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Obamacare Coverage Begins for Some; Supreme Court Grants Obamacare Exemption; Obama Wants Federal Minimum Wage Boost; Pot Now Legal in Colorado.

Aired January 1, 2014 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live in New York City. It is January 1st, 2014. Happy New Year.

And happy Obamacare day. Today is the day it starts taking effect for some people, anyway. Look, the administration has been thrilled about the numbers of those enrolled. But there's another side. Have they paid? Are they actually covered?

Jim Acosta is following the story live from Washington, D.C.

Give me the pros and cons of what happens today and whether the administration is telling us everything about how well it's going.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that they are telling us as much as they want to tell us right now in terms of how well it's going. We're going to have to find out over the next several weeks and months as to how the next rollout is going. That starts today, the rollout of coverage. 2.1 million people have signed up for Obamacare. And we're going to find out because the coverage essentially goes into effect today. And there will be bumps along the way.

People signed up for coverage but perhaps have not paid. The White House yesterday put out a tip sheet to consumers saying listen, if you think you have coverage through Obamacare, make sure you call your provider and make sure the coverage is in place before you go to the doctor's office or the pharmacy. And if you're having trouble, you can call a hot line that's there for the consumers who have questions about all of this. It's up there on So that's an indication when they put that tip sheet out that they know there might be a few speed bumps over the next several weeks.

BANFIELD: Speed bumps you say. How about last night? Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor saying that that mandate may not apply to all. Can you explain that?

ACOSTA: Yes. Just before the ball dropped on times square, she dropped a ball of her own. Dropped a mini bombshell, you might say, in that she basically issued a temporary stay blocking a mandate that is a part of Obamacare that requires religious fall waited groups to provide contraceptive care for their employees. They said, wait a minute, we're going to take a timeout and allow the federal government to respond. And in the meantime, we can report that the White House has now responded to all of this. It says, quote, "We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance while preventing nonprofit religious organizations with objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange or pay for such coverage." The administration had put out guidelines for some of these groups that they could get around this mandate. But some of the groups, like the one that filed the lawsuit, basically said, hey, you know, put these administrative rules aside. We think this is a violation of our rights as an organization to do what we want to do in terms of providing coverage, insurance coverage for our employees.

So all of this will have to get sorted out by the Supreme Court. Just when we thought all the news related to Obamacare was over for 2013, she weighed in just before the clock struck midnight.

BANFIELD: Interesting is one way to put it. Frustrating is another way to put it if you're sitting in the White House today.

Jim Acosta, thank you for that reporting.

And speaking whether it's frustrating, interesting or terrific news, I want to bring in our political analysts. Mark Lamont Hill is live in Philadelphia; and Kevin Madden is live in D.C.

Kevin, I'm going to come to you first.

In the spirit of New Year's, did Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor maneuver last night amount to Champaign corks for Republicans?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I don't think anybody celebrates these types of things. It's a value addition of many of the warnings that Republicans had made during the formation process of the Affordable Care Act. I think this becomes a big problem for Democrats in the context of 2014 since it is going to be an election year for many of the members of Congress, for all the members of house and many members of the Senate. Any time that you have to re-litigate something like this, when it's in a courtroom, it's also going to be re-litigated in the court of public opinion. And that's very difficult for law enforcement of Democrats who are in red states right now. If they start showing up at the poling booths in November, I think that's going to be something that's difficult for a lot of these Democrats running in red states.

BANFIELD: And, Mark, you got to wonder if there isn't a bit of a dagger in the heart of President Obama. This is his Supreme Court justice nominee that made this happen last night. As Jim Acosta said, dropped a bombshell of her own. Granted this is temporary. But what does it say on a practical level for all of those other charities, hospitals and organizations that are affiliated with the catholic church that see this as a big victory?

MARK LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They should see it as a big victory. Many of us even on the left saw this as a real problem. In all fairness, they never attempted to ramrod this through. They were always willing to come up with a compromise. The proposed compromise was having third party insurers and other people provide this coverage. That was a compromise. Of course many people said that's not good enough. I'm inclined to agree with those people. But the Obama administration has garnered goodwill by being able to negotiate on this particular issue. But it sends a powerful message. It's for the for-profit companies as well. There are many Christian for-profit companies saying we don't want to have to give contraceptive coverage out. I think they're going to have to come to the table with a good response. But I don't think it's going to cripple them in 2014.

BANFIELD: Kevin, do you predict that Republicans are going to be able to campaign on Obamacare or might that be something that the Democrats will be able to do?

MADDEN: I can guarantee you now that Obamacare will be the center of the universe during the 2014 year, whether it's the size of government, the growth of government, government getting between you and your health care. But also a lot of the spending and taxation that was involved in health care and how that is hurting a lot of people's budgets and hurting the federal government's bottom line. I think it's going to be center -- it's going to be central to the political conversation that we have throughout 2014 for sure.

BANFIELD: You two --


HILL: I don't disagree.

BANFIELD: Quickly. Go ahead, Mark. Quick.

HILL: I agree with Kevin. It's going to be the center of the conversation. But I don't think it's going to be a big weight against the Obama administration now that people are enrolling. We just saw two million people enroll.

BANFIELD: Happy New Year to you both. You're nice to come out and do this on your holiday.


BANFIELD: I hope it's going to be warm and toasty where you are.

MADDEN: It is. Great to be with you.

BANFIELD: Coming up, as I was on my way to this location, I passed a couple of Starbucks where you can get a cup of coffee for seven bucks or more. And that happens to be what it actually costs for someone to work for one hour. What about the minimum wage going up? You're going to find out what it might go up to after the break.


BANFIELD: Welcome to New York City. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live from Central Park South. This is the morning after the big night in Times Square. And yet, nobody looks hung over. It's pretty incredible. Maybe because there's good news at least for 13 states and 4 cities, a higher minimum wage. Maybe it's your state. But the president of this country wants it to be federal across the board. He wants the $7.25 to be boosted all the way to 10 bucks. Before you think that through, just imagine what it would be like if you were living on $7.25 an hour.

Do the math and listen to Poppy Harlow.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Ashleigh. Well, over the last year, there have been a flurry of protests from retail and fast- food workers demanding what they call a living wage, saying they can't get by on what they're making. Here is a look at what life is like for two workers who say they simply need to make more to make it on their own.


JOANNA CRUZ, WORKS FOR MINIMUM WAGE: You have no money on your lunch account? Not a dollar?

HARLOW (voice-over): At 29 years old, Joanna Cruz is stuck in a job that pays $7.30 an hour. She works overnights at a deli, 40 hours a week. Her weekly paycheck, $244.70.

(on camera): What do you need to make to be able to get by on your own?

CRUZ: At least $14, $15, to be able to live comfortably.

HARLOW: Do you add it up as you go?

CRUZ: Yeah.

HARLOW: You do?

CRUZ: I have to.

HARLOW (voice-over): She's a single mom fighting to get by. Don't be mistaken, she blames herself for not finishing high school and not going to college. But they tell me there has to be more she can achieve.

CRUZ: There is no moving up. I might get a raise if there along enough.

HARLOW: Joanna's life mirrors her mother's. Augusta Cruz worked 30 years in a mattress factory and said she never made more than $9 an hour.

AUGUSTA CRUZ, MOTHER OF JOANNA: It's a vicious cycle for everybody.

HARLOW: She provides the home Joanna can't afford.

(on camera): If it weren't for you having them here under your roof, where would she be?

AUGUSTA CRUZ: In the shelter or street.

HARLOW: (voice-over): Years of low wage work has left her with little hope.

CRUZ: I'm 29. But the time I finish school, I'll probably be like 40. Then who is going to hire a 40-year-old that just starting off with no experience? It's probably not going to happen. Some days I don't want to try.

HARLOW: (on camera): Tell me what you mean.

CRUZ: I feel like, what's the point? What's the point of trying, I'm not going to make it anyway.

HARLOW: Do you think from the outside looking in people have any idea what you go through?

CRUZ: No. None.

HARLOW: (voice-over): Americans have long believed in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. But we can't agree on that that wage is today. President Obama supports raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 for about $10 an hour. But critics argue that won't help but hurt, costing jobs and increasing prices.

DAVID NEUMARK, CENTER FOR ECONOMICS & PUBLIC POLICY, U.C.-IRVINE: In general, prices go up, people buy less and firms use less labor. You are better off if you earn a higher wage, clearly. But weigh that against the fact that your employer might make do with fewer workers and you might be one of them.

HARLOW: At the center of the debate, fast-food chains and big-box retailers. In 2012, the average cost was $9 an hour. For retail workers, $12. 17. Both higher than minimum wage.

Still, Tiffany Beroid is among those demanding higher pay.


HARLOW: She's a member of Our Walmart, a union-backed group.

TIFFANY BEROID, OUR WALMART: It isn't enough money for me to get by. We're stay stand still right now.

HARLOW: Walmart's U.S. CEO says they pay a fair wage and unfairly criticized.

BILL SIMON, PRESIDENT & CEO, WALMART U.S.: We pay above average wages for the retail industry and provide incredible opportunity. The discussion around the minimum wage is one that the country needs to be had. But that's not the issue. The issue is where you go to once you've started.

HARLOW: Tiffany wants more opportunity. But at $10.70 an hour, she says she can't afford to work full-time with the child care costs. So why doesn't she look for another job?

BEROID: I'm not unhappy with my job. I like being with the customers. So it's not -- I mean it's pointless for me to find a job. I would rather stay and fight.

HARLOW: As for Joanna, her pay will go up in January when minimum wage in New Jersey increased to $8.25 an hour. She will still struggle but hopes her children's lives will be better.

CRUZ: It's not going to happen to my kids. It's not. I promise you it's not going to happen to my kids. I won't allow it to.


HARLOW: Consider this number. More than 12 million full-time working Americans made less than $20,000 in 2012. Keep in mind, that is more than minimum wage. And if you adjust for inflation, today's federal minimum wage is below where it was in the late 1960s -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Poppy Harlow, reporting for us. Thank you so much.

A lot of people in this city were ringing in the New Year with a lot of booze and champagne. But in other places like Colorado, they were rolling joints. It's legal as of this morning to buy yourself some pot in that state. We'll take you there and show you what it looks like when you walk in the pot store, after this.


BANFIELD: Bobby Joe?


All right. Welcome to New York City, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live with Bobby Joe.

Is that his name?


BANFIELD: Bobby Joe.

You know the famous horse-drawn carriages in New York City, such a big issue, because there's a brand-new mayor in town. Bill de Blasio, he said he wants to ban the carriages. That's why we're out on the street talking about that.

Also talking about other laws in other states. This is a chronic problem across this country, people arguing whether weed is bad or good. Today, no matter what you think, it is legal to buy pot in a store in Colorado.

That's why Casey Wian went to a pot store not to buy it but to cover it.

Walk me through how it all, would today. Happy New Year.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I appreciate you clarifying that for the audience. Here's how it works. You can see customers here. They're sampling some of the marijuana. They're not sampling by smoking it but sampling it by smelling it. I talked to these clerks who are knowledgeable about the effects of the different strains of marijuana. Then they decide which strain they want to buy and then go to a cash register, pay for it with cash and actually come over here where you can see it's actually put in a child resistant container. That's one of the regulations that the state of Colorado has. Has to be a child-resistant container. You'll see this worker is about to seal this. If you could just show us how it's not easy to open that bag up. So the idea is to keep children from getting it.

We're going to talk to one of the customers who just bought marijuana for recreational purposes legally for the first time in Colorado. Her name is Jessica.

Tell me why you came here today and what do you there about this new law?

UNIDENTIFIED LEGAL POT CUSTOMER: I'm from Colorado but live in Italy where marijuana is a felony. I'm here visiting for Christmas. I voted for this because I'm still a resident of Colorado and I wanted to support it. I'm not a regular marijuana user but I feel strongly that it should be legalized. So I'm here to support that.

WIAN: You know it's illegal to take it out of the state. You're not going to bring it home, right? OK.

There you go, Ashleigh. Very busy day in Colorado.

BANFIELD: I'll bet you're busy.

Casey Wian, thank you for bringing us that story.

There's going to be a lot more stories with regard to that state and legalizing pot.

Coming up after the break, four words to tell you, Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin. Let me add one more word. Handcuffs. I kid you not. That's coming up next.


BANFIELD: Hey, welcome back to New York City. I don't know if you've ever been to the Big Apple on New Years eave in Times Square, but it's a hoot. If you're at home, you can still experience it to the wonder of Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper. I'm going to show you something. Hide the children. Take a look at how their night went and, keep in mind, handcuffs.



ANDERSON COOPER, CO-HOST, CNN NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATION: I want to end by saying I love you and I'm glad you're here. But I just want this year.

GRIFFIN: This is like an intervention. You get shy about these things but it's very brave of you to use tonight for your endorsement of future president, Ted Cruz in 2016.


COOPER: Kathy Griffin who has been -- Ryan Seacrest has been her nemesis for years.

You were convinced he was trying to kill you, or was that Oprah?

GRIFFIN: I believed they were in a coven trying to kill me.


COOPER: A coven.

GRIFFIN: And that you were also a member of for at least four years.

COOPER: No swearing, no stripping and, most important to me, no touching and no simulations if you know what I mean. Simulations --

GRIFFIN: I'm not going to simulate. I'm going to do it.


People actually asked if I was going to lick you tonight, like Miley Cyrus. I know the hurt little boy no lives inside the model body.


Let me tell you, he's 5 years old. Mommy's missing. She's at studio 54. His soup is cold and all he wants is love. So he's reading every single tweet.


I scroll through mine I'm like, next, next, next. Go to, buy tickets. That's one tear like Demi Moore in "Ghost." He's doing pottery. That little boy never grew up. He's got short pants. He's got suspenders having high tea.


Somebody just love him for who he is. He's just a model. He's an underwear model that became a newsman by mistake.

Get me Rick Sanchez.

Rick, if you're watching, come on back. You're welcome.

COOPER: You are funny. You make me laugh.

GRIFFIN: Come to my window about me.


GRIFFIN: I think we can stop. Actually, it's about Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you, yes.

GRIFFIN: Did that girl with the crown just said the word micro peen?


GRIFFIN: She said the watermelon has a micro peen.

COOPER: No. A what?

GRIFFIN: A micro peen.

What haven't you done yet, Deborah Harry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I haven't climbed big mountains.

GRIFFIN: You can climb Anderson Cooper right now, you know what I'm saying.


COOPER: In high school, I wanted to be Amish.

GRIFFIN: You know what? You drop these bombs on me and then you have the nerve to act like I'm the one that's unpredictable. What do you mean you want to be Amish?

COOPER: First of all, I had seen the movie "Witness" and thought it looked so nice. You don't have to worry about what you're wearing. Black and white every day.

GRIFFIN: Here's the deal. You're a Vanderbilt. It's not going to change. There aren't Amish Vanderbilts. Your mom used to live in the Bergdorf Goodman store.

COOPER: I'm a Cooper, first of all.


I handcuffed myself to Anderson Cooper. You guys, I did it! I don't have the key at all.


COOPER: This is truly my worst nightmare.


GRIFFIN: We're together forever. If I can't have you, no one can. COOPER: I will gnaw off my hand.


BANFIELD: And that's the way it was in New York's Times Square. Anderson Cooper reduced to tears and laughter, and Kathy Griffin.

Stella is leading the way for these lovely people who have taken their carriage ride in New York City. It might not be something they're going to be able to do if the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, sworn in last night, gets his way. Wants to see the carriages disappear. Get set for an epic battle in the city.

In the meantime, it's a beautiful and balmy 26 degrees here. Getting colder and getting snowier. We'll update your weather story today on CNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: New York has a new mayor and for the first time in 20 years, it's a Democrat. We're going to bring you live coverage of Bill de Blasio's inauguration ceremony later in the hour.

Plus, North Korea's leader talks for the first time about his uncle's execution, saying filth has been purged from the ruling party.

And Pope Francis delivers his first New Year's message after a year of big change for the Catholic Church.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Happy New Year to all of you.

This hour, New York City's new mayor taking the ceremonial oath of office. Bringing it to you live. The inauguration set to start on the steps of city hall any minute now. Live pictures there. He is the first Democrat to be elected mayor of the nation's largest city in two decades. Former President Bill Clinton is actually going to administer the oath of office.

Our Susan Candiotti and our political analyst, John Avlon, joining us from New York.