Return to Transcripts main page
JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Intel Breakthrough?; Is Your Food Safe?; Interview With Congressman Tom Tancredo
Aired December 6, 2004 - 15:29 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we are today, you know, down to the wire, just pleading for this legislation to go forward so that my family and your family and our country is safer.
ANNOUNCER: Security watch on the Hill. Advocates of intelligence reform plead their case and try to beat the clock.
The House as a safe haven. Is this what the founding fathers had in mind?
STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: It's become the House of Lords, not the House of Commons.
ANNOUNCER: John McCain at bat, ready to take a swing against steroids in sports.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Baseball is America's pastime, and any perversion or distortion or corruption of the process is something that most Americans and baseball fans find very offensive.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
Maybe it was yet another push by President Bush this morning, or broader fears of political fallout, or the feelings of the 9/11 families that you just heard. Whatever the reason, Republicans do appear close now to resolving one of the sticking points in passing intelligence reform. But another obstacle remains with very little time left before the holiday recess.
Here now, our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Judy.
That's right. As CNN first reported this afternoon, congressional negotiators believe they finally have the framework for a deal on this 9/11 intelligence reform bill. To give you an idea of what's been happening all weekend, there were marathon talks, and we've learned that late last night, language written by senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and was sent over to the White House, finally that's what they've been working off all today, clarifying the chain of command language.
That is what has been holding up House Armed Services chairman, Duncan Hunter. He's been concerned that a new director of national intelligence would interfere with the military's chain of command, could put troops into harm's way. That is the framework now for sources close to the talks, telling us that they have an agreement in principle on that language.
Also, a little bit more breaking news that there is going to be a press conference now scheduled for 4:45 today, where Duncan Hunter and Senate Armed Services chairman John Warner now scheduled to appear together to actually endorse this deal. They have not done yet that, but they've scheduled a press conference.
I also have a copy of a draft statement that Warner and Hunter have put together officially endorsing that. They're still haggling and working out the final details of that.
This is very significant, because John Warner and Duncan Hunter, of course, very powerful figures up here. If they are finally signing on, that is going to give this deal some real legs. And earlier today, Duncan Hunter went on camera with CNN's Joe Johns to talk about his optimism about a deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: We've just got a little more work, a little more discussion to do, and some -- we think some drafting and all the typical things that you do when you wrap up a fairly large bill. But we think we've got some good between us and the Senate, some good language.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, this leaves one other major issue to deal with. The other holdout, of course, has been House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner. He has wanted to add some tough immigration provisions to this legislation.
We're being told now by Democratic and Republican sources close to the talks that those immigration provisions are essentially off the table now. They believe they're moving on, that it was most important to get Duncan Hunter on board. They now think they have him on board. And the sense is that the immigration provisions will be basically punted until next year.
Now, obviously James Sensenbrenner not happy with that. He has not signed off on anything here.
He has repeatedly said that he will not wait till January or February. He wants the immigration provisions included as part of this deal. So we have to stay tuned to see what he will do. Now, this -- all of this caps off a frenetic day of lobbying. It included Vice President Cheney himself getting on the phone all day, talking to congressional negotiators, trying to work out that language I mentioned that was written by senators Collins and Lieberman.
There also are some 9/11 families here lobbying on the Hill who are not happy about this proposed deal. They think the immigration provisions are critical, that they should be included.
There are other 9/11 families, however, who are very happy with the deal that's currently on the table. They, in fact, appeared at another press conference today with former 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer. They were urging that this legislation get through now, more than three years after the 9/11 attacks. And Tim Roemer put it in very stark terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM ROEMER, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSIONER: We have a 57-year-old system that is the status quo that allowed 3,000 people to die on our homeland. We need to change it.
If Congress and the White House doesn't change it, they preserve the status quo. And more body bags may have to happen before we get changes in the future. That should not take place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the political equation for the president has been very difficult to sort out here among Republicans on the Hill. There's one school of thought that the president had to get a deal here, because if Sensenbrenner and Hunter looked like they were winning, that would -- could, in fact, embolden other Republicans next year to try to block some of the president's second-term agenda. There are other Republicans up here, though, saying just the opposite, and saying if it looks like the president is rolling conservative like James Sensenbrenner, that could upset other conservatives next year -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry, thanks very much. And we're going to hear more about this. We're going to talk with Ron Brownstein, and then also I'll be talking with Congressman Tom Tancredo, who...
HENRY: That's right. And Judy...
WOODRUFF: Ed, thank you very much.
HENRY: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Meantime, a vivid -- elsewhere in Washington, an apparent step forward in fighting terror. CNN has learned that the National Counterterrorism Center formally opened for business today.
Officials are refusing to confirm that publicly, keeping the opening decidedly low-key. The state-of-the-art facility was created under an executive order by President Bush, and would get additional clout under the intelligence reform bill.
A vivid reminder today that the terror threat still is very real. Gunmen attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Five local employees were killed, four others hospitalized.
Saudi security forces killed three of the gunmen and captured two others. A U.S. State Department official says that al Qaeda is suspected in the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The attacks in Saudi Arabia remind us that the terrorists are still on the move. They're interested in affecting the will of free countries.
They -- they want us to leave Saudi Arabia. They want us to leave Iraq. They want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly and kill innocent people. And that's why these elections in Iraq are very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: We'll have more ahead on President Bush, the war on terror, and intelligence reform.
Now to the security of food in this country. The Bush administration today announced new rules aimed at helping trace the source of food contamination, particularly in the event of a bioterror attack. Outgoing Health Secretary Tommy Thompson caused a bit of a stir Friday when he said he worries every single night, his words, about an attack on America's food supply. Today he was more cautious in discussing his concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We have moved a long way towards improving the food safety. We've gone from 12,000 inspections, when I first arrived four years ago, to this year we're going to hit close to 100,000 inspections, which is almost a 700- percent increase over what it was.
I'm still not -- I'm still not comfortable. I still think we got a ways to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: You can stay with CNN in prime time tonight for reports on food safety, bureaucratic roadblocks, and the possibility use of cropdusters as a bioterror weapon.
Well, when Tommy Thompson raised that red flag about food security last week, some read it as a parting shot at the Bush administration. Let's talk about that and more with CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times." What did Tommy Thompson have in mind, do we think?
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": That was one of the most extraordinary parting remarks by an outgoing cabinet secretary ever to so starkly raise the fear of a terrorist attack on the U.S. I read it two ways.
One, I think Tommy Thompson probably wasn't enormously happy in this job. He was a very influential and powerful governor, not only within his state, but around the country at the cutting edge of reform on welfare and health care as a governor. He came to Washington, was never in the top tier. Wasn't his own guy anymore.
And I think it wasn't easy transition for him. And clearly, this was not the message that the Bush White House wanted to hear on the last day of the HHS secretary. So I think there was some of that.
Also, Judy, I think, though, it is a reminder. If you are looking at this from the point -- looking at the terrorism threat from the point of view of hardening the targets, this is a big country with a lot of different points of vulnerability. And if you start sort of cataloging, one day we're talking about cargo containers coming in, another day chemical and nuclear plants, the food, it's almost an infinite supply of targets which does argue for the broader message that Bush and, indeed, John Kerry had, that we have to have other measures beyond defense. We have to have a form of offense.
WOODRUFF: It is something to keep one awake at night.
Ron, very quickly, to intelligence reform, it does look like there is a deal being worked out based on the reporting of Ed Henry, Joe Johns and others. What does this say about the president having to fight so hard to get his own party on board?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, first of all, if they are, in fact, coming on board, that is a good sign for the president. You know, when he went out last week, those statements in Canada, and then again Saturday in his radio address, when he went that far out on a limb, very rarely have congressional Republicans sawed it off behind them.
They have really felt -- and I think it's been a contrast to the early Clinton years. When the Democrats had unified control, the Republicans in Congress have been willing to tie themselves to President Bush and basically support his agenda on most issues.
Now, this may have been a warning sign that there's only so far that can go. A place like immigration, which may be the odd man out on this bill, is something that could come back and become a problem for him again. But I think it is a dramatic statement, given the resistance of this phase, of how willing Republicans are in the end to fall in line behind President Bush.
WOODRUFF: One of the things that we saw a few weeks ago, we just saw the Republican speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, saying we're not going to put this to a vote until we have a majority of the Republican majority. Does it appear now they have that? And, if not, what does that mean?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I believe Duncan Hunter is -- the White House feeling last week was, if you could get the Armed Services people on board, and you could resolve the concerns about the chain of command, that the people worried about immigration would not be enough to prevent you from getting the majority of the majority. So perhaps if they indeed, as Ed Henry was reporting, have Warner and have Duncan Hunter, they probably are there.
But the larger question is whether Dennis Hastert is going to stick with that policy in the new term because there are obviously issues where it's going to be a concern for President Bush if he does. Immigration is a prime example.
The president wants broad immigration reform. It's hard to imagine how he could structure that in a way that would get a majority of House Republicans, while still having any chance of getting 60 votes in the Senate. So if Hastert's going to stick to this policy, he's going to have some more collisions with the White House ahead.
WOODRUFF: If they get this passed this week, Ron, how much capital will the president have used up?
BROWNSTEIN: I think -- you know, look, what he's always said is you've got to -- you've got to spend capital to earn capital. And I do believe that rather than using it up, I think he is once again demonstrating that Republicans are reluctant to break from a president who's at a 90 percent approval rating in their own party throughout his presidency.
There aren't going to be many times -- obviously there will be some, but I think there are only going to be so many times that congressional Republicans are going to be willing to break from a president so popular in their own ranks with their own core voters. And I think this will be a demonstration of strength if he can manage this through.
WOODRUFF: All right. Ron Brownstein. And we're going to hear a little more in a minute about those divisions inside the Republican majority. In the House, anyway. Thanks very much.
So how hard is the president pushing for intelligence reform? Still ahead, we'll get an update on the administration lobbying, as well as another cabinet change apparently in the works.
Up next, a leading player in the intelligence reform debate. I'll talk with House Republican Tom Tancredo.
Plus, investigating the presidential vote in Ohio. What do Democrats think they may find?
WOODRUFF: The intelligence reform debate has divided families of those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks. Some family members agree with those Republicans who want new rules added to the bill to address illegal immigration. Others support the current version, and they say they are tired of waiting for Congress to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEVERLY ECKERT, 9/11 FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE: All I can say to those who think that Congress needs more time to act, and that this bill should be postponed till next session, well -- then we say we shouldn't rush this. Well I think there's a good bet that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda would like to see this bill delayed, too. It's been three years. This country has waited long enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Colorado Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo is among those who had called for tougher provisions against illegal immigration in the intelligence reform bill. The measure could be voted on as soon as tomorrow. And when I spoke with Congressman Tancredo just a short time ago, I asked him if he thinks the bill will pass.
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: If they bring it to the floor it will have the votes to pass.
TANCREDO: But I'm hoping, of course, that they do not have the votes and that it will not come to the floor. But if you see it coming to the floor, it's because they've got the votes.
WOODRUFF: Well, the president says Congress should pass this as soon as possible. He says it's necessary, it's important.
TANCREDO: The president is wrong. The president is wrong about this, as he's been wrong for a long time about the need to do something about our borders.
He considers them two separate topics. And this is -- this is incredible that anybody who stands in front of the American public as often as he has, and says, I'm doing everything possible to protect you, does not consider the borders and border security as important in that task.
I mean, it's incredible to me. And he is wrong as he can possibly be. Both from a policy standpoint he is wrong, and from a political standpoint he's wrong.
The American people want this security. They want it. They are demanding it.
He's telling them, forget about it, you don't need it, I'll take care of it. But he's not going to. The president is wrong.
WOODRUFF: Well, Congressman Tancredo, negotiators are telling us that the provisions that have to do with immigration can be added, separately addressed next year in separate legislation. TANCREDO: There is nothing -- if the president of the United States, especially, doesn't want this kind of bill, he's not going to get it in any other form. I mean, if he -- I f we pass it as a stand- alone bill, he'll veto it.
If we -- the only way we could ever get this kind of legislation is if it goes on the bill that he has to sign, as this bill is. That's why he doesn't want it on this bill.
He can promise anything later, because, of course, you can't get it through the Senate. You know, they are wimps on this issue, as the worst I've ever seen. And if they did -- if we did get something through the Senate, he'd probably veto it. So he doesn't have to worry about pushing it off to some other time.
WOODRUFF: Well, if it's such a mistake, Congressman, then how do you explain the Republican leadership of the House, your own colleagues, being for it?
TANCREDO: Because the president is pressuring them. And he's the president of the United States. And when he calls the speaker of the House, that's an important call.
And the speaker is -- you know, it's tough for him to say no. He has actually stood up to the president, I think, as hard as he possibly can. I wish he -- I hope he stays strong. And I hope that the rest of our conference stays strong.
Because I'll tell you what, Judy, when we were arguing this the last time in the conference, more people argued against the bill on the immigration provisions that were torn out by the Senate than argued against the bill because of the -- of the problems that Duncan Hunter expressed with regard to the chain of command.
WOODRUFF: Why do you believe the White House is -- is not willing to do what you want done with regard to immigration? It was reported in the fall that they were reluctant to deal with some of this, reportedly because of concerns about antagonizing Hispanic voters.
WOODRUFF: Is that part of what's going on?
TANCREDO: That's part of the agenda. But it's only a part.
Frankly, the president, I think people have to take him at his word when he says, you know, you know who I am, I tell you what I believe, and I'm going to do it. He is an internationalist. I mean that's all there is to it.
He really does not believe that we should be doing anything that restricts the flow of people into this country. And that's really, I think, the bottom line with him.
WOODRUFF: So if this passes this week, as you -- as many people now believe it will, what does that mean for American security?
TANCREDO: Well, believe me, we are no more secure. In fact, what we have done is to create an illusion of security with a bill like this, which makes us worse off as far as I'm concerned.
And I'll tell you that this will not only have an affect on that, but it will certainly have an affect on our party. This is a deep division that is growing deeper every minute. And the president is going to pay a price for this later with legislation.
WOODRUFF: Have you talked directly to the White House about this?
TANCREDO: We don't communicate all that well.
WOODRUFF: Well, what do you mean? You don't...
TANCREDO: We don't -- I mean, you know, I have tried on more than one occasion to communicate with the White House on this. It's a one-way street.
WOODRUFF: But they're...
TANCREDO: The president doesn't respond.
WOODRUFF: Well, they're members of your own party.
TANCREDO: Yes, you would think so. But, you know, the president and I have had our -- our problems about this issue.
WOODRUFF: Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, with some pretty strong views, as you could tell, about the subject of immigration reform.
With us now from the Hill once again, our Ed Henry.
Ed, it looks like now you can confirm that they have reached an agreement on intelligence reform.
HENRY: That's right, Judy. We referred to this just a few moments ago on CNN, the fact that Duncan Hunter and John Warner, the two powerful Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, were on the verge of endorsing this proposed deal, the tweaking of the chain of command language to make sure that the new director of national intelligence does not break that chain of command.
We now have an official statement from Mr. Hunter and Mr. Warner. I'll read it quickly. "After working through the weekend with the vice president, several conferees and other members, we have come to an agreement on changed bill language that we believe protects with necessary clarity the time-tested chain of command." There's one more sentence there that talks about getting this through. But the bottom line is the key there is the changed bill language.
That, I think, is help from sources involved in these talks to make sure Duncan Hunter has something to come out of here, saying that he changed this language. But I want to stress the people on the other side close to senators Collins and Lieberman stress that the language, the underlying bill, was not changed. Just tweaking and just clarifying. And they say that the director of national intelligence will still have the power that they want -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So they changed it, but they didn't change it.
HENRY: Yes. There's going to be a little bit of disagreement exactly how they changed it. One side wants to save face, the other side wants to save face. You know how it works -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Yes. We'll see how they -- how they address all this. OK. Ed Henry.
HENRY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much for that update. We appreciate it.
While intelligence reform is the big issue at the moment, the president has said Social Security reform will be a major objective of his second term in office. Mr. Bush is discussing Social Security this hour with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other congressional leaders.
Earlier, the president's spokesman told reporters the White House plan to add personal retirement accounts to Social Security will require new government borrowing. Press secretary Scott McClellan described the borrowing as necessary to cover what he called "up-front transition financing."
Jobs security. That is pretty much a given these days if you are a member of the House of Representatives. When we return, we'll find out why it's been getting easier for incumbent members of the House to keep their seats.
WOODRUFF: It's turned out that politicians looking for job security might want to consider running for the U.S. House of Representatives. The House has evolved into a chamber with very little turnover. So what's the reason for that? Our Bruce Morton has some answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The men who wrote the Constitution thought the House, with two-year terms for members, would be the body with a big turnover, members coming and going, reflecting shifts in public opinion. They were wrong. Once elected, you can probably stay till you die.
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Since 1998, there have only been 27 incumbents total who have lost. So, unless you are an incumbent who has gotten yourself into a deep amount of trouble, it's really not likely you're going to lose.
MORTON: Why? Redistricting. Always political, but more than ever now.
WALTER: In 2001, we saw that it became really a way for the state legislatures to protect incumbents. And so there are very few of these true competitive districts left.
Incumbents just don't lose anymore. And that is redistricting. It's also how expensive it is to run now. The people's House now costs at least $1 million or $2 million to gain entry into.
MORTON: And these safe districts have changed the nature of the House.
ROTHENBERG: Members represent very Republican or Democratic districts now. They don't have to respond to swing voters. They don't have to even respond to the issues of the day. They know they just have to look back to their political bases and be good party regulars.
MORTON: The House has been Republican since 1994. It was Democratic for 40 years before that. But the Democrats were split during much of that time between southerners, who supported racial segregation, and northerners who didn't.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act, for instance, passed with 141 northern Democratic votes and 138 Republican votes. But 92 southern Democrats voted against it.
When the House Judiciary Committee considered impeaching Richard Nixon in 1974, six of the committee's 17 Republicans voted for the first article, bipartisanship which sealed Nixon's fate.
The 1998 House vote on impeaching William Clinton was much more party line. Two hundred twenty-three Republicans for, just five against. There's more discipline now.
WALTER: This Republican Congress, they're passing very controversial pieces of legislation. Big programs, Medicare prescription drug bills, tax cuts only with Republican votes. That's remarkable considering the fact that they had in this last Congress just a 12-seat majority.
MORTON: The new House, entrenched incumbents, strong discipline.
ROTHENBERG: It's become the House of Lords, not the House of Commons.
MORTON: Might that change? A look in our next report.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.
Two presidents, a king and bipartisan members of Congress. George Bush is a busy host today. Coming up, we'll go live to the White House.
And later, John McCain says he's ready to step up to the plate. The senator from Arizona threatens action if baseball doesn't clean up its own act.
WOODRUFF: It's just after 4 in the east. And as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with "The Dobbs Report."
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi, Judy.
Oil prices today moving up slightly following last week's 14 percent tumble. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia, political arrest in Nigeria contributing to concerns about oil supplies.
But a barrel of crude oil is still priced well below $43 a barrel. And OPEC is set to meet Friday. The oil cartel wants to keep oil prices near $40 a barrel.
On Wall Street today, stocks recovered some of the early losses. Final trades are still being counted. The Dow Jones Industrials down almost 46 points, but the NASDAQ composite is trading slightly higher.
The slide in oil prices today causing a slight move lower in gasoline prices. The Lundberg Survey shows the national average is now $1.93 a gallon.
The rising cost of prescription drugs also slowing in the last quarter. A new study by the AARP found drug prices rose by just half a percent during the July through December quarter. That is the smallest increase in years.
In the same period a year ago, for example, drug prices had risen nearly two percent. Some economists say the slowdown this summer related to the election because the high price of prescription drugs such a major issue.
The shakeup in President Bush's cabinet continues. Sources on Capitol Hill tell CNN that the Bush administration is looking to replace Treasury Secretary John Snow. The treasury secretary, whoever he or she may be, will lead the administration's effort next year to reform Social Security and overhaul the tax code.
Coming up here on CNN at 6 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," our special report, "American Culture in Decline." Tonight, what is steadily becoming a national decline to the lowest common denominator in a number of areas. But in particular, our country's educational system.
For example, most high school seniors now lack a basic knowledge of American history. Tonight we explore whether this could be a factoring in the decline of cultural values in our teens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK JENNINGS, CENTER ON EDUCATION POLICY: Kids aren't prepared for tomorrow, and other countries are catching up with us. We used to lead the world in terms of numbers of kids going to high school, numbers of people going on to college. Today we're no longer the leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Also tonight, it appears the president and Congress have reached an agreement to pass intelligence reform. A decision, we're told, is imminent. We will have complete coverage at 6 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.
And Senator Lindsey Graham will join me. We'll be talking about intelligence reform and his new legislation that would at least partially private advertise Social Security, and we'll be talking about how he intends to pay for it.
Also, several American soldiers are fighting against the Army's controversial stop loss policy that forces troops to remain in service even when their enlistment has ended. We'll have a special report for you from the Pentagon.
That's it from New York. Now back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Lou, as you've just been saying, it does look like they've reached an agreement on intelligence reform but only after a lot of pushing by the White House.
What do you think this says about the ability of the president to get what he wants from Congress in the next term?
DOBBS: It -- it suggests that some horse swapping has certainly gone on. It's going to be interesting to see what form this agreement takes.
But the fact is, it speaks to me more and, frankly, it speak in volumes about the ability of this leadership in both the House and the Senate to deal with the White House. We're going to see whether or not this Congress is going to take on properly its roles of oversight and provide important checks and balances in -- in the process of governance. We'll see how this final agreement looks before making any decisions about that.
WOODRUFF: All right. Lou Dobbs, thanks very much. And we'll see you at 6.
DOBBS: Got a deal. Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Lou.
INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: It's taken nearly five weeks but Ohio finally certifies its vote. But that may not end the fight over the presidential results in the Buckeye State.
LYNNE SERPE, GREEN PARTY: I'm not concerned about the actual outcome, who won the election. I'm concerned making sure that every vote is counted.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm excited for New Hampshire.
ANNOUNCER: Is it back to the future for John Kerry? Why was the Democratic presidential nominee in the Granite State over the weekend?
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back.
As we reported a short while ago, the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees issued a statement confirming that they have signed onto a compromised language in the intelligence reform bill. The language addresses their concerns about preserving the military chain of command.
Top members of the Bush team have been playing a role in tweaking the bill in hopes of getting it passed this year.
Let's check in with our White House correspondent, Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.
And as Ed Henry did report, there seems to be some agreement from those very important players on Capitol Hill, the Republican chairmen on the House and Senate armed services committees, on that particular issue, the chain of command. And that is something, as you mentioned, that very important players from the Bush administration have been working very intensively on. The vice president himself, we are told, made calls throughout the weekend.
Even today, the chief of staff, Andy Card, was also heavy involved, along with, of course, a congressional liaison, staff members whose have been working with members of Congress.
Of course, most importantly, Republican members of Congress. Those in the president's own party who were holding out on giving a final agreement, a final passage and letting the House bring this -- the House speaker bring this bill to the floor.
Now, the president himself, we are told, did not make any calls over the weekend or today. He did call the House speaker on Friday, did call the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, also on Friday.
They are here at the White House right now, Judy. They are not here on this particular issue. They're talking about Social Security reform, which is -- is something that the president wants to push first and foremost as his domestic agenda begins in a second term.
But the president did use his weekly radio address on Saturday to push this issue. And today, in a Q&A session with reporters while he was meeting with the Iraqi president, Mr. Bush did put the pressure on his fellow Republicans to get this bill passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I certainly hope the bill gets to my desk soon. I believe we've addressed the concerns of, by far, the majority members of both the House and the Senate, as we speak we're working with the key members to address concerns.
I call upon the Congress to pass the intelligence bill. It is a good piece of legislation. It is a necessary piece of legislation. It's a piece of legislation that is important for the security of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, another White House component, Judy, had been what officials described was a presidential letter, a letter from President Bush, signed by him, that they had been working on since last week, which lays out in detail what the so-called chain of command will be.
Essentially, again, was aimed at assuaging some of the concerns of some of the key Republicans about the fact that this bill could put, perhaps, military troops in harm's way if they weren't able to get the proper intelligence because of the shift in bureaucracy.
Some say that that letter now perhaps is moot. Others are saying, from Capitol Hill, that perhaps it is still critical, because we've been here before and they have been on the cusp of a deal that has fallen through. And it's important to get Mr. Bush's views on paper. And it's very important to do so. I'm unclear what the status of that letter is at this point.
But Judy, it's important to note that there has been some frustration among even Republicans that this -- this sort of this full court press from the White House didn't happen earlier, that they needed to put the pressure on their fellow Republicans, as they have been doing in the past few days.
And certainly, as I mentioned, the White House has a huge domestic agenda and some very tough things to tackle, as you were talking about with Lou Dobbs, like Social Security reform. And many were looking at this particular incident as perhaps a sign of how the president is going to deal with his fellow Republicans in the future.
DOBBS: No question.
Dana, on a separate topic. More reporting today about the likelihood that John Snow will leave his position as treasury secretary. What are you hearing about that and about a replacement?
BASH: Well, Judy, it's not going to happen today, we're told. Probably not tomorrow. This is something that has been in the works and been talked about for some time. I have not talk to a single senior official who has -- who has said that John Snow is going to stay in his job.
But there was one report that you're referring to that perhaps the White House chief of staff, Andy Card, was in line to take that job. He was asked by a reporter in the Oval Office today whether or not he is going to take it, and he said -- his answer was, "No, categorically no." So he says that he's not going to be in that job, but Secretary Snow, according to officials, is probably not going to be in after a couple months -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: We're still -- we're still working on finding out who will be.
BASH: That's right.
BASH: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Dana, thank you very much.
Well, separately, the president put Middle East tensions on the front burner today during his meeting with Iraq's interim president. The two leaders vowed to press ahead with January 30 elections, despite a surge of violence in Iraq in recent days.
Mr. Bush also discussed the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with the king of Jordan. The president is hoping that successful Iraqi elections will pave the way for progress toward peace in the Middle East.
Public opinion of the president appears to be looking up since his election victory in this country. A new "Newsweek" survey shows Mr. Bush's approval rating has inched up to 49 percent from 46 percent in late October.
Even more striking, 46 percent of those surveyed now say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. Now, that is up seven points from late October. The percentage of those dissatisfied has dropped 10 points.
A month after the '04 election, we'll have the latest on the lingering dispute over the vote in Ohio.
And was John Kerry looking back or ahead to 2008 this past weekend?
Also ahead, are Republicans having second thoughts about tapping Senator Elizabeth Dole for a top political job?
WOODRUFF: In the ever-watched state of Ohio, its secretary of state certified Ohio's presidential election result just last hour, but the counting may not be over.
CNN's Keith Oppenheim joins us now with more from the state capital in Columbus.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy.
And the election in Ohio certainly doesn't feel over, at least not today in Columbus, because just as the final vote is being certified, you also have several major challenges going on.
You have a call for a recount. You have a lawsuit alleging widespread fraud. And also, now, two investigations into voter irregularities.
Just moments ago we spoke to Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state. He, as we should note, a co-chair for the Bush/Cheney campaign in Ohio.
Secretary Blackwell just in the past half hour signed documents certifying the vote here. Originally George W. Bush was leading John Kerry in Ohio by 136,000 votes, but the count of outstanding provisional ballots and overseas votes reduced that lead to a little less than 119,000 votes.
And Secretary Blackwell minutes ago defended the -- how the election was conducted in the Buckeye State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH BLACKWELL, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: It is thorough. It is a precinct-by-precinct audit across the entire state. It is conducted by a partisan teams of Democrats and Republicans. And it has a history of producing a clean result, a result that can withstand public scrutiny and recount. SERPE: To be honest with you, I'm really not concerned about the actual outcome, who won the election. I'm concerned with making sure that every vote is counted so that people who stood in line four, six, eight hours can be confident that their vote, whether on a lever, a touch screen, or a provisional ballot, was actually counted towards the results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: That second person we heard from was Lynn Serpe from the Green Party, who along with the Libertarian Party was trying to make it so that a recount would be done before today, before the certification of the votes.
Instead, the courts here, Judy, said that there will be a recount, but it be done after the certification, after the Ohio electors meet before the Electoral College.
Kerry campaign is kind of doing some legal piggybacking here, joining with the minor parties but saying that they are not expecting that it will be any change in the outcome.
But others are saying some very different things. One attorney representing 25 voters says tomorrow before the Ohio Supreme Court, he'll file a lawsuit alleging widespread fraud.
Also, the General Accounting Office is responding to some calls from House Democrats to investigate election practices in Ohio, and the same thing from the Democratic National Committee, which today announced is going to look into what took place in Ohio.
So Judy, lots of threads to this story. But when I say that it doesn't feel like it's over here in Columbus, now perhaps you know why now.
WOODRUFF: It sure sounds that way, and it looks like we are talking weeks and maybe longer.
WOODRUFF: Keith Oppenheim, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Keith Oppenheim, reporting from Columbus in Ohio.
We're checking the Monday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily."
Republicans and Democrats swapped control of two Louisiana House districts Saturday in the last two undecided races of the 2004 campaign. In a runoff of the 7th District, Republican Charles Boustany took over a formerly Democratic seat in southwestern Louisiana.
And in the state's 3rd district runoff, Democrat Charles Melancon narrowly defeated Republican Billy Tauzin III, who was attempting to succeed his father in the Congress.
Senator John Kerry returned to New Hampshire over the weekend to offer a word of thanks to his supporters. Kerry told supporters in Manchester he is grateful for all of their hard work. George W. Bush carried New Hampshire in 2000, but Kerry won the state this time by about 9,000 votes.
The "Hotline" reports that Kerry will also thank his Iowa supporters with a personal appearance there this Friday.
Meantime, Kerry has plans, we are told, to create a political action committee that will allow him to donate money to candidates around the country. Kerry's spokesman said that the PAC will be used to promote Kerry's agenda on health care, the environment and other issues.
Up next, the latest rumblings in Washington over steroids and professional sports.
Also, Iowa's Tom Vilsack is out of the picture. Is a new front- runner emerging in the race to lead the Democratic Party? I'll ask Bob Novak when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
WOODRUFF: If Major League Baseball doesn't clean up its steroids problem, congressional leaders say that Washington will.
The baseball players' union begins meetings today, and cracking down on steroids is expected to be a major topic.
But Senator John McCain says that he'll introduce a bill next month that calls for stricter drug testing if baseball owners and players don't act first. The senator from Arizona says that baseball special status as a sport and not a business gives Congress the power to about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A lot of Americans, as I am, as deeply concerned not only about the professional baseball players but the fact is that it's growing belief on the part of high school athletes that the only way they can make it in the big leagues is to take, ingest these performance enhancing drugs into their bodies, which is incredibly damaging.
That's really the problem here. Ask any high school coach, and they'll tell you it's a growing problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: McCain says he is confident that a bill would pass and that President Bush, who is a former baseball owner, would support it.
Well, Bob Novak joins us now with his "Reporter's Notebook."
Bob, we've been reporting that they've got a deal now on intelligence reform. What do you know about this? ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": When the day started, Judy, and they came back, the conventional wisdom was that there was still a big Republican majority against it and it wasn't going to pass. But the president got to work on this.
And the last week, Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, usually a mild-mannered guy, went to the president and he told him, "More than intelligence reform is at stake; your credibility is at stake. This -- you have to get this through."
Senator John Warner, chairman of the armed services committee, was talking this morning about a roll call vote. That's out -- out of the question right now.
So a lot of people, senators I've talked to don't even know what the deal is. But if the president wants it that bad, it's going to pass it.
WOODRUFF: But it did take some time to get it done.
Bob, new Democratic National Committee chair, what are you hearing? The vote's in February, we should say.
NOVAK: Right. The newest name I hear is Jim Blanchard. You remember him? He was the former governor of Michigan, and President Clinton named him as the U.S. ambassador to Canada. Well thought of.
The same people who wanted the Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack, are now going for him, kind of a mild, moderate guy, not an -- not an extremist. Vilsack, I am told, bowed out because the Republicans in the Iowa legislature -- he's a sitting governor -- said they would make life miserable for him if he took the party chair.
But keep your eye on Jim Blanchard.
WOODRUFF: Michigan. All right.
Some Republicans are now, what, having second thoughts about the person they selected to be head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee?
NOVAK: Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina beat Norm Coleman of Minnesota by one vote for that job.
WOODRUFF: Just the senators vote on this?
NOVAK: Just the senators. A secret ballot.
And I am told by some of them that they think a mistake was made, that there was the influence of Bob Dole that did it, her husband, that it was a traditional thing.
And her problem is, they say they're going to have to get very good candidates in the Midwest to knock out Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Democratic incumbents in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They don't think Elizabeth Doyle is suited for that. So there's a little back biting going on in the Republican ranch. Can you imagine that?
WOODRUFF: I can't imagine, cannot imagine that.
Finally, Bob, you've got a little reporting on what happened with the president's choice to be the new commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez?
NOVAK: Who is Carlos Gutierrez? Everybody said he had never given a dime to the president. Usually people -- businessmen who get those kind of jobs are big givers. He had never raised any money, was not a ranger, was not a pioneer or anything of that.
But there's one match, the member of the board for Kellogg, all the time that Carlos Gutierrez was moving up through upper management was a guy named Don Rumsfeld. And they maintained, I am told, contact after Rumsfeld left the board of Kellogg.
So I think if Rumsfeld had something to do with getting Gutierrez, I think he hopes it turns out better than his previous pick for the cabinet, when he recommended his good friend Paul O'Neill for secretary of the treasury, and it didn't work out that well.
WOODRUFF: Well, we will -- we'll certainly keep our eye on that one. Bob Novak, we always learn a lot.
WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: At the White House today a surprise announcement by a well-known figure who apparently has his eye on a Bush cabinet post.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELMO, MUPPET: Maybe Elmo can land a cabinet position. Do they have a secretary of the alphabet?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Yes, it was the lovable Muppet Elmo helping president and Mrs. Bush entertain youngsters at the children's Christmas reception at the White House.
I wonder if he'd settle for treasury secretary? I guess we'll find out.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.
"CROSSFIRE" starts right now. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com