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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Details of Senate-Passed Fiscal Cliff Deal; Will the House Pass the Deal?; Happy New Year 2013; Interview with Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania; Interview with Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia; A Look Into Hillary Clinton's Health Scare

Aired January 1, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill as amended is passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No rest for lawmakers as a late-night deal is reached in the Senate on the fiscal cliff. But the U.S. still poised to go over the cliff.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: But even as the country rang in the new year the deadline for that deal was passing. What happens next for lawmakers? And what impact is it going to have on your wallet?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Also we're learning new details about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's blood clot in her head that sent her to the hospital. We'll have the latest on her treatment. And her prognosis.

BERMAN: Happy new year.

ROMANS: Happy new year.

BERMAN: Happy new year, everyone. Good morning, welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

VELSHI: I'm Ali Velshi.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off today. It is 6:00 a.m. right now on the nose. Well, 20 seconds away.

BERMAN: And breaking news. Can you feel it? We're actually over the fiscal cliff. So now it's up to the Republican-controlled House to pull us back.

Here's what happened while you were sleeping, or doing something else. A deal crafted by Vice President Joe Biden and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate passed the Senate by a margin of 89-8. That vote wrapped up after 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

The House takes up this plan later on this morning. No telling on how that will turn out. So if the House approves, the deal will estimate a generated $600 billion in new revenues over the next 10 years. This is how Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle are assessing the measure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I have said all along, the most important priority is protecting middle class families. This legislation does that.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: This shouldn't be the model for how we do things around here. But I think we can say we've done some good for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This is what the plan means for you and your family. Bush era tax cuts will remain in place for individuals earning less than $400,000 a year, couples earning less than $450,000. Unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans would be extended for a year.

The alternative minimum tax permanently adjusted for inflation. But on the issue of spending cuts, when it comes to spending cuts, lawmakers decided to kick that can down the road for two more months.

So this is the not so good news, we can expect more finger pointing and fighting to start the New Year. White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar who has been with us all morning on New Year's morning joins us again now live from Washington.

And really, Brianna, the House is a wild card. We don't know exactly how they will vote later today. But we do know they are going to take this up somehow. How will this play out?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they could, John, vote today. They could vote on the early side today, say midday. That's entirely possible, but, first, House Speaker John Boehner has to take this deal that was struck in the Senate and he will meet with his conference with House Republicans and he'll try to get some buy in.

He will explain it to them, have sort of an exchange of ideas and see where they are. You know that some of the rank and file House Republicans have not been easy to please in this process. So the president, of course, wants this to move through the House quickly.

He said neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without the delay.

But I will tell you there is a possibility that if the speaker goes before his conference and they are not happy with it perhaps they will try to change it to be more to their liking. Amend it and send it back to the Senate.

Obviously that would sort of prolong the process of going back and forth. And also yes, you mentioned those spending cuts being deferred, but only for two months, John. Two months. That means we'll be hanging out a lot talking about some of the stuff we've been talking about now for months, as it is.

BERMAN: That's right. This is just the beginning. We've been talking a lot about the Republican conference and whether Speaker Boehner can get the votes he needs or any votes at all for this deal. What's going on, on the Democratic side right now? Nancy Pelosi had her caucus in a lot grip on the Plan B vote. She won't get unanimous support this time, will she?

KEILAR: You know, that's to be seen. I think that it's very possible that there will be a number of Democrats who are not happy with this and there may be some who do not vote for it on the left. That's entirely possible.

But Nancy Pelosi was on a phone call with President Obama and Harry Reid and she signed off on this, so I think she has a pretty good sense of where her caucus is. I think she will be getting a lot of Democratic support.

Remember when you look at how much Democratic support this got in the Senate, that's an indication it would get a lot in the House. The thing is, Speaker Boehner gets to determine if this bill -- I think the fact is, if you put this bill on the House floor, it will go through very easily.

But he wants there will be Republican support and it's up to him whether he wants to put it on the floor or whether he wants to change it to get more Republican support.

BERMAN: All right, Brianna Keilar in Washington, a big day ahead of us. Thanks very much, Brianna.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Capitol Hill, Jonathan Allen, he is a senior congressional correspondent for "Politico." Jonathan, good to see you again. Good morning. Happy New Year.

I want to pick up where Brianna left off. John Boehner has a choice here. He had to try to corral support from the Republicans, which by the way, who let him down the last time he tried to put a deal to the floor or he goes put it to an up-or-down vote, which Brianna say he probably wins.

The distance here, the time is allowing interest groups on both sides to put pressure on their congressmen to say we don't like this deal. People on the left don't like this deal. They say it gives away too much. People on the right don't like the deal because it does raise taxes. What's your sense of the best play here?

JONATHAN ALLEN, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": I think what we've heard from Speaker Boehner and his allies in the Republican leadership is, that this is a binary question for his caucus, for his Republican conference.

It is either pass this bill as it is with Democratic votes or amend it to something that can go over and pass in the Senate that is a little bit more likely for House Republicans. The option he has not put on the table is go let's just go home and leave it be. So I think what you are going to see in the next 24, 48 -- well, we don't have 72 hours anymore in this Congress.

But what you are going to see in the next hours is getting through, getting done and getting the president's desk. Whether it remains in the current form or not, the question we will have answered tonight.

VELSHI: So what is the collateral damage if it gets done? I mean, does it matter? Does John Boehner come out of this weakened? Does he come out of its strengthened?

ALLEN: John Boehner's weakness and strength are kind of the same thing, which is he tends to take a laissez faire approach with his guys. He doesn't really kick them in the side very often. He is not able to do that.

That makes him popular, means people like him, but it's hard for him to command his troops. I don't think he comes out of this any worse off than before in terms of members of his caucus. I think they often look at him as having created a strategy that is narrowly navigating all the shoals.

VELSHI: The issue though is that the result of this deal is that we will have to have two or three more deals in the coming months. We are going to go through this cliff like negotiations. So what is the takeaway and what is the lesson for the Republican conference. They keep Boehner along and they try to get better deals or they get forced to the up or down votes over the course of the next few months?

ALLEN: Well, they are much looking for leverage. It's their favorite word. Where do they have leverage over the president to try to get spending cuts? Often times they keep seeking leverage long past the point where it's obvious that the president has leverage over them.

I think what you're going to see in the next couple of months is particularly with the next debt ceiling increase, with the expiration of the delay in the sequester, automatic spending cuts coming now in March, I think with those two things, you will see Republicans try to force the president's hand.

But honestly, what we see in this deal right now is a big kick of the can down the road. A couple more months, they talked both the congressional leaders and the president about a deficit reduction deal last night. That's not what happened.

What they did is they added $4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. If they hadn't acted, you might see deficit reduction, but not in a way a lot of taxpayers would like.

So it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months. There is a lot of talk to be done about entitlement reform, about making the tax code a little different than it is now. So I think we'll have to see that in the coming year.

VELSHI: All right, well astute observations. We'll watch it very closely. Thanks a million for being with us. I appreciate it.

Christine, the kick the can drinking game is not over. We'll have to say that many, many times over the next two months.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring down some of the deal for you here so kind of reset the stage. We've been telling you about the dairy cliff. In addition to dealing with the fiscal cliff crisis, the Senate deal would extend federal farm policies through September, which means milk prices won't double.

The deal, this deal, the Senate deal also nixed a set pay raise for members of Congress. The White House scored an agreement to raise taxes on larger estates from 35 percent to 40 percent, but Republicans successfully insisted that the exception should be adjusted annually for inflation, a provision that would increase the exemption to $7.5 million for individuals, and $15 million for couples by 2020.

Now the households -- those households would also pay higher tax rates on investment profits and the rates on dividends and capital gains rising to 20 percent. For taxpayers earning less than $450,000, the deal would restore limits on personal exemptions and itemized deductions that existed during the Clinton administration.

Those benefits phasing out for couples earning more than $250,000 a year and single people earning more than $200,000. Now the deal calls for a permanent fix for the alternative minimum tax. Yes, I said permanent. It would otherwise hit about 30 million taxpayers for the first time when filing their 2012 returns.

It's something they patch every single year. It would extend tax credits for college tuition and the working poor for five years. I'll tell you that accountants working over the past 24 hours. They are really been going and looking at that.

The capping deductions, the itemized deductions trying to figure out especially in high tax places like California, in New York, in Illinois, in New Jersey, you know what this will mean during tax season.

BERMAN: A lot of people opening up the books saying holy cow. What does this mean? We haven't had this for a long, long time. We've got to re-establish these rules and have it in place for a while right now.

Let me ask you guys this. What is the difference between $250,000 and $400,000? The president is taking some heat from the left, from liberals saying he caved on that number. Is that an important number economically?

ROMANS: Well, now people are saying now the White House and the Senate have defined rich in America and rich is now $400,000.

VELSHI: So 370 is the top 1 percent and the difference in revenue here is about, what, $650 billion over 10 years versus $800 billion and change. It's not highly significant, it's more symbolic. The Republicans have been right about the fact that you cannot deal with the debt issue just by raising taxes on the rich. So there are a lot of conservatives who say now the discussion does have to be focused on real debt reduction.

BERMAN: We have three more chances to have this discussion. It's a nice way to put it, or fight is a more realistic way to put it. Of course, you want to stay with CNN because we're going to be watching the story all day.

There is a lot happening today. Will the House vote on it? When will they vote on it? How will they vote on it? We don't know the results yet so stay with us.

Meanwhile, there is some other news today. A routine MRI was anything but routine for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her doctors now say it revealed a blood clot in the vein that drains blood from the head.

This is likely the result of a fall earlier this month when Mrs. Clinton suffered a concussion. Doctors say there is no evidence of a stroke or any kind of neurological damage and the secretary is expected to make a complete recovery.

Still very scary when you hear what happened. CNN's Jill Dougherty is live at the State Department. Jill, what do we know about her condition right now?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, she is stable. She is in the hospital. And the main thing right now, they are trying to shrink that blood clot by administering medications, blood thinners and that's their task right now is to get exactly how much she needs over what period.

They have to work on that because it depends on body weight and everything. When they have that pinned down, then theoretically at that point, they will be able to release her. So it did sound very scary at the beginning and potentially it is serious.

But they seem to have it under control. Luckily, it's not bleeding inside the brain and that's the important thing. She's stable, talking with her doctors, talking with the family.

In fact, there was a recent tweet as you just mentioned last hour, a tweet from Chelsea Clinton, thanking people from sending their best wishes to her mother. So the prognosis is that she would be, you know, released when they get this -- when she is stable and she know how much medication she will need.

BERMAN: Jill Dougherty in Washington for this morning, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, is the New Year, 2013, arriving in grand style around the country? Just a few hours ago, here in New York, crowd estimated at 1 million people packed Times Square and counted down to the New Year. And in Atlanta, 2013 was greeted with the dropping of a giant Georgia peach, because that's how they do things down there. Back in New York, an army of sanitation workers descended on Times Square after all of the New Year's Eve revelers had left. They will now begin the monumental task of cleaning up.

VELSHI: All right, coming up, the Senate may have reached a deal on the fiscal cliff. The big question is, will the House play along? We're going to speak with Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire when we come back. You're watching EARLY START.

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BERMAN: All right. This morning, all eyes on the House of Representatives, because while you were sleeping or doing something else, the Senate voted on a plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

Now, the question as we kick off 2013 is this: will the House of Representatives follow along?

Jason Altmire is a Democrat from Pennsylvania. He is a blue dog Democrat, part of the dying breed there. He's a fiscal conservative, but considered to be one of the most independent voters in the House. He's also retiring at the end of the session, which means like in 48 hours right now. So we are getting him in his waning minutes on Capitol Hill.

Thank you so much for joining us and talking to us, Congressman Altmire. Happy New Year.

REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Happy New Year. Glad to be here.

BERMAN: How are you going to vote, sir?

ALTMIRE: I'm going to vote for it. I think you will get most all Democratic votes on the House if they allow it un-amended to come to the floor. I think maybe half the Republicans, maybe slightly more. This is going to pass today if they allow it to come up to a vote.

ROMANS: That's some confidence. That's some certainty and confidence, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

ALTMIRE: We're going to start the New Year out strong.

ROMANS: We have had a death of that for a very, very long time.

Look, I want to get your thoughts on something that Robert Samuelson, an op-ed this morning in "The Washington Post", an op-ed titled "Obama's failed leadership." Quote, "The main reason we keep having these destructive and inconclusive budget confrontations is not simple that will many Republicans have been intransigent on taxes. The larger cause is that Obama refuses to concede that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are driving future spending and deficits. So when Republicans make concessions on taxes, as they have, they get little in return. Naturally, this poisons the negotiating climate."

Your thoughts. I mean, are we set up for more and more budget confrontations because of where we are with entitlements?

ALTMIRE: I think we are set up for more confrontations because of the debt ceiling, because of the annual budget. There's a fiscal year every year. And the clock strikes midnight on September 30th, we're going to be in the same place that we were last night.

But the issue is not with the president. I think that's an unfair criticism. He has made concessions. He has put on the table reforms to the entitlement programs. We were very close last year to a grand bargain, a $4 trillion deficit reduction that would have included major entitlement reforms.

The president has done what he needs to do. I think that's an unfair criticism.

VELSHI: What is lacking, Congressman? What is the problem? Because it is a popular conservative and Republican refrain, that this budget won't get a budget together. The president won't get a budget passed, that you continued to do business on continuing resolutions.

Where is the impasse in terms of being able to say here are what our priorities are as a party and as a government?

ALTMIRE: The reason there hasn't been a budget since 2009 is because of the filibuster rule in the Senate. The House under both Republican and Democratic leadership has been able to pass its budgets. The problem is just in the Senate because of the filibuster.

But the larger with the entitlement programs and big deficit reduction programs is that we just haven't had the ability as a Congress to come together on those. This wasn't necessarily the time to have this discussion facing the fiscal deadline.

But the debt ceiling is coming up. The budget season is coming up. I think that there is going to be some serious effort to reform entitlements, reduce the deficit and bring down spending in months and years ahead.

BERMAN: Congressman, John Berman here again. As we said, this is your final day or two in the House. So, you are freer to give some of your analysis right here.

What do you make of President Obama, the negotiator? Because there has been a lot of criticism from the left, frankly, that he gave too much to Republicans as this part of the deal. That he's showing them that when his back is up against the wall, he will gave. He'd been saying $250,000 was his limit all along, now, we went to $450,000.

What's he like as a negotiator? Your thoughts?

ALTMIRE: Again, I don't think that is a fair criticism. There this is give-and-take negotiations. There has to be compromise. There are some on the left for whom any give at all is a failed negotiation. The president I think is politically the big winner here. He got what he wanted with the tax cuts. He got what he wanted with the estate tax and some of the other issues and the sequester delay.

So I just think that the president working with Senator McConnell, who did a very good job with his conference in the Senate, that they all look good. We have to see if we can do our job in the House. That's still to come today.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Altmire, thank you very much. Happy New Year and good luck going forward.

ALTMIRE: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. Coming up, the Senate agrees to the fiscal cliff deal, but is the crisis really averted? What does this mean for you and your paycheck? We'll tell you, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Happy New Year.

Minding your business this morning.

Markets are closed today. How will the fiscal cliff affect your 401(k) in the early part of the New Year? That's the big question because U.S. markets finished 2012 on a high note. The Dow gained more than 1 percent yesterday to finish the year above 13,000. It was a good year for stocks.

The fiscal cliff, only the beginning of the fiscal drama, though. There are three -- come them -- three more deadlines over the next three months.

First up, the debt ceiling. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made it officially, federal borrowing has reached the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. We have two months of head room if they move some stuff around in accounts. That means the deadline to tackle that is late February or early March.

Next up, the sequester -- a series of automatic cuts in many federal agencies, the Senate's fiscal cliff deal would kick the can about two months to March.

And then there is the continuing budget resolution which enacts a budget using short-term band aids. The current continuing resolution expires toward the end of March.

And what if the deal runs into trouble. It's possible. House Republicans have lone oppose any tax increase. Liberal senators oppose giving high-income households a pass on tax increase. Lawmakers have a grace period to pass a bill to avoid the bulk of scheduled tax increases and spending cuts without causing too much damage. That's, of course, assuming the markets don't completely freak out.

BERMAN: The thing is, we should remind everyone, we actually are over the cliff.

VELSHI: Correct.

BERMAN: We have begun after that deadline, but nothing actually happens yet.

VELSHI: But it does help this is not a working day. No federal offices, nobody to change any legislation or do anything, as long as the House gets this done. House back at noon today, Eastern Time?

BERMAN: Yes.

VELSHI: But there is no guarantee the House comes in, gets this done. There could be fighting, amendments, a changed bill. Some talk they will amount it, send and back are. We're not done.

ROMANS: The markets yesterday are telling us they think this is going to get done. That's right. So, if it doesn't, if there's some kind of glitch. If we got some problems this week, I think the market --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Can I change the subject quickly for one second here?

VELSHI: From the fiscal cliff?

BERMAN: Well, I just want to talk about happy New Year. It is the New Year after all. And the way Christine Romans says happy New Year, U.S. like are you trying to convince us. Really, happy New Year.

ROMANS: Happy New Year.

BERMAN: It is happy.

VELSHI: The problem with us, we weren't sharing the New Year's revelry with much of the nation.

ROMANS: I will forever be angry with the 112th Congress of depriving me of one of my New Year's, you know?

BERMAN: It was actually one of the last negotiating shifts that fell. They took you're your New Year's Eve. Once they caved on that, they caved on a deal.

VELSHI: Well, listen. We're complaining about losing that. But there was holiday for lawmakers either. And there still isn't on this New Year's Day as the Senate knocks an early morning deal. They celebrated, by the way, at the senate.

The House will reconvene later. Can they pass the same deal that passed at 2:00 a.m. in the Senate? We're going to speak with Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey.

If you are leaving the house right now, have you a tough day ahead of for New Year's Eve. It's New Year's Day, why are you leaving at 6:26 in the morning? But if you are, you can watch us anytime on your desktop, on your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV. If you haven't, you're not leaving your house, wake up, watch us. We've got more coming, right after this commercial break.

BERMAN: It's a great tease, Ali.

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BERMAN: No rest for lawmakers. An early morning deal reached on the fiscal cliff. But the U.S. still poised to go over that cliff.

VELSHI: And as the sun rises on 2013, we are still waiting for the House to act. That, by the way is not Congress.

We'll walk you through the bill's details and tell you the impact it will have on you.

ROMANS: All right. Members of Congress never that pretty.

Secretary of State Clinton waking up in a New York City hospital. Doctors saying she's making excellent progress. We're going to have the latest on the secretary of state condition.

VELSHI: Welcome to EARLY START. I am Ali Velshi.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman: Happy New Year, everyone. Glad you're here with us. It is 30 minutes past the hour right now.

Quite a morning, a lot to talk about right now, because new this morning, just hours ago, the Senate passed a plan to fend off the fiscal cliff. But now, it's up to the House of Representatives to follow suit. Just after 2:00 Eastern Time this morning, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a plan that was crafted by the vice president and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. The vote was 89-8. That's a big vote.

The Republican-controlled House left well before midnight last night. So they will are to take up the measure today.

Here's how the Senate leaders summed up their night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: I've said all along, the most important priority was protecting middle class families. This legislation does that.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Here is what the plan means for your family. Bush era tax cuts extended for individuals earning less than 400,000 a year, and couples earning less than $450,000. That means if you make more than that, your taxes going up. Unemployment benefits extended for a year for 2 million Americans and a permanent adjustment for inflation to the alternative minimum tax. That's a big deal for a lot of people.

If you're wondering about spending cuts? Lawmakers simply punting. They're going to fight those battles over the next two months.

We're joined now by Brianna Keilar, who is live in Washington, no doubt chomping on a bit to be covering those two months of at least three more fights on budgetary matters. But before we get to that, Brianna, where does this go today? Because it is a big day.

KEILAR: It is a big day. And, you know, we're not, John, completely out of the woods, but I think we should feel pretty good about where we are. I will say that. It seems like obviously a lot of progress has made.

The House is next. And the next step for Speaker John Boehner to take this deal brokered in the Senate, passed by a large margin. A huge vote, 89-8, doesn't happen every day in the Senate, and he has to talk to his conference of Republicans and see what they think about it.

Obviously, there will be issues with some of his rank-and-file, you would think. They have been hard to please throughout this process as we tried to work on deficit reduction plan with President Obama. But then, the speaker will decide if he's going to take up this bill that the Senate passed as is, or if enough Republicans want to change it, and so, they can amend it, and send it back to the Senate.

But the expectation and this has been the expectation for, I would say, all along throughout these fiscal cliff negotiations, whatever would pass the House would do so with Democratic and Republican support. But, ultimately, it's up to the speaker whether he wants to put it on the floor.

BERMAN: That's right. And the House reconvenes at noon Eastern Time. So, a lot going on.

We'll be watching that all day. I know you will, too, Brianna. Thanks very much.

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk to someone who if the House takes it up, will vote on a fiscal cliff deal today.

Phil Gingrey is a Republican Congressman from Georgia. He's a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus. He previously said he was against letting any Bush era tax cuts expire.

Good morning, sir. Happy New Year.

If you get this bill today, are you going to vote for it?

REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), GEORGIA: Well, thank you. I'm glad to be on EARLY START this morning. I've got to see, really, just as the speaker said, and our leadership, we've got to read the bill. We've got to know what's in the 157 pages and look at it carefully.

I think the speaker will put it on the floor if there's enough Republican support for it, but he's not ready to accept it lock, stock, and barrel. It very well could be amended, and sent back to the Senate. So, it's a little early to commit how I feel about it.

You mentioned that I'm against raising taxes on anybody. And I absolutely am. I think that the people in the 11th district of Georgia, northwest Georgia, my congressional district, feel very strongly about that. And I want to do what's best for them and what's best for the nation. And I'm going to look at this very carefully.

ROMANS: Well, I'm sure all of you will be looking at it very, very carefully. You know, the president, you talk about those taxes, the president moved. He moved from $250,000 to $400,000.

And there was compromise on the estate tax, you know, a Republican win on the estate tax on that Senate bill. You know, is that food enough for you to accept, even though you don't want to raise taxes?

GINGREY: Although, two points. I mean, the estate tax is better than going back to a million dollar exclusion, 55 percent, tax rate or anything above that. But really, there shouldn't be any taxes on death. It shouldn't be a taxable event.

In regard to the taxation on people making above $400,000, you know, if you go back to 1993, the Clinton era tax rates which the Democrats want, $250,000 then taxed at 39.6 percent is the equivalent of $398,000 today with -- according to a Labor Statistic Bureau in regular inflation. So, it's not that great of a deal I don't think as far it goes. And it's taxing and still taxing small businessmen and women, and I don't like that at all.

VELSHI: Representative Gingrich, Ali Velshi here. Good to see you. Happy New Year to you, sir.

GINGREY: Happy New Year.

VELSHI: I want to talk to something that played out yesterday. You know, we don't get a chance to talk as much about.

You were a tough primary in the past and that was when you first signed the Norquist pledge. Am I right?

GINGREY: That's right. Absolutely.

VELSHI: And Grover Norquist seems to have approved this deal. He also approved Plan B, which a lot of Republicans didn't support last week. That's why he couldn't get it to a floor vote. But he sort of said this is OK.

But I guess the issue here is that guys like and you many like you across the country are in districts that are not competitive in the general election, they are competitive in the primary. So you've got to tack to the side of your party. And that means that it makes it harder for guys like you to compromise on deals like this. So I understand you're keeping an open mind. But my general guess is, given your history, you're not going to like this deal?

GINGREY: Well, you stated it perfectly. Grover Norquist is well respected. I respect him. I did sign that pledge in 2002, and that was not just a pledge to Grover Norquist. There was a pledge to those constituents in the 11th that voted for me over the other two guys, who pretty good candidates as well.

And I guess Grover could say, well, you know, theoretically we've gone over the cliff. So, everybody's taxes have gone up, at least for 12 hours, and a vote would be actually a vote to lower taxes for everybody under $400,000.

But I'm just not sure the people in the 11th of Georgia will see it that way. I'm concerned that they will think that this is just more smoke and mirrors and Congress pulls these stunts all the time. And just like putting off the sequester for two months, kicking that can down the road yet again.

So, this bill, as I see it so far, looks like it's raising revenue, but not very little of anything about cutting spending. And you know, we kick the can down the road and will do that two months from now. That's my fear.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this, then. Is there some logic -- again, Grover and others have put this forward, the idea that, OK, if you get some kind of deal on this tax thing, it's not terribly painful to everybody. You just swallow the bitter medicine, to use a doctor's phrase.

Can you then move on and entirely focus on entitlements and spending cuts?

GINGREY: Well, I heard some of our Republican colleagues in the Senate talk about that in anticipation of the overwhelming support of this deal that was cut. And they tried to explain that away and say, hey, look, you know, this is the fiscal cliff. But two months from now, we've got a fiscal grand canyon to deal with and that's where -- the president won round one and we're going to really sock it to him in round two.

I don't know about that. You know, two months, three months, we'll wait for round three and then really get him.

I mean, at one point this business of living to fight another day, you have to dig in your heels, by golly, I'm going to die over this today because it's important to the people of my district and this country.

VELSHI: OK, that's not the most compromising view. But I appreciate your principles, sir. You've always stuck by them. Representative Phil Gingrey from the 11th in Georgia -- good to see you, sir. Happy New Year.

GINGREY: Thank you so much. Great to see you.

BERMAN: He says he's looking at the bill, hasn't made up his mind yet. He doesn't sound like a yes vote on that bill later today.

VELSHI: I think he's prepared to be surprised by something that he doesn't know in the bill. But based on data that is laid out there, it doesn't sound like it.

BERMAN: Leaning no, I would say, fairly safe to say.

All right. So, despite down to the wire fiscal cliff negotiations, somehow Americans across the country managed to celebrate the arrival of the New Year in spectacular style. The fiscal cliff not weighing them down at all.

An estimated crowd of 1 million jammed into Times Square to watch the traditional ball drop which welcomed in 2013.

And in Las Vegas, the amazing fireworks show lit up the sky over this strip. That was as 2013 rolled into town.

And back here in New York, this is the sad scene after the ball drops -- an army of sanitation workers, they descend on Times Square to begin the monumental task of cleaning up.

VELSHI: But impressive -- those sanitation workers are impressive how they get that all cleaned up.

ROMANS: I'd like to know how many sets of keys they find, a million people. What's kind of stuff they find, I'm going to find out today.

All right. Still to come on EARLY START, as we've been reporting, we have new details on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's health care, a blood clot in her skull. How serious could this be? We're going to speak with a cardiologist.

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BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

We are learning new information about the blood clot that put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the hospital. Her doctors now revealing that its located in her head, between her brain and her skull. Mrs. Clinton is being treated with blood thinners. We're going to find out more about what that means.

Joining us now is Dr. Hina Chaudhry, a cardiologist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Chaudhry is not treating Mrs. Clinton but has treated similar blood clots, and has agreed to come in and talk to us about it, because we do have a lot of questions.

First of all, happy New Year.

DR. HINA CHAUDHRY, CARDIOLOGIST, MOUNT SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: Happy New Year.

BERMAN: Explain this type of blood clot to us. In general, how serious is this type of condition? CHAUDHRY: So, the blood clot is found in a vain, in terms of Secretary of State Clinton's blood clot, instead of an artery, which means it's a lot less dangerous actually, because if it was in an artery, it would have likely caused a stroke. In the vein, it can cause swelling of the brain and she likely had some kind of neurologic symptoms, which prompted her to report to her doctors on the weekend, and have an MRI.

BERMAN: What kind of symptoms do you think?

CHAUDHRY: Nine out of 10 patients with what's called a venous thrombosis in the brain will have headache, and there can be other types of symptoms such as numbness of the face, numbness or weakness of one or both limbs, of both sides of limbs, and in some cases, seizures as well.

BERMAN: So, symptoms that can be alarming in some cases?

CHAUDHRY: It can very well be alarming.

BERMAN: Now, what are the things that people who have been listening to this out of one year over the New Year have no doubt been hearing, is this issue of blood thinners? You hear blood clot, you immediately think, OK, that can be treated with some kind of thinners. But then, there are people who are saying, oh, because it's in the head, maybe blood thinners are not the thing to use.

CHAUDHRY: Well, blood thinners are the thing to use, because it's -- the clot is sitting in the vein. And the blood thinner is the only thing that's really going to dissolve that clot. In very rare circumstances, you would go after it using a method called embolization where you would use clot-busting drugs to dissolve the clot. But because it's in the vain, the blood thinners have been shown to work to resolve these clots.

BERMAN: So thinners work?

CHAUDHRY: Yes.

BERMAN: A few weeks ago Secretary of State Clinton fainted, banged her head. Did that cause this?

CHAUDHRY: This was probably discovered incidentally. A lot. People as they age have undetected clots, and the concussion probable caused some symptoms that prompted her to have her brain examined in the first place and I bet that the clot in the vein was discovered incidentally.

BERMAN: Secretary of State Clinton discovered a blood clot in her leg, I think it was 1998, which she said it was the most serious health risk she experienced in her life to that point. Since she had one before and now she's had another, does that mean she is more susceptible in the future?

CHAUDHRY: Definitely. People who have had blood clots in the leg or brain have a higher susceptibility. May be factors in the blood that prevent adequate clotting or predispose these people to clots, and those have to be checked into. There can be deficiencies and certain factors in the blood.

The other thing with Secretary Clinton is she travels a lot. She has a very hectic life-style, spends a lot of times on airplanes, and that can predispose her as well.

BERMAN: Got to move around on the planes for sure.

CHAUDHRY: You have to. Every hour.

BERMAN: This was caught not by accident, but maybe by coincidence. What would have happened if this most recent clot gone untreated?

CHAUDHRY: It could have caused swelling of brain because the place where it's sitting, in the transverse sinus in the brain, if left untreated, fluid would have backed up in the brain, resulting in swelling and that can become potentially dangerous if left untreated.

BERMAN: But they did treat it, and their doctors affect a full recovery.

Thank you so much for coming in.

CHAUDHRY: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: Happy new year -- Ali.

VELSHI: Great conversation, John.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour. New this morning, you know the Senate passed that plan which may keep our fall off the fiscal cliff.

ROMANS: It will be a short one. The plan keeps the Bush-era tax cuts in place for individuals earning less than 400,000 a year and couples earning less than $450,000. The House meets later this morning. So all eyes this morning on the House of Representatives.

Civil rights activists known as the Wilmington Ten have been pardoned by North Carolina's outgoing governor. Nine African-American men, one woman were convicted of firebombing a grocery store in 1972. Their sentences were commuted in 1978. Their convictions were overturned two years later, but now, finally, a pardon. Governor Beverly Perdue saying, quote, "Their convictions were tainted by naked racism."

A Canadian diplomat who helped six Americans escape Iran during the hostage crisis has died. Eighty-eight-year-old John Sheardown was part of a covert operation by the Canadian government and the CIA to smuggle Americans out of country. The real-life drama is the subject of the Ben Affleck movie "Argo."

VELSHI: But the 2012 election may have just happened, but it's never too early to look ahead.

Is it too early?

ROMANS: Well, maybe, but we're going to.

VELSHI: Who will be the rising stars of the coming political yore? A look when we come back.

You're watching EARLY START on CNN.

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ROMANS: The 2012 election is over, but it's never too early to look forward to 2016. What a way to start the new year? A recent CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton well above all other political comers, but who are the rising stars of 2013 to look out for?

McKay Coppins, the political editor of "Buzz Feed", has put together a list. He joins us to reveal who they are.

Welcome to the program.

MCKAY COPPINS, POLITICAL EDITOR, "BUZZFEED.COM": Thank you for having me on.

ROMANS: A couple of stars in Florida top your list. Tell me about it.

COPPINS: Yes, Senator Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. Both of them have been long-time allies and also are seen as leaders on immigration reform in their party.

Think we'll hear from both of them.

ROMANS: Scott Brown?

COPPINS: Scott Brown has the chance to reclaim his senate seat that he lost with John Kerry's appointment to the being secretary of state. He'll have a chance to come back. If he doesn't, he won't be running as a Tea Partier, the way he did when he first became senator there. He will be running as a moderate. Which might be foreshadowing of what's to come.

ROMANS: A gun owner, NRA member and talking about bans on assault rifled, and he's really been on the news.

COPPINS: He came out, said it's time to do some gun control if we get gun control passed, which President Obama wants to make a major priority in the second term, he will probably be a central figure. Sort of a Democratic ambassador to gun owners.

ROMANS: Thirty-right-year-old mayor of San Antonio.

COPPINS: Julian Castro. Gave an electrifying speech at the Republican Convention and could run for state senate or governor in Texas and that would obviously be a big deal since he's a Democrat. But a lot of people think that state may be a blue state pretty soon.

ROMANS: And everybody's favorite mayor, Cory Booker.

COPPINS: He said he will explore senate election in 2013. And he will be doing a lot in the next year to kin of make his star rise even more in that state. He will probably pursue education reform, budgetary reform, and keep an eye out for him.

ROMANS: Why should we look out for the newly elected liberal hero Elizabeth Warren?

COPPINS: Will probably use her perch on the senate banking committee to take the fight to wall street in a way a lot of Democrats haven't and see her become a liberal hero and a bogey man for those on the right.

ROMANS: Some of these names are names we've heard before, and some are new names. It shows -- I don't know a new landscape for both parties.

COPPINS: You see the Republican Party really try to embrace diversity, trying to move to the middle on some issues and on the left, you see some rising stars. It will be fun to watch kind of the jockeying over the next year, especially as we look forward to 2016, but also in the policy fights this year.

ROMANS: Fun? I don't known I would use the word fun.

COPPINS: For those who are political junkies.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Nice to see you -- John.

BERMAN: And that jockeying has started now. Marco Rubio, a no vote on the fiscal cliff deal. So that not insignificant.

Of course, coming up on "STARTING POINT", a few hours ago the Senate passed that deal just as America plunged off the fiscal cliff. Now the House has to throw us a rope. We will talk to someone who will be voting on this measure in probably just a few hours, Congressman Elijah Cummings.

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