the House or do we even have an idea?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't have an idea yet. But it certainly appears to be different. Just the fact that the leadership is not definitively saying there will be a vote today. In fact, they are saying there won't be decisions after House Republicans have a meeting at 1:00. So, in about two hours.

It really is unclear. But you're absolutely right. What -- the hope going into the Senate vote was that if there was a big enough majority, that it would give momentum to this, to make it very hard for House Republicans to vote against.

I mean, just look at where Republicans in the Senate voted, Ashleigh -- at 45 voting -- 40 voted yes. I mean, that's a high percentage of just Republicans.

And we heard from Republican senators coming out last night or maybe it was this morning, talking to our Lisa Desjardins, some of the most conservatives like John Barrasso of Wyoming saying, you know, you're not going to get everything you want, effectively saying, come on, colleagues in the House, let's vote.

One of the dynamics that's long standing is the House doesn't like to be told what to do by the Senate. I think that isn't necessarily going to sway many House Republicans.

BANFIELD: No, but they often tend to, sort of, tip their hands somewhat -- at least through their assistance and all the rest. But it feels as though this is hurried that we have no clue.

What about just the idea of the amendments. Have they given any suggestions to what they'd like to see if perhaps they can make amendments and how much might that delay the process or completely derail it?

BASH: That very well could be what they decide to do after this meeting where all House Republicans again in two hours are going to be able to sit and be able to complain and rant and offer suggestions.

One of the things that the speaker said from the get-go after he and other leaders met with the president this past week and decided to push forward this process was that he promised to take up whatever the Senate passed. But he also said that it's possible the House might amend it.

So that is a possibility. What would that mean? You know, who knows? It depends what the amendments would be. It depends obviously if they would pass, if the Senate can -- could agree to that.

The biggest complaint among House Republicans who don't like this is, first and foremost, that taxes are still going up on every household making above $450,000. But more than that, there are a lot of complaints about there aren't enough spending cuts that go along with those tax increases as some see it. And also, they also really want to deal with the idea of entitlement reform.

Democrats and most Republicans who signed on to this said we'll deal with entitlement reform but not until the next Congress.

BANFIELD: But pretty distressing, I have to say, to get that alert that they haven't decided yet to vote. I mean, come on, for heaven's sake!

Dana, keep an eye on things and let us know if they decide to vote. Would you do that for us?

BASH: I promise.

BANFIELD: Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, like I said, working late/working early, working often.

I want to bring in our other very hard CNN business correspondent, Christine Romans.

You also don't get any days off.

Well, here's a deal, if you can, for people who are out there who hear the reporting nonstop about line by line, what this deal includes, just boil it down. Who gets hit first with anything that could be hitting us?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Unemployment benefits. This is the first thing people will feel for those 2 million people whose last check they worried would be December 29th. There's another extension in there. So, that 2 million, and then another million people who will be running out of state benefits, they will be eligible for federal benefits at this quarter.

So, that's the first people who will feel something, people who get their unemployment checks.

BANFIELD: So, those are the first. Who gets hit hardest?

ROMANS: Everyone. Basically the majority of 160 million workers in this country because the payroll tax holiday -- I heard Dana mentioned it -- this was something that was not included in the fiscal cliff deal. So, even though taxes for the majority of Americans are not going to rise, your paychecks for the majority of Americans are going to go down.

Two things are going to happen at the same time. It's about 125 million households. The payroll tax rate is going to rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent on your first $113,700 in earnings.

The payroll tax holiday was always meant to be a holiday. It was meant to be temporary. It looks like it has gone away and that means that little money that you got in your paycheck is going to go up. How much people is it? For people $35,000 a year, you're going to $700 more this year in taxes.

BANFIELD: Wow. ROMANS: If you make 50 grand, you're going to pay $1,000 more. If you make $110,000, it's going to be an additional $2,200.

So, the payroll tax holiday not included in the fiscal cliff compromise solution. It does mean the paycheck will be smaller.

BANFIELD: So, let's leave that graphic up there just so we can hammer home the point that everybody watching, you do get affected. This is what you're going to pay. This has nothing to do with anything other than a freebie that we've been getting and we got used to.

ROMANS: It was a goody. It was a freebie. It was meant to be a little stimulus. It was never meant to last forever.

And it didn't last forever -- it looks like it didn't last forever. We'll see what the House -- maybe the House amends it. Who knows?

BANFIELD: Right.

ROMANS: But that's where it stands now.

BANFIELD: Find your bar graph and that's your money.

ROMANS: You know, find your bar graph, and make your annual budget, guys. I mean, if it's going to be $10 a week or $20 a paycheck or whatever the difference is, I mean, Congress can't set a budget, but that's what we're supposed to be doing at home preparing for this.

BANFIELD: I mean, you know, how we all keep our receipts and those business lunches -- what kind of deductions will be cut out? So, who suffers there?

ROMANS: Here's the interesting thing. For people who make $250,000 and higher and couples who make -- households make $300,000 and higher, they are going to cap deductions back to the Clinton era rates.

So, technically, the president could say that for people making 250 grand and higher, he's not going to raise their tax rates, but they could pay a higher tax bill. Still digging on the details on how that's going to look like. Accountants everywhere are trying to figure out what that's going to look like.

BANFIELD: I was just going to say, you have to call your accountant on this one to really know what you can and can't do, especially if you're a small business because sometimes those are the people -- for all you people who think those are just the rich, over $250,000 --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: A lot of Republicans, they know this is small businesses.

OK. And then the other thing, I love that you always call these things tax goodies. These are the things that save us money. Not anymore.

ROMANS: That's right. Well, there are a few things, though, that are going to continue, right? BANFIELD: OK.

ROMANS: So, let me tell you for teachers, for example. There are little goodies for teachers that are going to be put back in there. An extension of a deduction for certain expenses. A teacher spends, what, $250 on supplies for her or his classroom, that's something you have been able to put -- that's going to stay.

Parents, a whole host of parent tax credits are going to stay. So that's important.

Here's the interesting thing about these goodies. If you take them away, you miss them. But if you have them, it doesn't mean you're going to spend that money, right? So we use our tax code to basically reward certain kinds of behavior, pay back, move money around in different ways. So, you know, that's what we're watching in some of those.

BANFIELD: And now that you have explained it so beautifully and made it make sense, we still have the House to tinker with, right? I mean, all of this could be big swaps coming.

ROMANS: I know. Look, when you have a 89-8 vote in the Senate, a rare kind of move from the Senate, the House is under a lot of pressure to get this done, especially on a day when the market is closed. It gives them some breathing space.

So, we don't have the market freaking out about being over the cliff yet. But there are big concerns that if they drag this on for too long -- I mean, the effects on families will become a 401(k) effect, not a tax bill effect on families.

BANFIELD: Do you have a huge abacus on your desk that you just constantly --

ROMANS: I do -- abacus makes me sound like 5,000 old.

BANFIELD: Nerd? Happy New Year, my friend.

ROMANS: Happy New Year. Nice to see you again.

BANFIELD: You have been doing such great work all throughout this fiscal disaster.

ROMANS: You must have read.

BANFIELD: I know, happy, happy.

All right. So, thank you, Christine. She's going to stay on this, by the way. No rest for the weary.

But we have a couple other stories we're watching as well this hour. I want to get you caught up on some of those.

The first same-sex couples in Maryland were able to say I do, just after midnight. So while you might have been toasting with the champagne, this was going on. The voters approved same-sex marriages in November for that state., but they just became legal today, on the 1st.

Maryland, Maine and Washington are the first states where voters approved same-sex marriage.

And then over to North Korea, kind of a weird sight. Feast your eyes. That's a TV address for the New Year. The leader Kim Jong-un making a televised New Year's address. That's so nice of him.

In it, he called on North Koreans to embark on an all out struggle to fix their economy. Good idea. He also said great things about last month's space launch, very expensive.

So what's very unusual about this? Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-Il, never once made a televised address and he was in power for 17 years. So there you go -- a first for everything.

And now to Alaska. Some unusual pictures -- this is an oil platform running aground, crashing on to a small island south of Kodiak. The Coast Guard was trying to help secure the rig when the tow boats got in some trouble, and that coupled with the high winds, and not to mention swells that were up at 40 feet -- those are huge -- forced them to cut the rig lose just to stay alive.

All 17 people who were on board the rig were evacuated. But now, the fear, of course, is that diesel could be leaking into the water.

The Royal Dutch Shell Oil platform was supposed to be moved from the seasonal oil field off the Alaskan coast down to Seattle. So stay tuned for what's going to happen there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So, I wanted to just keep you up-to-date on some of the developing news from Capitol Hill. It might look like a nice day there. But you can beat your bottom dollar. There's a lot of consternation going on in those hallways.

They don't even know yet if they, House members, are going to meet to vote on the fiscal cliff deal. They have yet to decide to meet. However, what they will meet about, at least the House Democratic Caucus and the GOP conference at under a 12:00 and 1:00 respectively, is that they'll get together to discuss the potential of getting together for a vote.

So, I'm going to keep you updated on what comes out of that. And our Dana Bash is following it for us as well. And she will report to us, henceforth, if they make a decision.

Other news, though, since the news broke about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the blood clot that was discovered in her head, reporters have been scrambling to find out just how dangerous the rare disorder that she has is.

I wanted to show you what was in one of the New York papers today. This is "The New York Daily News". It's a picture of Chelsea. You can see it, this "Fear for Hill" -- not sure if a picture says a thousand words, but her family certainly rushed to the New York Presbyterian Hospital where she's being treated.

That "Daily News" picture really caught that image of what appears to be a distraught Chelsea Clinton. She was leaving the hospital after the visit with her mom. She also tweeted out a message yesterday afternoon, thanking people for their support.

Let me just quote for a minute. She said this, "Thank you to all for sending good thoughts my mom's way. Grateful to all her doctors and that she'll make a full recovery." The doctors for their part say there's no evidence of a stroke or any neurological damage with regard to this clot that was near her brain.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is live at the State Department now.

So, obviously, a lot of people want to know how she's doing. Clearly, she has a very important role. Is -- do we know if her progress is getting better or are they actually keeping us abreast?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You know, they haven't issued anything today but yesterday, as we know, kind of last night, last evening, they did -- her two doctors issued a report. And they it was pretty in-depth. At least very technical, explaining precisely where that blood clot was located and what they were doing about it, which is giving blood thinners. And that's the whole idea, that you want to shrink it.

It's not -- I think, Ashleigh, it's important to point out it's not on the brain itself. It's between the brain and the skull. So it's actually kind of an area in a way that vein is isolated from the actual brain. That would be the danger. That's why they were saying she did not have the stroke or neurological problems.

So what they do is they shrink that. And using these blood thinners, what they are doing now, we understand, is determining how much to give her, how strong a dose, et cetera, depends on the person. It depends on how big or small they are. And then once they determine that, once they have it locked down, that that is her recipe, then they potentially can let her leave the hospital.

So that's what we're waiting for. You know, some type of indication that the doctors have signed off on this.

BANFIELD: And, then, Jill, of course, you know, the doctors have said she's expected to make a full recovery. I think a lot of people were buoyed by that, thinking out of concern for the secretary that her health was improving.

But I have to be honest, when I saw that picture, I had second thoughts. I want to hold this shot up again.

I was concerned to see that was Chelsea leaving the hospital. Not sort of rushing to the hospital. And that made me concerned whether we're getting all the information or not. You remember what John Bolton said, the former U.N. ambassador.

DOUGHERTY: Right.

BANFIELD: How he -- I want to quote this. He said this was a diplomatic illness to beat the band -- alluding to this might be a way to escape testifying on the Benghazi affair.

I think, clearly, we're beyond that now. He hasn't apologized for that. But I think we're beyond feeling like this is a diplomatic illness.

But do we know how serious this could be?

DOUGHERTY: Well, if you talk to doctors, what they have been saying is potentially if this were not treated, it could be dangerous because it could lead to a buildup of blood in the head. And that could have an impact on the brain. So, yes, potentially, if it were untreated.

But, luckily, it was found and it is being treated and apparently she's doing well. So, if you also talk to doctors, they say that the prognosis of living a normal life is very good. That you would probably have to continue with some type of blood thinners, but a lot of people do that and she can go on.

BANFIELD: She's so driven, though. It makes me wonder if she's able to work on her hospital or if she's absolutely not supposed to. I don't know if they have released that kind of information.

DOUGHERTY: We have no pictures and they haven't said whether she has got her briefing books in the bed with her, but we do know that they said that she was interacting with the doctors, talking with her family and her friends who had come to the hospital in New York to visit her.

So it sounds as if cognitively she's fine and she's chatting away. Whether she can really, you know, sustain some type of schedule, doctors would have to determine there. But long-term, they are saying it shouldn't really have an effect on what she does -- her job as secretary of state.

BANFIELD: Well, we certainly all wish her the best and thank you, Jill, for keeping tabs on that for us. Happy New Year.

DOUGHERTY: Same to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: If bridging the partisan divide wasn't challenge enough, get ready because the fiscal cliff is far from a done deal.

Yes, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell brokered a deal. And, yes, it cleared the Senate late last night.

But, no, the Republican-controlled House of representatives hasn't voted. They haven't voted on this yet. And they are going to convene in about 30 minutes. In fact, House Democratic caucus is meeting in less than an hour while the House GOP leaders are meeting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Both parties undoubtedly laying the groundwork for the fiscal cliff showdown that will unfold between its 435 House members.

One of those members is Democratic Congressman from Michigan, Sandy Levin. And the good congressman is kind enough on a holiday to join me.

Congressman, thanks very much for being with us today.

First of all, if you could get me up-to-speed on the decision to make a decision, have you heard anything about the possibility there might be a vote today with your members?

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I haven't heard directly. I think there will be.

I think the vote last night in the Senate set the stage. It was overwhelming. We're going to have a caucus Democrats and Republicans will discuss the bill.

As I understand it, the vice president is coming to the Democratic House Caucus. We'll hear from him. He'll explain what's in it.

I think he'll say that in terms of what was in the Senate bill as to the tax cut, they achieved about 85 percent of it. They'll talk about the minimum tax that would affect 30 million people that now is attended to permanently. Also unemployment insurance extended for a year.

So -- and also if I might say the vice president is likely to repeat. I just read what the president said yesterday. "If Republicans think I will finish the job of deficit reduction, that's not how it's going to work. We've got to do this in a balanced and responsible way.

My guess is the vice president will reiterate that it has to be balanced, some responsible from here on in.

BANFIELD: But, you know, there's a lot of criticism for how the president has been handling this just in the last two days. There are some Republicans who are saying he was spiking a football and ridiculing Republicans, and suggesting that was not conducive to negotiations.

Can you understand why people feel that way?

LEVIN: I don't understand that. I think they are wrong. The president laid down the marker and indicated what was in it this bill, and he also indicated what's ahead.

And he acknowledged that we have work to do ahead. But it has to be done in a balanced and responsible way, not through spending cuts alone. There will have to be to be additional revenues. I think laying down the marker was important. We expect the president to lead to think he's been leading. And to say that he's spiking the football when I think he's essentially trying to get everything moving, I think that's a mistake for the Republicans to say that.

BANFIELD: And I'm not going to suggest for a moment that you know what the other 434 members of your House is going to do.

LEVIN: I'd never predict.

BANFIELD: Never until the vote is done. I think, actually, Vice President Biden just said that yesterday, too.

But I want to get your feel for what you think is going to happen. We had a pretty significant 89-8 vote in the Senate. Dana Bash, our congressional correspondent, who knows a lot about what's going on in the hallways said she has no idea how this vote could shake down.

Do you feel like you have a good sense of how many of your Democratic members may vote to support a deal or how many friends on the Republican side may vote to support a deal?

LEVIN: I don't know. My guess is there will be strong support in the Democratic Caucus. I don't know what the conference will do.

I think essentially the speaker said let the Senate do it. Now it's back.

So, I don't really know. But I do think the bill will come up today. The notion there will be amendment, I just don't think that's feasible.

So, I think everybody should plan that after due deliberation the conference, the Republicans and now to the Democratic side, that we're likely to have a vote today. Remember, the markets aren't open today. They will be tomorrow.

BANFIELD: Yes.

LEVIN: I don't think we should go over the cliff for 24 hours.

BANFIELD: Yes. Because you know what? Dangling is no fun. Let me tell you, that's what we're doing right now.

Congressman Sandy Levin, thank you for being with us today. And I sure hope you're hard at work in a couple hours voting.

LEVIN: It will be I think e today, maybe not a couple hours.

BANFIELD: OK. All right. Well, let's hope for today.

LEVIN: Nice to talk to you again.

BANFIELD: Happy New Year to you, sir. And thank you again.

LEVIN: Happy New Year, nice to see you. Thank you. BANFIELD: Thanks. Thank you.

And I just want to remind our viewers as well, that if the House does fail to act, on this, those Bush era tax cuts will expire. And as Christine Romans was talking about earlier, sweeping tax hikes, those just kick in, period. In other words, we all tumble off the fiscal cliff together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: While most of you were out welcoming in the New Year, the Senate was out working late. And long after the champagne toast and "Auld Lang Syne,' they passed a deal on the fiscal cliff. Hooray!

Now, however, it's up to the House to pass it. And the House gets back to work in about 30 minutes from now or so. But in 90 minutes from now, House Republicans are going to meet to decide what the next step is -- vote, no vote, add amendments, change things, delay, walk away?

So while we have heard the reactions from some lawmakers on that Senate deal, Americans who are a bit groggy from last night, have been waking up to the news this morning and they have been weighing in as well.

And CNN's Alison Kosik has been out sampling some of that opinion.

What are people saying out there, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know what's interesting about being in a diner. We're actually at the Tick Tock Diner. Pretty fitting considering we're moving against a clock as far as the fiscal cliff goes.

But I can walk around this diner. I can go from table to table. I can say two words. I can say fiscal cliff and -- boom, it opens up the flood gates of just opinion. Doesn't it, Mark?

I know you have an opinion on this about how -- about how these negotiations have been going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not going anywhere. They have had two years to work on this. If I had two years to work on a project and didn't meet a deadline, I'd be fired.

KOSIK: So, you know, the House, it's supposed to vote today. It may not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all having lunch. They're not working.

I want to see somebody really working like the rest of us.

KOSIK: Now, the legislation that's on the table from the Senate, have you seen it? What do you think about it? Is it enough? And is it enough considering that lawmakers have had a long time to get ready for this deadline? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They haven't said anything concrete that we can hold on to. There's everybody is saying this and that. They're not doing anything. They are going to wait until the last minute and they're going to come up with a rescue plan so the stock market doesn't crash.

KOSIK: Yes.

And Wednesday, it's going to be interesting time, Ashleigh, because Wednesday morning, of course, you know, the stocks open. I'm going to be at the New York Stock Exchange. I'll be keeping an eye on the numbers.

I want to get one more opinion -- Jose from California. Another great thing about these diners, that we get opinions from across the country.

We were talking about how the House may not vote today and that got you all fired up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. It doesn't bring any finality to the issue and that's the problem. But it's really an attempt to negotiate to the last minute so that each side gets what they want out of the negotiations.

We're really seeing a continuation of the negotiations with Congress and the president.

KOSIK: All right. Thanks very much.

You know, one other person said something to me, Ashleigh, that was very interesting. He said to me, it's a huge problem when the biggest threat to the U.S. economy is the U.S. Congress. I kind of agree with him. Who doesn't?

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: You know what, I want you to go back and tell that Mark- fella that my resolution is to be more like him. Just say what's on your mind, you know? He is -- he's direct.

KOSIK: And he did. He certainly did. Yes, he did.

BANFIELD: Alison --

KOSIK: It's great -- it's great -- you know, but people feel passionate about this. I mean, we're working in this business where we watch sort of the trickle, trickle of events. But you know what? Everybody else is watching it too. It's very frustrating experience for everybody.

BANFIELD: People are ticked, hence you are at the Tick Tock Diner. That's my attempt at humor and a lousy otherwise lousy day.

All right. Alison Kosik, thank you, my friend. Happy New Year.

KOSIK: Sure. You too.

BANFIELD: Alison reporting live for us -- thank you.

By the way, besides talking to people in the diners, we're also collecting your thoughts online. If you want to see what a lot of your fellow Americans and those who live here feel about this, just go to CNN.com. You can hear the reports to Washington. There's some doozies in there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So, the fiscal cliff is somewhat set, at least in the Senate anyway. And now, it's up to the House in order to give the thumbs up or down. House Republican leaders are expected to meet at 1:00 this afternoon Eastern to set their strategy on the Senate deal. Also talk about maybe having a vote? That would be good.

CNN's White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now.

So, talk to me a little bit about the White House and what do we expect from the Republican-led House in terms of taking up this measure? Are they talking? Does the White House know anything about the plans over at the House?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think right now the White House, Ashleigh, has its eye on what comes out of this 1:00 conference meeting that House Speaker John Boehner has with his Republicans. This is what we're all watching and I think this is what's going to tell us if there's a vote today.

Now, we heard from GOP leaders in the House last night that they were committed to considering the measure that the Senate passed. And I'm told that that means there will be a vote. The question is it going to be today and, also, will it be a vote on the Senate measure or might they try to change it -- as you talked about it. Will they amend it and try to send it back to the Senate?

They actually could do that or could propose some amendments and take care of that expeditiously. But the question is, when will they set the time for the first vote. The White House wants it to happen today, Ashleigh. Whether that is going to happen, we just don't know at this point.

BANFIELD: And so, in order to get the Senate deal, there was some pretty serious efforts on behalf of not only the president but the vice president and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who by the way has a longstanding relationship with Joe Biden. I'm just wondering if those two or either one of those two, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, will be trying to do something to foster some kind of momentum in the House. Or are they taking the day off?

KEILAR: Well, they're not taking the day off. Vice President Biden will actually be headed shortly to the Hill. He'll be going to the Democratic House Caucus meeting at 12:15. And part of that is going to be talking to Democrats and saying, here's why we should be proud of this deal we cut -- some of what you heard President Obama say yesterday in his remarks.

Now, Mitch McConnell's role has been obviously to -- he's been in touch obviously with House Republicans. It's not as if he brokered a deal for Senate Republicans in a vacuum without considering the House. He brokered that deal very much considering what House Republicans would accept. And he didn't obviously want his Republicans to be kind of joining in on something that didn't have a chance of passing the House.

But, still, at this point, it's up to House Speaker John Boehner to see how much support he has for this bill with or without amendments and whether he can move forward today or if it's going to be delayed. And we should hopefully find that out shortly.

BANFIELD: All right. Brianna Keilar live for us at the White House, thank you.

And also we're going to keep an eye on Washington today. We'll be live throughout the day to just see what the House plans to do. Vote or no vote.

And then coming up, we're also going to get the pulse of the people too. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So, we're all keeping a close eye on the House today to see what those House members decide to do about the fiscal cliff. The Republican leaders there are expected to meet about 20 minutes or so -- actually an hour and 20 minutes or so to go over their strategy for the day. That's when they will decide, potentially, if we're even going to have a House vote today on that plan that the Senate approved early this morning. For you out late last night, it was late last night. About 2:00 in the morning Eastern Time.

We're going to keep you updated on the machinations of the House throughout the day.

But in the meantime, since it's the first day of the New Year, do you what that means? It means some brand new laws are going into effect all across the U.S. of A. And some of them are out there. I'm telling you.

Like the one in Kentucky -- I'm not kidding -- you can no longer release wild boars into the wild in Kentucky.

And also -- and this is a good one --in Florida, you no longer have to register your swamp buggy as a motor vehicle with the DMV.

Then in California, I'm sorry to report that your dog can no longer be used to hunt a bear. Worse, a bob cat. Can't use your dog to hunt a bob cat in California anymore.

While you may think that these strange new laws don't affect you, you might be surprised by these next ones because they might. In Florida, it used to be illegal to flash your headlights at oncoming drivers to warn them about a speed trap. You know that unwritten rule, winking a nudge between the folks on the road, it's code. It's road code, right? But a brand new law makes it OK to do it now. There could be some loopholes though.

And joining me live is defense attorney Joey Jackson to talk all about it.

JOEY JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Happy New Year.

BANFIELD: Happy New Year to you.

So, the first time I ever heard about that was a challenge to a law that you can't do that or you'll get a ticket.

JACKSON: That's right.

BANFIELD: And somebody I believe at the time brought up free speech. Is that free speech to be able to blink your lights to warn other drivers?

JACKSON: First of all, we know state legislatures are busy, don't we? Twenty-nine thousand bills passed throughout the country. A busy year.

But you can argue, Ashleigh, that it's expressive conduct. It's symbolic conduct. And as a result of that, it's protected by our wonderful Constitution, First Amendment.

So, of course, ion Florida what they did was they said, you know, these flashing lights, you can do it, it's all good. There are a couple loopholes, right? If you flash the high beams, the law also says you can't flash them if there's a car 500 feet that's approaching or if you're behind a car that's 300 feet away.

So you still can get --

BANFIELD: You can still get nabbed.

JACKSON: Yes.

BANFIELD: But, generally speaking, that code is usually from a longer distance away.

JACKSON: It is, it is. They stopped enforcement also. Because back in March, even before they went through the law, they said, you know what? We're no longer going to enforce this provision.

So, flash away if you're in Florida.

BANFIELD: So, you might argue it's helping society to slow down.

JACKSON: Absolutely. But it hurts the revenue, right?

BANFIELD: Aha, he hits it on the head. OK. This next one I think applies to a lot of viewers. If you're at all interested in the Internet, social media, in California and Illinois, new laws prohibit employers from insisting that you give them your passwords to your social media so they can dig around on you.

JACKSON: This is huge. Why? Because we are in a social media evolution, Ashleigh, right? Everyone has whatever it is.

They have Twitter. We have Facebook. And people post such personal information about themselves. Perhaps we shouldn't be as broad as we are about posting, but right now, based on those laws, you cannot insist if it you're an employer say give me that password. Let me search your personal information and see if you're really qualified.

BANFIELD: But it seems weird it's just those two states. I think a lot of people believe that you can't insist that you read my letters to my boyfriend, either.

JACKSON: Right.

BANFIELD: So, why should you be able to get my password? It seems like a breach of privacy in all states.

JACKSON: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Why is it not?

JACKSON: It is. It really is. And I think as a result of this, we're going to see it spread. Every state is a sovereign, right? And there's federal protections also, but each state individually has a right to pass laws that they feel are protecting their citizens.

Last piece about this particular statute is this: you still have to be careful. Why? If the employer is conducting an investigation because they know that you posted something that was inappropriate, they can under this law still get it.

BANFIELD: Yes. And, by the way, word of advice. Don't post last night's New Year's woo hoo pictures.

JACKSON: Depends on what you did, but could be great advice.

BANFIELD: Klink your glass of champagne. OK. But the rest of it, maybe not so much.

Happy New Year.

JACKSON: Happy New Year to you. It's great to see you.

BANFIELD: Did you have a holiday?

JACKSON: Wonderful, wonderful.

BANFIELD: We have our personal conversation on television.

JACKSON: Happy New Year!

BANFIELD: Always nice to see you, my friend. Thanks for coming in.

We're going to back after this. Still more to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: I want to get you back to the fiscal cliff topic now, because it's really kind of a critical day, first of the year.

Republican House leaders are now just over an hour away from holding their first meeting on the Senate deal that was passed so late last night, probably while you were sleeping, or getting home from your party.

They are planning to set their, quote, "path forward." Those are the words we're being told.

Let me bring in our CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash now.

What exactly is the path forward? The significance of it, the options? What does it include?

BASH: Well, it includes: (a), when is the House going to vote? That's the first question that everybody is asking.

And, (b), what kind of vote will they take? The House speaker was very clear publicly and privately, he will take up whatever the Senate passes but Republicans might decide to amend it. So, we're going to see if that's going to happen and when.

But what's interesting, you and I talked beginning the hour whether there will be enough Republicans to vote for this in order for it to pass. But there's also a question about, how many Democrats are going to vote for it?

And that's why in about 20 minutes or so the vice president is going to come here to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats in order to explain and, frankly, sell the deal that he struck with the Senate Republican leader. The reason this is important is because, I was talking to a Democratic lawmaker who are reminded me, there are about 70 members of the Progressive Caucus, basically 70 self-describe liberal House members, and this congressman who really has a good sense where the caucus is said they might lose 30 of them.

So, you know, most big votes it doesn't necessarily matter. But when you are talking about a vote where you're going to see Republican votes missing and Democratic votes missing, you know, it could be significant if that many Democrats vote against this deal, endorsed and blessed by the president.

BANFIELD: It gets tougher to prognosticate the math, too.

Let me ask you this -- the irony of going over the cliff last night, over the deadline, and these automatic tax increases, et cetera, does that in a very strange way make this a much easier pill to swallow for Republicans who vowed never to increase taxes, because technically, those taxes just got increased and if they vote on a deal, it means they're actually bringing -- yes, you know what I mean? It seems odd but going over the cliff made this much easier to vote on.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. And that was definitely something that House Republican leadership sources who I was going to in last night's vote took note of it. It certainly wasn't the reason Republicans waited until today, they didn't have a choice. They didn't have a choice. The Senate didn't vote until 2:00 in the morning.

But the fact is that they're told Republican leaders think that maybe there are about a handful of Republicans who might be more interested in voting for this deal today as opposed to yesterday because some of the reason why Republicans might not vote for it is because they're concerned about getting primaried, getting challenges from within their own party, and one of the most -- easiest arguments for a Republican to make against the Republican is, you voted to raise taxes.

And so, this would be a way for them to argue against any political ad cut or stump speech from an opponent, I didn't vote to raise taxes, taxes were already up, I voted --

BANFIELD: I voted to lower them.

BASH: Exactly, 99 percent of Americans still had tax cuts.

BANFIELD: Right, right. Let me ask you this, Christine Romans has been doing some terrific work of boiling a lot of this all down. And as we sort chew on the machinations of every moment, getting to some agreement, she had a very good overview, which was -- is this the way we do business now? Is this our new normal? Because it stinks.

BASH: Amen to that.

BANFIELD: Yes.

BASH: I have -- I have shoes worn out to prove it.

You know, is it the new normal? The way it traditionally was, you had an election, and things kind of settled down politically for at least a couple of months. And it doesn't seem to be that way anymore.

I mean, look at what's going on. You have Republicans accusing the president of making effectively a campaign speech yesterday and, you know, he was pretty tough on Republicans in the heat of these intense negotiations. And you have Republicans and Democrats, frankly, in the House, because that's where they have to run every two years who are already concerned about the next election.

So, it could be the new normal. And, you know, we can get into this at another day but a big part of it is also redistricting and gerrymandering -- a lot of these members are members for life when it comes to not getting a challenge from their other side, but they are concerned about challenges from within their own party and that makes things a lot more polarized.

BANFIELD: And I'll see you at the debt ceiling discussions, right, Dana?

BASH: Exactly. Two months away.

BANFIELD: Keep those shoes handy, my friend.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Our CNN chief congressional correspondent and just crack reporter, Dana Bash -- thank you. And happy New Year.

BASH: Thanks, Ashleigh. You, too.

BANFIELD: By the way, stay tuned throughout the day because we are on it. We are on the cliff with you, too. We are on it technically as reporters as well.

So, if you're on the move, you can stay tuned to us as well with your compute somewhere mobile phone. CNN.com, the place to go.

And now --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Well, now that the Senate has cleared the way, the fiscal cliff deal comes down to the House, which is convening just really minutes from now.

So, we're hearing at this point that the vice president, Joe Biden, is either en route to the Capitol or on Capitol Hill at this point. I have to check in with Brianna Keilar on that because the House Democratic Caucus is meeting shortly.

What is the story? Is he there already? And exactly, what is his plan?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Actually, we saw him come in -- I didn't personally see him, but I'll tell you, our cameras caught him coming into the White House a short time ago. I'm not sure if he's on the way to the Hill from the White House.

But he did stop here first. He's expected to be up there for the Democratic Caucus meeting at 12:15 p.m. And it's really actually what you heard Dana Bash talking about, which is that he's shoring up support among Democrats and this is key because, obviously some on the left will be unhappy with this plan who may not vote for what the Senate passed last night.

And it's one thing, I think, when counting votes if you're only relying on those in your party. You whip the votes, you have a sense absolutely of what the number's going to be on the board during the vote, but if you're relying on votes from both Democrats and Republicans, it gets a little trickier and you're having to trust the or side to have their numbers right, and you really don't want to leave it up to chance. BANFIELD: Sort of a fiscal cliff hanger, so to speak -- pardon the pun.

So, let me ask you this, if they can't -- it's the New Year, I've got to get out a few zingers while I've got the chance -- Brianna, if they can't come to any kind of decision to make a vote today, are there serious repercussions? I mean, we're already over the cliff, right? We're on the first of the year now. If they can't do any vote today, what are implications?

KEILAR: Well, the most obvious repercussion would be if it -- if it's delayed until tomorrow, Ashleigh, that's when the markets open, you can see market effects. The market effects we would anticipate would be much worse if there is a delay in the vote and also an uncertainty in whether it is going to be accepted.

I think if we're getting a sense that, say, they're delaying the vote maybe so that folks can get more time to look at the bill, but there's really a sense that it's going to pass -- I mean, really what we're looking at right now is this 1:00 p.m. meeting to get a sense where Republicans support lies. And it's possible that you know you add that up with Democratic support, and there's a sense of confidence coming from the White House that this is going to pass but we don't know right now because a lot of this has to do with obviously leader there's in Congress selling this to their folks and we're waiting to see how that all shakes out.

BANFIELD: OK. Keep on it for us, Brianna. Thank you. Our White House correspondent hard at work keeping an eye on things.

So, quick reminder, the House Democratic caucus meeting scheduled for about 15 minutes from now and the GOP conference, as Brianna was just saying, scheduled for about an hour from now.

In the meantime, Suzanne Malveaux continues with THE NEWSROOM.