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New York and New Jersey Members of Congress Addressed Sandy Relief Bill Issue; Flu Shots for Hospital Personnel Made Mandatory in Some Areas

Aired January 2, 2013 - 15:36   ET


DON LEMON, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Several New York representatives, New York and New Jersey area representatives, among them Peter King who blasted the House Speaker and his comments earlier today about not voting on that Sandy relief package, $60 million last night.

Wolf Blitzer joins me now from Washington. Wolf, you heard our Dana Bash ask the members if they were going to vote for the House Speaker. I think it's tomorrow when he -- in fact, the vote goes up for his re- election. Do you think it's in jeopardy?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I don't think it's in jeopardy. I think the Speaker will be -- assuming he wants it and I believe he does, I think that the Republicans will rally around the Speaker, even though many of them disagreed with his vote yesterday in favor of the fiscal cliff Senate legislation, including his number two, Eric Cantor, disagreed. He voted against it. Kevin McCarthy, the number three, voted against it.

Did get support from Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, the chairman of the House budget committee, so there is a split within the House Republican leadership.

But I suspect that John Boehner will get the speakership. I don't think there's going to be, necessarily, an open revolt led by Eric Cantor or anyone else against John Boehner.

Look, he's got his own style as Speaker. He's not the speaker that demands everyone line up completely around him. He tells the Republican caucus, go ahead and vote as you please and then we will move on, so that's a different style than some of his predecessors.

But he thinks he's doing the right thing and I suspect he will get himself re-elected as Speaker of the next House, the 213th Congress.

LEMON: You heard Chris Christie, I'm sure, Governor Chris Christie, I mean, he said he felt like he was betrayed. He said this is why people hate Congress and he had some very harsh words for the House Speaker, as well.

What did you make of his comments, Wolf?

BLITZER: He was tough. He was brutally tough on Chris Christie. He really blasted the Speaker of the House. He blasted the Republican leadership in Washington. He's furious that last night they didn't go ahead and pass the legislation, the spending to help the victims of the Superstorm Sandy. And he was blunt.

Look, earlier in the day, we heard Peter King, the chairman of the House homeland security committee, the Republican congressman from Long Island, make similar statements and several other New Jersey and New York lawmakers, really blasted -- Republicans blasted their own leadership.

But now they seem, at least for the time being, to have patched it over. They think they have a commitment from the Speaker, from the majority leader to go ahead and pass this legislation, pass the funding. We'll see if they have the votes to do it.

As you know, they want $60 billion. A lot of Republicans in the House, they think $27 billion, maybe $30 billion, that's more than enough. And they also want to make sure, if you appropriate that kind of money, you pay for it. You find ways to cut spending elsewhere in order to pay for $30 billion or $60 billion.

So, it's not a done deal yet. We'll see what happens when there's actually a role call on the floor of the House of Representatives, the new House, which will be sworn in Thursday at noon.

But these guys did emerge from their meeting with the Speaker and the majority leader reassured and you heard a very different tone from Peter King and company, emerging from this meeting than we heard from them going into the meeting.

LEMON: Absolutely. Wolf Blitzer, thank you. Appreciate your analysis.

Speaking of that meeting and Peter King and the rest, let's go back to our Dana Bash. Dana was asking some very tough questions. You asked about the Speaker and you have details on the vote.

Dana, we hear $9 billion will be voted on Friday and then, on the first legislative session, the first day of the legislative session, $51 billion will be voted on then.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right and that day will be January 15th. So, at the end of January 15th, assuming all goes as planned now, New York and New Jersey and other Sandy-affected areas will get the $60 billion that was requested and that was already moving through Congress.

So, this is something that happened very quickly. This meeting didn't last very long, Don. They went in at 3:00 Eastern and they came out about 20 minutes later. The House Speaker, joined by Eric Cantor, told them a plan that they clearly already had in motion.

So, they -- as Wolf was saying, a very, very different tone here. They were absolutely furious. I mean, that just is an understatement. I think the lesson here is, you know, do not anger New Yorkers and people from New Jersey who are already really upset and really angry because you will get a backlash and that's exactly what happened.

And what was most noteworthy to me was the kind of anger that came from the Speaker's fellow Republicans, never mind the Democrats, who are from that region.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, I have to say Chris Christie was the picture and sound of the day because he let them -- you know, first it was Peter King who let the House Speaker have it. And then Chris Christie comes up afterwards and goes far beyond what Peter King had to say about John Boehner.

BASH: It was unbelievable. I was e-mailing with people here on Capitol Hill, Republican sources, saying, have you ever seen anything like this? And the answer was no.

He was not only slamming Republicans, not only slamming the House Republican leadership, but very, very personal, very pointed against the House Speaker. It was remarkable, saying that he called the House Speaker four times at 11:30 last night, didn't get a call back. So, very -- it was very pointed.

But let me just sort of give you -- make sure our viewers understand why this really happened, the politics behind this. And it is because, all day long, and it was what I was trying to get at with these members who just had this press conference, all day long, yesterday, the House Speaker was really getting pummeled by his rank and file Republicans in meetings about the fact that this fiscal cliff package, which finally passed last night, didn't have enough spending cuts in it.

So, he, the Speaker, made a last minute discussion after this toxic vote that went on last night to just say, you know what? I'm not going to do this. It does not make political sense for him to put a vote on the floor that has $60 billion in new spending that is not paid for.

And he ended up leaving. It was certainly a surprise to all of these members from the region and also to the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, who had been shepherding this through. So, that's the back story of how this happened.

LEMON: All right, Dana Bash, thank you very much. And, Dana, why is it always the New Yorkers and New Jersians who are so outspoken? Because coming up after the break, Senator Chuck Schumer joins me. Boy, I wonder what he's going to have to say about this mess.


LEMON: Congress going down to the wire, again, to help Hurricane Sandy victims. We just learned the House will vote Friday on a $9 billion bill to help Sandy victims and, by January 15th, on another $51 billion.

Speaker Boehner met with Congressman Peter King and other Republican lawmakers from the effected states this hour.

And New York Senator Charles Schumer, Chuck Schumer, joins us now by phone from Long Island, New York.

Senator, is this enough? I mean, voting on part of the package on Friday and then part later on, are you OK with that?

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, look, it would have been better had they voted on the full package today. That didn't happen for all the reasons that Dana Bash and others mentioned. And at least this provides a clear path to having the $60 billion signed into law by the end of January.

Are there going to be still some bumps in the road? Well, that always happens in the Congress, but now we see a total change in attitude of the Speaker, not just pulling the bill, but making an effort to get it moved rather quickly. And that is a very positive development.

And I think, in fact, the results of what has happened in the last day where the whole nation really, not just New York and New Jersey, was just sort of outraged that we were leaving these people in the lurch, the homeowners, the small business owners, the hundreds of thousands of people in New York and New Jersey who've been hurt so badly by Sandy, may actually make it a little easier to get the whole bill done.

LEMON: And, Senator, it seems no one could understand it. I mean, me as just a bystander, a layperson looking at this, and especially many lawmakers.

For one, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just ripped John Boehner earlier. I want to get your reaction after this.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Every day that we don't begin to get this aid are days that we can't help people get back in their homes, get businesses reopened, get our economy re-moving in this state again.

Those are the real consequences of it. Inability for people to plan about what their future is going to be. It's absolutely disgraceful.

And I have to tell you, this used to be something that was not political. You know, disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with, but now in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-upsmanship. Everything is a possibility of -- a potential piece of bait for the political game and it's just -- it is why the American people hate Congress.


LEMON: Pretty harsh words. And you know what he said that got my attention? When he said I feel betrayed by members of Congress. And if you -- have you ever felt betrayed? Those are some pretty strong words.

SCHUMER: Yep. Well, look, he said it right and, you know, he didn't say it explicitly, but this is aimed at all the Republicans, his own party, the hard right people who don't believe in disaster aid anymore.

And the bottom line is I was just -- and I just wanted to sort of put in real perspective. I was just out at Long Beach, Long Island, a middle class community, firefighters, police officers, teachers, average folks, 35,000 people. There's hardly a house that wasn't severely damaged. Water came in from three different sides.

And they were just shocked. I went out there to reassure them we would get something done, but Christie is right. You can't get a contract -- to sign a contract to redo your house unless they know there's going to be federal dollars of reimbursement behind it.

You can't get a bank to give a small business a loan unless they know that there are going to be federal dollars behind it.

So, it just stops recovery in its track and you have so many homeowners waiting to rebuild, living with relatives. This is two months after the storm happened and, without this aid, it just -- it's devastating for them, average folks.

And I think that Governor Christie hit a chord. This is something that has never been political, that has never been in dispute and you can't let a group of 50 or 100 hard right people who don't believe in a hundred-year tradition of disaster aid run the show here. Governor -- Secretary -- Speaker Boehner learned that the hard way.

LEMON: Senator Chuck Schumer, thank you.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: Get a flu shot or you're fired. That's the new policy in Goshen at Goshen Hospital just south of South Bend, Indiana.

There are some exceptions, though, for religious and personal beliefs, but not everyone was given a pass. Sue Schrock is a hospice nurse whose strong beliefs led her to skip the shot and now she's out of a job.


SUE SCHROCK, FIRED HOSPICE NURSE: I just feel like it's a toxin that I don't want in my body. There are side effects with that. There are no guarantees that it's even going to protect you.


LEMON: Six nurses were fired and two quit rather than take that shot. Meantime, the hospital says the health and safety of the patients is their top priority.

Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, back again. Elizabeth, these nurses, well, they treat some of the sickest patients and, if they pass along the flu, the results could be very serious, couldn't they?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. People think of the flu usually as just a nuisance. You're sick for a couple of days. You miss a little bit of work.

But when people who are really sick, people who are sick enough to be in the hospital, get the flu, it can kill them. On average in this country, Don, 36,000 people die from the flu, many of them are hospital patients.

So, a nurse might say, oh, it's against my personal beliefs. Oh, I think it's a toxin, which it's not, by the way, and they can have those beliefs, but what hospitals are saying is, look, have your own little -- you know, have your own beliefs there, but you know what? We don't want you working in the hospital because you might pass flu on to our patients.

LEMON: Is this becoming more common nationwide?

COHEN: It is more and more common. Yes, it is.

What happened is that hospitals realized that, really, a minority of their patients were getting -- a minority of their health care workers, rather, were getting vaccinated.

So, take a look at these numbers. If you go back to 2002, only 38 percent of health care workers were getting a flu vaccine and, in 2005, they said, let's change this.

So, in 2008, you can see, the numbers went up And then they started to get more aggressive about it and, as you can see, actually firing people. So then in 2011, those numbers went up to 67 percent. I expect we'll see those numbers go even higher.

LEMON: Is there an alternative to not getting a flu shot?

COHEN: You know, not really for these health care workers. I mean, they could, let's say, put on a mask and, so, they wouldn't be breathing directly on these patients, but mask are not as much of a sure thing as a flu vaccine.

Plus, you'd have to work eight-hours-a-day with a mask on which is very uncomfortable. And, so, what they found is that people take them off which, of course, defeats the purpose. So, they're really isn't a good substitute for getting a vaccine.

LEMON: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much/

COHEN: Thanks.

LEMON: An Arizona woman could face the death penalty, accused of killing her boyfriend. Her trial started today and she says she's going to walk out of the courthouse free. Hear why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Never mind the cherry mug shot. Forget the flawless composure. Prosecutors say this Arizona woman is a twisted killer who should die by execution.

Jodi Arias, now 32, has spent four-and-a-half years in prison and, today, she went on trial.

She initially said she wasn't at the scene of her boyfriend's slaying, but then she changed her story and I want you to take a listen, if you would.


JODI ARIAS, ACCUSED MURDERER: I witnessed Travis being attacked by two other individuals.


ARIAS: I don't know who they were. I couldn't pick them out in a police lineup.


So, this (INAUDIBLE). Twenty-seven stab wounds, a slash to the throat and a bullet to the head of Travis Alexander whom Arias dated.

After a digital card emerged that emerged showed the dead body and also showed the couple having sex on the day of slaying, Arias changed her story again. She now says, yes, she did kill Travis Alexander and did so in self defense.

"In Session's" Beth Karas is watching the trial's first day in Phoenix.


BETH KARAS, CNN'S "IN SESSION": Thanks, Don. The capital murder trial of Jodi Arias is finally under way in Phoenix, Arizona. The 11 men and 7 women selected as jurors selected before the holidays returned today to hear opening statements.

Jodi Arias, now 32-years-old, is accused of the brutal murder of her ex-boyfriend in June of 2008. She's accused of stabbing him in the heart, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head.

Now, friends of Alexander found his body five days after he was killed in the master bathroom and they immediately pointed a finger at Jody Arias, the ex-girlfriend they say was stalking him and causing him problems.

But when police talked to Arias, she denied having anything to do with it. She denied even seeing him for months.

But that story has changed to what she's asserting now at trial which is self defense. She says she was abusive towards her and she killed him in self defense. Now, among the evidence the state has pointing a finger at Jodi Arias is her blood mixed with his at this bloody scene in his bedroom, but, also, they found Alexander's digital camera in his washing machine and the SIM card had all these deleted photos which they were able to retrieve, and those photos include Jodi Arias with Alexander just hours before he was killed.

The state is seeking the death penalty.

In Phoenix, I'm Beth Karas. Back to you, Don.


LEMON: All right, Beth Karas, thanks.

And just moments away from the closing bell on a big day for Wall Street, let's take a look at the numbers now. The Dow up some 276 points.


LEMON: The miracle of birth captured in one photo, take a look at this. This is the picture of a baby reaching out of her mother's womb to hold the finger of a doctor. He was performing a C-section when the little hand reached out to his.

Her mom is a professional photographer in Arizona, but it was her dad who snapped this photo. They named the baby Nevaeh, "heaven," spelled backwards.

The picture has gone viral with more than 10,000 views online. Really cool.

I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for watching.

Now, time for the "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.