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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Stepping Up GOP Charm Offensive; Interview with Jason Chaffetz; Backlash Against New TSA Guidelines; Nun Accused of Voter Fraud; Can Working Women Have It All?
Aired March 11, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a leading Republican lawmaker reigniting the fight to repeal ObamaCare just as President Obama gets ready to take his so- called charm offensive to Capitol Hill.
Gabby Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, buys an assault-style weapon and posts a picture to Facebook. We'll talk to him about that live this hour.
A judge stops New York City's controversial ban on those super-sized soft drinks just one day before it's scheduled to take effect. We're standing by to hear from Mayor Michael Bloomberg live this hour.
And a nun busted for an alleged voter fraud.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama is wrapping up his GOP charm offensive here in Washington, where he's scheduled to make three separate trips to Capitol Hill just this week. Despite this new attempt to turn the page, leading Republicans are determined to try once again to repeal the signature legislation of his first term, ObamaCare, in the face of a Supreme Court decision upholding the law as constitutional and the president's re-election last November.
And that's just one part of the emerging budget wars playing out big time this week right here in Washington.
Let's get the latest from our CNN chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
She's up on Capitol Hill.
So give us the latest information on what's going on -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that, looking ahead to tomorrow, Wolf, hours before the president comes here for the first of those three meetings you talked about, the House Republican budget chairman, Paul Ryan, is going to unveil his new budget which he says gets the country's fiscal house in order.
But it also will show how starkly different the two parties are, even as they have a whole week of talking about common ground.
BASH (voice-over): Running for vice president, Paul Ryan argued constantly against raising taxes.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE: What we don't need is a tax increase on our successful job creators that will cost us 700,000 jobs.
BASH: But months later, Republican leaders gave in on raising taxes to avoid tumbling off the fiscal cliff. And now, Ryan's new budget claims to be balanced in 10 years.
In part, by counting revenue from the very tax increases Republicans opposed.
Democrats are eager to point out the irony.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-), BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, it tells me that, you know, Republicans are prepared to pick and choose which of the policies they were for before or against in terms of how they put together their budget.
It adds up right now with a lot of gimmicks and Scotch tape.
BASH: The biggest gimmick, say Democrats, Ryan's 10 year balanced budget counts money from repealing ObamaCare, which has no chance of happening in the near future.
The host of "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" was incredulous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FOX NEWS SUNDAY," COURTESY FOX NEWS)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal -- you assume the repeal of ObamaCare?
WALLACE: Well, that's not going to happen.
RYAN: Well, we believe it should.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Maybe so, but House Republicans have voted to repeal or chip away at ObamaCare 35 times, going nowhere in the Democratic Senate. Senate Democrats will unveil their budget this week, too, and CNN is told it will include tax increases.
It's the first Senate budget in four years. It has become GOP sport to illustrate that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There have been 10 shuttle missions.
REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: These IPads didn't exist the last time the Senate passed a budget.
BASH: To be sure, it's easy to talk past each other when they're not talking at all. Ryan lunched with the president last week and says it was the first time they spoke for more than two minutes.
Democrat Chris Van Hollen was there, too.
(on camera): The fact that the president never talked to Paul Ryan, who is the primary person on budget issues, the number one issue in this country?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think Paul Ryan has had his views represented in the room through his leadership. Right now, the speaker has taken the position that he doesn't want to get together one-on-one with the president. So the president is broadening that -- that discussion, which I think is a good thing.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Now the president is broadening the discussion again by coming here three days this week. He is going to meet not only with Republicans, but with House and Senate Democrats. And, Wolf, the irony is that, of course, the big focus may be on him talking across party lines. But I am told that perhaps maybe the more interesting conversations he will have are with his fellow Democrats, some of whom have been frustrated that he hasn't reached out enough to them, people in his own party.
BLITZER: Well, is there a specific legislative issue, though, that some of these Democrats have with the president that they're nervous about?
For example, he keeps saying he's ready to tinker, if you will, maybe make some significant changes on the entitlements, Social Security and Medicare. I know a lot of Democrats, they get nervous just hearing that kind of talk.
BASH: That's exactly right. If you talk to, let's say, mostly House Democrats, or even some of the more liberal Democrats in the Senate, maybe all Democrats who are up for reelection, they may be nervous about that. On the flip side, if you talk about some of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate who are up for re-election who are worried about what he is doing on guns, there is concern there.
So I think if you look at the whole spectrum of the Democratic Party, there is concern from the left to the right in the party and they have different reasons for having those concerns.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.
Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill.
Let's stay on Capitol Hill and get some Republican perspective. Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah is joining us right now.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Oh, thanks, Wolf.
I appreciate it.
BLITZER: I -- I assume you agree that getting rid of ObamaCare any time soon is a fantasy, right?
CHAFFETZ: No. Look, we have a duty and an obligation in this country to leave it better than how we found it. We, as Republicans, believe that at some point, you actually have to balance the budget so you can start to pay off this 6 point trillion dollar debt that we've incurred.
So I -- I'm in favor of repealing this. Democrats may not. They need to put forward a budget. The president needs to put forward a budget, which, by the way, he has not yet done.
And then we have this dialogue in this country. That's what the process is about.
BLITZER: But in order to repeal ObamaCare, Congressman -- and you know this as well as anyone, you're a legislator -- you have to pass the legislation in the House of Representatives. You might be able to do that, since you have a Republican majority.
But then you have to pass it in the Senate, as well. And that's almost certainly not going to happen, even if you only need, let's say, 60 votes. And you probably will, if there's a filibuster. Even if you were to pass it in both houses, the president would veto it. Then you'd need a two-thirds majority to override it.
That's not going to happen, right?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, what we have to do is have the Senate Democrats put forward and pass a budget. We need the president to submit a budget. It was due February 4th. He said he'd do it in March. Now he's punted again until April.
And until you get the two sides to actually put forward their budget and say, this is what we believe in, here are the numbers, here's how we're going to balance the budget, then you can get to the point of reconciliation, where you can negotiate things out and come to a compromise.
I -- look, no one person gets everything they want. The president doesn't. I don't. We understand that.
But we're -- we have a duty and obligation to say this is what we believe in, here it is in black and white, and Paul Ryan is leading the charge on the Budget Committee to put that forward this week.
BLITZER: But you're a straight shooter. You always tell us what -- what you think. Just be honest, tell us the truth. There's no chance in the foreseeable future, as -- while Barack Obama is president of the United States, to repeal ObamaCare, right?
CHAFFETZ: Look, I'm going to keep fighting for what I believe in. I, too, won an election. And I really do believe that would be best for the country.
Can we get every single aspect of it?
I hope for it. I'm going to fight for it.
But will I be a reasonable mind and come to the table and recognize that I'm not going to get everything?
Of course, Wolf. Of course we're going to. BLITZER: I...
CHAFFETZ: But at least we're putting forward a budget and showing this is what we believe in. And -- and I -- that's what we believe in.
BLITZER: Are you going to vote for the Paul Ryan budget in the House of Representatives?
CHAFFETZ: Probably. I have not read the full thing. You know, Paul is going to unveil that with the Budget Committee. There will be some vigorous debate. And by the time we get to next week, I'll have a final decision. But in all likelihood, I probably will.
BLITZER: Because he said yesterday that budget is based on the $600 billion in tax increases which the Congress approved in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff at the end of last year, early January. So even if it includes the $600 billion in tax increases for the wealthy, you will still vote for that Ryan budget?
CHAFFETZ: Again, we are looking at a budget that includes how we would spend money over the next 10 years and sets appropriate levels. We have to deal with what is existing law.
So we were actually able through, you know, to curb back some expenses. You're going to see us want to curtail a lot more expenses. We just don't believe that this country is one good tax increase away from prosperity. You have to have a thriving economy. And we believe that we can do that without raising taxes.
They've been raised, but I just don't believe that the president should get what he wants, which is raise taxes again and again and again. There's got to be a point at which that stops and you get the spending under control.
Right now, it's time to get the spending under control.
BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, because Paul Ryan voted in favor of raising those taxes to avoid the fiscal cliff. You voted against it. But now you're saying you're ready to vote in favor of a Ryan budget, potentially, which includes the $600 billion in tax increases.
CHAFFETZ: Well, potentially. I mean you've got to look at the whole package. You know, it's hard, because you're talking about, you know, $3.6 trillion in how the revenue comes in. I do think there's common ground to find -- to broaden the base, lower the rates in certain areas and bring some of those back down at the same time as you're cutting spending.
Where we ran into trouble back in the so-called Bush years is when they decreased the taxes, but then they increased the spending. We can't do it the other way around. We can't increase the taxes and increase the spending. We'll have the same problem.
So we've got to decrease the taxes and decrease the spending and at some point, get to balance in this country.
BLITZER: Jason Chaffetz is the Republican congressman from Utah.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
BLITZER: When we come back, why did Gabby Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, go out and buy an assault-style weapon?
He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain that decision. We'll talk about it live. That's coming up.
Also, at the last hour, a judge stops New York City's ban on those super-sized sugary drinks. We're standing by for a live news conference from the mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
BLITZER: Mark Kelly, a high profile gun control advocate, the husband of the former Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, is causing a stir after purchasing two guns, including an AR-15 assault-style rifle. So, why did he do that? He's here to explain what's going on. So, what's going on, Mark? How come you went out and bought an AR-15?
MARK KELLY, AMERICANS FOR RESPONSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Well, Wolf, it's important for me to have firsthand knowledge about how easy it is or difficult it is, you know, to buy a weapon like that. You know, it's through a background check obviously at a federally licensed gun dealer, but it's important for me to know, you know, what it is, and you know, to have firsthand knowledge.
So in the future, you know, I'm looking forward at some point to buying a gun, you know, at a gun show, also possibly selling a gun. So, I know really, you know, the ins and outs of this issue. BLITZER: So, what was it like going on to a store and buying an AR- 15?
KELLY: You know, it's actually pretty easy, you know, for a weapon that's so deadly and really designed for the military, especially with the high capacity magazines, it's a pretty easy thing to do, you know, even with a background check. You know, speaking of background checks, I mean, this is going to be an important week here in the Senate Judiciary Committee as this bill gets marked up.
And we're hopeful something can be done in moving the background check legislation forward.
BLITZER: The conservative news site, Breitbart, suggested that you went public with this decision to buy an AR-15 because they were about to report it. I'll read to you from what Breitbart.com said on Saturday. "Breitbart News then began investigating the details surrounding the purchase including visiting the gun store. Suddenly, Kelly announced on his Facebook page that he was not going to keep the ar-15, which he has yet to pick up from the store."
What do you say about that?
KELLY: Well, I don't know anything about, you know, who Breitbart is or anything about his website. I mean, we had a plan, you know, to go in there to buy a 45, and if we had the opportunity to buy an AR-15 as well. And, you know, I don't know the timing, but we had a plan on when we were going to announce that on Facebook.
You know, in the future, I'll be talking about, you know, buying a gun from a gun show, also selling a gun. So, that's all, you know, to come later, because i really need to understand this, you know, the -- you know, the issues, you know, surrounding, you know, gun violence and these weapons.
BLITZER: What are you going to do with that AR-15?
KELLY: Well, the plan is to turn it into the Tucson Police Department. So, once I get access, you know, once I actually take possession of it, we'll be handing it in to the Tucson PD.
BLITZER: And you also bought a handgun, a 45 caliber? Is that right?
KELLY: Yes. That one I'll keep. You know, Gabby and I are both gun owners, strong supporters of the Second Amendment. You know, I've had guns all my life. So, I'll be keeping the 45, you know, turning in the AR-15. You know, but the important thing that's actually coming up this week, like I mentioned, is what's going to happen in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I mean, it's really important that we get this gun, you know, get universal background check passed.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens. We'll, of course, be following it. But just to be precise, your intention was always to hand over the AR- 15 to the police department?
KELLY: Yes, absolutely, yes. I have no use for a gun like that. You know, from my military experience, you know, it's important that the military have assault weapons with high capacity magazines. I really think that the access that the public has to these, it's too easy, as i demonstrated the other day.
It's very easy to buy an assault weapon. They're readily available and they really, you know, they really shouldn't be.
BLITZER: Mark Kelly joining us. We'll see what happens at the Senate Judiciary Committee and then beyond. Appreciate it very much.
KELLY: You're welcome, Wolf.
BLITZER: A legendary singer is forced to interrupt his U.S. tour to be treated for double pneumonia. That and a look at the some of the day's other top stories. That's next.
BLITZER: We're just hours away from the start of the official proceedings to select a new pope. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what do you have?
BLITZER: Yes, Wolf. You get the sense that we're getting close. And cardinals gathered at the Vatican will attend morning mass at St. Peter's Basilica before walking to the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to choose the new pope. A Vatican spokesperson says a secret election will be likely be held tomorrow, but there is no guarantee as to how long it will take to select the new pope. Church tradition dictates that white smoke will rise from a copper chimney installed at the Sistine Chapel once the choice is official.
And more saber rattling on the Korean Peninsula as American and South Korean troops take part in military exercise. North Korea says it has pulled out of the long running armistice peace agreement with Seoul. That's according to a state run newspaper in Pyongyang. The paper blames recently approved U.N. sanctions which calls at, quote, "an act of war." South Korean officials also say that North Korea is no longer answering a hotline phone between those two governments.
And after two weeks of deliberations, a jury in Detroit has found former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, guilty of federal charges, including racketeering, extortion, and filing false tax returns. Kilpatrick was the biggest targeted at Detroit city hall corruption probe that's led to convictions of two dozen people.
This afternoon, a judge ruled that Kilpatrick will be held behind bars to wait sentencing. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.
And the singer, Morrissey, is interrupting his tour to be treated for what's being described as double pneumonia. Morrissey postponed the concert in San Francisco over the weekend. He had already cancelled a string of dates during the tour due to various health problems. A spokesman says, though, he is still expected to headline a music festival in Mexico City this week.
So, hopefully, he'll be doing much better than he has. Talking double pneumonia. Sounds pretty serious to me.
BLITZER: Hope he has a full recovery. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
Coming up, is Ashley Judd considering a run for the United States Senate? Our Jake Tapper is just out with some new CNN reporting. Stand by.
Plus, New York City sugary drink ban stopped just hours before it was supposed to take effect. We're standing by for a live news conference from the mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
BLITZER: Looking at a live picture from New York City's city hall, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, about to make a statement, have a news conference on a New York State Supreme Court decision overturning his ban on those supersized sugary drinks in the city. We'll have live coverage of that. Stand by for that.
In the meantime, President Obama's charm offensive kicking into full gear this week. On the agenda, meeting tomorrow with Senate Democrats, on Wednesday, he'll meet with House Republicans. Thursday, he'll meet with both parties, Senate Republicans, House Democrats as well.
Let's discuss what's going on with our chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper. He's the anchor of CNN's new program "The Lead" that begins a week from today, 4:00 p.m. eastern, also, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN chief national correspondent, John King. John, what do you think? Is it too late for this charm offensive to really have a dramatic impact?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's never too late if it's real. And that's the question both Republicans and Democrats are asking. What Republicans are saying it's great, Mr. President. You're taking some of us out for a meal. It's great you're going to come to Capitol Hill and see us. Are you going to budge on the policy?
If you look at what the president is asking for right now when it comes to budget and spending issues, he's asking Republicans to accept his plan. That's fine. That's how negotiation begins. The question is, where do you get down the road? And the biggest question mark Republicans have is, not only will he give, but will this be consistent?
After this first round of the charm offensive, will he be making quiet phone calls one-on-one? Will he have another dinner? When an issue is front and center, say the budget, say immigration, will he bring them back? We'll see.
BLITZER: I don't remember a time, Gloria, when the president spent this much time meeting the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, here's a man who was kind of happily living under the political equivalent of house arrest in the White House, didn't really socialize much, and so, suddenly, you can understand why people are skeptical, right, because suddenly, he's out there, and he wants to meet with everybody.
My question is not just the charm offensive with Republicans, but how many Democrats is he willing to make angry? Because the more charming he is to Republicans, the more he's going to anger his own base, and that's always been a problem for him, particularly when you talk about the big picture. You alk about medicare reform, talk about Social Security, that's tough.
BLITZER: You spent the last four years covering him over at the White House. Seems a little out of context. A pretty dramatic shift, don't you think?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House has long belittled anyone that said the problem is the president doesn't schmooze enough. There are criticisms to make. He golfs at least once a weekend. He eats lunch every day.
BLITZER: But when he golf, he usually does it with his pals.
TAPPER: Right, exactly. Why not have John Boehner there? Why not have lunch with a Democratic or Republican member of Congress? They have belittled that in the past, and the president has said he likes spending time with his family at night.
The truth is that relationships are bad, and they need to make an effort. At the very least, this shows the public that he's engaged and he's trying, even if he doesn't win over any converts from the Republican side.
BORGER: You could just argue he is actually doing his job. That it is his job to engage with members of both parties -
TAPPER: One could. One could argue that.
BORGER: One could argue. OK, I will argue that. I will argue that. It is his job, and he is doing it now. He doesn't have to like it. He doesn't have to love it. But it is part of what he's supposed to do.
KING: And he needs it. He is in a second term. You know how fast the clock ticks. We've covered the White House. And if he wants immigration reform, a big question: how far can he get the Republicans to go? Because to Gloria's point, what if the House will only pass legal status and they won't pass citizenship? Will the president go to the Democratic base with that? Or will he try to carry the issue into 2014?
He is the CEO of the Enterprise. There's plenty of blame to go around; it's not all the president's fault that Washington is a toxic mess. But he has the singular authority of the presidency that if he wants to change it, he has to --
TAPPER: And one of the problems, of course, has been in addition to his not schmoozing, I mean, Republicans disagree with him on a lot of issues. And this is a Republican, especially in the House, a Republican caucus that's shown it can be intransigent. So, at the end of the day, the problem isn't that President Obama hasn't asked enough Tea Partiers out for a burger. The problem is that they see the world very differently.
BLITZER: Especially when it comes to taxes. I want you to listen, Gloria, to Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee on Fox News yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), CHAIRMAN OF BUDGET COMMITTEE: So, we're saying don't grow this program through Obamacare because it doesn't work. Prevent that growth from going because it is not going to work; it's going to hurt people who are trying to help. It's going to hurt hospitals and states. And give the states the tools they're asking for.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you saying as part of your budget you would repeal, you assume, the repeal of Obamacare?
WALLACE: Well, that's not going to happen.
RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That's the point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What is the point by bringing up Obama - the Supreme Court says it is constitutional, the president is not going to --
BORGER: Right. Train's left the station, sorry. But Republicans are going to put it on the table because it is a place for them to start negotiating. Is there going to be a lot of tinkering with the president's health care reform plans still? Yes. But are they going to repeal Obamacare which they tried to do, what, more than 30 times already? Not going to happen.
But Ryan is throwing it out there because why not?
TAPPER: You hear this a lot from Republicans. They say that we've never really been given the true price tag of the president's health care initiative. And that it is much more expensive, especially expansion of Medicaid. Now some states are deciding to accept it, some are not. But that the real driver of the deficit in the future is actually going to be this health care bill.
So, yes, some of this politics, but some of it is actually policy.
BLITZER: But as you know, John, as long as Barack Obama is president, he will veto any legislation. Even if it were to pass - could pass the House and pass the Senate, he would veto it. You need a two-thirds override. KING: It is not going to happen. It is not going to happen. They may have a lot of serious issues about funding it down the road. Probably the next president will have to deal with those questions more than this president.
But again, when Democrats say aha, this is proof the Republicans are intransigent, and there's no question they are digging in their heels, the Republicans say, we are not going to give now. We're not going to start by conceding. We will start saying this is what we believe, the Democrats say this is what we believe, and then the way Washington used to work, you should negotiate. And you start chipping away and compromising. That's the big question.
BLITZER: There's another fascinating political story, and Jake's been doing some reporting on this this week as well involving Ashley Judd potentially considering a run against Mitch McConnell as the United States senator from Kentucky. Jake filed this report.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you went to the movies in the late '90s, early (inaudible) chances are good you have seen Ashley Judd running for her life.
ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS (acting): Come on! Who's out there?
TAPPER: Now Judd may be running for Senate. A knowledgeable source tells CNN that Judd is seriously considering running for a seat representing Kentucky. Where she's from originally, where she went to college, and where she's considered the biggest named Democrat to be contemplating the race.
JUDD (acting): How do I know who you are?
JIM CAVAZIEL, ACTOR (acting): You're the only one that knows who I am.
JUDD (acting): I-I don't know, I don't know who my husband is.
TAPPER: As happens with many actresses in Hollywood as they pass 40, the "Double Jeopardy" star's career has cooled a bit in recent years. She's playing the first lady in "Olympus Has Fallen" out this month, but blink and you will miss her in the trailer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you may be running for political office.
JUDD: Is there an elephant in the room?
TAPPER: But she's also an activist. Judd's Web site includes her thoughts on post-traumatic stress disorder, equal pay and family planning. But while some polls suggest that incumbent senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is vulnerable, the big question for Judd is -- even assuming an ability to raise money and mount a credible campaign -- whether a liberal Democrat from Hollywood can compete in red-state Kentucky.
On its face, the career shift isn't necessarily any odder than the time Californians elected the Terminator, a Republican as their governor. Twice. And remember Stewart Smally from "Saturday Night Live"?
STEWART SMALLY, SNL: I am good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.
TAPPER: Democrat Al Franken is a senator from Minnesota. And of course, need we even mention that other actor turned Paul (ph) who co- starred with a chimp?
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER ACTOR/PRESIDENT (acting): That's outright bribery.
TAPPER: But Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan ran in California, which is decidedly not Appalachia. Ms. Judd, a word to the wise: if you thought the villain from "Kiss The Girls" was scary --
JUDD (acting): I need help.
TAPPER: -- wait until the GOP's opposition researchers and super PACs are done with you.
JUDD: I don't know a lot of hillbillies who golf. Hillbillies - hillbillies - hillbillies.
ANNOUNCER: Her own grandmother says she's a Hollywood liberal.
BLITZER: Interesting that some of the Republicans, they've already got ads against her. She hasn't even announced anything!
TAPPER: They're already going after her. Now, a knowledgeable source says she's very serious and seriously considering. She is obviously reaching out to people in this town. There was a Huffington Post report by Howard Fineman saying that she told friends she's running. But so far, the source says she has not pulled the trigger.
BORGER: You know, Mitch McConnell is 40 percent behind in the polls. So in lots of states, you would think that's vulnerable. But I am told he is always below 40 percent in the polls, even when he wins re- election. And from their side, they are thinking, OK, bring on Ashley Judd. Because by the way, she lives in Nashville. She would have to move, and they could make the whole carpet bagger argument.
BLITZER: Does McConnell have to worry more about a Tea Party Republican primary challenger?
KING: That's what people have said. Now, that has seemed to fizzle. But if you're in Kentucky, the odds are if you're a Republican, you're more likely to get beaten in a primary than by a Democrat in a general election.
However, this is what Republicans say it is proof no other credible Democrat, no Democrat with a pedigree in politics is willing to run against McConnell. The McConnell people say they are salivating at this. If you talk to people, like Jake says, she has called some consultants. She is having these conversations. She hasn't taken the final step yet. But a lot of people who a month ago said nah, she will blink are now thinking hmm. Looks like she wants to run.
BLITZER: Guess we'll find out. Got to make a decision fairly soon.
BORGER: Let's see where she raises her money from.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in. We will see you here at 4:00 p.m. Eastern starting next Monday, I believe.
TAPPER: That's right.
BLITZER: THE SITUATION ROOM will be from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
BORGER: Right next door. Right in the studio next door.
TAPPER: Just try to keep it down.
BLITZER: New York's sugary drink ban stopped just hours before it was supposed to take effect. We are standing by for a live news conference. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, will talk.
BLITZER: Prior to the November election, one of the primary roles of President Obama's campaign operation was to raise money, hundreds of millions of dollars. Now that organization has a new name. And some critics are wondering if it is giving big-money donors access to the president.
I am joined by CNN's national political correspondent Jim Acosta. He is watching what's going on. Explain to our viewers what we know, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wold, earlier this year, President Obama announced his campaign operation was morphing into this group called Organizing for Action. But critics charge it is also organizing for donations.
ACOSTA: President Obama's campaign offices in Chicago may be gone, but his political army lives on. Say good-bye to the president's re- election campaign, known as Obama for America, and meet Organizing For Action, or OFA.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, everybody.
ACOSTA: Not only is the name almost the same, the group is working off essentially the same Web site. This week, OFA, which bills itself as a grassroots organization, welcomes the president to this ritzy D.C. hotel, where he will address both supporters and donors. Government watchdog groups say that has the ring of cha-ching. LISA ROSENBERG, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: I would question whether donors of $50 will have special meetings with the president. I imagine they won't.
ACOSTA: Lisa Rosenberg with the Sunlight Foundation seized on recent reports that big contributors would have regular meetings with the president.
ROSENBERG: It's only these donors of $50,000 or $100,000 or more that get invited to these meetings. So, clearly it is not entirely the grassroots organization reaching out to the public that the founders claim it is.
BEN LABOLT, ORGANIZING FOR ACTION ADVISER: Well, the president isn't doing one-on-one meetings with donors.
ACOSTA: Ben Labolt, a former reelection campaign spokesman, now advising OFA, noted the group won't take money from corporations or lobbyists, but he left the door open to large donors having access.
And you said they won't -- a wealthy donor won't get an individual meeting with the president, but may be part of a group that gets a meeting with the president?
LABOLT: Well, there's going to be no opportunity to lobby the president through this organization.
ACOSTA: Getting answers about OFA means talking to Obama loyalists not just outside the White House but inside as well.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Any notion, as we've talked about, that there's a price set for a meeting with the president is absurd.
ACOSTA: Press secretary Jay Carney said OFA's mission is to support what he called a bipartisan agenda. But just last Friday, they sent out this e-mail, accusing Republicans of choosing to protect tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires. Carney says the president's speech at OFA is no different than appearing before other Democratic leading groups.
Isn't that kind of squishy? The organization is him.
CARNEY: No, the organization - look. There are organizations all over Washington and around the country that support policy agendas and policy areas. That's what this organization does.
ACOSTA: There's also the issue of where Organizing for Action will be based. Officials say it will be split between Chicago and Washington.
And there's a little irony there, Wolf, in that this once powerful campaign juggernaut right now is just trying to find a permanent home -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to cause a little bit more controversy, political controversy as we go forward.
Jim Acosta is at the White House, thank you.
A nun in Ohio is in trouble with the law right now for allegedly trying to cheat the system when it came to voting in the November election.
Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is covering this story for us.
So what's this all about?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office announced charges in three cases of alleged voter fraud. One of those, the charge is the former dean of the Department of Arts and Humanities at a Catholic college in Cincinnati. A little stunning perhaps.
Sister Marguerite Kloos worked at the College of Mount St. Joseph. The school says it accepted her resignation last week. In a statement, the school said, "As a valued member of the Mount community, our thoughts are with her during this difficult time." The statement said, "We respect her privacy and will not comment further."
Authorities say she allegedly signed the name of a deceased nun on an absentee ballot. The county attorney said the sister had agreed to plead guilty and to cooperate with authorities. She could get 18 months if convicted. And making this announcement, the Hamilton County prosecutor said, "The charges today should let people know we take this seriously, this is not North Korea."
Another of those voter charges, Melowese Richardson, you may have heard her name. She was described as a longtime poll worker and Obama supporter last election. Richardson admitted voting more than once in a television interview and an investigation report from elections officials in Ohio Richardson allegedly voted absentee and also signed the voting book at the polls. But she has said she wasn't trying to break the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELOWESE RICHARDSON, ACCUSED OF VOTING TWICE: There's absolutely no intent on my part to commit any voter fraud. Yes. I voted twice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Richardson is charged with eight counts of illegal voting and now could face up to 12 years in prison.
Also charged Monday was 75-year-old Russell Glasup who's accused of voting for his wife who had just died. There could be other charges. Three additional cases are being investigated by the prosecutor's office.
Hamilton County, Ohio, Wolf, as you know, includes Cincinnati, one of the nation's bellwether spots, one of the most closely watched areas in national elections.
BLITZER: Embarrassing stuff there. Obviously look very serious.
JOHNS: Yes. It's very serious. There have been allegations of voter fraud. These are a few anecdotal examples of that in a very important state.
BLITZER: Ohio. Thanks very much for that, Joe Johns reporting.
Coming up, can women have it all? One of the most powerful women in the history of American politics shares her thoughts. Nancy Pelosi speaking to our own Candy Crowley.
And New York City's sugary drink ban stopped just hours before it was supposed to take effect. We are standing by for a live news conference from the mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
BLITZER: Today's release of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's new book "Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead" is shining a new spotlight on what women want when it comes to career and family.
Today and tomorrow CNN is doing some special reporting on this very issue. Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, talked about it with the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. She broke her own glass ceiling back in 2007 as the first female House speaker.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to start out by asking you, when you look at the statistics of women today, even, for instance, how many women are in the House and the Senate, about 100 out of 535. But we all know that women are graduating at greater rates than men and med school, women, if they have not already overtaken, are about to.
So there -- but there does seem to be a disconnect between what women achieve scholastically and what happens afterwards.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Yes.
CROWLEY: What do you think holds women back at this point?
PELOSI: Well, it depends on the field, I think. In politics, it's really important to change the environment in which women would compete. We have been increasing our numbers incrementally. I've made that a priority for us, especially to bring younger women in so that young women can see someone who shares their experience when they do, having a seat at the table.
But the -- when we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility, we will have more women, more young people, more minorities, but more women. Because the -- women that we want to attract to Congress are women who have plenty of options, and we want them to choose public service without having to think that they have to be drawn through the mud and at great expense in order to win.
On the -- in the larger sense, I believe that the most important initiative we could take is to have comprehensive quality affordable care -- childcare.
CROWLEY: Which we've been trying for years.
PELOSI: But we almost had it. It was on President Nixon's desk, and then he vetoed it. But we -- it's so long overdue.
CROWLEY: And yet we see a lot of times that when women give birth, I think like 40 percent, do not return to full-time work. Do you think that's a child care problem, or do you think that's a where should I be problem?
PELOSI: Well, I think it's a decision that women have to make, but we want them to be fully equipped to make the decision, not to have a decision forced upon them as to what their aspirations, their economic situation, their family situation -- the opportunities that affords to them.
CROWLEY: Your observations of women that are coming into politics now, do you see a difference between how men conduct themselves in a meeting and how women conduct themselves?
PELOSI: Women don't come into the room and sit on the side. They take their rightful seat at the table for themselves, for their constituents, for our country, and for the women in our country. So I have -- I have not shared that experience. I do, and I wrote my own book on this subject, know your power. Women should know their power. And I share in this new book, Sheryl's book, when I'm a great admirer of hers, it's really when she says lean in, that's what she's saying, know your power. Know how important you are.
I don't see women in Congress being shy about who they are, and I'm glad for that, but again in every field we want women to take stock of -- take inventory of who they are and what it is. And if that means a number of years at home as a mom, place a value on that. Don't let anybody trivialize anything you have done, because it's made you who you are. Very unique. Your contribution is valuable. The country needs you.
BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi also called the job of raising a family the most responsible and difficult challenging task with tremendous value.
Thanks to Candy Crowley for that report.
At the top of the hour, Americans are spilling their blood in Afghanistan. The U.S. spending, what, about $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. About $100 billion a year. President Hamid Karzai accusing the United States of collusion, get this, with the Taliban.
Senator Rand Paul, he'll join us live. We're going to talk about that and a lot more.
BLITZER: Happening now, outrageous remarks by the Afghan president Hamid Karzai about the United States and the Taliban. We'll talk about that and more with Senator Rand Paul.
Six Ohio teens killed in one of the deadliest crashes there in years.
A closer look at some of the men who could become the next Pope.
Plus she's a congresswoman and Democratic Party chair. She's also a mother of three. How this working mom makes it all --