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House Passes Fiscal Cliff Deal; Interview with Congressman Jeff Landry of Louisiana; College Football Matchups; ESPN Sportscaster Back to Work After Serious Burns;

Aired January 2, 2013 - 06:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Down to the wire, but the deal is done. The end of the fiscal cliff is here, but you won't find a lot of happy campers on either side of the aisle this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And armed police officers in every public school. One New Jersey mayor's bold new plan begins today.

SAMBOLIN: Bowled over. New Year's Day means college football. Six bowl games, but the biggest game of them al less than a week away. Are you excited about this? We are.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's get you started. Millions of Americans breathing a little easier this morning now that the House has reluctantly delivered us from the fiscal cliff. The final vote last night: 257 for, 157 against. House members passing the Senate's fiscal cliff deal. Among the yes votes, Speaker John Boehner.

Here is what the deal means: no tax hikes for couples earning less than $450,000 a year. The vast majority of folks in America, your taxes won't go up. Couples making over $300,000 a year their get itemized deductions capped.

Two million Americans will see their unemployment benefits extended for another year. And that costly alternative minimum tax gets permanently adjusted for inflation.

SAMBOLIN: So, the deal does not take up the issue of mandatory federal spending cuts. That has been deferred for two months now.

And then there's the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. We broke through it earlier this week and the Treasury taking emergency steps to keep the government running at least for now. And the president seems to be in no mood for another long, dragged out debacle.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The one thing that I think hopefully in the New Year we'll focus on is seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.


SAMBOLIN: White House Brianna Keilar is joining us live from Washington.

No more drama. So, let's look toward. What can we expect in round two of the fiscal cliff? Will the president get no more drama?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think we can expect the president to get everything he said he didn't want to get there. I think that that's almost the guarantee, and that's the expectation of folks here in Washington.

But what really, Zoraida -- and this is sort of the thing that fascinates me -- the things, I should say, that did not get done are the things that the fiscal cliff were supposed to serve as an incentive to do, and that is really to deal with deficit reduction in a real, like bigger, broad way.

So, we're talking about entitlement reform, which Republicans want. They want to see Medicare, Social Security. These things that are very costly over time, they want to see the spending on those reduced. That was not dealt with.

And also tax reform. Democrats, for instance, on tax reform want to see more revenue brought in. They said they want to maintain or increase the progressivity of the tax code.

So, they want to see more revenue brought in and it's sort of these two things that you would hear President Obama say might be balanced in a way to deal with this. So, the spending cuts, yes, weren't dealt with, only dealt with for two months, and the debt ceiling around the time of the spending cuts will kick in again. The debt ceiling is going to be hit.

So that now will be the incentive for getting some of these bigger things like entitlement reform and tax reform.

SAMBOLIN: And very frustrating for a lot of people. Some liberals and conservatives are actually angry over the deal.

Amy Kremer with the Tea Party Express tweeted this. "I am extremely disgusted with what happened in the House tonight. There will be consequences."

And Tim Noah for "The New Republic" writes, "Your president sold you out. Democrats mostly caved on letting the inheritance tax rise. Oh, and the deal gives Republicans carte blanche to take America hostage all over again in a month or two over raising the debt limit."

Will there be blowback for those who voted for this deal? Because Paul Ryan said, when you like something, you vote for it. I wasn't afraid.

KEILAR: I think there may be some. We'll still have to wait and see, because the election just passed, but I also think that the political pressures are very real when you look at who voted no on this, that there are people who are unhappy with this on both sides.

Some liberal Democrats who felt like that threshold of $450,000, to them that is well above wealthy and they think that they wanted to see President Obama make good on his promise of keeping that threshold at $250,000.

And there were some Republicans who just felt like there weren't enough in the way of spending cuts. They wanted to see some long-term deficit reduction and they didn't get it. So, you lost folks on both sides, really on -- really the outskirts of the political spectrum in the House.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Brianna Keilar, live in Washington, thank you.

ROMANS: Let's talk more with someone who was in the Capitol very late last night. Jeff Landry is a Republican congressman from Louisiana. He voted against the bill. The congressman joins me now.

Good morning, sir.

REP. JEFF LANDRY (R), LOUISIANA: Good morning, Christine.

ROMANS: Why did you vote against it? You didn't like the tax increases on the very rich, or you didn't there were enough spending cuts?

LANDRY: Look, I don't want taxes to go up on anyone, but we're hiding the fact that we're spending way more than we're taking in. We cannot continue to add to these deficits and debt and expect our economy to function properly.

I mean, look, I would like to believe the president is heading us down a road of economic stability. But, look, last night puts us on the road to economic calamity.

ROMANS: Let me ask you this. You don't like the spending part of it. We've got unemployment benefits extended. We've got AMT patch fixed. We've got things in here that are going to cost money, some of which are not paid for.

Would you have rather seen that the people who are on unemployment benefits be cut off on the 29th, as they were, the 2 million? Would you rather see the AMT patch not get fixed? You don't like those provisions?

LANDRY: No, no, no. What I would like to see is I'd like to see us start to work on the $16.8 trillion of deficit, of debt we've acquired on the backs of our future generations and we're spending $1.5 trillion more than we're taking in. That's what I would like to do.

Instead, what we did was we gave the president and Democrats the ability to hang a plaque on their wall and said, guess what? We raised last night for the federal treasury $62 billion a year, which doesn't even dent, it doesn't even dent the amount of money that we're spending out here.

I mean, look, at the end of the day, there's going to be downgrades. It's not going to be -- if Wall Street rallies, it's only going to be temporary until people wake up and recognize that Washington continues to have a spending problem.

ROMANS: There are far too many deadlines ahead of us. I assure you, we have a debt ceiling fight that we're going to have to begin. You have continuing budget resolutions, so many other things coming up.

Do you think this -- the drama around the fiscal cliff, is this something that we're going to see repeated around every single turn when we have to make a fiscal decision in Washington?

LANDRY: Well, the sad part about it is all we did was basically take us off one cliff, only to put us on one that's much higher. I mean, we have a debt ceiling fight coming up, you are absolutely correct. But again, we're still not addressing the core problem, and that is the debt and deficits and amount of money we're spending here in Washington, D.C.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about, you talk a lot about the leadership of the president and your pessimism there. But your own leadership, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor basically contradicting Speaker Boehner yesterday. Ultimately, Boehner voting with the bill.

Are you concerned about the division within your own party?

LANDRY: Look, no. I think we have to have a fighting side our own party to determine what Republicans actually stand for now. I think that what you saw on November 6th was the fact that Republican establishment can't figure out what they stand for. There are conservatives out there. Those people who voted no last night know exactly what they stand for.

Look, I get to leave Washington, D.C. today with my conservative principles intact. Look, if I am wrong about the things that I'm telling you about today, guess what? America is on the road to prosperity.

If I'm right, we're in a big, big problem -- we have a big problem here in this country.

ROMANS: Rate for me the performance of Speaker Boehner, the leadership of Speaker Boehner in this process?

LANDRY: Well, I think, look, I think the president did a great job of getting the speaker to undo everything that he promised he would do, the speaker would do, on -- after the 2010 elections.

I mean, think about it. They did a debt ceiling deal, we gave the president $2.1 trillion. They turned that off. They turned that deal off for two months. That's going to be another fight.

ROMANS: Right. LANDRY: I mean, on top of the sequestration, a debt ceiling fight. And so, you know, the president was able to get the speaker to undo everything he had promised he would do and that he would do for the American people over the last Congress.

ROMANS: Congressman Jeff Landry, Republican who from Louisiana, member of the Tea Party Caucus -- thank you.

LANDRY: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It's 38 minutes past the hour.

Students from Sandy Hook Elementary will go back to school tomorrow for the first time since the shootings nearly three weeks ago. The children won't be back at the same school in Newtown, though. They will attend a few miles away at an old middle school that's in Monroe, Connecticut.

Workers have tried really hard to make the new classrooms look just like the old ones, right down to the crayon that the children will find on their desks. They even revamped the bathrooms so they can accommodate grade schoolers.

There will be an open house today so that the children and their parents can see the new set up before they actually start school.

ROMANS: The Newtown shootings inspired a security change in Marlboro Township, New Jersey. Starting today, there will be police officers in uniformed and armed at every school while the students are there.


MAYOR JONATHAN HORNIK, MARLBORO TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY: My job is to keep the jurisdiction and the people in Marlboro safe. There's 8,000 students in Marlboro Township. And right now, based on advice of my police department, it's safer to have our trained police officers in the schools than not.


ROMANS: Marlboro leaders say police in all of the schools will be the new normal until they come up with a better plan for better security.

SAMBOLIN: Still ahead, college football in the New Year's spotlight. Six bowl games played yesterday, including the grand daddy of them all. We'll look at that and the BCS title game less than a week away now.

You are watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-two minutes past the hour.

If you are a college football fan and can't get enough of the big game, this is your time. Just yesterday, six bowl games are played on what used to be the big bowl date.

Florida State beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, although it wasn't as an easy win as most expected. The score was 31-10.

In the Rose Bowl, Stanford beat Wisconsin 20-14, wining their first Rose Bowl in 40 years. I watched that one. It's Wisconsin's third straight Rose Bowl loss.

Georgia beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. South Carolina beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl. And Northwestern beat Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

But, of course, the big game is next week when number one Notre Dame takes on number two Alabama in the BCS championship game.

And, Koi Weyer, former NFL player for the Atlanta Falcons joins us now to give us his predictions. We also we want all of your analysis here.

So, let's start with tonight -- 21 Louisville versus number three Florida in the Sugar Bowl. So, I just went to, and their quarterback says maybe what they need to do is put an "S" on our chest and cape on our back in order to win this.

What do you think is going to happen?

COY WIRE, SPORTS ANALYST: I think he might be right. This is going to be a little bit of a matchup of David versus Goliath. But the quarterback who said that, Teddy Bridgewater, he is the guy that gives Louisville a chance. He has the heart of a lion, in a defining moment this season against Rutgers. He played with a broken ankle -- I'm sorry, a broken wrist and a sprained ankle, a type of guy anyone can root for.

So, he gives Louisville a chance against that tough Gator defense.

SAMBOLIN: Seriously? A serious chance, like this could be an upset here? Come on.

WIRE: Anything is possible in college football -- you know that, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. All right. So, tomorrow, we have number four Oregon versus Kansas State. So, this may be the most exciting game.

WIRE: It really is. If you have a need for speed and you like watching touchdowns, this is the game for you. The teams combined average over 90 points scored per game. So, this is going to be an epic matchup of speed and flash and flare. Oregon Ducks will come out in their blingy uniforms, and there's a lot of offensive weapons on that team.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coy, I want your prediction on a score for that game.

WIRE: Oh my goodness. 100-99. They're going to put up so many points, Zoarida, it's going to be awesome. I'm going to go with, let's see, 41-38, Oregon Ducks.

SAMBOLIN: 41-38. All right, let's talk about Texas A&M versus Oklahoma. It is the Cotton Ball. So this is the first time that after Donny Manziell won the Heisman Trophy that he is going to actually be playing. What about all of the pressure he's going to be feeling?

WIRE: I don't think this guy plays under pressure. I mean, there is no stage too big for this guy, and the crazy thing, Zoraida, is he's only a freshman. The first freshman to ever win the Heisman. It's going to be fun to watch him against Oklahoma tonight. I'm sorry, in the game.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I absolutely loved him when -- his acceptance speech. He just thanked his parents first and thanked the school and took that for the school. And the youngest guy ever to get that.

All right, so Notre Dame versus Alabama. This is what everybody's talking about. Can Notre Dame pull this off?

WIRE: If anyone can pull this off, it's certainly Notre Dame. This game is going to be a team that seemingly has more talent in Alabama versus the team who seemingly always plays with more heart in Notre Dame. It's going to be a classic matchup of horsepower versus heart power, so I'm really looking forward to this game. What a Cinderella story it has been for Notre Dame.

SAMBOLIN: But a lot of people say they're not going to be able to pull this off. Why do you think they would be?

WIRE: Well, they are going against SEC superpower Alabama, right? And the SEC has won the past six national championships, but if anyone can knock the SEC and Alabama off their high horse, it's Notre Dame, the team who just always funds a way to win, that plays with so much heart and passion, led by Manti Te'o, their outstanding linebacker.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to go for Notre Dame on this one, Coy. We'll see. I'm going to go with you.

Coy Wire, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate it.

WIRE: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right, we've all seen the stories of dumb criminals, but we've got one that takes the cake, and it's all over weed. That's next.


ROMANS: You might file this one under stupid human tricks. Fifty- four year old Shane Lawrence called police to report a home invasion at his house in Palm Coast of Florida. He said two men broke in and tried to rob him. When police arrived, he gave them permission to search the house and it was Lawrence they arrested. Turns out that he was growing 110 marijuana plants in a spare bedroom. Investigators say it was enough to produce 55 pounds of pot with a street value of almost 50 grand.

The guy's judgment just a little hazy, and he thought that might have been a good idea.

SAMBOLIN: When you talk about stupid human tricks, John Berman thought you were talking about him. John Berman in for Soledad O'Brien.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's true. I'm like, oh my gosh, is that how my intro is today? It's the second day of the year and I'm getting stupid human tricks?

All right, in addition to stupid human tricks, we have a great show ahead on STARTING POINT. We're talking about the House passing the fiscal cliff deal, probably appropriate. After serious hours of negotiation, this thing hung in the balance. We're going to talk about the political fallout with people who were in the room. New York Congressman Steve Israel, Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. Jen Psaki, who was the president's traveling press secretary for his reelection campaign. And what about the money hinted this? Economist Diane Swonk, we'll be talking with her also.

Then, after a national outcry, an attorney has stopped a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut over the shooting tragedy at the Newtown elementary school. He will be here to explain why he filed that suit in the first place and where it stands now.

Plus, amazing video. An incredible rescue attempt goes awry. People trying to help a sledder who fell into an icy lake fall in after him. This was mayhem. One man able to use a rope, get everyone out. Amazing video. We'll talk about the whole thing and that man who helped get the guy out of the water, he'll be here live.

SAMBOLIN: Oh great. I was watching that and thinking - oh my, I thought it was a joke at first.

BERMAN: One after the other after the other after the other falling into that ice.

ROMANS: Can't wait to hear the full story, thank you.

All right, in Los Angeles, a photographer killed last night trying to get a shot of Justin Bieber. Police say the man snapped pictures of a sports car he thought the pop star was in and then he was struck and killed while crossing a freeway to get back to his own car. In a statement, Bieber said he was not in the sports car.

Our neighbors to the north are digging out from a major snowfall. City officials in Montreal, Canada, say about half of the city streets are now clear. Record snow blanketed the city a few days ago, making for a picturesque new year.

For many U.S. cities, it was the warmest year on record. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is in the weather center this morning. What's the outlook for the next 90 days though?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, according to the computer models, they're saying a lot of areas are going to be well above normal, all the way from California, the Great Basin, and towards the Gulf Coast region. That doesn't bode well, because a lot of these areas have seen drought conditions.

What about the precipitation for the next 90 days? About the only area is into the Ohio River valley and into the Tennessee valley, but everybody else pretty much looking at near normal precipitation amounts or below normal. So that doesn't bode well either.

We start the beginning of 2013 with kind of a soggy day. Across the mid-Atlantic, most of the precipitation is expected to move out fairly quickly. It's already beginning to taper off. But along the Gulf coast, it's been a different story. In Galveston, they've seen a month's worth, or just about a month's worth of precipitation, in just one day with over four inches reported in the past 24 hours. And quite a different story in the northern tier of New England where readings re double digit below zero. That's the windchill factor. It feels like minus 20 in Caribou, Maine.

What about the actual outside air temperatures? Scranton, 16 degrees right now, and across the Alleghenies, we saw quite a bit of snowfall in the last 24 hours as well. Six to eight inches, those were the common amounts. Atlantic City reporting temperatures now into the 30s. Well, the highs expected for today: Syracuse, 22. Washington, D.C.., you are not going to budge much as far as temperatures are concerned. It's going to stay in the upper 30s and still lingering moisture on the Gulf Coast. And the Santa Anas should dying down just a smidge coming up over the next 12 hours or so, but still could see some wind gusts up around 50 or 60 miles an hour.

Christine, Zoraida.

ROMANS: All right, Karen Maginnis. Happy new year again.

All right, best advice, coming up next. Today from actor Aidan Quinn.


ROMANS: Hannah Storm is working again, less than a month after a propane grill outside her home blew up in her face. The sportscaster suffered serious burns; she lost her eyebrows, eyelashes, a lot of her hair. Storm told ABC News that the flame on the grill was out, but she didn't realize there was propane still in the air, so she tried to relight the flame and it set off a huge explosion. Set her on fire. She told ABC that she yelled to her 15-year-old daughter who was in the kitchen, "Mommy is on fire. You have to call 911."

Yesterday, she got some false eyelashes, some hair extensions; she was back at work hosting the Rose Parade. And there she is. I mean, she looks great. Thank goodness it wasn't more serious. It was very serious injuries, but thank goodness she was able to recover.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, she thanked the burn unit at the hospital because she said they did an amazing job and took really good care of her. She looks great.

All right, 58 minutes past the hour. We wrap it up as always with best advice.

ROMANS: And today's come from Aidan Quinn, the actor.


AIDAN QUINN, ACTOR: I think the best advice, just off the top of my head, is that sometimes -- we were just talking about this -- persistence trumps talent. So if you have persistence and belief, if you keep at it, you know, pretty soon doors will open, and it does trump talent a lot of times.


SAMBOLIN: Stay at it.

ROMANS: I love that.

SAMBOLIN: Persistence. That's EARLY START. Thanks for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. STARTING POINT with John Berman and Brooke Baldwin starts right now.