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Fiscal Cliffhanger; Hillary Clinton's Political Future; Interview With Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette

Aired January 1, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: The Senate's fiscal cliff fix is facing an uncertain future in the House, exposing a riff between Republican leaders. We're watching world markets for reaction this hour. Will all the uncertainty send stocks into a nosedive?

And questions about Hillary Clinton's future -- what her blood clot could mean for a possible White House bid.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news on Capitol Hill, House Republicans meeting for the second time today. They're trying to decide what to do with the so-called fiscal cliff bill passed by the Senate in the early hours of the new year. You can see the majority leader, Eric Cantor, and the speaker, John Boehner. They're walking in a meeting together, but they apparently are divided when it comes to the bill, with Cantor saying flatly, he won't vote for it.

House Republicans could decide to amend it. That would certainly only complicate matters, possibly even put a deal further out of reach.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has been following the breaking news for us. She's beginning our coverage this hour.

What's the very latest you're hearing about the fate of what the Senate passed last night?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that House Republicans are still in this meeting, as you said, the second of the day.

And the House rules chair, who is in charge of making sure that things go on to the floor, is probably the easiest way to say it, he just told me that there will be a series of votes soon, not on the fiscal cliff, but here's why that's interesting. It's because leaders, whoever they are, when they run the House, tend to use that time to whip votes, to try to see where the votes are on a particular issue, because all the members are on the floor.

So it may be that that will be a time where they're going to try to really gauge, beyond just this meeting, where they're talking at each other, but where they can really have face-to-face, mano a mano discussions about where this Republican Caucus is on votes, whether it is on just generally the Senate bill, or whether it is on what we have been talking about, that many House Republicans want, which is perhaps an amendment to add some spending cuts to this, because they don't believe that there are enough spending cuts or maybe the right kind of spending cuts.

So that's what we're going to be watching over the next hour or so, to see what happens when they come out of that next meeting. But one thing I will say to you, Wolf, is I have gotten strong indications that the House speaker gets it. He understands that if the House somehow drops the ball on this, whether it is deciding not to vote today and the markets open tomorrow and the markets tank, or votes and amends this in a way that the Senate just says, we're not touching it, and the markets tank, House Republicans will get blamed, and they will get blamed in a very big way, in a way that really could affect the economy in an adverse way, to say the least.

So he's trying to corral this very difficult caucus, which he's been trying to do for two years, to figure out the best way to make sure that they understand that he's hearing their complaints and their concerns, but at the same time, doing what he and other leaders clearly think needs to be done to make sure that the economy is in the right place, that people's taxes, at least for the most part, are in the right place, and so on.

BLITZER: The minority leader, the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, she tweeted about that so-called up-or-down vote in the House, namely whether or not the House would take up the Senate measure that passed in the middle of the night.

If it were to come up, and that's a huge if, Dana, if the Senate legislation, as is, without any amendments, were to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives, would it pass?

BASH: I was talking to a Democratic -- a member of the Democratic leadership who said that they have probably about 150 members. So you wouldn't need that many Republicans, given how big their caucus is, in order to get the votes to pass it.

So I think it's safe to say that it is likely that it would pass, but as you know, and as Nancy Pelosi knows very well, because she ran the House for four years, that is one of the big benefits of being in the House majority. They decide what goes to the floor for the most part, and they decide how it goes to the floor.

And as we have been talking about, a big issue, politically, for the House speaker isn't necessarily whether to bring this up, but how to bring it up and make sure that his own members understand that he gets their concerns, because, look, if he just put this on the floor and said, OK, there's a vote, and didn't give members a chance to talk about the issues that they have and to talk about -- to voice their problems, then he would have a very big political problem on his hands.

And, by the way, it's just two days before there is an election for him to become the House speaker. Again, he's got to be voted House speaker again in the new Congress.

BLITZER: And that's a question as well.

Let's say the House of Representatives tonight or tomorrow morning were to pass the Senate bill, but were to attach amendments for more spending cuts. What are the chances the Senate would reconvene and deal with it, pass what the House passed and allow the president to sign it into law?

BASH: Well, the Senate just adjourned moments ago. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, just adjourned until noon tomorrow.

So nothing would happen until noon tomorrow. But I got to tell you the Senate, the Democratic sources are saying that and they are being very quiet. They are not answering our obvious question, which is, what would you do if you got something that was amended? They're doing that on purpose. They don't want to sort of rock the boat. They don't want to give any sort of sense of yea or nay to House Republicans to give anybody an excuse, basically.

So they're being very, very quiet. But knowing the temperature over there, the fact that they feel pretty good about the fact that they passed this with not just a few Republicans, two, three, four, pick them up, but with 40 out of 45 Republicans, 80, excuse me, 90 percent of the Republican Caucus in the Senate voted for this, they feel no compunction, I don't think, to feel the need to take this up if the House changes it.

They really understand that the House Republicans will take the blame.

BLITZER: Let's see what the House of Representatives does in the next few hours. Dana, thank you.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, has been watching all of this unfold. She's joining us now.

Republicans, Jessica, they're concerned there simply aren't enough deficit savings in the bill that passed the Senate last night. And indeed, the Congressional Budget Office says the bill will add, not reduce, but add to the nation's debt. What's the reaction at the White House?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Congressional Budget Office's numbers can be a little confusing, actually, because the truth of the matter is, the Congressional Budget Office finds that it will increase the deficit by $3.9 trillion over 10 years, but that's only when you take into account the fact that we have gone over the fiscal cliff.

That increase in the deficit assumes that all Americans have lost their tax cut, that the Senate bill puts that tax cut back into place for 98 percent of Americans, and all that revenue is being sucked out of government coffers.

Now, if you go back one day and re-measure this same bill against the policy we had in place yesterday, when the Bush tax cuts were in place, it finds that this bill actually decreases the deficit by $650 billion to $725 billion. A big difference, Wolf.

BLITZER: So how closely are the folks over at the White House behind you watching the latest Republican meetings, what's going on in the House of Representatives?

YELLIN: Very, very closely, Wolf. They are watching, they are waiting. And they are frustrated.

There's not exactly surprise that this is taking so long, because they're used to being aggravated, both ways, with the House of Representatives and the leadership there, the leadership often frustrated with the White House. And, you know, confident that if it gets to the floor, they will have the votes, it will pass, and there is some confidence that it will be before the night ends.

But they're also sort of waiting and twiddling their thumbs. Earlier today, Vice President Biden, after he went up to the Hill and spoke to House Democrats, made a lunch run. The White House mess here isn't open, so he ran out to a sandwich shop to get some food for his staff. Here, one of our producers had a chance to talk to him.


QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, are we going to avoid the fiscal cliff. What? What did you say? I'm sorry.



YELLIN: Now, I do know that if for any reason this deal collapses, you can expect full-frontal accusations from Democrats that the Republicans have sent the nation over the cliff.

It is well-known here that the futures markets open in less than 30 minutes. Perhaps it will take a market event for a bill to pass, who knows? But they are watching very closely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly are. Could be another long night for all of us. Thanks, Jessica. Thanks very much.

Politics -- putting politics aside, what does it all mean for you?

CNN's Tom Foreman is here with the real-world impact of this huge debate unfolding in Washington.

Tom, what do taxpayers who are watching us right now, what do they need to know?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, we have been watching it from our virtual Senate set all day today, trying to figure out how and if the plan that was concocted here can survive. And I think it really is coming down to three pillars, Wolf, as to whether or not this plan will become the law here. First of all, can the House Republicans get past their sense that what was passed here last night was essentially a series of tax increases with no real emphasis on spending cuts? That's very hard for them to get past, because they think that's so antithetical to what it will take to deal with the deficit, which they think will ultimately help all taxpayers.

Secondly, they're going to be asking themselves, what does this do to the future negotiations on other issues that they're very concerned about, for example, the debt ceiling? In two months, we're going to have new negotiations on that, how much the government can borrow and what it will cost to pay it back, things like sequestration.

There were supposed to be automatic spending cuts if this budget deal wasn't worked out by the end of the year. Now that's been pushed further down the road. They're looking at that. That's the second pillar of what they're considering. And the third is this notion of what does this do to normal people out there, what can they expect? If, in fact, the Senate plan goes through as it's written right now and it's approved, the Tax Policy Center has some estimates on what it's going to mean to normal taxpayers out there.

If you make up to $200,000, your income tax isn't really going to change at all. You are going to pay more in payroll tax. Remember, last year we were enjoying a payroll tax deduction, a payroll tax holiday in this country. That has now expired. That extra $20, $30, $40, whatever it was based on your income that you had each month to pay on an extra tank of gas or the movies, that's going away, because the payroll tax holiday is over.

But that's up to $200,000, not a great big change. Let's look a little bit higher here. If you go up to $200,000 to $500,000, the income tax change actually goes down about $70, because only a tiny portion of that group goes above that $450,000 level for couples. That would have a greater increase. Everybody else benefits more.

Payroll tax, same thing for this group, they're going to pay a little bit more on that, and there'll be a cap on personal deductions for the people in the upper end of that group. So basically, below $500,000, really very little impact on anyone. Let's go above it and you see the first real impact., $500,000 to $1 million a year. The average income tax increase this coming year for that group is going to be about $6,700, if the Senate plan goes through as approved so far.

They also have the payroll tax increase and their personal deductions will be capped and beyond the cap, obviously, they're gone. And once you go over $1 million a year, if the president wanted to go after the people who make a lot of money, well, this does it. Over $1 million, the average income tax increase for that group is about $123,000 extra each year paid in income tax.

But I do want to point out something, Wolf, very important here. That's a big group. People who make just over $1 million, they're not going to pay nearly that much. And people who make tens of millions may pay a lot more. But if it goes, as it's written right now, that's the first read on what it's going to cost folks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good explanation, Tom. Thanks very, very much.

I want to immediately go back to Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill. She's getting some more information about what the Republicans might be doing.

What are you learning, Dana?

BASH: Wolf, remember, you and I talked just a little while ago about the fact that generally the process that leaders in the House use to try to whip votes is to call other votes, to talk to members face-to-face.

And that is exactly what is happening. What just happened in this meeting, which is still going on, is that the House speaker, we are told, presented his members with two options. The first option is to add a package of spending cuts, an amendment, to the Senate bill. But what they are going to do is they are going to first whip it, meaning they're going to make sure that there are the 218, or maybe 217, depending on who's voting, but that a majority of the members voting exist before they even add that.

If they do find those votes, the House speaker said that they will take a vote on that tonight, as part of the Senate bill, and send it back to the Senate. But what's very interesting here is that as part of presenting that option, we are told that the speaker made very clear to his rank and file Republican members that there are risks in that strategy, and there's no guarantee the Senate will act on it.

If they don't find that there are 218 votes, meaning if that reading between the lines message that he clearly sent to them got through to enough of them, then they will take a vote just on the Senate bill, up-or-down vote, no amendments, and they send it and that will be done. And they will do that. All of this, they're going to figure out tonight.

BLITZER: So we have got another few hours to go before we know what's going on.

By the way, Dana, we checked earlier in the day with a clerk of the House, this current 112th Congress. Apparently, there's a vacant seat in the House, so I think the magic number is 217 right now, as opposed to 218, which is normally the number you need for majority.

BASH: That's right, 217 right now, but it also depends on the members voting, which is why I said that. There are a lot of people who are retiring who might not even be here.

BLITZER: Right. So it could be less.

BASH: It could be less, exactly.

BLITZER: That's a great point. We will watch the roll call, as we always watch these roll calls, see when they decide to do. No decision yet. We will stay in close touch with you, Dana Bash, doing an excellent job for all of us.

Who are the winners, who are the losers so far in this bruising political battle? We will take a closer look at that. Stand by.

And the serious questions about Hillary Clinton's future raised by the health crisis she's facing right now. We will have the latest on the blood clot in her head.


BLITZER: Republicans in the House of Representatives, they're meeting right now. They're trying to figure out what to do as far as the Senate legislation that passed overwhelmingly last night to avert that so-called fiscal cliff.

Let's get the latest on where the Republicans are moving right now.

Joining us, a Republican congressman from Ohio. Steve LaTourette is joining us.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. STEVEN LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: Good to see you.

BLITZER: I know you have been catching closely what's going to happen. What's your sense? Where are we going in the next few hours?

LATOURETTE: Well, the House is going to go into session in about 15 minutes to vote on a serious of very important matters, naming post offices all across the country.

But we will use that time, the whip will use that time to find out where the conference is on a couple of different proposals. Dana's reporting is right on the money. She has the proposals identified, and then at that moment in time, the leadership will make a decision as to which version to put on the floor later this evening, one that would have some spending cuts in an amendment and the other one would be just an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed package.

BLITZER: If there's just an up-or-down vote on what the Senate passed last night, 89-8, overwhelmingly passed in the Senate, let's say that comes up without any amendments and 150 Democrats vote in favor. Let's say 150 Democrats. You need 67 Republicans. Are there 67 Republicans, you included, who would vote in favor of it?

LATOURETTE: Well, I can count myself. I would vote in favor of it.

And I think there's a growing sense that, you know, nobody's singing Kenny Rogers, but you do have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. We have been beaten in this fight. I'm very sad that there are spending reductions.


BLITZER: They're walking away. Hold on a second. I see the speaker just walking past the cameras.

They have broken up that meeting, apparently. They have just left. You saw the speaker and other members, they're walking out. I assume we're going to get more information momentarily.

But go ahead. Sorry for interrupting your thought.

LATOURETTE: No, that's OK.

But I think we have been whooped in this round. I would like to see spending cuts. This bill actually spends more money. But the choice that as Republicans we have now is do we sort of push this to the next level and make sure that taxes go up for, you know, 99 percent of Americans? And that's really not a good choice to have.

BLITZER: I guess I'm sort of confused right now.

What has a better chance? And you know the House of Representatives. You have served there for a long time. You're retiring right now. This is going to be one of your final votes. What has a better chance of passing, a clean bill, the bill that passed the Senate last night, or amendments with more spending cuts, which would throw the legislation back to the Senate and maybe disrupt it completely?

LATOURETTE: Well, that's the dilemma we find ourselves in.

And it's probably the Senate bill has the better shot, because if they put on the floor an amendment to the Senate bill, it's going to have to pass with only Republican votes. We have been a little vote- challenged in this Congress in terms of getting 217, 218 of our members to row in the same direction.

But you do have, then, on the straight up-or-down vote, on the Senate bill, you do have, I would trust, a majority of the Democrats and I think you can get enough Republican votes to pass this thing.

BLITZER: To pass the Senate version...


BLITZER: ... that passed last night.

Here's why I'm still a little confused. I get conflicting information. Did the speaker, John Boehner, promise that whatever passed the Senate, if it was a bipartisan majority, he would let that come up as is in the House, or did he hold out the notion that there could still be amendments?

LATOURETTE: No, he always said that if the Senate sent us something, we would do what's in regular order, and either vote on it, up-or-down, amend it, or reject it. He never said, we're just going to have a straight up-or-down vote on the Senate bill. He said, we're going to decide what to do with it, and that was the subject of the meeting that's just been concluded.

BLITZER: Because you know a lot of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate right now, they say if you send back a new version with amendments, more spending cuts, or whatever new language, they're not even going to consider it in this Congress. They may have to wait until the next Congress. And who knows what the economic dislocations of that could be, when the markets open tomorrow.

People are nervous right now. Hundreds of millions of Americans are going to see a tax increase if you guys don't get your act together.

LATOURETTE: Well, you know, and that's exactly the calculation that's going on.

I would say I wouldn't throw all the burden on John Boehner and the House of Representatives. This bill that they gutted and sent over here last night after midnight has been sitting in the Senate for about six months. So I think they could have acted on it earlier, but now the choice that we have is exactly as you have described it. Do we horse around and let taxes go up on almost everybody in the country, or do we save those taxpayers that we can?

BLITZER: I asked Darrell Issa, the Republican congressman from California, earlier where we stands on all of this. His answer was intriguing. Listen to this.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm with Eric Cantor.

I can't vote for it in its current form and for a good reason. The Senate, the president and the vice president failed to meet their obligation, their own stated obligation which was to bring us a balanced bill, one that had tax adjustment, yes, but also had spending cuts. This one fails at that and fails badly.


BLITZER: He says he's with Eric Cantor.

Do you sense, and you're a straight talker, a straight shooter, Congressman, there's a split, there's a disagreement between the speaker and the majority leader, between Eric Cantor, the majority leader, and John Boehner, the speaker?

LATOURETTE: Well, I think there's an disagreement, but I do have to say they're getting along better than they ever have since I have been here. But there's been a disagreement, and then the leader did say he couldn't support the bill.

The speaker historically doesn't vote, so I don't know if we will ever know how he feels about it. But the speaker is a pragmatist and he's an institutionalist. And it was always -- if you go back to plan B a week ago, it was always his desire to save as many taxpayers from a tax increase as he could. And I think his calculation is that that's where we're faced tonight. I would just add, parenthetically, I went to the same high school as Congressman Issa, Cleveland Heights High School, and we haven't agreed on much since.

BLITZER: Did you agree in high school? Were you there at the same time?

LATOURETTE: Well, I didn't see him a lot in class, so I don't know.


BLITZER: He's done all right for himself. You have done all right -- for himself.


BLITZER: I'm sure that Cleveland Heights High School can be pretty proud of both of you.

Hey, Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

LATOURETTE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, who are the winners, who are the losers in this brutal fiscal cliff battle? We will have a closer look at that, plus the breaking news from Capitol Hill, much more coming up right after this.


BLITZER: There it is, Capitol Hill. They're meeting late into the night on this January 1. Lots at stake.

We're following the breaking news on Capitol Hill, where Republicans, House Republicans, they are weighing whether to amend the Senate's fiscal cliff bill, send it back to the Senate for more action. That could be the kiss of death during this current session. Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have grave concerns about this measure, the drama surrounding it, and their criticism is blunt.


ISSA: I wish I could say that this was a proud moment, a moment in which we started the year off right, in which the 1st of January was the first of a great many good things. It isn't. We're kicking the can down the road.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: We're about to have a hold- your-nose vote here in the House of Representatives. And many of us are going to wrestle with the problem of making perfect be the enemy of the good.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Senator Mitch McConnell observed -- quote -- "This shouldn't be the model for how we do things around here" -- end quote -- and then the Senate proceed like a bull in a China closet anyway. The Senate boasts it is America's deliberative body. Today, that claim rings hollow.

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON: This agreement represents absolutely the least we could have done under these circumstances and tragically institutionalizes for the next Congress the madness of short-term frenzy around artificial deadlines that drives the American public crazy.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: It's New Year's Day, 2013. What an excellent time for Congress to make at least New Year's resolution. Congress is addicted to spending money. Maybe Congress should join Spending Anonymous.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: A New Year's deal for New Year's Day. Or is it Groundhog Day? Because like the movie "Groundhog Day," this government in two months will arrive at another crisis of debt, of spending, and taxes.


BLITZER: All right, let's get some more with our CNN contributor Ryan Lizza. He's the correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

This is the actual bill that passed the Senate last night.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: How many of them you think read it?

BLITZER: It's 150 and what -- 150 pages or so of gobbledygook, if you will. There's a lot of words in here, hard to understand what's going on.

But there is a piece -- long pieces of paper of this bill. If the House of Representatives amends this, adds a few more pages, what are the chances that tomorrow or Thursday morning, the Senate, the current Senate, will pass it?

LIZZA: I have to say, it seems very low.

I think the vote tonight that House Republicans have is a vote to kill this bill or not. If you're voting yes on the amended bill, if that gets to the floor, then you're voting to kill the legislation and end these fiscal cliff negotiations, because, I think, as Boehner seems to have pointed out from the reporting that Dana has been doing in the conference, he was suggesting to his conference that if we vote for an amended version, it's highly unlikely that the Senate is going to -- is going to -- is going to pick it back up.

BLITZER: The question is, though, let's say they come up...


LIZZA: ... vote to kill it.

BLITZER: Let's say they come up with an amended version of this bill, right? LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: No Democrats -- maybe one or two -- but basically no Democrats are going to vote in favor. So you need 217 Republicans.


BLITZER: Will there be 217 Republicans who will vote for this plus amendments?

LIZZA: That is the mystery of today. I wish I knew the answer to that. They're not going to bring it to the floor unless they have the votes. The Boehner deal that he just told his conference about was, if he finds he has 217 votes tonight, by going one by one to his members to see how they...

BLITZER: They're caucusing right now. They're counting those heads.

LIZZA: Exactly. If he's got those votes, he brings it to the floor.

BLITZER: Two hundred seventeen.

LIZZA: That goes to the floor, that...

BLITZER: Let's say he doesn't have 217, will they take this up, what passed the Senate last night? I think that would pass.

LIZZA: Exactly. That's what he's saying. He's saying, if he doesn't have those votes, then this goes to the floor. We seem to -- we seem to know that most Democrats would vote for that. And then he has to get...

BLITZER: I've heard 150 Democrats would vote for it. And if he gets 67 Republicans, you've got a deal.

LIZZA: And LaTourette, who was just on, suggested that those 67 Republicans are there. So high drama tonight, to see if this whip count comes through. Because if we see the amended version on the floor, this deal is dead.

BLITZER: What does this say about John Boehner as speaker of the House? What's been going on, not just over the past 24 hours, but over the past few days?

LIZZA: He's got a very complicated conference, and he's not a super empowered, powerful speaker. There was a time in American politics where the speaker of the House could tell his conference or his caucus what to do. Those days are over.

And John Boehner, you know, to be fair to him, when he first came in had been, he said, "I'm going to dissolve power. I'm going to make my committee chairmen more powerful, and I'm going to listen to the will of the conference on things like that." And so he does not have control over the Republican conference. I mean, this is more proof of that than we could ever...

BLITZER: I know that I covered the House for a long time. There are a lot of speakers -- you know, Sam Rayburn would never have allowed anything like this to go on.

LIZZA: Denny Hastert. Just go back to the Bush era of Republican leadership. They would -- if they wanted the votes, they found the votes.

Now, a lot of Tea Party Republicans who have come in since then, they -- they didn't like the way things were done back then. They didn't like the all-powerful...

BLITZER: Speaker.

LIZZA: ... speaker, because they thought that that led to big -- big deficits and spending.

BLITZER: If he lets this come up, as is, what the Senate passed last night, and doesn't have a majority of the majority, which was the Denny Hastert so-called rule, that would be significant.

LIZZA: That would be significant. Because he's then allowing Democrats to put this across the finish line.

The other thing is, what are the spending cuts? Nobody has seen the amendments to this Bill, these supposed amendments that are these detailed spending cuts. It's kind of got lost in this whole process. If they are going to amend this Bill with very specific spending cuts, up until now, no one's outlined them.

BLITZER: Don't they need 72 hours to let the members review? That was the rule they passed, but I guess they're going to throw that away.

LIZZA: They're going to throw that away.

BLITZER: If they have the 217 votes without Democrats.

LIZZA: This would clearly violate that rule. And I think in the past, Boehner has said, if there was some kind of emergency, then they would waive that rule.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, and I think I agree with you, the chances are, at least right now, a little bit better, that they don't have the 217 for amendments, but they probably will have enough to pass what the Senate passed?

LIZZA: You know, I'm not sure I agree with that.

BLITZER: You're not ready to go down...

LIZZA: Look, I think there are enough Republicans in the House who want to vote for a Bill with spending cuts, if that's the choice they have. BLITZER: Even -- even if that means you're effectively going over the cliff, and millions and millions of Americans are going to see their taxes going up?

LIZZA: I think that's where the House Republican conference is right now. I could be wrong, but I think that's -- that's what we've learned today, is they don't like this legislation. And if the choice is between a Bill with spending cuts and one without cuts, most Republicans will choose the spending cuts Bill. I could be wrong, I hope I'm wrong, and I think it's better for the country if we get a deal and this gets resolved tonight.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens and we'll be watching it every step of the way. Ryan, thanks very much.

Financial markets around the world, they're watching, as well. They will soon be opening to news, the deal on the fiscal cliff could be in limbo right now. It actually is in limbo. So what will they make of all the uncertainty going on here in Washington? We're going around the world to get some reaction.


BLITZER: All right. They're trying to figure out in the House of Representatives right now what to do. Will they simply consider the Senate legislation that passed overwhelmingly in the middle of the night? Will there be an up and down vote on that? If that passes, it goes to the president for his signature, the fiscal cliff being averted.

On the other hand, will they decide to go ahead and try to pass some amendments, spending cut amendments, which could disrupt this entire process and maybe kill it in this current Congress. Tax increases would go forward for millions and millions of Americans. We're watching what's happening in the Congress right now.

World financial markets are watching very closely, as well. They'll soon start reopening after the new year holiday, beginning shortly in Asia, later overnight in Europe, followed by Wall Street in the morning.

Let's go to our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, in New York. Ali, what will make investors take a look at this fiscal cliff uncertainty and decide to buy or sell? What's going to happen?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're really going to wait for the same thing we're waiting for. And that is some certainty. So at this point, as you've been reporting so well for a few hours, we don't actually know whether the House is going to vote or America is fully going over the fiscal cliff, at least for a few days.

Now, we've got only Australia open at the moment and New Zealand. These are not markets that will give us a real sense of how the rest of the world is going to go, and that's because those markets are influenced by other forces. We're looking for Seoul, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, all of which will be open within two hours -- an hour and a half to two hours, to see how markets are reacting to whatever deal we have.

Now hopefully, within two hours, we'll have had some news as to whether or not this is going to be an up or down vote in the House of Representatives, which means everybody gets to vote, whether they're in favor of it or not, or whether it's going to be a whipped vote that could either fail or go back to the Senate with amendments.

So at the moment, Wolf, international investors are looking at exactly the same thing we're looking at. If the U.S. fully goes over the fiscal cliff, the net result is going to be a pullback on growth in the United States, and that is going to be bad for international markets and for international investors.

If, on the other hand, the deal that was approved in the Senate goes through, then we are probably looking at a pullback in expected growth of about half of 1 percent, not as serious, and that will probably be positive for markets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When Wall Street opens tomorrow, let's say there's no deal, and the uncertainty is there, should we be bracing for one of those big collapses, hundreds of point loss on the Dow Jones?

VELSHI: You know, listen, if I had that kind of good information, I'd be calling this report in from my yacht, Wolf. But let me tell you what I do think.

The S&P 500 closed about 13.4 percent higher for the year, which as you know is higher than the long-term average. It would have been much higher than that. It would have been 15 percent or more, except that last week, it gave up a lot of gains on fears of getting no deal.

So it's entirely possible that a good amount of this is already priced into the markets. I think you'll sense some disappointment if we don't have a deal.

It all depends. Does the House come out tonight and say, no deal on anything, we don't like anything about this deal, we're going to have to start from scratch? Or is this going to be one of those things that the new Congress will take up and maybe we'll get resolution within a few days.

Again, the flavor and shape of what we get out of the House of Representatives tonight will influence trading tomorrow. I want to caution people, we've already got future trading for U.S. markets underway, but you never want to look at futures this many hours before a market opens. I would -- I only tend to lack at futures within two to three hours of a market opening to get a sense of how that market's going to do.

So I'm going to be watching Asian markets to get a sense of how they're behaving around 8 or 8:30 this evening, Eastern Time. But again, without solid information, we don't want to look to markets for guidance, when really the guidance we're looking for is going to come out of the House of Representatives.

BLITZER: I know you're filling in for Erin Burnett at the top of the hour. Give us a little preview. What's coming up on "OUTFRONT"?

VELSHI: Well, we're going to be doing a lot of the same stuff you've been doing, Wolf. We'll follow very closely with our great team of reporters in Washington and our analysts as to what is going to be going on tonight. Hopefully, we will have some development, some sense of whether that whipping of the Republican caucus is coming through.

We'll also talk to Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. You know, he was the one who said, why don't we agree to this deal exactly, a deal that deals with taxes, and then focus on how to deal with spending? So we're going to get his opinion and see like Steve LaTourette, who you just talked to, which way he's leaning in this deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We'll be watching at the top of the hour. Ali Velshi, doing excellent, excellent work for all of us.

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, delivers the country's first new year's address in nearly two decades. Mary Snow is here. She's got more on that and some of the day's other top stories -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Kim Jong-un is calling for what he says should be an all-out struggle to overhaul his country's destitute economy, as well as an easing of tensions with South Korea.

But the young leader also praised last month's controversial launch of a long-range rocket. The launch was widely condemned by the United Nations and considered to be a test of ballistic missile technology. We'll have much more on this later in the program.

The Iranian military claims it has successfully test fired a number of advanced missiles and air defense systems during exercises near the key strategic oil passageway of the Strait of Hormuz. The exercises are part of what Iran says is six days of naval maneuvers. They come as the country is facing increased pressure from the United States and international community over its controversial nuclear program.

A royal Dutch drilling rig has run aground on an Alaskan island after being cut free by the tug boat towing it during a fierce winter storm. The Coast Guard says the towing lines were cut to ensure the safety of the boat's crew. Shell says hundreds of people are actively involved in response efforts and evaluating the next steps. So far, no leaks have been reported. The rig's 18-person crew was evacuated on Saturday.

The governor of Pennsylvania says the state plans to file a federal lawsuit against the NCAA for what it considers illegal sanctions against Penn State University. The governor says he'll reveal more details at a news conference scheduled for tomorrow morning. The NCAA filed sanctions against the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

And take a look at this dramatic video. It's a number of people falling through a partially frozen lake in California. They were all trying to rescue a sledder who fell in before them. Eventually, and thankfully, everyone was pulled to safety. Our affiliate stations report the lake will be closed until March as a result of the near tragedy. Very lucky that everybody got out OK.

BLITZER: They certainly are. And it's pretty dramatic video. Mary, thank you.

We're keeping a very close eye on Capitol Hill right now. The House of Representatives may -- repeat, may -- vote on the fiscal cliff tonight. We're watching it. The ramifications for all of us, enormous.

Also ahead, some same-sex couples are ringing in the new year with wedding bells. Gay marriage now legal in the state of Maryland.


BLITZER: Many Americans are ringing in the new year with new laws that took effect at the stroke of midnight. And for some same- sex couples in Maryland, that means wedding bells. Brian Todd has details.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an historic day for social change in the United States. Today, Maryland became the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line -- that's the historic line dividing north and south in America -- the first state south of that line to have legalized same-sex marriage.

And this is the place that lent so much symbolism to it all, city hall here in Baltimore. At just after midnight, several same-sex couples got married right here. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake officiated at their ceremonies. Some of them spoke to reporters. Take a listen.

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

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

TODD: Now, Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, went against several leaders of his own Catholic faith, including the archbishop of Baltimore, to push this through the state legislature.

All in all, nine states in America, including the District of Columbia, have now legalized same-sex marriage. President Obama's home state of Illinois may be next. There is an initiative that may be introduced in the coming days in Illinois. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to review two cases, two challenges to federal and state laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. So a lot coming up legislatively and at the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Other laws taking effect this year, in Illinois, middle schoolers -- get this -- they must now learn how to use a defibrillator. It's not illegal to possess or sell shark fins. And for sex offenders to dress up as Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or hand out candy on Halloween.

In Florida, it's no longer illegal to flash your headlights to warn other drivers of a speed trap.

In Oregon, teachers are now required to report suspected student bullies.

And in California, employers can't require employees or job applicants, for that matter, to disclose their social media passwords. Illinois passed a similar measure.

All eyes on Capitol Hill right now, where the House of Representatives may be voting on the fiscal cliff in the next few hours. Stand by. We're watching.

Also ahead, a dangerous blood clot between her brain and her skull. What will it mean for Hillary Clinton's future politically and personally? We're taking a closer look.


BLITZER: News of a blood clot between Hillary Clinton's brain and her skull now raising some questions about her future. Will her current health crisis have any impact at all? CNN's Mary Snow is back with this part of the story.

First, what's the latest on Hillary Clinton's condition, Mary?

SNOW: Wolf, her doctors haven't updated her condition since disclosing the details of the blood clot that put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the hospital Sunday, and saying she's making excellent progress.

Now, an expert in blood clots told us, if left untreated, these clots can be very serious, but he said the fact it's being addressed is a good sign things should return to normal.


SNOW (voice-over): On a day when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposed to be getting ready to return to work, she spent another day at a New York hospital. Her doctors say they are treating her with blood thinners after discovering a blood clot in the vein between the brain and skull behind the right ear. They expect her to make a full recovery and say she did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage.

Dr. Jack Ansell is not involved in Secretary Clinton's case but has treated cases like hers, and calls them rare. He's the chairman of the Department of Medicine at Lenox Hill hospital.

(on camera) What does this mean for the future?

DR. JACK ANSELL, CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: I think her future is as good as her past. She should recover from this. She will be treated with blood thinners. I can't say how long, because I don't know all of the circumstances but certainly, a minimum of three to six months. It may well be longer. It could, in some rare cases, could be life-long, but many patients are on blood thinners for life for other conditions. She should recover fully and get back to work.

SNOW (voice-over): And that work is grueling. Hillary Clinton has traveled to more than 100 countries as secretary of state and logged close to a million miles during that time. Dr. Ansell says, while travel is something to watch out for among people who suffer blood clots, most often in the leg veins, which Mrs. Clinton did have in the late 1990s, he doesn't see her travel schedule being an impediment.

ANSELL: I think the travel is probably more an issue of with the blood clot that she had back about 12 years ago in her leg. And so anybody who has had a blood clot, they're always at risk for developing another one, and the risk is probably a little greater than if they never had a blood clot.

So I think travel is potentially an issue for the secretary, but I would imagine that when she travels, she's not sitting in a coach seat cramped up and sitting still.

SNOW: Secretary Clinton is planning to step down as President Obama's second term begins. While she has repeatedly said she is not interested in running for president again, she is viewed as the Democratic favorite in 2016, should she choose to run.


SNOW: Wolf, doctors familiar with these types of rare clots says -- say that it is unlikely it developed as a side effect of Secretary Clinton's recent concussion. Some speculate it could be tied to another underlying condition or perhaps simply dehydration. Her aides say she experienced that after a stomach virus a few weeks ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She had a stomach virus, the flu. She was dehydrated. She fainted, then she got the concussion as a result of falling and hitting her head. So we wish her, of course, a speedy, speedy recovery. Hope that she gets back into action very soon. Mary, thank you.

When we come back, one of the country's most important documents makes a rare appearance to mark a very significant milestone.


BLITZER: The 16th president of the United States certainly has been getting a lot of attention lately. First there was the release of the popular film "Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis. And now the country is marking the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The document, which placed freeing the slaves at the top of Abraham Lincoln's wartime agenda, was read aloud today at the National Archives here in Washington.


BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON, ARCHIVIST: That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then henceforth and forever free.


BLITZER: The document was transferred from the State Department to the National Archives back in 1936. It's so fragile that it can be displayed only a few days out of the year. One of the most important documents in our history.

I'll be back later tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern. I'm filling in for Piers Morgan later tonight. We're watching what's happening in the U.S. House of Representatives. Deal or no deal? We don't know right now. The stakes, though, are enormous.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.