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The U.S. Response; Interview with Former Presidents Bush, Clinton; Paying for Relief

Aired January 3, 2005 - 15:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: As flags fly at half staff President Bush stands shoulder to shoulder with his two predecessors. A symbol of unity to show that America stands behind those devastated by the tsunami disaster.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're showing the compassion of our nation and the swift response.

Serving their country once again.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A private donation of cash is more important at this stage of the recovery than sending things.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also think we can raise more money for certain specific things.

ANNOUNCER: The former presidents will launch an appeal for private donations for victims of the tragedy.

Setting the agenda. This hour, President Bush greets new members of Congress. But will Mr. Bush be able to push his full plate of priorities through Capitol Hill?



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

The tsunami disaster that has engulfed south Asia is spawning worldwide relief efforts of historic proportions. In the next hour, we will update developments here in Washington, where President Bush has called on two former presidents to work on private donations.

And in a moment we plan to bring you live coverage of Mr. Bush's remarks to newly elected members of Congress. We'll also have updates on relief efforts in the disaster zone, where CNN reporters and anchors are on duty throughout the region.

Earlier, President Bush and his father, along with former President Bill Clinton, signed condolence books at the Washington embassies of four nations hardest hit by the disaster. Mr. Bush announced that his two predecessors will lead an initiative to encourage Americans to donate to relief efforts. Overseas, meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother, have arrived in Thailand, where they plan to tour some of the damaged areas.

The president's announcement that his father and former President Clinton will lead a fund-raising drive for tsunami victims is the latest U.S.- based effort to help people in their region. Mr. Bush said the former presidents will focus their efforts on private aid sources.


BUSH: In the coming days, President Clinton and Bush will ask Americans to donate directly to reliable charities already providing help to tsunami victims. Many of these organizations have dispatched experts to the disaster area, and they are -- they have an in-depth understanding of the resources required to meet the needs on the ground. In this situation, cash donations are most useful. And I've asked the former presidents to solicit contributions both large and small.


WOODRUFF: For more on the two former presidents and the overall U.S. response to the tsunamis, we turn to CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash.

Hi, Dana.


Well, as you just saw, obviously the president is now back from vacation in Texas. And this is a White House trying very hard to beat back any implication that he was too slow to respond and that the United States has not given significantly enough or at least did not do so immediately after the tsunami disasters last week.

Now, it was last week both Bush aides and those close to former President Clinton tell us that the White House through Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, and Andy Card, his chief of staff, reached out to President Clinton and broached the idea of him coming together with Mr. Bush's father, the 41st president, to have this kind of effort and to stand with the president and have essentially this kind of unprecedented bipartisan attempt to get private donations.

There you see the three men in the Roosevelt Room. Following that, they accompanied President and Mrs. Bush to four of the embassies that were hit hard by the tsunamis. And part of this effort is not just to appear today, but also to do a series of media interviews in order to say how important it is for Americans to give. And both President Bush and Clinton sat down with CNN and explained that the reason why they're doing this is to use their status to explain to people that, first of all, they should not give goods, they should give cash, and even those that perhaps think that they can't give a lot give a little and explain how to do so.

But during this interview, Judy, I also asked President Clinton about the criticism of President Bush that he was too slow to respond.


CLINTON: Well, let me say two things. First of all, today, the three of us went to the embassies of the countries affected most. It was his idea, not mine and not his father's.

It was his idea to do it. And I can tell you it had a big impact on the people there, and it will in the countries affected. They think America's on their side.

The second thing I'd like to say is I think that not only asking us to help, but in pledging $350 million in government aid and sending those military helicopters to Aceh to deliver those life-saving supplies to the -- to the Indonesians, and in promising that we would do more through the government if need be, I don't see how he could have done more. I think that right now we are just where we need to be. And we shouldn't be looking back. We should be looking forward.

BASH: And President Bush, as -- this is obviously a disaster, but how do you see this as a chance perhaps for President Bush to use this to earn some goodwill? To put it bluntly, he's not that popular -- not that popular around the world. But perhaps that's not -- that's not the goal here. But in the end...

BUSH: It's not the goal. It's not the goal.

BASH: ... could that perhaps help?

BUSH: You've got to know the president. You've got to know what's in his heart. I guess I know it better than anybody. Maybe Laura -- no, I think I do -- or Barbara.

You know, what's in his heart. And also what he ought to do as president. It doesn't matter polls in Indonesia, did they go up a bit, or did something up here on CNN, does it go down. That's not what this is about.

It's about saving lives. It's about caring. And the president cares. And I think this thing, it wasn't early enough or quick, that's an inside the beltway game.

You wait. In a week from now, you find anybody that gives any credence to that at all given the enormity of the government effort and hopefully the response to the private sector. That's what matters.

BASH: Having said all of that, though, is this an opportunity, though, to show some goodwill?

BUSH: Sure. Any time the United States helps somebody through aid or through missions of this nature, or you can say to a person that is suffering form the loss of children in Indonesia or Sri Lanka, of course it helps. We are a compassionate nation. And they see it.

And you should have been at that embassy talking to these ambassadors and what they feel in their heart about -- about the willingness of the United States to support them, whether it's our helicopters or whether it's the private sector or whether it's some private group coming in with whatever it is over there. It's just enormous.


BASH: Now, President Clinton said it obviously always helps America when the countries, this country shows other countries who aren't necessarily as rich as America that they're willing to give, willing to reach out, its citizens, as well as its government. And, Judy, also I should that President Bush said that he has already personally donated. President Clinton says he plans to shortly -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Dana, the effort to reach out for private donations, is that one signal that there's going to be a limit to how much the government can give?

BASH: They're very careful at this point, Judy, about talking about the public money. They certainly the $350 million is what they're pledging right now. They are still calling it immediate help, signaling that perhaps there is some more money down the pipeline coming.

They understand that there are members of Congress from both sides of the aisle that do want to and probably will try to give some more money. Colin Powell, who, I should say, obviously is abroad right now in Thailand, he said at this point $350 million is what they are stopping at in terms of public money. But again, they're leaving the door open for what could be needed in the future. They're still assessing that, they say.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana, at the White House, thank you very much.

And we have this reminder. Former presidents Bush and Clinton will have more to say about their fund-raising efforts for tsunami relief at 9:00 Eastern on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE."

Well, the money needed for tsunami relief efforts has added to the pressure on the president and on Congress as they consider an already tight budget and big-ticket items such as the war in Iraq and Social Security reform. Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, has more on that.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi praised bringing in two former presidents to boost tsunami relief, she charged President Bush initially failed to grasp the gravity of the disaster. Asked if record budget deficits may complicate efforts to help tsunami victims, Pelosi attacked.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (DD-CA) MINORITY LEADER: The reason that we have a huge deficit is because of the tax cuts. But this is an emergency. This is something that we must act upon. And thank heavens the administration finally saw the light.

HENRY: Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the administration upped the ante as the situation in Asia grew worse. Republican leaders on the Hill say they may boost the $350 million package, but they won't write a blank check.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: It may well be that the disaster increases in magnitude over time. If it does, the $350 may indeed be -- be a floor. But one of the things that we need to do as responsible legislators is respond to what the actual assessment is.

HENRY: Republican leaders want to be responsive to the tragedy but also know they have a tight budget. Congress has to pass an $80 billion emergency Bill to fund the war in Iraq. And reforming Social Security could spark a $2 trillion shortfall. As a result, the president is considering cuts to the Pentagon, as well as domestic programs. But Pelosi said Congress should spare no expense on tsunami relief, using the controversy over the war in Iraq to make her point.

PELOSI: When you think of the billions and billions, a quarter of trillion dollars is being spent in Iraq. A quarter of a trillion dollars and we're talking about several hundred million dollars for humanitarian assistance, I think it's a -- not a small but a necessary price to pay.


HENRY: A spokesman for speaker Dennis Hastert responded that he believes it is predictable but sad that Leader Pelosi decided to politicize the tsunami debate. That spokesman added that while the speaker knows there'll be some tough budget decisions to make, the speaker of the House is committed to getting -- working with the president and getting the tsunami relief through Congress -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry at the Capitol. And Ed, we're going to be hearing a little more from you later in the program on some of the president's domestic priorities. Thanks for now.

Right now we've gotten word the president is just about to -- in fact, he apparently has just begun speaking. These are newly elected members of Congress meeting with the president at the White House.


WOODRUFF: President Bush speaking to newly elected members of Congress at the White House. There are nine newly elected senators, 41 newly elected members of the House. Congratulating them, both Democrats and Republicans. Outlining very briefly his agenda for the year, saying we've got to win the war in Iraq, we need to support the troops, we need to simplify the tax code, make healthcare more affordable, reform the legal system, raise standards for schools, pass the budget, and so on. It is an ambitious agenda for this president's second term.

So, having seen that, will the president be able to push his domestic again through Congress? I'm going to speak with Dan Bartlett, a senior adviser to Mr. Bush, at the top of the hour here on INSIDE POLITICS.

Plus, our coverage of the tsunami disaster continues. Next up, entire towns once home to thousands. Now no one is left. We will visit one such place.

And stay with CNN in prime time for the most in-depth coverage of tsunami relief efforts. CNN anchors and reporters will have live prime-time reports from the region all this week beginning with Anderson Cooper at 7:00 Eastern tonight.


WOODRUFF: It is just before 4:00 in the East and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim. She is in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Let's hope the first trading day of 2005 is not a sign of things to come because stocks are broadly lower today. As the final trades are being counted we have the Dow down about 59 points. The Nasdaq is about 1 percent lower. Not even a big drop in oil prices helped stocks. Crude oil fell more than a dollar. It ended just above $42 a barrel. Heating oil hit a four-month low. Traders cite the mild winter weather in the northeast for that.

In corporate news Delta Airlines slashing its fares. That's to keep up with discount carriers. The troubled airline reportedly is planning to roll out a simplified fare plan. It has been testing that at its Cincinnati hub for the past five months. And fares there were cut by as much as 60 percent. Some restrictions on tickets including Saturday night stay requirements. They eliminated that and Delta is fighting to stay out of bankruptcy as low-cost carriers have stolen its customers.

Now, the smallest state in the country taking on a big issue that may be ready to offer relief against high-priced prescription drugs. Rhode Island's health department is licensing Canadian pharmacies and that would make it easier for people in that state to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. Rhode Island is the first state to allow these kinds of drug imports and the idea could gain momentum in other states, too. Now, there's one problem, though. The program could be a violation of federal law.

For the first time, vehicles produced in China will be sold in the United States. Now, the same company that brought Hugo cars here will now import cards produced by the Chinese firm Cherry Automobile. The company says Cherry vehicles will beat prices on similar U.S. models by as much as 30 percent. Well, General Motors is already suing Cherry, accusing it of stealing a GM design. We'll have much more on this story on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Also tonight, plenty of companies rely on the American flag to sell their products. Tommy Hilfiger, American Girl. But in reality, many of these companies have nothing to do with the United States at all, choosing instead to make their products using cheap foreign labor. And we'll have a special report tonight on selling America.

We'll also have the very latest on the South Asian tsunami disaster. Live reports from the region on relief efforts there.

Plus, broken borders. An unbelievable story about Mexican officials encouraging citizens to violate U.S. immigration laws. Illegal immigration one of the key issues facing the 109th Congress in 2005 and we'll take a look at the battle lines already being drawn.

And now, back to Judy Woodruff in Washington -- Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Kitty, thanks very much. And INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: As tsunami-torn nations struggle to rebuild, President Bush pledges U.S. help.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans have a history of rising to meet great humanitarian challenges and to providing hope to suffering peoples.

ANNOUNCER: But will the show of support yield a political payoff?

BUSH: We're working with the United Nations and with governments around the world.

ANNOUNCER: And help the White House repair relations with the international community?

Congress is raring to go. And Team Bush is serving up a full plate of domestic priorities. Social Security, tax reform, judicial nominations. We'll discuss the second-term agenda with White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

Saying good-bye. Pioneering Congress member Shirley Chisholm and Robert Matsui. Two trail blazers remembered.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. The world responds to the tsunami disaster in South Asia. Continues to grow, along with what appears to be a subtle shift in tone concerning the U.S. response to the crisis. Emergency supplies are beginning to arrive across the region by air and by sea. The death toll from the disaster now stands at almost 155,000. But a U.N. official said today that the final death toll may never be known. President Bush today asked his father and former president Clinton to lead private fundraising efforts here in the U.S. The three men later traveled to four Washington embassies to express their condolences to the countries hit by the disaster. You can stay with CNN for the latest updates on tsunami relief and recovery efforts. We have anchors and reporters on duty throughout the region.

After what critics say was a sluggish start, the U.S. has expanded its response to the tsunami disaster. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider sees a different White House strategy at work.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Bush administration is striking a new tone in its response to the tsunami disaster.

BUSH: We're working with the United Nations and with governments around the world to coordinate the comprehensive international response.

SCHNEIDER: And it's receiving praise from unlikely sources.

JAN EGELAND, U.N. HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS OFFICIAL: I'd like to say that the United States have been ideal in the way they have responded.

SCHNEIDER: The question is, will this new multilateralism be the rule or the exception in a second Bush term? President Bush came under attack during the campaign last year for what his critics called a unilateralist policy in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president each time has chosen -- he has chosen to move in a unilateral way, to move without the help of other people.

SCHNEIDER: Specifically, for abandoning the effort to get a U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing war with Iraq. But the relationship with the U.N. looks very different now.

EGELAND: I'm very, very glad to see the very close cooperation between the United States and the United Nations.

SCHNEIDER: During the campaign, President Bush was alternately defensive...

BUSH: You might remember, I've been criticized as being a unilateralist.

SCHNEIDER: ... and defiant.

BUSH: But I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries.

SCHNEIDER: The current tsunami disaster is a humanitarian crisis. It does not threaten U.S. national security. Bill Clinton offered this criticism in a speech last summer. BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the right people, their people. In a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to.

SCHNEIDER: The tsunami disaster looks like a case where the U.S. had to cooperate. Critics at home and abroad were denouncing the administration for its initial hesitation.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I do think the response was too slow from the administration.

SCHNEIDER: If multilateralism is the new rule, the test will come not on humanitarian crises, but on national security threats, specifically from Iran and North Korea.


SCHNEIDER: The U.S. and the rest of the world share the same goals in the tsunami disaster, relief and reconstruction. It's not clear if that's the case when it comes to Iran and North Korea -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider. Thanks very much.

Well, for more on the U.S. response to the tsunami disaster and other issues, I'm joined from the White House by the president's communications director, Dan Bartlett. Dan Bartlett, thank you very much for joining us.

How much does the president expect to raise in these private efforts led by the former President Bush and President Clinton?

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, Judy, we're not just sure how much in specific dollar amounts. And one thing that's been clearly demonstrated by the American people is that they're already giving untold millions of dollars both from individuals as well as corporations and industries and charitable organizations have gathered all kinds of dollars and relief efforts.

What we're doing here by appointing President Bush and President Clinton to take on this effort is to sustain that giving, to give some more specific push to charitable givings. They said today in interviews with CNN and others is that specifically cash is what's needed to give to these specific countries to make sure that we have the specific needs meeting the specific demands on those particular countries' needs. So this is an effort that starts today. It's going to be a sustained effort over a period of time as we go from recovery into reconstruction.

WOODRUFF: What about the 350 million pledged by the government so far? Could that number rise?

BARTLETT: Well, we don't know, as Secretary Powell said. They've just arrived on the scene and they're looking to make an assessment. One thing we must remember, it's just not $350 million, as you have shown and has been reported on. There is a USS Lincoln in there, there are 24 -- up to 24 helicopters that will be used to provide relief. There are thousands of military personnel on the ground. So we're spending money in very many different ways, including the $350 million that has been pledged.

WOODRUFF: On the point that our Bill Schneider was just making, I think you were able to hear at least part of that, Dan Bartlett. Does the president view what is going on now as a unilateral effort by the United States or a multilateral effort coordinating with other countries?

BARTLETT: Oh, absolutely not. This is a multilateral effort. Every country is compassionate and wants to help those in need. This is a humanitarian disaster at a level we haven't seen in many, many, many years. And it's very important for the entire world to rally. This is something that America has been good at doing in the past. We are a compassionate society, we're a compassionate government and we're here to help. And I think we've demonstrated that over the course of the last week, the type of unprecedented help our country and the American people are willing to give.

WOODRUFF: Do you think this could lead to other multilateral efforts on the part of the United States?

BARTLETT: Well, we will see what the outcome of this, but the focus should be is to help this people. We have upwards of now maybe a hundred and fifty thousand people have perished in this event and it's important that we focus on how can we help those who live? How can we help rebuild these countries? And then if there are broader opportunities that present themselves, that's great. But the focus right now is to help the people in need.

WOODRUFF: Dan Bartlett, there's so much to ask you about. I do want to get in a question or so about domestic priorities. We know the president is pushing Social Security reform. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham has talked about the only way that's going to work is to raise the floor -- or, I'm sorry, raise the cap on wages that are subject to the social security taxes. Is the president looking at that?

BARTLETT: Well, what President Bush is going to do is not negotiate in these early days with himself about what's on the table and what's off the table. He has laid out some principles that he believes should guide this reform effort. And one of the critical principles that we shouldn't be, in a time of economic recovery, raising taxes on the American people. And particularly he said we shouldn't raise payroll taxes to do it.

But we're at the very beginning of the debate with the United States Congress when it comes to best way to do it. They're going to be good ideas from both Republicans and Democrats, and he is here to send a signal, if he is, just moments ago, talking to new members of Congress, that we need to work together to try to find common ground because this is an issue that's too important to let pass by for another Congress and another president.

WOODRUFF: And we assume the president's ruling out any rolling back of his tax cuts?

BARTLETT: He's made very clear that to keep the economic momentum going in our economy and to make sure that workers can find work is to let them keep more of their own money. It would be the wrong signal to send to our economy right now is to start raising taxes on the American people.

WOODRUFF: And quickly, Dan Bartlett, we hear you're going to be changing jobs there at the White House, becoming counselor to the president. We assume that's a promotion. What does that mean you're going to be doing?

BARTLETT: There hasn't been any announcement on that. It's clear I'm going to be working for this president. It's my honor to do so, in the next term. Working on areas in communications and talking to the media quite a bit. I look forward to the next four years to work for the president.

WOODRUFF: And we look forward to talking to you many times in the future. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

The United States government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars helping tsunami victims. When we return, Congressman Jim Kolbe will be with us to talk about the aid effort on Capitol Hill.

Also ahead, the battle lines over some big issues already being drawn as Congress gets ready to start a new session.

And we'll look back at the lives of a prominent congressman and a former congresswoman who ran for president.

And stay with CNN for up to the minute coverage of the tsunami disaster and recovery efforts. Coming up tonight, live primetime coverage from Asia. A CNN special report on the disaster. It starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And at 9:00 Eastern, former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton will talk about the tsunami relief efforts on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE.


WOODRUFF: As we've been reporting the United States has committed $350 million to help tsunami battered areas recover. Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona is with me now from Capitol Hill to talk more about tsunami aid. He is the chairman of the House appropriations foreign operations subcommittee. Congressman Kolbe, $350 million, is this a floor and we're going to see more money spent on this?

REP. JIM KOLBE (R-AZ), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I suspect we will see more money spent. There's going to be a pledging conference in Geneva next week after Secretary Powell and USAID administrator Natsios who are in the region right now get a better sense of what's going on. And there will be a pledging conference and I suspect we're going to come up with more money, we're going to have to come up with more money. Historically, traditionally, the United States has pledged -- has put up about 25 percent of the amount that goes to these kinds of disasters. And I suspect that will be the case in the future here. That means a supplemental appropriation will be required.

WOODRUFF: Is there any doubt in your mind the United States can afford this? You've got, what is it, $87 billion spent on the troops in Iraq, another $18 billion reconstruction in Iraq, not to mention all the domestic priorities facing this country.

KOLBE: We do. We have a lot of priorities and a lot of things here at home as well as making sure our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are properly taken care of and we're prosecuting the war on terror over there. This is a humanitarian disaster of a scope that I think we haven't seen in the lifetime of almost any of us. I think it behooves the United States to respond. I would point out that we respond not only with our government but through private charity and nongovernmental organizations. That's something that makes the United States a little different than other countries where it's almost always funded through government channels.

WOODRUFF: Congressman, I want to ask you about something else. You have just come back from Iraq. You were there last week. We were talking at the -- first of all, what was the situation in Baghdad?

KOLBE: Well, the situation is not good in Baghdad. I have to tell you, the security situation throughout the country has certainly continued to deteriorate. If you need one kind of little piece of evidence it's the fact that we used to travel back and forth to the airport on the road and now we have to take a helicopter. It's considered too dangerous to go on that road.

WOODRUFF: The elections scheduled for the end of January, is the country going to be secure enough for those elections to take place, do you think?

KOLBE: That's the $64 question. There's two things, though. Security and also whether they're ready to conduct the elections. And whether or not the Sunnis will participate. Part of whether or not they will participate depends, again, on the security. I'm in favor of holding the elections as quickly as possible. If you postpone them it seems like a victory for the insurgents. On the other hand, if you hold them you don't get the broad participation of the people in the country. The elections won't be seen as credible and that's maybe an even worse disaster. So it's going to be up to the Iraqi government to make the final decision. I hope we can go ahead and hold the elections on schedule.

WOODRUFF: Might you favor a short postponement, though, considering the security problems?

KOLBE: Well, if that's what -- if the government and our commanders there think that makes sense and Ambassador Negroponte, yes, I would support that. Very short postponement, one where we set a very definite date for the elections to take place. But a lot of work still needs to be done, just to educate the Iraqis. We found when we were there a lot of the Iraqis apparently think they're voting for president and, of course, this is voting for a constitutional convention that's going to draft the constitution for the country.

WOODRUFF: How long a postponement are you talking about, a month?

KOLBE: I'm not talking about a postponement. I hope we can have the elections as scheduled. If the Iraqi government decides to have a postponement, I don't think they're talking about more than one or two months.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Congress Jim Kolbe of Arizona. Just returned from Iraq. He also happens to be the chairman of the government operations subcommittee of the House appropriations committee. We wanted to talk to you about that and, of course, about the relief efforts for Asia. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

KOLBE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Congress does get back to work tomorrow. When the new session convenes, big issues will be grabbing the spotlight. We'll get details from congressional correspondent Ed Henry when we return.


WOODRUFF: A new session of Congress gets under way tomorrow and when lawmakers begin their work they're likely to face some heated battles over a number of issues, including President Bush's plans to reform Social Security. CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry takes a closer look at what's on the agenda.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans broke out the champagne after an election night that gave them increased majorities in the House and Senate. With President Bush planning an ambitious second term agenda on everything from tax and tort reform to Social Security, Republican leaders are itching to get it passed.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We just got a full plate and we're very excited and really ready to go to work.

HENRY: But now that the post-election euphoria has worn off, Republicans realize they might not accomplish as much as they hoped. The Republican rift over the intelligence bill suggested conservatives may be emboldened to stand up to the lame duck president.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY WHIP: We're not suffering from hubris here, we know that to advance the president's agenda in the second term we're going to need a substantial number of Democrats to help.

HENRY: Indeed, the new Senate Democratic leader is warning there will be little progress if the president fails to reach across the aisle. SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: We're willing to sit down and talk to him about Iraq, Social Security, anything he wants to talk about. But it has to be something that's reasonable and not be inopportune time to do bad things to the American people.

HENRY: On key issues like Social Security, the battle lines are already being drawn. Democrats charge the president is trying to destroy the program by pushing for private accounts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a crisis that the president has perpetuated and you bought into it, you the journalistic world. There is not a crisis.

HENRY: Republicans say that's foolhardy.

DELAY: Let the Democrats keep talking like that. They'll stay in the minority.

MCCONNELL: Some people say let's keep kicking the can down the road, there's not a crisis tomorrow. But why do that? Why not go on and do something important for our grandchildren?


HENRY: After the inauguration the heat will be on Republicans because they run the entire government. But there will also be pressure on the Democrats. They watched a couple months ago as their Democratic leader Tom Daschle went down to defeat after blocking some of President Bush's first term agenda.

WOODRUFF: What is the extent of the nervousness on the part of the Republicans about tackling Social Security?

HENRY: Judy, it's been called the third rail of politics. The president has been "touch it and you die" politically. The president trying to make the case that he touched it in the last election and still beat John Kerry. But that's a tough sell still for some Republicans up here because they're facing the voters in 2006 and the president is not -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And a very different subject. We've learned today that the chairman of the ethics committee in the House of Representatives, who's a Republican himself, Congressman Joel Hefley , is opposing changes in the ethics regulations proposed by the powerful House rules committee. Give us background on that.

HENRY: There's a very big closed door meeting tonight among House Republicans where they're going to try to hash out these changes. Watchdog groups are saying what's happening is that Republican leaders in the House are trying to water it down, the rules down. So that it will be harder to bring ethics cases against members. The watchdogs think this is to protect Tom DeLay, the House majority leader who has faced a lot of charges. DeLay's people says that's nonsense. He's innocent of a lot of these charges and he's been facing a witchhunt from Democrats. The bottom line is we're hearing from very senior Republicans they think tonight Republican leaders will end up watering down some of these changes because they do not want to take the heat for making these changes in part because people like Joel Hefley are now standing up, Republicans standing up saying it's not a good idea. But Joel Hefley may be pushed out of the ethics chairman job over this.

WOODRUFF: Whoa, that's one we will want to watch. I know you will looking at that for us tonight and tomorrow. Thank you very much.

Turning to our political bytes on this Monday, former Democratic hopeful John Kerry says he is moving on from his election defeat. In the latest issues of "Newsweek" Kerry says, quote, "I'm not going to go lick my wounds or hide under a rock or disappear. I'm going to learn. I've had disappointments and I've learned to cope," end quote.

Democratic activist Simon Rosenberg is expected to make his candidacy for DNC chairman official later this week. An aide says that Rosenberg who founded the centrist New Democrat Network plans an announcement on Thursday at the National Press Club.

A couple of pioneering figures in the Congress are being remembered today. When we come back, we'll take a look at the legacies of Representatives Shirley Chisholm and Robert Matsui.


WOODRUFF: There's been an outpouring of praise in Washington today for two people who made their mark in Congress and who died over the weekend. Shirley Chisholm served in the House from 1969 until retiring in 1983. Robert Matsui was just reelected in November to his 14th term from California. CNN's Bruce Morton has a look at their remarkable careers.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, spent part of her childhood in Barbados, "good British style school" she said later. Got elected to Congress from Brooklyn in 1968, the first black woman ever. She marched always to her own drummer, complained about her first committee assignment. Freshmen weren't supposed to do that but eventually got what she wanted. She ran for president in 1972. Again, the first black to do it. "I am not the candidate of black America," she said, "though I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement, though I am a woman and equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people."

She didn't win the nomination, of course, George McGovern did but she said, "I opened the gates." And maybe Jesse Jackson and Elizabeth Dole and Hillary Clinton would agree with that.

Robert Matsui was Japanese-American locked up with his parents at the age of 6 months in an internment camp for more than three years because Japanese-Americans' patriotism was suspect during World War II. It was an issue of shame, he said that our loyalty was put into question. But he recovered, ran successfully for Congress from the family's old hometown Sacramento, was one of the leaders who helped Bill Clinton get the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress and one of the leaders in passing legislation, authorizing a monument here in Washington to the patriotism of those Japanese- American who had been interned. Matsui faced obstacles and overcame. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And our condolences to the Chisolm and the Matsui families. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Monday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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