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Republicans and Democrats Get Back to Work After Showdown on Senate Floor; Two Marine Pilots Killed in Crash of U.S. Helicopter Near Ramadi

Aired November 2, 2005 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. Republicans and Democrats get back to work this morning after a showdown on the Senate floor. A little-used rule closes the chamber to the public. Will the two sides be able to work together? We're live in Washington this morning. A developing story out of Iraq. A U.S. helicopter has gone down near Ramadi. We are learning of casualties this morning. And more U.S. troops could be headed to Iraq. We'll tell you why they're needed -- Miles.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien, live in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, one of the hardest hit places in the wake of Katrina. More than nine weeks after the storm, still many more questions than answers. And a plea to the federal government for money to keep this place going, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. We continue our focus on Washington D.C. This morning. Suddenly, people were discussing Senate rule 21. Many of us had never heard of it before. A look at that's ahead this morning. Miles is reporting from St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans, too.

Hey, Miles, good morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, Soledad, this should look familiar to you, sadly. This is Florida Avenue. You were here a little more than a month ago. And pretty much just about every piece of debris you saw is in the same place, and that's a sad part of this story here.

You know, we began this week on Canal Street, very near the French Quarter. Monday morning we were there. And we told you in the center part of the city of New Orleans, things were beginning to show some signs of normalcy. There was traffic running up and down Canal Street. which is essentially the main road in downtown. The French Quarter, in many respects, is up and running. But then on Tuesday, we took you a little bit into the neighborhoods. We went near the 17th Street levee breach, which we showed you so much about in the wake of Katrina, told you a little bit about what's being done to repair those levees, a big project. The goal is to get it to pre-Katrina levels by June 1st.

And now this morning, St. Bernard Parish. We're about nine-a- half miles from the French Quarter, and this is low-lying country, some of the hardest parts of this whole area on Florida Avenue, right near that levy, and off into the distance there, that marsh land. Yesterday, Soledad, we spent some time on an air boat out in that marsh land, and the interesting thing is Mother Nature, if she had been allowed to do her job, could of provided a lot more protection for St. Bernard Parish. We'll talk to a scientist a little bit later who says the levees, and the canals and all of the floodgates over the years have made it a lot more difficult to fend off big hurricanes. That and a lot more coming up -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You get rid of the estuaries and you get rid of the trees that are used to protect, and everything else as you mentioned, you have some big problems. All right, Miles. We look forward to that. Thanks.

First, though, let's get right back to Washington D.C. A chill in the air, I think it's fair to say, in the U.S. Senate today. Republicans surprised and pretty much furious with Democrats because of something called rule 21.

CNN's Ed Henry explains just what happened on Tuesday on the Senate floor.


ED HENRY, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: A Democratic sneak attack that sent shock waves through the Senate.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, enough time has gone by. I demand, on behalf of the American people, that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted.

HENRY: Democratic leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of failing to probe allegations the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the war in Iraq.

REID: And in accordance with rule 21, I now move the Senate go into closed session.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Mr. President, I second the motion.

HENRY: An easy but rare maneuver with extraordinary consequences, the Senate chamber was locked down, television cameras shut off so lawmakers could go into secret session to debate.

Republican leader Bill Frist was enraged.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Not with the previous Democratic leader, or the current Democratic leader, have ever I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.

There has been at least consideration for the other side of the aisle before a stunt, and this is a pure stunt.

HENRY: Reid refused to back down, demanding the Republican-led Intelligence Committee finish a long-awaited report on whether the Bush administration twisted intelligence. REID: This investigation has been stymied, stopped, obstructions thrown up every step of the way. That's the real slap in the face. That's the slap in the face. And today the American people are going to see little bit of light.

HENRY: What's really going on is, Democrats feel emboldened by the indictment of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, believing this is their chance to issue a broader indictment of the Bush administration.

DURBIN: We have lost over 2,000 of our best and bravest. Over 15,000 have been seriously wounded. We are spending more than $6 billion a month with no end in sight. And this Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee refuses to even ask the hard questions about the misinformation...

HENRY: Republicans insist they're completing the investigation, and this is just a distraction.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This is purely political. This is settling an old political score.

HENRY: Democrats say they also want to signal they're ready to stand up to the Republican majority and may even filibuster the president's latest Supreme Court pick, Samuel Alito, a move that would make these events seem like the opening fireworks in a much nastier battle.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: The Democrats maneuver caught the White House by surprise, too, and it may mean that the president is now facing a much tougher Congress. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is live at the White House for us this morning.

Bob, good morning.


The question, I suppose is, what is the White House reaction? I think the best way to answer that is reaction was the Senate, what Senate? In other words, no reaction. About 16 hours ago, we asked for a White House reaction and we were told they would get back to us, and we're still waiting for them to get back to us.

The problem for the White House, this is an issue that cuts very close to the very existence of this administration. There has been a huge amount of criticism about charges that there was misleading intelligence. That is what the issue is in the Senate. So the best approach right now for the White House is to have no approach, to stay out of this battle -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a quick question about the royals? It's on the front page of the local papers here, their visit to New York. Now they're going to having dinner with the president and Laura Bush. I think that's tonight. What else is on the agenda for them?

FRANKEN:: Not only dinner, but lunch! So far, I have not seen any curtsying here. One thing the camera crews here are going to for lunch break out their best styrofoam. But other than that, we haven't really noticed any real changes.

Of course tonight there's going to be this dinner. It's very unusual for the president to have one like this. He's not a man who likes state dinners.

In the interim, after the luncheon here and after a real pomp- and-circumstance kind of arrival around the noon hour, the prince and Camilla are going to be going for a low-income area of Washington to tour an innovative school, but they'll be back at the White House this evening for a real black tie a-list kind of dinner.

S. O'BRIEN: Are you going?

FRANKEN: I'm a C-list wannabe.

S. O'BRIEN: Not in my mind, Bob! Don't be ridiculous. Thanks, Bob.

Let's turn back and talk about Samuel Alito, of course the new Supreme Court nominee. A familiar routine today, he's heading to Capitol Hill, third day in a row for him. He met with Ohio Republican Mike DeWine on Tuesday and today he's going to meet with the Democratic senators. Americans in poll polls are showing pretty mixed feelings about the president's pick, according to a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. Seventeen percent say the choice is excellent, 28 percent say it's good, 22 percent say fair, and 17 percent say it's a poor choice.

The White House received, in fact, better marks for other Supreme Court choices. Even Harriet Miers got higher marks; 43 percent rated Alito good or excellent, compared to 44 percent who said the same for Miers. Fifty-one percent said that the new chief Justice John Roberts was a good or an excellent choice.

Let's turn Iraq now, a developing story, as we mentioned right at the top of the show. Two Marine pilots killed in the crash of a U.S. helicopter near Ramadi. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, what's the latest on this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, the Marines are now saying recovery operations are under way, that they have more helicopters and troops in this area near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, in western Iraq, searching, indeed, to recover the bodies of the two Marine pilots killed this morning onboard that Marine Corps Cobra helicopter gunship that crashed. The cause of the crash, under investigation. They are trying to now recover the bodies. They simply do not know what happened. Cobra gunships basically move in combat zones, they provide air escort for convoys on the ground, they have missiles and weapons onboard that can protect the ground troops as they move through areas of combat, especially in this area of western Iraq where so many combat operations are underway -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, Lots of times we've been talking about when troops will leave Iraq, but at the same time, we're getting word about more troops heading into Iraq. Why?

STARR: Well, basically, what is going on is they are keeping the troop levels up, if you will, increased overall troop levels, some of it being accomplished by sending troops on Iraq, some by simply keeping troops in place. They are now just around, just under 160,000 troops in Iraq, almost a 20,000-troop increase from previous levels. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday that these increased troop levels are likely to stick. Listen to what he had to say.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: We have had a pattern of increase in the number of coalition forces during periods when there was an expectation that the insurgents and the terrorists would like to try to disrupt the political process. We'll decide what we will do about December as we go along, but it would not be surprise to me that the commanders would want to have some sort of a overlap there.


STARR: An overlap increased troop level is an indication for the upcoming December elections? Why? Because October, when there was the referendum, the prediction tragically did come true, attacks went up. October turning out to be one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops. That's a lesson they watched very carefully. They are going to keep mere troops in Iraq through those December elections -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, certainly a lesson learned. All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you.

Mourners already gathering for this morning's funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Just a short while ago, her casket was carried by motorcade -- you can see the hearse right there -- to Detroit's Greater Grace Temple Church. There will be a memorial later this morning. It starts at 11:00 a.m. AMERICAN MORNING's Dan Lothian is outside of the church.

And, Dan, we can see the crowds of people right behind you. Good morning.


In fact, so many people lined up out here. Some have been out here since 9:00 last night. They want to go inside to say their final farewell to a woman who meant so many things to so many people. She impacted so many people in so many different ways.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Steven Delidow never met Rosa Parks, but this white, Jewish, Motown native says his life is different today because of what Parks started 50 years ago.

STEVEN DELIDOW, CHEF: If we could all do one small act that could quite possibly change the world, we'd be living in utopia.

LOTHIAN: Delidow, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to an African-American married woman, and they are expecting their first child if about a month. Their relationship once would have not only been taboo, but illegal in many states.

GINA DELIDOW, EXPECTANT MOTHER: A life without Steven, you know, saying that it would be illegal for our relationship, it's just too much.

LOTHIAN: While there is still plenty of what she calls recycled hatred, much has changed.

G. DELIDOW: There is more understanding and there's more compassion, and there's not so much, I see the color of your skin.

LOTHIAN: By refusing to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man, Rosa Parks ignited the flame that sparked a civil rights movement and shattered many racial barriers. She never imagined how far- reaching that one act would be.

ROSA PARKS: I didn't know what would be the outcome of my taking this stand.

LOTHIAN: Even today, she continues to inspire.

CYNTHIA BAKER, MOURNER: We appreciate all that she did and what she represented.

LOTHIAN: Cynthia Baker joined tens of thousands of people, young and old, who lined up for hours to pay their last respect, a public viewing, a final farewell at this museum of African-American history in Detroit. Not far away, Detroit educator and social worker Cleophus Roseboro peered out the sliding glass doors of his 20th-floor apartment and reflected on the woman he met several times, the woman who changed his life.

CLEOPHUS ROSEBORO, EDUCATOR: What she did was to imbue me with a can-do attitude, that I'm not going to let anything stop me from doing what it is that I need to do.

LOTHIAN: Her passing, he says, while sad, may present new opportunities.

ROSEBORO: Perhaps this, her death, may be another spark that will take race relations further.

LOTHIAN: Maybe not utopia, but for this couple, a better, more tolerant world for their new child.


LOTHIAN: The funeral service expected to get under way in about four hours. Former President Clinton will be speaking. In addition, various civil rights leaders, like the Reverend Jesse Jackson. After the funeral service, Rosa Parks body will be taken by horse-drawn carriage to a nearby cemetery where she will be laid to rest -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us. I know the hearse has just pulled up at that church, and that church was chosen because it's really large enough to hold at least a small percentage of some of the mourners they're expecting to get there today.

Dan, thank you for that update. And obviously we will continue to check in with you on that story all morning.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, are things going to get even uglier in the Senate? We'll take a look at Tuesday's showdown. It was based, Miles, on something called Senate Rule 21. Many of us kind of had to look that up this morning.

Good morning.

M. O'BRIEN: And the people in St. Bernard Parish went to Washington just a few weeks ago, the leadership here. They asked for money to keep the place going without any tax money coming in right now. What they got, they say, is a slap in the face. We'll talk to the parish president in just a bit on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Have you ever heard of Senate rule 21? Well, it closed the doors of the Senate yesterday when Democrats invoked it and accused essentially Republicans of stall tactics in the Iraq investigation. While Majority Leader Bill Frist said it was a slap in the face, and minority leader Harry Reid shot right back.


SEN. HARRY (R), MINORITY LEADER: It's a slap in the face to the American people. That this has been -- this investigation has been stymied, stopped, obstructions thrown up every step of the way. That's the real slap in the face. That's the slap in the face. And today, the American people are going to see a little bit of light.


S. O'BRIEN: CNN's political analyst Ron Brownstein joins us this morning. Good morning to you, Ron.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POL. ANALYST: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You should mention. Senate rule 21, got to tell you, never heard of it.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well...

S. O'BRIEN: Is it very unusual? And is this a huge deal that this was pulled?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it is unusual, not unprecedented of course. The Senate went into enclosed sessions around impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999. But yes, I mean, I think it is indicative of a variety of things coming together. It's sort of appropriate we're discussing this right after the weather, because I look at this as sort of three fronts coming together to produce this storm in Washington. One is a demand among Democrats from their base for a more sharp focus on Iraq. Second, I think you see the frustration among Democrats over the fact they simply do not have the power, they don't have the pedestal in Washington to demand investigations and to propel investigations, especially in light of the Patrick Fitzgerald inquiry. And, third, I think it's a recognition among Democrats they are the minority party, they are the opposition party, and they may have to take some extraordinary measures to make their arguments heard.

S. O'BRIEN: So when you hear Republicans say it's a slap in the face, and then you hear Harry Reid say it's a slap in the face to the American public, do both sides have a point?

BROWNSTEIN: It is a slap in the face. And, in fact, though, what you're seeing, I think, is a recognition among Democrats that sometimes you may have to take that kind of step to be heard. They don't have control of anything in Washington right now, more (INAUDIBLE) than the mayor's office. They cannot subpoena witnesses. They cannot call hearings. They don't really have a platform with not only to advance not only their ideas, but their complaints and criticisms of the Bush administration.

So you see in what Harry Reid did yesterday, an echo of what the Republicans did under Newt Gingrich in the House in the late 1980s and early 1990s when they were in the minority, using extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers to try to force attention onto their agenda and their questions. And in this case, they seem to have gotten a response.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, so outside of the response, though, let's talk about sort of the specific allegations. You heard Harry Reid say stymied, stopped, obstructed, essentially, Are there any indications that, in fact, Republicans are standing in the way of a thorough investigation, an aggressive investigation.

BROWNSTEIN: We haven't seen the results of it. I mean, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says it's under way, and is moving along. None of the Democrats see that evidence, and certainly no one would say this is something that has been coming any time soon. That initial phase was completed quite sometime ago on the way the intelligence community handled the intelligence before the war. This promised second phase on what the administration did, there has really been no sign of it.

S. O'BRIEN: The implications are, some of them spoken, and some not said quite so obviously, that the Republicans are protecting the White House by this dragging of the feet. BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. I mean, without impugning the motive in that way, you can say clearly there has not been a big focus on oversight in this Republican Congress on any front of the administration. And I think the view has been that to aggressively look into Iraq, or Katrina or the pre-war intelligence would be handing a sword to the Democrat and weakening the administration. But the result of that is there is really no body out there to ask these questions.

I mean, look at the questions that were left hanging in the indictment of Scooter Libby last Friday, the issues about who said what to whom, what role Dick Cheney may have had in deciding to release the information about Valerie Wilson. There's a lot of very pregnant insinuations in that indictment that if the opposition party was in control of Congress, you would be seeing hearings right now. You're not seeing them, and I think this is part of the broader pattern.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein. Nice to see you, Ron, as always.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, we are "Minding Your Business." Somebody let the cat out of the bag on Wal-Mart's plans. We're going to tell you about that coming up next. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. I don't see us up on the monitor.


S. O'BRIEN: OK. I believe it. Can we turn this monitor on?

let's talk about business news. Everybody loves to know a secret! Especially when you're talking about a sale at Wal-Mart. Andy Serwer is back. We missed you yesterday. Nice to have you back. He's "Minding Your Business."

SERWER: Thank you. Nice to be back.

We're talking about Wal-Mart here. Last year, the giant retailer kind of got caught sitting on its hands, Soledad, was not aggressive enough when it came to cutting prices to lure in shoppers versus the competition, doesn't look like that's going to be the case this year. Some memos leaked out to the public on Web sites -- look at shoppers, streaming into the stores. You've got to get there early to get those deals. Some of the things that are going to be on sale the day after Thanksgiving, that Friday they call Black Friday, because that's when retailers get in the black after being in the red for the most of the year. Now let's look at them. The HP Pavilion notebook $400.

S. O'BRIEN: That's amazing.

SERWER: The digital camera, Soledad -- I need a digital camera.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm not getting you that one, Andy.

SERWER: All right, well, you've got enough people to buy presents for.

S. O'BRIEN: Exactly.

SERWER: The roaster oven, Carol Costello said she does want that. She likes to go out to dinner.

S. O'BRIEN: You poor girl.

SERWER: OK, the radio-controlled Hummer. That's kind of a Miles present. That's a model, by the way. That's not a real Hummer.

S. O'BRIEN: OK. I read that as a real Hummer, though.

SERWER: The Cabbage Patch Newborn, Soledad, four little dollies. What do you think?

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, yes, the coffeemaker, food chopper, a slow cooker for 10 bucks. I need one of those. That's good price.

SERWER: Yes, that is a good price.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, I'm a cynic, but do you think they leaked it intentionally?

SERWER: Maybe.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, is this one of those, it was leaked, oh, my goodness, but now shoppers know what great deals will be right around the corner at Wal-Mart.

SERWER: I think you're right, especially because they didn't really get the job done last year, so it could be.

S. O'BRIEN: I love to be right.

SERWER: Conspiracy theory.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, conspiracy theory. Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to Miles. He's in St. Bernard parish this morning.

Hey, Miles. Good morning.

I think they're obviously having adios problems. I could hear, though. He was talking the Sheriff Jack Stephens. He of course is someone we spent a lot of time with in St. Bernard Parish talking about the huge problems they face there now. Some good news: Schools might be back online. Some bad news, will any of the students actually come? We're going to take a take a look at that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


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