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Interview With Vermont Congressman Peter Welch; Interview With New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth; Interview with Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette; Wilmington Ten Finally Granted Pardon of Innocence; New Year, New Laws; Rose Parade Homecoming

Aired January 1, 2013 - 15:00   ET



REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Did we climb over it? No. What we're going to do in the present plan is put nearly another trillion dollars worth of debt on the American people.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Well, joining us now from Capitol Hill, Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont.

But one second. We see some Democrats who are moving to the podium. They are also scheduled to speak.

Congressman Welch, we are going to hold on and see whether in fact -- we don't want to interrupt you. So Nancy Pelosi stepping to the podium. Let's take a quick listen.


REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we just finished a standing-room-only, three-hour-long caucus meeting, which -- in which the vice president not only roused the entire membership, but also gave us a very thoughtful and detailed explanation of what has gone on, and how it was that he and the president, working with the Democratic and Republican leaders in both houses, were able to come together on this compromise.

We first want to say thank you to the vice president for being so gracious, quite honestly, so frank in his conversation with us in explaining as much as he could about what has transpired over the last several weeks.

We now are waiting to hear from our Republican colleagues, whether or not they want to do what the Senate did, in a very bipartisan fashion, and give the American people an opportunity to have a vote.

There are people throughout this country who might look at this deal who love it, some might hate it, some may not understand it. But we firmly believe that every American in this country should have a right to have a vote in the people's house. The has Senate sent us a bill. We're hoping the House will respect the wishes of the American public and let the representatives of those people vote up-or-down on that legislation.

And with that, let me turn now to our leader, Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Thank you very much, Chairman Becerra.

Last night, the Senate -- oh, well, I guess it was early this morning. The United States Senate voted in an uncharacteristically very strong bipartisan way, 89 votes in favor of the compromise legislation.

This is -- that was historic. That legislation was sent over to the House. Up until now, our speaker has said when the Senate acts, we will have a vote in the House. That is what we said. That is what we expect. That is what the American people deserve.

And so we look forward now as we go forward in this day to see what the timing will be for a straight up-or-down vote on what passed 89-8 last night in the United States Senate. Today, we had the privilege of, as our chairman has said, of hearing from the vice president.

He talked about what is in the legislation and what lies ahead, and difficult negotiations as we go forward. We had a frank, as you said, Mr. Chairman, a frank discussion in that regard.

Right now, our members, after very thoughtful deliberations and review, are continuing to review the legislation, weighing the pros and cons and weighing the equities of not going over the cliff, but we all are very eager to see the form that the Republican leadership will put on to the floor today.

I think that we have made gigantic progress. I hope that we can have a bipartisan agreement as we go forward. But, as I said, our members are making their decisions now and we look forward to hearing from what the Republicans have to say. A person who will know best what our numbers are in this regard at some point during the day is our distinguished master counter, our distinguished whip, Mr. Hoyer.

And I'm pleased to yield to him.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Thank you very much, Madam Leader.

The 112th Congress has 48 -- well, about 46 hours left to go. This Congress unfortunately has been most known for an unwillingness to compromise, and an unwillingness to come together to act on behalf of the American people.

Today is January 1. Taxes will be going up on everybody in America if we don't act. Those who are relying on unemployment insurance, millions of Americans relying on unemployment insurance to make sure they can support themselves and their families, if we don't act, will be at risk. Vice President Biden has worked very hard to come to a compromise. By definition, a compromise has elements in it that each party does not like. But by definition, it has things in it that each party should like. The speaker said that if the Senate passed a bill, he would put it on the floor for a vote. The leader has pointed out that we expect that to happen. We think that's in the best interests of the American people.

We hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle can reach compromise. Our members are reviewing the specifics of the compromise that has been reached to determine whether they can support that compromise. I am hopeful that this Congress will as one of its last acts act not only on this compromise, but I'm also very hopeful and would expect that we would provide the emergency assistance needed for the victims of Sandy, one of the country's worst storms in history that damaged the Northeast so badly.

So, I'm hopeful that we will be able to move on both of these issues and that we will have members on both sides who perhaps will not agree, but hopefully we will have members on both sides who will agree and we can act as the American people expect us to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't we ask -- hear from Mr. Van Hollen and then we're going to hear from the incoming vice chairman as well.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Thank you. Thank you. I will be very brief.

I think the difference between a divided government and dysfunctional government is the willingness to compromise. We saw that in the Senate, as Leader Pelosi and our whip, Mr. Hoyer, have said. That means looking at an agreement, and deciding whether on balance it helps not Democrats or Republicans, but whether it helps move the country forward.

And we're hopeful that Republicans on the House will do as Democrats and Republicans did on the Senate and weigh all the equities here, but decide at the end of the day that not everybody gets 100 percent of what they want. Democracy means, as I said, a willingness to come together for the good of the country. And that's what compromise is all about, especially in an era of divided government.

So our members are taking a look at the bill, and, you know, we just would ask our Republican colleagues to bear in mind the good of the country as they also weigh all the equities here.

And with that, I turn it over to the distinguished vice chairman of our caucus, Mr. Crowley.

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Chris.

I will just very briefly we all appreciate the vice president coming to the caucus today in a very straightforward, very thorough way, explaining the process of the negotiation and why we are where we're at today. I do think, though, the time for discussion and talk is coming to an end. And it is going to be time for us to vote soon. Or all this would have been for naught. Our being here, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, happy new year to everyone, would have been for naught if we don't come to some point and have a vote.

And that's what the American people deserve. That's what the American people expect as well out of this process. We can either move forward in a bipartisan way, hand in hand, to avert the fiscal cliff, or our Republican colleagues could help lead us off the cliff. We hope that's not the case.



PELOSI: I think you were first.

QUESTION: Well, let me just ask, what are your spies on the other side in a sense telling you how it is going over there? Because you have to count heads with them as well.

PELOSI: I'm not stipulating to any characterization of any information that we receive from our friends in the press. I really have no idea yet.

QUESTION: And as well to try to approve this. What are you hearing from the other side?


PELOSI: I think that what your -- this question is better addressed to the Republicans coming out of their conference. We just came out of ours. And we know what you tell us as to what is coming out of their conference.

HOYER: Let me just say, we haven't had an opportunity to talk to their leadership at this point in time...

PELOSI: Since our meeting.

QUESTION: You said just a moment ago you would prefer a straight up- or-down vote on that.

PELOSI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Is that because of the time or is that because this was a deal brokered by the vice president?

PELOSI: No, it was a deal -- it was a bill that was passed in the United States Senate 89-8. Tell me when you have had that on a measure as controversial as this.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) They had problems with that one almost to the number similar.

PELOSI: Right.

Well, I hope we don't have a reenactment of that where the Republicans in the House painted themselves in the extreme of not wanting to find compromise and a solution. But let's be optimistic.

Let us all, as Mr. Hoyer and others have said, hope that they decide in favor of the country as we go forward, but the issue of whether we have an up-or-down vote shouldn't even be a question. There shouldn't even be a question. We were told when this -- we would not have any legislation on the floor until and unless the Senate acted and when they did, we would have a vote.

And so we want to have that vote. And we look forward to what the timing is on that. And this is all about time. And it is about time that we brought this to the floor. As I said, Mr. Hoyer mentioned, or he did in there, it has been only a matter of a couple of months since the election, eight weeks. And in that period of time, we have been pushed to -- even into a new year.

It is long overdue for us to have this solution to go forward, and remove all doubt as to how we go -- what comes next for our country. So we expect the American people deserve an up-or-down vote on what was passed in the Senate.

QUESTION: Madam speaker, if there is an up-or-down vote, how many Democratic votes would you have, will you be able to deliver?

PELOSI: That is not a subject that I will be talking about right now. As we mentioned, all of us...


HOYER: Members are considering the legislation. They just heard from the vice president. And we will find out which members...


QUESTION: If you're saying you want bipartisanship from the other side, don't you have to say that you are willing to support this piece of legislation?

HOYER: I don't think there is any doubt but we will have bipartisanship. She asked me for the number. I don't have a number. But I can tell you we will have a bipartisan vote if the Republicans vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: When will you start whipping?

HOYER: Your premise is incorrect.


FEYERICK: OK. Well, that was the Democrats wrapping up their version of what was going on in their meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. Let's hear now from the Republican side of the aisle. The House GOP just wrapped its closed-door meeting.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

And, Dana, you heard Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saying up-or-down, up-or-down vote. Does that mean that they would not consider any amendments by the Republican -- you're with a Republican now.


Right, that's what she's pushing the Republicans who control the House to do, to just have an up-or-down vote and have no amendments. But I was talking to lots of Republican members coming out of this meeting, just now, and it seems as though there is pretty intense sentiment to amend it, to put more spending cuts in there.

And so that seems to be an issue and I am actually going to bring in one of the Republicans who was in that closed-door meeting, Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York.

Thank you very much.

If you can describe the feeling among your Republican colleagues in this meeting just now.

REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: Well, you know, there is a whole range of sentiments there.

Dana, clearly, we want to get the best net benefit for the American people that we can. This bill, as you delve into the details, CBO just scored it, is an enormous net spending increase. Even though there are some forms of tax relief that we did want to see, and we passed a bill back in August to extend tax relief for everyone, grow the economy, best thing we can do, really, there was no -- there is no spending restraint.

In fact, there is new spending. So that's a tremendous concern. Are we really going to benefit people? We know we need tax relief. We don't want everybody's taxes to go up.

We want our hardworking citizens to have that relief. But if we're massively increasing spending for every dollar of cuts, there is one estimate, it's $41 spent of new spending or spending for every dollar of cuts. Then we're not getting a good deal for them.


BASH: Now, would you vote for the Senate bill without any amendments?

HAYWORTH: I am trusting in the deliberations of our conference, representing the American -- we were reelected as a House majority in this election, as was the president, we know, so we have a job to do.

And I am very hopeful that we will be able to come up with an alternative, an amendment that we can present to the Senate, and that there will be a public voice here. This is a good time for the public to be engaged. It's the new year. We really need to have an honest discussion about spending.

BASH: Now, you know, particularly as a member of the class of 2010 that ushered in this Republican majority, there are a lot of people out there, many Democrats, but some not, saying here they go again, the House Republicans, messing everything up.

HAYWORTH: Representing the American people, trying to do the right thing, because really we were elected and then reelected as a majority to bring the federal government to the right size, to respect every tax dollar, wherever those taxpayers come from.

All of us pay taxes, everyone in this country, in one or another way. Those dollars have been massively misspent in the past administration. For four years, we have run than trillion-dollar deficits.

BASH: Now, one last question. Another concern Itt heard was expressed inside this closed-door meeting was the markets. The markets open tomorrow.

And a lot of concern about what this will do to rattle the economy, this meeting, not even taking a vote, no matter what happens.

HAYWORTH: Dana, we need to weigh all the factors. I assure you we are. The discussion was vigorous. It was thoughtful. It represented an entire range of views about where we strike the balance between the perfect and the good, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but we really do have a serious problem on our hands that the president and the Senate have essentially refused to address.

The Senate hasn't passed a budget in more than three years. It's three-and-a-half years now. And all of a sudden they come up with this last-minute bill. They're the ones who have really been holding the American economy and the American taxpayer hostage for the past several years. It's not right.

BASH: Thank you very much for joining me. We appreciate it.

And, Deb, just to be clear for our viewers to understand, if at the end of the day, there is going to be another meeting later today at some point of House Republicans, if the decision is to put up on the House floor an amendment with spending cuts, or really any kind of amendment, what would then have to happen is it would have to go back to the Senate for another vote.

They would have to either accept if or change it again. And so what it means in real terms is this thing would not be over. And it could drag out, it could drag out until tomorrow or the next day anyway because we don't even know no matter what the votes are when they would occur. All of that is yet to be decided, very, very fluid as you just heard.

FEYERICK: Yes, it's like one huge ping-pong match there. And we're just learning, Dana, that Eric Cantor is telling reporters that he does not support the bill. He does not support the bill. He didn't say whether he would vote against it. He simply said he did not support the bill.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Representative Peter Welch.

He is the Democrat of Vermont.

And thank you so much for being here with us.

One of the big questions, do you have any hesitations about voting for the bill that has passed the Senate?

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: I don't have hesitation about voting for it.

There is a lot of things I don't like. And a lot of us thought that the president should have held firm on the revenues at $1.6 trillion, because that's got to be a significant component of a long-term balanced deal. But on the other hand, we weren't able to get it, partly just because of the practical realities of legislating in this town.

So what we have now is a middle-class tax cut. They're going to stay at the lower rates. We have broken the iron grip of Grover Norquist on the Republican Party, at least in the Senate, and taxes have gone up on the top 2 percent and that will help us going forward.

And then secondly, we have a compromise. And that is really vital to this country, to see that Congress can have debates in division, but it can make decisions. And there is no harm that is being done by this bill to the American economy and the American middle class.

There's some positive things here, despite the fact that both sides are going to have a lot to criticize, and the thing that is alarming to everybody is that two months from now, we're going to be back at it again with the debt ceiling, with the -- with the budget expiring, and that is going to be another fight all over again.

FEYERICK: You know, Congressman, you say that there will be no harm to the American middle class. But the Republicans would argue that by not putting in any spending cuts, that in fact you are harming the middle class, because it is just incurring more and more and more debt.

The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has said up-or-down vote. Do you expect the Republicans to come back with an amended version of this deal?

WELCH: Well, that's where the speaker has a real -- he's got a jam, because the Republicans do not want a vote for this. They know revenues have to go up, but they don't want their fingerprints on any tax increase.

And the fact is if they amend it and put in all kinds of cuts that haven't been part of the negotiation, it may appease their base, but it won't solve our problem. So the speaker, I think, knows that on a practical level. But he's got a caucus that just does not want to violate the Grover Norquist pledge. By the way, the debt is a serious problem. And that's why I think the president and many of us were disappointed once again that we didn't get a grand bargain. Everything should be on the table. But at least this time there is an outcome that is possible, that will do no harm, and then will allow us to continue this debate on how to right-size government and how to get savings in some of our benefit programs.

FEYERICK: All right, well, Congressman Peter Welch, thank you so much. It appears that at least the ball has been moved a little bit down the field. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

WELCH: Right. Thank you.

FEYERICK: Well, forget the politics for a second.

Up next, find out what these breaking developments mean for the markets tomorrow and your paycheck. That's right, your paycheck in the coming months.

More breaking news continues. Stay here.


FEYERICK: Well, whatever goes down on Capitol Hill today, your taxes are going to go up a little bit.

First, everyone is getting hit with the Social Security payroll tax. It is going back up from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. So, therefore, a person making an annual salary of about $50,000, they will see about $1,000 less this year. There is also a new Medicare tax, close to 1 percent of income for people making over 250 grand.

That group will also pay nearly 4 percent more on dividends and capital gains on investments. And if you do put money away in a flexible spending account for things like medical expenses, you will not be able to stash as much as you did last year because there will be fewer deductions.

I'm going to go now to Terry Savage. She's the personal finance columnist for "The Chicago Sun-Times."

Thanks, Terry.

First, the Congressional Budget Office just came out with some figures about how much the Senate plan will cost. And the report is it could be as much as $4 trillion. Doesn't seem like that's the spending the Republicans want.

TERRY SAVAGE, FINANCIAL COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes. And that's over the next 10 years.

Well, we have to start out. This is very "Allison in Wonderland." It's like the Mad Hatter's tea party, because when they all finish congratulating themselves on getting a deal done, which they probably will, they will find out they haven't really done much about anything. They have made these tax changes and many people will pay more taxes, as you have described.

But they haven't done a thing about spending. The CBO assumed from its baseline here that all those Bush era tax cuts would go away. So when the tax cuts only went away for certain people, it really does add $4 trillion and it reveals the fallacy of this whole deal, which is that we haven't made any, any, any serious attempt to deal with spending over the next 10 years. And, of course, that will come up as we bump up against the debt ceiling in a month or two.

FEYERICK: And what is interesting is that the Democrats would argue, look, we're going to be bringing in about $600 billion over 10 years, but that's really only a sliver of the population that is going to be sort of funding that amount of money.

SAVAGE: Well, you have to remember that every year for the last three years, we have had added to the budget deficit. We have had a budget deficit of $1 trillion every year for the past three years, so that our national debt is now up over $16 trillion.

Here is another $4 trillion that we can project if we go forward without making any effort to deal with the outlying years in terms of all of the things that the government has promised to pay.

And that's why this deal everybody is so excited about, just this tax fixation, and that's important to people. But actually the people that will get hit hardest on the tax deal are the lower-income people, because that Social Security payroll tax really impacts everybody. The first $110,000 that you earn will now be taxed up to an additional 2.42 percent. So, 6.2 percent is the takeout of your base pay, and everybody will see less in their paychecks starting with the next paycheck.

FEYERICK: It so interesting because when you look at this, do you think that with everything that has gone on, the issues of spending will be able to be dealt with, practically, and calmly later on, or do you think right now people are just going to dig in, it is going to affect the stock market, it's going to affect how we pay taxes, how we spend? Do you think there is some area of discussion, some common ground?

SAVAGE: Well, if you sit around watching CNN all the time, as I do, it has got to make you feel a little bit helpless. The rest of the world is watching.

Look, when they come up with a deal, and I'm just going to assume that the House will make this deal and not try to send an amendment back to the Senate, the markets are anticipating a deal. Yesterday, the market closed up 150 points, so we will probably see a carry-through of the rally. We won't see the U.S. markets, the futures open at 6:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow. But we will see the Asian markets, they have been closed for holiday, they will open in a few hours, then Europe.

Assuming there is a deal, you will probably see some kind of relief rally, the kind of thing we see when Greece takes a step or Italy takes one of those crazy votes to make it look like they're dealing with their debt. But over the long run, the whole world has to be watching the fact that America has not seriously attacked the issue of our overspending that has gone on year after year.

And that will come to a head and I sure hope they will deal with it better. Don't forget, it will be a new Congress that has to deal with that in February.

FEYERICK: Yes, exactly. David Brooks has said that they really didn't deal with any really, really tough choices. That clearly will be coming up in the weeks ahead.

Terry Savage, thanks so much.

We do want to read you a comment from House Speaker John Boehner. This is from his spokesperson, and it's just coming out now. It says -- quote -- "The speaker and leader laid out options to the members, and listened to feedback. The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today's meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward."

Wolf Blitzer is going to be joining us. He's going to be breaking it all down for us. Stay with us.



FEYERICK: And the back and forth of the fiscal cliff continues. House Speaker John Boehner saying the lack of spending cuts is a universal concern for Republicans. Dana bash joining us from Capitol Hill and she's got some reaction. Dana?

BASH: That's right. I have with me Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette. Thank you for joining us.


BASH: You are one of the many people who I understand spoke out pretty vocally inside this closed door meeting. What did you say?

LATOURETTE: I indicated this is a sad state of affairs, that we're going take a bill that was passed on New Year's Eve by some sleep deprived octogenarians that is heavy on taxes and does nothing to cut spending, which is really a part of the big problem we have in the country.

BASH: Sleep deprived octogenarians you call them. But let's be clear. This was a huge overwhelming vote in the Senate. Not just on the Democratic side, but Republican side -- 45 Republicans, 40 voted yes. Your fellow Republicans.

LATOURETTE: I think a lot of that must have had to do with New Year's Eve and perhaps early celebration because it just doesn't make sense. This is not a good deal. It gives all the tax increases, which I said months ago I'd be on board to support, but we have to do something to cut spending. This bill increases spending by over $600 billion. BASH: Now, knowing what you do, based on this meeting just now, do you think the likelihood is that your leadership is going to offer some kind of amendment dealing with spending cuts?

LATOURETTE: Yes, the leadership's meeting now and the anticipation is we'll get together about 5:00 and go over whatever it is that they've come up with and then ask for support. I'll be supportive.

BASH: No matter what happens.

LATOURETTE: I'm going to be supportive. And we can't let taxes go up on so many Americans in this horrible economy. But the fact of the matter is we make their problem worse unless we figure out how to cut spending. Now the speaker, to his credit, says that we are famous for putting poison pills in pieces of legislation where the Senate and our Democratic friends can say, huh, that's a poison pill. He's asked that we be responsible and whatever the spending cuts are, that they either be something the president himself has proposed in the past, or that the Senate has embraced in the past. And I think that's what you'll see.

BASH: What I have heard is that what they're talking about, or what you all are talking about, is a pretty small scope of spending cuts, perhaps even just to replace -- not to get too into the weeds, but that's where we are now -- just to replace the spending cuts that you have now to replace the sequester for two months with -- excuse me, the revenue raisers with spending cuts. Meaning, let me -- just to be clear to our viewers -- what they passed there was to delay the sequester for two months and to pay for it with half tax revenue and half spending cuts. You want to get rid of the revenue part.

LATOURETTE: Well, and also the pay-fors are gimmicks, they're not really spending cuts. So if you're going to do away with the sequester, which everybody has to remember was the price for the debt ceiling a year ago August, to now say we're just going to pretend that it doesn't exist and kick it down the road is not responsible. And so it needs to at least be paid for.

And I would advocate that two months is ridiculous. I don't know a defense contractor, a business person in the country, that does -- plans their business based upon two months of work. It should be replaced for a year.

BASH: You were incredibly vocal and critical of your fellow Republicans after they decided not to go along with your friend, the speaker, John Boehner, on what he called Plan B, raising taxes for millionaires and above. Because you said this is exactly why people, you know, are questioning Republicans and questioning your party. If there's something done to scuttle this, will that just speak to the concerns that you -- even you have as a retired Republican about your party?

LATOURETTE: We need to be positive and we need to be for something. And I'm perfectly comfortable as a departing Republican being for. The president won. Let's give him his tax increases that he wants. But I'm also comfort for reducing spending in a responsible way. And I think most Republicans come out of that thing, if that's the pitch that the speaker makes, being supportive of this plan.

BASH: One last question. Do you think there will be a vote of any kind today?

LATOURETTE: Yes, I would think that we'll meet at 5:00 and as long as there isn't some big rebellion in the room, that something would come to the floor. They'll whip it and we have some votes that have been postponed. They'll whip it during those votes.

BASH: And there was a rebellion in this meeting, right? You said earlier in the hallway that was refreshing?

LATOURETTE: Yes, the leadership listened to everybody for an hour and a half and actually listened to them rather than telling people what they wanted to do. Variety of opinions and I'm really hopeful they'll come up with something.

BASH: Thank you for joining us. Appreciate it. You helped us give us insight to what is going on in your Republican caucus.

Deb, back to you.

FEYERICK: All right, Dana Bash, thanks so much. There you heard it. Perhaps a vote will in fact take place today. We're going to go to Wolf Blitzer who is now in Washington. And, you know, Wolf, it's fascinating, the Republicans sound a bit exhausted, a bit defeated. Eric Cantor saying he does not support the bill and John Boehner saying that lack of spending cuts is a universal concern, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": If there's a vote today, and it looks like there will be a vote, it'll probably be a vote with some amendments to what the Senate passed last night, assuming the Republicans have their way and can get that passed on a partisan basis -- not a bipartisan basis, a partisan basis. They are the majority in the House. Then they will send that legislation with an amendment back to the Senate. It'll be up to the Senate to move either later tonight or tomorrow, to either accept it, make their own amendments, send it back to the House.

The clock is ticking, though, because this 112th Congress ends at noon on Thursday. If they don't have it on the president's desk, whatever legislation the House and the Senate can agree on by noon on Thursday, then they start all over again because they swear in the 113th Congress, a new Senate, a new House -- they start from scratch. None of the legislation that passed the last night in the Senate or might pass the House today is going to mean much, because they have a whole new cast of characters, a lot of new members, new Senators, new members of the House coming in. So they start from scratch.

So they really don't have a lot of time and, remember, Deb, if they don't get this done today, or at least by tomorrow, the markets are going to react and there is probably going to be a significant drop in the markets because people are nervous out there about what's going to happen. And remember, if they also don't pass anything, those draconian tax increases on everyone, not just people making more than $400,000 a year or $450,000 a year, taxes, the tax rates are going to go up on almost all federal income taxpayers. And the spending cuts, the cuts in the sequestration, as it's called, the domestic spending, the national security spending, they will go into effect as well. There's going to be a lot of jobs that will be lost and a significant impact on the overall economy.

So the stakes over the next 24 hours are significant.

FEYERICK: Yes, and you know, Wolf, clearly nobody has the energy to start from scratch. But do you get the sense from any of the Republicans that you're speaking to that at least they see this as moving the ball a little bit farther down the field? Certainly, you know, they haven't gone ten yards, but do they feel that way a little bit?

BLITZER: They don't like the fact that there aren't a lot of spending cuts in this legislation. The tax provisions, the Republicans aren't thrilled about most of them, because it does raise taxes by -- for people making more than $400,000 or $450,000 a year. They're not happy with that. A lot of those Republicans certainly in the House would go along with it, as the Democrats are going to go along with I,t if there were more spending cuts. So we'll see.

I suspect that we're going to see an amendment once it comes up in the House for some significant spending cuts and we'll see where it goes as far as the Senate is concerned. That could be the kiss of death; this whole thing could collapse over the next 24, 48 hours. And then they start from scratch on Thursday.

FEYERICK: Yes, absolutely. Because an amendment would have to go, an amended deal back to the House, all right - to the Senate, excuse me. All right, Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much. Clearly there's going to be a lot more coming up at the top of the hour with you. Thanks so much.


FEYERICK: As we continue to follow all the ups and downs of the fiscal cliff, want to bring you up to speed, apparently Eric Cantor says he does not support the deal that is on the table. House Speaker John Boehner says the lack of universal spending cuts is a great concern to the members. Whether they will amend the current deal and send it back to the Senate, still watching.

However, a prominent Republican does say that perhaps a vote could take place today. So still a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Well, it was an act 40 years in the making. The group known as the Wilmington Ten is finally seeing redemption. In 1972, nine black men and one white woman were convicted of firebombing a grocery store in North Carolina. Despite their claims of innocence, and suspicions about racially biased prosecutors, all ten were found guilty. Victor Blackwell is joining me right now.

Victor, take us back. What was the case all about?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 1971, schools were desegregated in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the black high school was shut down. There were boycotts, there were protests, and Ben Chavis, who was later to become the executive director of the NAACP was sent in to quell some of the violence.

Well, one night of rioting, the white-pwned supermarket was fire bombed. These ten people, Chavis, eight other black men and one white woman, the Wilmington Ten, they were framed. They were charged and convicted and sentenced to 282 years combined for this crime.

Now, a few years later, one witness in this case recanted his testimony; he said he was coerced, that he was bribed, and then the convictions were overturned, but they'd already served eight years in prison.

Now let me take you to just yesterday when North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, she pardoned them and gave them a pardon of innocence. Here is part of her statement.

"These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina's criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer."

Now that came yesterday. But four of the Wilmington Ten have already passed away. So they didn't live to get that pardon of innocence.

FEYERICK: So they really didn't even know that they had been pardoned, clearly. They died continuing to think, OK. So has the prosecutor in this case responded to the accusations of racism?

BLACKWELL: Well, first, yes, he has responded to them and I'll tell you how the accusations of racism came about. Just a couple of years ago, notepads, the legal pads that attorneys write on during the trial, they were handed over to an historian from the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. They found notes next to jurors numbers that said "KKK, good." "Uncle Tom type" or "No, she associates with negroes." So those types of comments.

And he has said to "The Wilmington Star News", this happened back in October, that these are being misinterpreted, that he was not making any racial comments and that he wanted blacks on the jury who would be fair. He could have an all white jury, but why would he want one? So that is the concern.

Now these were people, again, who were wrongly convicted 40 years ago, and their family members actually say that the last 40 years have been a nightmare. We have some sound from them.


OPHELIA TYNDALL DIXON, SISTER OF CONNIE TYNDALL: It has not been easy. When the fellows will go look for jobs, they were turned down. They were ostracized. People just talked about them, even our own family,. The whole community did not stand together.

MARVIN PATRICK, ONE OF THE WILMINGTON TEN: They're convinced in their own minds and heart (INAUDIBLE) that somebody did it, you know? So I mean, we were chosen victims of crimes that we didn't commit. THATCH: Governor Perdue's historic action today doesn't remove the past 40 years of injustice against 10 innocent American citizens.


BLACKWELL: And, Deb, the next question is, will they sue the state of North Carolina for compensation for serving eight years in prison when this did not happen and they were convicted wrongly.

FEYERICK: Any answer to that question?


FEYERICK: Victor Blackwell, thank you so much. A fascinating story and they finally got their pardon. All right. Thanks, appreciate it.

Lots more coming up, everyone. Stay with us.


FEYERICK: So the stroke of midnight we not only welcomed in 2013, we also ushered in some new state laws. Thousands of them. Some of them are serious, some a little bit more bizarre; some make you wonder what took legislators so long.

Well, how about this? Illinois banning sex offenders from handing out Halloween candy or dressing up like Santa or the Easter Bunny. In Florida, flashing your headlights to let oncoming cars know that police have set up a speed trap, that is no longer illegal. So flash away. California's banning stores from selling expired infant food and formula. Probably a good idea. And in Maryland, same sex couples can now marry. It's the ninth state to allow same-sex marriages.

Criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner joins me from Seattle to talk about some of these. And here is the big one, Anne. Folks in Illinois and California are now a little less worried about what they have hidden in their Facebook and their Twitter accounts. Explain this.

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, a new law, new year, new laws, and this is an interesting one because what it is is it basically says employers can't force you to give over your password for Twitter, for Facebook, for any kind of social media. And higher education authorities can't do it either.

And it's basically, we always say, oh, Twitter, Facebook, these things are all public. But the right to privacy is one of the most important right we have in this country. Common law right, constitutional right. And this, I think you draw the line, the lawmakers have said in Illinois and California, enough's enough. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Why did they need that information? They can't force you to give the passwords and I think that's a law that will spread beyond those two states.

FEYERICK: And it certainly doesn't mean employers can't look at what you've got on your Facebook page; they can't access it. Let's look at Oregon now. New laws in response to the Jerry Sandusky molestation case at Penn State. How does that affect folks in Oregon?

BREMNER: Well, it basically - and this is a weird one too. So many people, I think, during the Sandusky case, myself included, thought why aren't they having reporting laws in upper levels of education, in colleges? Saying, if there is child abuse, you have to report. Clergy have to report. Teachers have to report. But to this day, at least today, heretofore, we didn't have reporting requirements for college personnel.

So it basically says, it's a no-brainer: you should report; it's common sense, but now thou shalt report and if you don't, you have penalties. If you're a college level personnel or authority, if you see any kind of child abuse, whether it's sports or otherwise. The Sandusky case, of course, the effects of that have spread all over including to the West Coast.

FEYERICK: Right, a little less secrecy when it comes to folks who work around children. All right, Anne Bremner, thanks so much. We appreciate your insights today.

BREMNER: Happy new year.

FEYERICK: You too. Well, sports anchor Hannah Storm back on the air just hours ago after a bizarre backyard accident involving a grill that exploded. How it happened and her road to recovery, up next.


FEYERICK: Well, as we bring you up to date on the latest on the fiscal cliff, Democratic leaders urging an up or down vote on the deal that has passed. They don't want any amendments. House Republicans, however, saying that there is still universal concern over what they see as a fundamental lack of spending cuts. Still, they seem resigned about a possible vote perhaps tonight.

Well, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm is back on the air after recovering from a serious accident involving a propane grill explosion. According to ABC, the "Sports Center" host was using her gas grill three weeks ago when it exploded, causing second and third-degree burns. CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner has more. Nischelle?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hey Deb. You know, this was really scary so it was really good to see her back on TV this morning. She was on to co-host the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

Now, she said before the show that she was going to be nervous. And you could see that at the beginning of the broadcast this morning that she was a little bit, but her co-host, Josh Elliot, just told her it was glad to have her back. He said you could tell the healing had begun and that she looked as good as ever.

Now Hannah mentioned that people may notice some differences to her appearance, like different hair texture because she was wearing extensions due to losing most of her hair. Now, she also lost her eyelashes and eyebrows in the explosion. According to a statement from ABC, the accident happened on December 11 when she was using a gas grill outside of her home in Connecticut. The grill exploded and Hannah said she saw this wall of fire coming towards her. Her clothes caught on fire, her hair caught on fire. She suffered second and third-degree burns on her chest and on her hands.

Now during the Rose Parade broadcast today, she did mention and said thank you to the Westchester Burn Center for taking such good care can of her after the accident. And seeing her on the air, Deb, I got to tell you, it is hard to believe that she had such a serious accident just a few weeks ago, because all you really saw was the bandage on her left hand. Other than that, there was no on-camera evidence of her injuries. But most of the burns, we're told, are on her chest area because her clothes caught can on fire. So she did have that covered up.

But yes indeed, it was good to see her on the air today because no one knew how extensive the injuries were because she hadn't been out. No one had seen her since the accident.

FEYERICK: Right, absolutely. There's no question. And her husband, who's also a sports reporter, he was given time off in order to care for her. And we understand the bandage may have come because she ripped her shirt off that was on fire.


FEYERICK: But again, how terrifying, and we are all delighted and thrilled to see her back on air, certainly, after a devastating accident. Nischelle Turner for us in Los Angeles. Thanks and happy new year.

TURNER: And she did great this morning, too. She did a great job.

FEYERICK: She did. For those not watching, the fiscal cliff's latest, OK. Thanks so much Nischelle.

Well, a soldier's surprise homecoming just a short time ago at the Rose Parade. You'll see the emotional moment just ahead.


FEYERICK: The man who lived a real-life movie thriller but protecting American lives during the Iran hostage crisis, he has died. John Sheardown was the Canadian immigration officer who helped shelter and smuggle six American diplomats out of Iran in 1980. The rescue was the basis for the hit movie, "Argo."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six of the hostages went out a back exit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Canadian ambassador's house. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got revolutionary guards going door to door. These people die. They die badly.


FEYERICK: While Sheardown's role was left out of the film, his actions during the hostage crisis were pivotal in protecting the Americans after the U.S. embassy in Tehran was stormed by militants. His son told us here that he was a humble man and a real Canadian hero. Sheardown suffered from Alzheimer's and from cancer. He was 88 years old.

Well, it was a very happy moment to ring in the new year for one family at the Rose Parade today in California. A woman and her son, well, they won front row seats to the parade. And then this happened in front of millions watching on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is her husband and the father of that little girl. They think he's in Afghanistan, but Natural Balance Flow brought him hear. Look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh it's a little boy. They see daddy. He has no idea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, how beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eric Haas (ph) the II is greeting his dad. Miriam, the wife. It's pretty thrilling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They thought they were here to take a picture to send to him in Afghanistan.


FEYERICK: Well, there is nothing better than watching that kind of homecoming between a family. We are now going to go to Wolf Blitzer, who has got the very latest and all of the updates on the fiscal cliff. Wolf?