Return to Transcripts main page


Birth Control Block; It's Better to Give; Fly Girls Honored; "Two Cities" Mayor?

Aired January 1, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: For those of you still nursing a hangover, we promise no yelling pundits for the next hour.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. Get your birth control on someone else's dime, nuns in Colorado say. They're challenging the law that goes into effect today that forces religious affiliated groups to cover employees. And they have succeeded, temporarily, at least, thanks to an Obama Supreme Court appointee.

The money lead. What do you buy when you have already got more than most could ever dream of? Well, how about some karma? Find out who donated the most to charity in the last year.

And the pop culture lead. If it is an honor just to be nominated, why are so many movies seemingly claiming to be Golden Globe winners in their ads before the Golden Globes even happened?

Good afternoon, everyone. And happy new year.

We begin with the national lead today. It is one of the most controversial pieces of a controversial law. Starting today, nonprofit institutions with religious affiliates like schools and hospitals have to start providing employees contraception coverage through their insurance plans. It's part of the Affordable Care Act, that sweeping law taking effect today.

Now, these groups can get out of paying birth control directly by having a third-party insurance company cover it, no cost to them. But they have to sign a form to authorize it. That just won't fly with, among others, a group of nuns from Colorado. The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged say that signing that form would still violent their beliefs opposing birth control.

And last night before personally pressing the button in Times Square to dropped the ball and ushered in the era of Obamacare, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the Little Sisters a stay. The White House has until Friday to respond to the Supreme Court.

President Obama has seen a number of roadblocks to his signature legislation. The rollout for was infamously rocky. But the administration says more than two million have signed up for health care coverage under Obamacare so far. No word on how many have paid their premiums. And they say nearly four million took steps to sign up for Medicaid in October and November.

Medicaid of course was expanded under Obamacare. But could this temporary order on birth control become a permanent obstacle for the law just as it is getting off the ground today? With the clock ticking, how will the White House respond?

And joining me now is Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. They filed a suit on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor.

Daniel, thanks for being here. Happy new year.


TAPPER: What did the nuns have to say when you got word of the injunction last night?

BLOMBERG: They were relieved, very relieved, because without that injunction, without Justice Sotomayor issuing the injunction, they would be facing fines today that add up to millions of dollars a year.

TAPPER: Were you surprised that it was Sotomayor? I know she's the one in that district, but were you surprised that she issued the stay?

BLOMBERG: No, because there have been about 20 different courts that have looked at this issue now, and about 90 percent are ruling for the religious ministries, are saying, please don't make us do this, please don't make us participate in providing drugs that violent our religious beliefs.

TAPPER: The broad argument here from the Obama administration is, look, we carved out accommodation for religious organizations, religious organizations. Religious organizations like churches don't have to do this, but organizations that are religiously affiliated, like a nonprofit, they don't have to take out health insurance that provides for things that you oppose on religious grounds such as contraception, but the insurance company does, so you're accommodated. Why is that not enough?

BLOMBERG: Because what the Little Sisters are saying here is that you are forcing us to participate, you're forcing us to sign a permission slip that provides these drugs.

We have two ways of complying with the Affordable Care Act. One is that we provide them directly ourselves. We just -- we put them in our insurance plan, we just do it and we pay for it. The other is we sign this form that says I can't provide these drugs. Now you, my insurance provider, you do it.

The Little Sisters say that's a problem, because not only are we still participating in providing, we are forcing someone else to do something we think is wrong.

TAPPER: The White House reacted to the injunction. Let me read it and get your response.

"We defer to Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing nonprofit religious organizations with religious objections to contraception coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay or refer for such coverage."

They think they have a solid case here. Why do you think you're going to win?

BLOMBERG: Well, like I said, 90 percent of the courts to look at this are saying, no, they haven't struck the right balance, they have struck a balance that violates the law.

Listen, this isn't about contraception. If the government wanted to provide contraception, just directly give it out free contraception to all the employees in the country, the Little Sisters wouldn't be in court today.

They're in court because the government is saying you have to provide the contraception, you have to participate in providing this. You have to sign that permission slip. They say please don't make us do that. That violates our religious beliefs, please don't make us do it.

TAPPER: The Centers for Disease Control did a poll not long ago, and their conclusion was basically all women who have sex, so not people who don't have it because of religious objections, but all women who have sex use birth control or have used birth control at one point or another.

The argument from Obama administration is, this is a fundamental health care need of women who might get pregnant, and while there is a religious objection, of course, if virtually 100 percent of women who would be subject to this, to taking contraception, use contraception, why would an organization not even allow an insurance company to provide it?

BLOMBERG: It is not that they're not allowing it. They're just saying please don't make us trigger this, please don't make us participate in it.

TAPPER: You think by that signing the form, you're entering into -- you're signing off on it is the idea?

BLOMBERG: That's exactly what the form says. The form says when you sign this, this becomes part of your plan and your insurer that receives this form is legally required to provide the drugs. It is a permission slip and they can't do that.

TAPPER: This isn't the only group you represent, obviously. We have heard a lot about the Hobby Lobby, religious organization, East Texas Baptist University, Colorado Christian University.

What do you say to people that say the employees of these organizations who might be very, very religious, but also use birth control, and as studies show, most people use birth control, are being punished here?

BLOMBERG: For one thing, until last night, until the clock struck midnight, we never had a situation where the federal government required religious ministries to provide contraceptives to employees.

So no one had that expectation before. When people come to work for the Little Sisters of the Poor or with the Eternal Word television network, or some Christian organizations, Catholic organizations that are very obvious in their religious identity, the Little Sisters have been taking care of poor, elderly people for 175 years, and they wear habits.

Everyone knows who they are and what they do. When you come and serve the poor with them, you understand there are certain things they can't do. They will serve the poor as if that poor person was Jesus Christ. That's what they vow to do. They will do that until that person dies. They will hold their hand as they cross from this life to the next life. They're not going to do things that violent their faith. And so when you come to serve with them, you understand that.

TAPPER: If you lose on Friday when the stay -- when the argument comes forward from Obama administration or ultimately if this goes before the Supreme Court and the court rules against you, will the Little Sisters abide by the decision that becomes the law of the land?

BLOMBERG: Well, what happens if all of the courts rule against them, if this tide that we have of 90 percent of courts that look at the issue are protecting religious liberty, if that changes, then the Little Sisters -- then they have a choice to make.

They can either continue to provide ministry in the way they always have, but if they do that, then they have to pay fines, millions of dollars in fines every year. For one of our plaintiffs, they have a $6 million operating budget to serve 60 folks that are in their home every year -- $2 million of that would be taken to give to the IRS.

At the end of the day, the American people are looking at a situation. They are looking at a situation where the government is going to be taking money away from poor elderly people that are dying and giving it to the IRS. That sounds like a bad situation for all of us.

TAPPER: So they will pay the fine? They're not going to abide by this?

BLOMBERG: That's a decision they will have to make. It will be an extremely difficult one.

TAPPER: Daniel Blomberg, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

TAPPER: She's the Texas former first lady who also raised a president. It's no wonder friends and family members are confident Barbara Bush will bounce back from her latest health scare. Bush was hospitalized on Monday to get treatment for a respiratory issue. According to "The New York Times," she was showing signs of pneumonia.

A family spokesperson says the 88-year-old is in great spirits at Methodist Hospital in Houston. She has also been visited by her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, and other family members. President Obama is also sending his words of encouragement to the former first lady.

He released a statement which reads: "Michelle and I send our best wishes to Mrs. Bush for a speedy recovery. Barbara is blessed to have both a loving, supportive family by her side and a vibrant spirit that we hope will have her feeling better soon."

And of course we all wish her the best as well.

Coming up on THE LEAD: We're not saying philanthropy is a competition. But someone totally won for most money given in 2013. We will tell you who shelled out the most bucks for charity in our money lead.

And some movie studio executives have a really loose definition of winner. We will explain in our pop culture lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The money lead now, 'tis better to give than to receive, especially if you're already a billionaire. America's wealthiest philanthropists went big this year, shelling out a total of more than $3.4 billion to charity., $3.4 billion. That's according to a new tally by "The Chronicle of Philanthropy."

And some notable names are topping the list for most generous individual gifts. Who ponied up the heaviest sums and for which causes?

Stacy Palmer, editor for "The Chronicle of Philanthropy," joins me now.

Stacy, let's start with -- first of all, happy new year.


TAPPER: Not surprising you would be here New Year's, because everybody gives money right until the last moment, December 31.

PALMER: Absolutely. We can't release this list until end of the night when all the giving has been done.

TAPPER: People need to realize they need to give to charity for tax purposes.

So, let's start with the list. Former -- number three is now former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He pledged $350 million to Johns Hopkins, the university I believe he attended. Right?

PALMER: Absolutely.

And he has given a lot of money to that institution, more than a billion dollars. He gives to many other causes as well. Now that he is leaving the mayor's job, we expect him to become more full-time philanthropist. He has pledged to give all his fortune away to charity while he's alive. So he has a lot of work to do, because there are many more billions to give away.

TAPPER: God, that must be fun. I would like to be in charge...


PALMER: It would be fun to do that.

TAPPER: Number two, the chairman of Nike, Phil Knight and his wife, Penelope. They pledged $500 million it the Oregon Health and Science University Foundation for cancer research.

But this gift, this pledge gift comes with a hitch. Explain.

PALMER: It does. The university has two years to raise another $500 million from other donors or else they don't get the money.

TAPPER: They have to match it.

PALMER: They have to match the money.

TAPPER: Oh. That's a twist on the old matching contribution.

PALMER: They have to raise the money from other donors.


TAPPER: What happens if they don't? Then he doesn't give them $500 million?

PALMER: I have a feeling he might decide to give it to them anyway. But he really wants to encourage other people to give and the best way to do that is to say, here, I am giving this very generous gift, why don't you join me? And they really want to advance the fight against cancer and a lot of people like to give to that cause. I think they will be able to raise the money.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

And the number one biggest individual gift? Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, $992.2 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. This guy isn't even 30 years old.

PALMER: It is remarkable. We have never seen somebody top the list who is under 30. It is an incredible gift to see somebody give this much. This is his second big gift to the foundation. He gave a half-a-billion last year. So, he is giving very generously. TAPPER: What trends did you see in terms of giving by the rich and powerful?

PALMER: They certainly like to give to colleges and universities. And 12 of the 15 donations went to colleges, but it went to a range of causes.

People gave to their alma maters for things like buildings, but others gave to research, to advance stem cell research or cancer research.

TAPPER: Why is that, as opposed to giving money to American Heart Association or the Red Cross?

PALMER: One reason is that colleges seem like very trustworthy organizations. If you're going to give many, many millions of dollars, you might want to give to an organization you trust.

But also colleges are very good at asking for the money. They have fund-raisers that work full-time to make these pitches, and social services groups, your local food bank doesn't have those kinds of people, so they're not making the ask.

TAPPER: Warren Buffett, he was on the top of the list last year. This year, he didn't even crack the top ten.

PALMER: This is because we're the big gifts that are new gifts that are now -- he is probably paying off some pledges. I suspect he did give money, but he just didn't make the list by going public with it.

TAPPER: And let me ask you a question. Is there any competition among these multibillionaires?

PALMER: Absolutely, there is. We've already heard from one very rich person who already was upset that he wasn't on the list. So, it does matter to them. They do like to be seen for that.

And that's one reason that the giving pledge that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are promoting, six of the people on this list have signed that pledge, and part of the reason is the publicity. They want to be known as doing good.

TAPPER: Can you tell me who the rich people was?

PALMER: I won't tell you that.




Well, happy New Year. Stacy Palmer, thanks so much.

And if you are looking for a way to make your own gift to those in need, check out A nice way to start the New Year.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the parade of roses floated through Pasadena today, one of our favorite floats highlighted a little known chapter of American history and we'll share that with you.

And New York City swore in its new mayor and the ceremony had pomp, circumstance, and a couple of below the belt hits at Mayor Bloomberg, outgoing Mayor Bloomberg -- as Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a shake up in the Big Apple. Can he pull off the aggressive agenda he laid out today? Our political panel will weigh in.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now, it's time for our national lead. We've probably all seen Rosie the Riveter, you know, the character created by the U.S. government to spur women, many of whom never worked outside their homes, to keep our factories running during World War II.

But Rosie did more than just make the guns, ships, and planes that won the war. She also got her wings, a fact largely forgotten by history.

But today, Rosie finally got her roses.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look closely on the blooms on today's Tournament of Roses Parade, and you'll see a few WASPs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of those busses are stepping girls, girls who give a new angle to an air force story.

JONES: Not bugs, but beauties who broke barriers by flying missions in World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Texas, (INAUDIBLE) Army's Airport, this is an AAF field, too.

JONES: More than 70 years after they took to the skies, these Women Air Force Service Pilots, WASPs for short, are being honored -- a tribute long overdue for trail blazers like 93-year-old Lorraine Rodgers.

LORRAINE RODGERS, WASP PILOT: Because I wanted to fly. Every time I was up, I could hardly believe it.

JONES: She and her fellow WASPs tested planes, ferried them between factories and air bases and towed targets so the men could practice shooting. They also wore men's hand me down coveralls, often several sizes too big.

Between 1942 and 1944, some 1,100 women pilots like Rodgers flew more than 60 million miles. But it wasn't easy, by the time her plane went into a tail spin over Texas.

RODGERS: I just bailed out, out the side, grabbed on, went out, and the plane kept going.

JONES: Thirty-eight WASPs died serving their country. The Rose Bowl float highlights this often overlooked part of American history and the contribution the WASP made to the war effort.

TIM ESTES, ROSE PARADE: These brave ladies are being saluted and I just think it's a great tribute.

JONES: It's a massive undertaking. It takes more than 2,000 hours to build a 20-ton float like this, and about 100 hours to complete just one of six portraits that adorn it, including the WASP Walt Disney designed Fifinella logo.

Work continued until day before the parade, attaching pounds of onion, poppy, lettuce seeds, crushed sweet rice and 35,000 roses -- a big job to celebrate the legacy of pilots like Rodgers.

RODGERS: There isn't a day or airplane that goes by over the house that I don't think about it. Nothing like it. Free as a breeze.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Athena Jones.

Let's check in with the political panel in the green room.

Kevin Madden, New Year's Day. This is how Kingsley Amis describes a hangover in "Lucky Jim", quote, "He lays sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did harm him, but not as much as looking at things did, he resolved having done it once never to move his eyeballs again."

Mr. Madden, any hangover cures for --

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, your Shakespearean accent would give anybody a headache. But I would say hair of the dog. Take whatever you drank the night before, put it in some coffee.

TAPPER: Really? Tequila and coffee, rum and coffee.

MADDEN: Hey. I'm not the expert on this, I was asleep at 10. Ask Thornell. He's the expert on all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.

TAPPER: Bacon, egg and cheese. A new study suggests that what you drink could say a lot about how you vote. So, we're going to go into that with you guys. That and more in the politics lead, coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's now time for the politics lead.

He was mayor 12 years. But today, his reign ends and his successor's begins.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was sent off with this parting shot from none other than Harry Belafonte.


HARRY BELAFONTE, ACTIVIST: Changing the stop and frisk law is as important as it is the change of a law is only the tip of the iceberg in fixing our deeply Dickensian justice system.


TAPPER: Dickensian, not exactly a compliment. The digs didn't stop there at the inauguration of the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. One pastor went so far as to refer to New York City as a quote, "plantation". Now a focus on race and divide between the haves and have-nots -- those were common themes for de Blasio on the campaign trail. He was elected overwhelmingly and he is not shying away from the progressive agenda he promised his constituents.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: Those are between $500,000 and $1 million a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than 3 bucks a day, about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.


TAPPER: That is, of course, to fund his new plans for pre-K. So, is a new era of progressivism really upon us, does it stand a chance of going beyond New York City, unto the national stage.

Joining me now to break it all down is our political panel, Democratic strategist Doug Thornell, managing editor for "The Hill", Bob Cusack, and CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden.

So, I want to start with you, Doug, because we heard former President Bill Clinton praise Bloomberg and de Blasio. What does this mean for his wife? De Blasio, obviously, part of the Clinton administration. And he singled her out and him out. 2016 is just around the corner.

DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think one thing she needs to pay attention to is there is a movement within the party, a more populist strain of the party showing in people like Elizabeth Warren -- this discussion about if you work hard 40 hours a week, you should be able to put food on the table, send your kids to college. That somewhere along the line in the last 10, 12 years, the rules have been changed against middle class families, and that the special interest, big corporations, those folks are playing by a different set of rules.

And I think she's going to have to be able to figure out if she runs how she kind of captures that message and conveys it to the public, because I think in the party, there is a growing movement toward this populist messaging that she didn't really use in 2008.

TAPPER: She sure didn't.

Do you think this is -- I mean, obviously, look, New York City is New York City. It's a very liberal place, although they haven't elected a Democrat mayor there in about two decades. But is this a sign of something larger or is this something we could say, well, that's, you know, Manhattan?

BOB CUSACK, MANAGING EDITOR, THE HILL: Jake, I think this is a big deal. We talk a lot about divisions on the right and the Tea Party. There is now a division on the left and the progressives see the new mayor as someone who's going to keep the campaign promises. A lot of the left disappointed with President Obama.

And I do agree with Doug, is that Hillary Clinton has got to watch this left flank, specifically the Bernie Sanders, the Elizabeth Warren flank of the Democratic Party, if she's going to win the Democratic nomination. Obviously, she's a huge favorite. She's got to watch that left plank.

TAPPER: Howie Wolfson, deputy mayor I believe, or at least an assistant mayor to Mayor Bloomberg, outgoing Mayor Bloomberg, a big Democrat, worked on the Hill here, he tweeted, he retweeted a criticism of the inaugural, criticism that some other journalists had written about it being bitter and partisan. That's just a retweet. I don't want to read too much into it.

But there are people, even Democrats, even though Bloomberg was reportedly independent, who are going to be rubbed the wrong way.

MADDEN: Well, look, you know, one of my first jobs was actually in Yonkers City Hall, which is actually Howard Wolfson's hometown, believe it or not.