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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

War Powers Battle; Admiral Fallon: May be Time to Redefine Iraq Goals; Broken Borders

Aired January 30, 2007 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, a constitutional showdown over President Bush's powers to wage war. A leading Republican senator has challenged the president's assertion that he is the decision maker.
We'll have complete coverage for you.

And a new front in the fight to raise the wages of hard-pressed working men and women of this country. Senator Jeff Sessions demanding much bigger fines on companies that hire illegal aliens and cut the wages of Americans.

We'll have that report. Senator Sessions among our guests.

All of that and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, January 30th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The showdown over the president's conduct on the war in Iraq today intensified. A leading Republican senator, Senator Arlen Specter said the president is not the sole decide or waging war. Senator Specter's remarks just another indication the Republican revolt over the president's troop increase in Iraq is widening.

Meanwhile, the president's choice to be the new commander of our troops in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, said it may be time to redefine our goals in Iraq. Admiral Fallon said the United States should "temper its expectations in this war."

Dana Bash tonight reporting tonight from Capitol Hill on the constitutional battle over the president's war powers.

Ed Henry reporting from the White House tonight on the president's strong defense of his authority to wage war.

And Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon tonight, reporting on Admiral Fallon's blunt assessment of the progress on the war in Iraq to date.

We turn first to Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, as usual, Iraq was the dominant issue in hearing room after hearing room here on Capitol Hill, including talk of a provision in the Constitution that says Congress can stop the war if it wants to. And that isn't just coming from exacerbated Democrats. It's also coming from one of president's fellow Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): A senior Republican senator says the president's tough talk about his power as commander in chief is both unhelpful and wrong.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I would suggest -- suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider. That the decider is a shared and joint responsibility.

BASH: At issue is this...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the decision maker

BASH: ... the president's recent statement that he will determine strategy in Iraq regardless of whether Congress votes to oppose his plan to send more troops there.

SPECTER: Mr. President, reconsider and recognize the shared responsibility with the Congress, and let's work it out.

BASH: Senator Arlen Specter has long been an opponent of robust executive power without the check of Congress. He carefully notes Congress can use the power of the purse when it comes to the war, but hopes it won't come to that, with so many in the president's own party speaking out.

SPECTER: When friendly voices urge a course of conduct in what is obviously not partisan positioning, partisan political posturing, I think that should give pause to where the president is headed.

BASH: Specter is one of many Republicans opposed to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. But that plan did get a qualified boost from the leaders of the Iraq Study Group.

JAMES BAKER, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: My bottom line on the surge is, look, the president's plan ought to be given a chance. Give it a chance, because we heard all of this. The general that you confirmed, 81-0 the day before yesterday, this is his idea. He's the supporter of it. He's now the commander on the ground in Iraq.

Give it a chance.

BASH: That came a warning sign, a surge in U.S. troops will only work with a simultaneous push for diplomatic activity. And the administration must do more to publicly pressure Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

LEE HAMILTON, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: I have lost my patience with Maliki. He has known what he needs to do for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't perform and if they don't perform pretty quickly, then we will lose it. I don't care how many troops you put in there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the chairman of the Iraq Study Group also said that this short-term increase in troops in Iraq, or any other military strategy change there, will not work unless the administration adopts one of the recommendations that it said that the administration needed to adopt about six weeks ago. And that is diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.

Dana Bash from -- from Capitol Hill.

The White House tonight is refusing to yield at all in the struggle with Congress over the president's war powers.

Ed Henry now reports from the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the president really seems unfazed by a growing number of Republicans joining Democrats and challenging his war powers. White House aides say the president reached out to allies and critics alike in recent months, ultimately decided against the judgment of others to go ahead and send more troops to Iraq, and he's sticking with that.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino telling CNN today, "Congress controls the money. The president controls military forces. The president is not the only decision maker, but he is the only commander in chief."

Now that reference at the top to Congress controlling the money is significant, what the White House is really saying when you read between the lines is that the Congress can give all of the speeches it wants, it can pass all of the non-binding resolutions it wants, but until they cut off funding for the war, it's really not going to matter much. They're almost daring Democrats to take that politically perilous step of trying to cut off funding.

Now, the president today was not Washington, he was in Peoria at a Caterpillar plant. He even jumped aboard a bulldozer at one point, trying to shift the focus to the domestic agenda. But what he's finding over and over again is that issues like the economy, health care, overshadowed by the war in Iraq.

In fact, he stopped at a diner as well today, and there was a chalkboard with the various specials for breakfast which included a dish called "Fried Mush." The president obviously hoping that's not a metaphors for the state of his agenda right now, especially with Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans coming out against him -- Lou. DOBBS: Ed, there are many who would argue that the debate that we had anticipated this week on Capitol Hill, and certainly with the president's participation, if not leadership, would turn into something other than fried mush. There seems to be no engagement on the issues, there seems to be no engagement on a consideration, a careful, deliberate consideration of the consequences of any number of policy options in Iraq.

Is there some surprise at that or relief at the White House?

HENRY: Well, I think the White House basically feels like they did that deliberation you're referring to months ago when the president was considering other options. Of course, his critics on the Hill in both parties now are saying that he didn't really listen to him, that he went ahead, even against some of his own commanders, and pushed for more troops in Iraq, and that he's move ahead despite those objections.

As far as that debate back and forth, I think what you're hearing from people on the Hill is that they think this is a two-step process. That these non-binding resolutions are step one, and that eventually that may lead to the more serious step of actually cutting off funding, where you might actually see them get at the real issues here -- Lou.

DOBBS: It would seem, at least to some, I would think, reasonable to expect debate, analysis, consideration before taking any kind of action on the part of either the Congress or the White House. Perhaps that's not the way the world works in Washington, D.C. I also understand that possibility.

Ed, thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Ed Henry.

The U.S. military today announced the deaths of three more of our troops in Iraq. Insurgents killed a Marine in Al Anbar Province. Two soldiers were killed in automobile accidents.

Eighty-one of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month. 3,081 troops have been killed since the beginning of this war. 23,279 of our troops have been wounded, 10,342 of them so seriously they couldn't return to duty within three days.

Insurgents and terrorists today killed nearly 50 Iraqi civilians in mortar, gun and bomb attacks across Iraq. More than 100 people were wounded in those attacks. Those attacks came as Shia celebrated a major religious festival.

The admiral chosen by President Bush to oversee this war, Admiral William Fallon, today admitted that time is running out for the United States in Iraq. Admiral Fallon said it may be time for the United States to "redefine" its goals in this war.

The admiral was giving testimony at his confirmation hearings to be the new commander of Central Command.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The current commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific professed to have drawn few conclusions yet about what will soon be his next big challenges, Iraq and Iran. Under questioning from senators, Admiral William Fallon withheld judgment on President Bush's plan to dispatch reinforcements to Iraq, or even whether he'd support sending more troops if the new commander, General David Petraeus, requested them.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And if he said he needed more, you would support him?

ADM. WILLIAM FALLON, CENTRAL COMMAND NOMINEE: I don't know, sir. I haven't been there yet. And I'm not in the position to make that judgment.

LINDSEY: Well, it's his judgment about 21,500. Does it make sense to you?

FALLON: I will -- better be able to give you an informed answer when I understand the situation better.

MCINTYRE: Fallon said one thing he did understand was that the old strategy wasn't working and that the Iraqis would have to meet what he called milestones soon.

FALLON: I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short.

MCINTYRE: The recent battle in Najaf in which outnumbered and outgunned Iraqi troops were forced to quickly call in U.S. reinforcements, including massive air strikes, has raised questions about whether even the best Iraqi forces can truly stand on their own. But one U.S. commander who works side by side with the Iraqis told CNN the Iraqi police and army acquitted themselves well.

COL. MIKE GARRETT, U.S. ARMY: There would have been more Iraqi casualties, but they could have done this by themselves without any assistance from us.

MCINTYRE: Colonel Garrett told CNN that the Iraqi forces suffered only eight deaths in the engagement, while hundreds of insurgent fighters were killed. Although, he admits many of those deaths came from 500-pound bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes. More than 400 suspected militants have been detained.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: On Iran, Admiral Fallon said all diplomatic options ought to be exhausted, but noted that Iran seems to be trying to develop the capability to prevent the U.S. from operating in the Persian Gulf, specifically to block the Straight of Hormuz. He noted that's a two-edge sword that the U.S. could also use to put the economic pressure on Iran.

And Lou, tonight the Pentagon also confirms that the sale of F-14 spare parts has been frozen out of concern some of those parts could make their way to Iran. Iran, as you may know, is the only other country in the world that flies U.S.-made F-14s, sold back during the reign of the Shah.

DOBBS: And thanks to blatant bureaucratic incompetence at the Department of Defense, millions of dollars in those spare parts have been surplused often ended in the hands of the Iranians.

Thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre.

Appreciate it.

President Bush's nominee to be the next deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, today declared Iran's meddling in Iraq can't be tolerated. At his confirmation hearing, Negroponte said Iran's support for terrorists and insurgents in Iraq is harmful to U.S. interests and the security of Iraq.

Negroponte also said Syria allows 40 to 75 foreign insurgents to cross its border into Iraq each and every month. Negroponte did not offer a solution.

Still ahead, border state lawmakers demanding action over the tens of billions of dollars that illegal aliens are sending out of this country each and every year.

We'll have that special report.

Also, Senator Jeff Sessions says corporations hiring illegal aliens and cutting American wages should face tough penalties. Senator Sessions among our guests here tonight.

And President Bush wants a new mandate to negotiate free trade deals that have resulted in 30 consecutive years of trade deficits and cost Americans millions of jobs, without any oversight from Congress, which is constitutionally required to provide that oversight.

We'll have the story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: About $45 billion was sent to Latin American from this country last year. Much of it originating from the hands of illegal aliens.

And some border states tonight have decided to propose taxes on those so-called remittances. They're planning to use the additional money to help secure their borders with Mexico.

Casey Wian has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Immigrants ins Texas send more than $5 billion home to Latin America each year. Most of that is money earned by illegal aliens. Now Texas lawmakers are proposing a 10 percent tax on those remittances. They want to use the proceeds, an estimated $500 million annually, primarily for border security.

DAN PATRICK, TEXAS STATE SENATE: The illegals are costing our state and our country billions of dollars. And we've got to be able to access to help pay for some of this while we're securing the border, which the feds aren't doing a very good job of.

WIAN: Remittances to Latin America are growing at an alarming rate. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates immigrants in America sent $45 billion home last year. An increase of 51 percent since 2004.

More than half of the money goes to Mexico. Twenty-five billion dollars that helps prop up Mexico's shaky economy and drains capital from border states like Arizona, the nation's most popular illegal alien entry point. Some lawmakers there want to require immigrants to prove they have legal status and have paid taxes before they can wire money home.

RUSSELL PEARCE, ARIZONA STATE HOUSE: Unless you can prove you paid taxes on it, you are not sending it out of country. It is about time we do something. I think this bill is a good start to recognize, again, those folks who that are sending money out of this country, in most case don't even belong here.

WIAN: The ACLU opposes efforts to restrict illegal alien remittances, saying it would cause people to favor informal ways of moving money instead of using mainstream financial institutions. And even supporters of state remittance crackdowns can see there are gray areas, including potential conflicts with federal jurisdiction over international commerce.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: That's why pro-border security lawmakers here in California say they're not considering a tax or a crackdown on illegal alien remittances. Instead, they're proposing a thousand-dollar annual fine on employers for every worker they hire with an invalid Social Security number -- Lou.

DOBBS: How much, five?

WIAN: A thousand dollars for every worker they hire who has a mismatched Social Security number, and that would add up quick.

DOBBS: It would, I suppose. But it would be also just the cost of doing business for most of the illegal employers of these illegal aliens. You know, I have to say, it's somewhat ironic, Casey, when you talk about the tepid support for any sort of response to this issue in California, which has basically simply raised a white flag, if you will, over the whole issue of illegal immigration and border security.

WIAN: Absolutely. And the remittances from California -- we talked about Texas and Arizona, who are trying to do something about it. California sends almost three times as much money home to Latin America by illegal aliens, as does Texas. So, you're right, this state, in many respects, has raised a white flag, at least on this issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: And they're banning spanking there as well in California, aren't they?

WIAN: Well, they're talking about it, but I'm not sure it's going to get through.

DOBBS: We love to watch what happens in California, if not leading (ph), at least amusing.

Thank you very much.

Casey Wian.

A new threat to this nation's security tonight. Some of the biggest smuggling tunnels discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border, and it took a while to discover them, have not been closed.

A report by the "Los Angeles Times" reports seven major tunnels, including one that extended from Tijuana to San Diego, remain wide open. Unfilled, un -- whatever.

The entrances were sealed with concrete, but then smugglers dug new entry points into those tunnels. Officials estimating filling those seven tunnels would cost more than $2.5 million.

It's easy to understand why they're being very careful in refilling them.

Well, about 300 protesters gathered outside the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles last night. They were there to protest former Mexican president Vicente Fox.

The crowd was protesting Fox's appearance as part of that center's speaker series. The groups are opposed to the senator's description of the former president of Mexico as a leader who strengthened his country's economy and reduced unemployment in Mexico. The Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles declined to tell us how much it paid Fox for his appearance.

The Senate today cleared the way for an increase in the federal minimum wage. A final vote is expected later in the week.

Tonight, two senators are pushing to include immigration enforcement in the minimum wage bill because they say wages can only truly be raised in the use of illegal alien labor is stopped in this country.

Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Contractors caught hiring illegal aliens would lose government contract work for up to 10 years under one provision in the Senate's minimum wage bill. Sponsored by Senators Jeff Sessions and Charles Grassley, the amendment passed namunanimously last week.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: The idea is that the contractors ought to be -- make the same high standards that the federal government meets, or they should never be doing work for the federal government. The idea is to make sure that illegal aliens are not on the taxpayer payroll.

ROMANS: Employers would be exempt from sanctions if they voluntarily verify their workers with the government's basic pilot program.

A coalition of 18 business groups criticize the amendment. Among them, the American Meat Institute, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Retail Federation and the Nation Restaurant Association, the National Association of Home Builders, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a letter to senators, they asked instead for "comprehensive immigration reform legislation."

The Senate measure is one of 111 amendments to the minimum wage bill. Democrats blame Republicans for delaying relief for minimum wage workers. But with the bill expected to eventually pass, it was bound to attract a host of amendments.

BRUCE OPPENHEIMER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Use it as a vehicle for advertising for other pieces of legislation or for pushing projects with which they have an interest. So even if Grassley isn't successful on this, maybe it puts him in a stronger position when the Senate deals with immigration reform.

ROMANS: What's unclear is whether this amendment survives the horse trading sure to follow with House negotiators.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Senator Sessions argues this amendment is germane to the minimum wage debate because ridding the economy of illegal labor would do far more to help low-wage workers than simply an increase in the minimum wage. He says wages will go up if illegal labor is not available in the labor market, Lou, to compete with these low-wage workers.

DOBBS: I think that the senator -- in my opinion, the senator is absolutely correct. It's documented that low-wage and unskilled positions in this country have been depressed by illegal immigration. It's got to be -- 111 amendments to this?

ROMANS: I know 111 amendments.

DOBBS: The Democratic leaders of Congress said they wanted a clean bill.

ROMANS: Oh, they wanted a clean bill, but they didn't get it. And they thought that the were going to agree on some sort of tax relief for businesses, and instead there's an awful lot attached to this. It will be so interesting to see what negotiating is like.

Meanwhile, every day supporters say it's an insult to the American workers who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a wage increase.

DOBBS: Well, I don't -- you know, if I may say, I do not believe that American working men and women are going to be any more insulted by a slight delay here than they have been over the past basically 10 years of nonsense on this issue. It is remarkable.

One can only hope that on Capitol Hill, with a new Congress, new leadership, that someone there, Republican, Democrat, finds the guts to stand up and say this country is not just about business. It's about principles and values and a society in which a quality of life is important.

Do you suppose anybody will have the guts to do that?

ROMANS: I don't know. But in the end when this happens, Lou, these workers are going to get, minimum wage full time, $15,000 a year.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: And it's incredible. And again, evidence upon evidence that raising the minimum wage benefits economies in this country. It does not cost jobs.

The disinformation, the outright lies on this issue, well, they're breathtaking.

Christine Romans, thank you very much.

I suppose there won't be anymore amendments. We'll stop counting at 111.

Senator Sessions, who introduced the amendment that Christine just reported upon to punish government contractors for hiring illegal aliens, will join us here later in the broadcast.

And next, the law that allows the president to bypass Congress to push through trade agreements, so-called free trade agreements, has led to 30 consecutive years of trade deficits to the loss of millions of good-paying American middle class jobs. Oh, yes, and $5 trillion in trade debt. That so-called Fast Track Authority is expected -- well, it will expire on July 1st unless Congress decides to give President Bush the constitutional authority -- cede that authority to the president. We'll have a report on what's likely to happen.

And the president urging our allies to help isolate Iran, but our allies aren't being as cooperative as the White House would like. We'll have that special report.

And new accusations of political interference with scientific research on global warming, or, if you prefer, climate change.

We'll have a report on both.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush will deliver a state of the economy speech here in New York tomorrow. The president is expected to call for the renewal of trade promotion authority. The so-called Fast Track Authority rendered by the Congress has allowed the White House to ignore Congress and negotiate more than a dozen free trade agreements that have cost millions of hard-working Americans their jobs, 30 consecutive years of trade deficits, all the while as Congress ceded its authority to presidents over that three-decade period.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: I would suggest moving back. I'm about to crank this sucker up.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush at the wheel of a Caterpillar tractor. He used the Peoria, Illinois, plant to drive home his trade agenda. The White House wants Congress to renew Fast Track Authority, which it has used to push through a record 13 new trade agreements with other countries.

BUSH: Because we lowered trade barriers and said., you treat us the way we treat you, it has enabled this company to sell more product than ever before.

SYLVESTER: Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority allows the executive branch to negotiate trade deals without much input from Congress. It's up for renewal this June. Proponents say Fast Track increases efficiency. Critics say it spawns trade agreements that steam-roll the American worker and encourages companies to move to low-wage countries.

House Democrats question why they should renew Fast Track if it will only sap away American jobs.

REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D), OHIO: Take me back to Ohio and tell me what I can say to my constituents about how we make trade work for American workers in states like Ohio.

SYLVESTER: The chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee says the administration must adopt a new trade policy for Fast Track to be renewed.

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Rhetoric doesn't work. It's results. And we have had the wrong results in terms of trade policy from this administration. They have essentially shrugged their shoulders while other countries have adopted policies that have disadvantaged us.

SYLVESTER: The result has been more than three million U.S. manufacturing jobs lost since 2000, and a U.S. trade deficit that has ballooned to $800 billion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Representative Sandy Levin wants to see a new policy that establishes basic international labor and environmental standards in the countries that want to trade with the United States. Right now, he has the current agreements hurt U.S. workers and permit big business to exploit workers in other countries -- Lou.

DOBBS: And those views of Sander Levin, in my opinion, are quite easily empirically demonstrated. The question, it seems, that this Congress is going to have to answer, and Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, has said he's all about renewing that fast track authority. And the question is, why is it permissible for this Congress to even have the opportunity to cede a constitutional responsibility of the House, which is to approve or reject those agreements?

SYLVESTER: It's right there in the Constitution. This is the responsibility of Congress, and over and over again, previous Congresses and this Congress has essentially wiped its hands and said we're going to give this authority to President Bush. Now for the first time, Democrats are taking a good, long, hard look. And so perhaps there could be some changes here.

DOBBS: And we should in all fairness point out this goes back to 1976, covering the administrations of a number of presidents in that time. All to the same affect, and that is a disastrous result in terms of trade deficits.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much. Lisa reporting tonight from Washington, bringing us to the subject of our poll. Do you believe Congress should renew its grant of fast track authority to the president? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. The results we'll have here later.

Concern tonight over the latest move to politicize federal departments and agencies that are supposed to carry out laws and policies approved by Congress. An executive order signed by the president says each agency must have a presidential appointee in charge of rules or guidance the agency plans to issue. The order has drawn praise from business groups, criticism from consumer and environmental activists.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Bill in Florida said, "Lou, why didn't you think of that? If you can't control the border, eliminate the border! Brilliant." Referring to the North American Union.

And E. in Arizona said -- "I'm a daily reader of 'The Wall Street Journal.' However, I have been appalled at their position on illegal immigration for some time, and have written them with my thoughts. Thank you for answering their horrid editorial on the border guards."

And Lynn in Georgia -- "I think the American people have some more House and Senate cleaning to do in 2008. This bunch seems to still lack backbone."

And Bill in Arkansas -- "I caught your show at 3:00 a.m. this morning for the first time. Wow! I now have a brand new favorite show. You need to be on more or we just need to create the Lou Dobbs Network."

I'm sure the executive suite is tingling with anticipation and excitement at that prospect. Thank you for the kind words.

Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts here later. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class."

Coming up next, three of the country's best talk radio hosts -- Charles Goyette from KFNX in Phoenix, Roland Martin from WVON in Chicago, and radio host Michael Eric Dyson join us.

And in the fight to isolate Iran for its dangerous nuclear ambitions, it's the United States seemingly standing alone on the next step. We'll have that report.

And is it a White House whitewash or something else? Scientists testify on Capitol Hill that the Bush administration interfered in their climate research. That report upcoming.

And Senator Jeff Sessions joins us here. He says you can't talk about the minimum wage without talking about illegal immigration and curtailing it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: On Capitol Hill today, the Senate voted to close debate on the minimum wage bill and to bring it to a vote. One of the amendments to the legislation would bring sanctions to government contractors hiring illegal workers. The author of the amendment is Senator Jeff Sessions. He's the senator from Alabama, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and joins us here tonight. Senator, good to have you with us.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Thank you, Lou. Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Let's turn, if we may, to the issue of illegal immigration. That's a resounding vote that you've got for this legislation.

SESSIONS: You know, there was some objections. They really didn't want to vote on that, but when we forced a vote, I was pleased that all senators voted for it.

It's a common-sense thing. It says that when you are contractor for the government, that you ought not to be hiring illegal aliens and allowing them to enter military bases and nuclear sites and things of that nature, and we've had a lot of examples of that. So I think this tightens up the requirements, and also protects businesses from complaint if they use the electronic employee system that the federal government has set up.

DOBBS: Now the vote was what, 94-0?

SESSIONS: 94-0.

DOBBS: That's pretty overwhelming. Now let's talk about a couple of elements within it. What are the penalties for a contractor who does hire illegal aliens?

SESSIONS: If a contractor knowingly hires an illegal alien, they would be suspended from seven to 10 years from further governmental contracts. That's a debarment, as we call it.

DOBBS: And the knowingly part gets a little tough. Any requirement that they absolutely file on with the FIDA (ph) program to confirm Social Security numbers? What's your thought there?

SESSIONS: Yes, this is an important system. Every federal agency, including the Senate hires, have to run through this computer system. You log on, and you check the employee out. And they tell you whether or not they're eligible to be hired. We want those businesses to do that. And if they do that, they would not be subject to any complaint. It would move them in that direction.

But if they don't, even then they would have to knowingly hire somebody. You'd have to prove they knew they were illegal before they could be debarred.

DOBBS: And, you know, the fact is, it's illegal to hire illegal aliens now. ICE is so short-handed, they couldn't possibly keep up with 3 million employers, and many of them hiring illegal aliens. How do we deal with that issue?

SESSIONS: Well, you know, I offered an amendment -- the fine for an employer today, not a government employer but any employer out there is as low as $250 if you hire an illegal alien. So I proposed an amendment that I wanted to vote on that would have raised that fine, but we had an objection from the Democratic leadership and I was not able to get a vote on that amendment.

DOBBS: Well, let's turn to the Senate Armed Services Committee today and Admiral Fallon. What was your reaction when you asked him about the strategy in Iraq and the reinforcements, and he said he didn't really -- wasn't really familiar with the plan and didn't know at this point?

SESSIONS: Well, you know, Admiral Fallon is a very, very well- respected military leader. He did a good job in the Pacific, and now he's moved over to the brown sands from the blue waters. It's quite a different area. Iraq, that would be under the direct command of our soldiers. They'll be under the direct command of General Petraeus. He'll be above General Petraeus.

I think they have a good relationship. And I think if he protects, supports and ensures that General Petraeus has what he needs to carry out a counter-insurgency operation, he can be successful.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this, as we're out of time, Senator. Admiral Fallon said today he was going to be candid. He interjected immediately. There's been a real, palpable lack of candor on the part of the general staff in this war to this point. Do you think he will, in point of fact, be honest, straightforward and forthcoming, an give honest, clear assessments?

SESSIONS: I think General Petraeus and General Fallon (sic) and Secretary Gates and General Pace have come to understand that the American people are depending on them for honest evaluation, good or bad. And they've got to give it. They've all in recent weeks, several times at my request, have a firm -- a firm commitment to do that. And we have to count on them to do it.

DOBBS: Well, you've included General Pace -- Senator, I'm going to ask you straightforwardly, do you believe General Pace has been forthcoming, direct and honest in his assessments of the conduct of the war as the chairman?

SESSIONS: I think he has. I think he's given the best judgment that he has. And -- but things change in these kind of insurgencies. We've had a situation in which General Casey hoped to bring home troops and violence flared up and we've now had to add troops, unfortunately.

DOBBS: Unfortunately, indeed.

Thank you very much, Senator Sessions. Good to have you with us.

SESSIONS: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up next, leading scientists claim the Bush administration has distorted and interfered with their research on global warming. We'll have that report.

And three radio talk show hosts join us to tell us what their listeners are concerned about, what they think of the State of the Union and the world.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Some of the nation's leading scientists and climatologists today said the Bush administration has distorted and twisted the facts of their research on global warming. In testimony on Capitol Hill, those scientists said they were pressured to remove evidence that showed the clear significance of climate change. Andrea Koppel reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one and under oath, each member of the panel told lawmakers how the Bush administration had deliberately distorted their research into global warming and injected politics into science.

Rick Pilts (ph) used to edit the work of 90 government scientists.

RICK PILTS, WORKED ON CLIMATE CHANGE: During the 2001-2005 time frame, I came increasingly to the conclusion that the administration was acting to impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society.

KOPPEL: Dr. Drew Schindel (ph) works for the Goddard Space Center.

DR. DREW SCHINDEL, GODDARD SPACE CENTER: We were told in the fall of 2004 by the Press Corps that releases were being delayed because two political appointees and the White House were now reviewing all climate-related press releases.

KOPPEL: Committee Chairman Henry Waxman released a memo, claiming his staff reviewed documents showing how the White House and other agencies had pushed for more balance in a 2003 draft report on the environment, insisting that "Global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts."

But Waxman says the Bush administration is refusing to turn over these documents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this instance the committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security. We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists.

KOPPEL: Waxman's memo also includes many examples of text he says the White House deleted. One set of edits include the original text, which said climate changes are "likely mostly the result of human activities." And the new government-approved text, which notes that "a causal link between the build-up of greenhouse gasses... and the observed climate changes... cannot be unequivocally established."

(on camera): Now in an interview with CNN, the White House pointman on climate change disputed Waxman's claim. He said that they'd been working with the committee now for about the last six months and that what matters most, Lou, are the documents, the final published report that's been peer-reviewed and that goes through various academic literature -- Lou. DOBBS: Well, to get away from the academic jargon, the fact is leading scientist are accusing this administration of interfering with their -- interfering with their conclusions, in their judgment, distorting them. What is their response to that specific charge?

KOPPEL: The White House has said -- they haven't reacted to this specific charge, other than what I just quoted you. But previously they had said that they were trying to interject balance into these reports and they felt that a lot of what these scientists were putting out there had not necessarily reflected that.

DOBBS: Well, it's a remarkable story and it's a shame that we have to have these kinds of contests over what a scientist concludes and what politicians insist upon. Somewhere in there is an independent, nonpartisan reality that the public has a right to know and would like to know.

Andrea, thanks very much for broadening the body of public knowledge.

We appreciate it.

Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

Joining us at the top of the hour here on CNN, none other than Wolf Blitzer with the "SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Lou.

Fidel Castro has been missing in action for six months, but new video of him and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez television has just aired on Cuban TV. Is the stricken leader on the mend? We'll have a report.

Also, Senator Arlen Specter has a very blunt message for President Bush: you're not only decider.

And should Congress simply cut funding for the war in Iraq? Has the time come for Democrats to put up or shut up?

We'll talk about that with Senator Russ Feingold.

And global warming, we're going to have more on the dire predictions, Lou, that are coming out. Some scientists say changes are happening a lot faster than expected.

All of that, Lou, coming up right here on "SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Yes, Wolf, it's one of the -- if it weren't so serious and perhaps tragically serious issues, the idea that there are changes taking place. My gosh, nine of the hottest years on record over the course of the past ten years. It's hard to imagine that there should be any debate at all about the science of what is occurring.

BLITZER: Yes, well, as you know there are serious scientists out there who say it's el Nino, who say that this is just a natural phenomena that happens every thousand years or so. I suspect this debate is going to continue, Lou.

DOBBS: No question it'll continue. But by far the leading consensus in the scientific community is that this is global warming and that human-generated greenhouse gases are the principle contributor. It just seems to be hard to avoid the conclusion that that is the consensus.

Wolf, thank you very much.

Wolf Blitzer, we look forward to it.

Just ahead, the war in Iraq, the possibility of a military confrontation with Iran now.

And our radio round table joins me here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, Charles Goyette, Roland Martin, Michael Eric Dyson.

Gentleman, good to have you with us.

Charles Goyette, let me start with you out there in Phoenix.

All of this debate about global warming, distorting the research. The vast preponderance, as preponderances are often styled, and the scientific community says it's global warming and it's most likely generated by human beings. What is the deal here?

CHARLES GOYETTE, KFNX IN PHOENIX: Lou, I've got to tell you, my judgment is colored by the fact that it's been a very, very cold January out here. We had the Phoenix marathon the other day, 36,000 people running in the marathon. It looked like presidential primaries or something. But it started -- it was 24 degrees when it started and this is the desert. So it's a little bit hard for me to be objective about it. But, clearly, something is going on.

DOBBS: Earl, what do you think?

ROLAND MARTIN, WVON IN CHICAGO: Well, we're in denial. We are a country who lives in denial. We are also reactionary. We had to wait for the space shuttle to blow up for us to go, "Hmm, maybe want to fix those o-rings."

And so, we always wait for something to happen, tragic, and then we say, "now let's do something."

We live in denial about the reality of global warming.

DOBBS: Michael, I'll tell you something we did on this show about -- I think it was about seven, eight months ago because I finally got tired of the debate. I said, "All right, on this broadcast at least for the purposes of this audience and this broadcast, we're going to assume that mankind has a significant role in global warming. Now, let's leave the debate alone and talk about what is possible, what is appropriate in terms of a response."

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Well, here's the irony, Lou. You would think that a conservative administration would take that notion of personal responsibility and apply it to the universe. If indeed we are agents of our own destiny, you'd figure that stuff we're doing is tearing a hole in that roof up there and the sun is leaking through, getting trapped in those gases, let's figure out a way to take care of it. But, as Roland said, the denial is so thick that the science can't get through.

DOBBS: Well, you know, you talk about, you know -- I think that's a wonderful point. Michael's talking about, Charles, determinism. And what I hear from what is supposedly a conservative, rock-rib (ph) Republican administration is a list of things that this country can't do: Americans won't do this work, we can't do this as a government.

It is extraordinary, the fine limitations on choice on this country, but absolutely see no limits to the extension of military power in the Middle East. What's going on here philosophically?

GOYETTE: Isn't that a real kind of displacement of the proper functions of the government? Look, we can't control our own borders. But we've got a real clear idea that we can control the borders somewhere else in the world. We can't -- we can't protect the value of the U.S. dollar, but we can go to China and argue with them about their exchange rates. Everything is a little bit off-centered.

DOBBS: A little. I wish it were only a little, Charles.

Roland, your thoughts? What is the most dramatic development to you? What is captivating your listeners right now?

MARTIN: Clearly, this war in Iraq. The president of the United States is choosing to be also the president of Iraq. It was offensive to me, frankly, in his speech when he presented his new war plan, where Bush announced the $10 billion in reconstruction, using of the oil reserves, elections in local provinces.

The reason Iraqis cannot stand on their own is because we choose to be big brother. It's time for big brother to let the little brother sometimes make a mistake. Let the folks in Iraq handle their own business. But as long as we keep trying to tell them what to do and we keep telling their story, they're not going to do their own stuff. And my callers are frankly angry about it.

DOBBS: How about you, Michael?

DYSON: Well, same thing. The anti-war movement being gussied up, 500,000 people preparing out there. The nation is angry. People are outraged. There was also a story that my callers fastened on to, latched on to that as a black man you live longer if you're in prison than if you're outside of the prison. That three hots (ph) in the cot, you know, getting a decent meal. You're talking about the war on the middle class, the erosion of the economic stability that people feel once they come out of prison means that they actually get better care -- not only health care, but education -- that they're having a longer trajectory in terms of their being taken care of.

DOBBS: There's another very important fact. A young black male lives in the most violent parts of this society and at least that...

DYSON: Is protected. Right, because you don't have guns...

DOBBS: Exactly.

DYSON: ... and these other forms of violence. But gun violence is a very good point. Gun violence is tamped down on when you're in the prison.

GOYETTE: Lou, let me say something about the war debate, if you don't mind. It seemed like in November, we were having genuine movement toward a debate in this country about ending the war and bringing the soldiers home. Something has happened. The entire debate has now shifted to whether surge or not to surge, to augment or not to augment. The debate has been shifted. I think it's been a very clever propaganda campaign because we're not talking about ending the war anymore.

MARTIN: That was easy because the president did it. Once the president makes a definitive statement, then people follow along. But again, he only has about six months.

DOBBS: Are we talking about the same president that I'm thinking of?

MARTIN: Yes.

DOBBS: I don't think folks are following along.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: In terms of the debate. In terms of the debate.

DOBBS: What I find -- my producer's yelling at me. We're out of time, but I've still got to say this.

First, thank you all for being here. Charles, I appreciate it.

Michael, thank you.

But idea that we're not engaged in a debate about the consequences of policy options at this point, which is what we were led to believe we would see on the part of this Congress, I think leaves everyone with a basis for some skepticism right now about the direction that this Democratic Congress has taken.

GOYETTE: A great deal of skepticism.

DOBBS: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much.

Good to see you.

Still ahead, the exciting results of tonight's poll.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now the results of tonight's poll: 94 percent of say Congress should not renew its grant of fast-track authority to President Bush.

Time now for one last e-mail. Caroline in Georgia writing to say, "What in the world is happening to our country when illegal aliens can come into our country and demand -- yes, demand -- that we not enforce our immigration laws and also demand a moratorium on raids and deportation of illegal aliens. Are these the sort of people that we want as U.S. citizens? I believe not."

Thanks for your thoughts. Send them to us here at loudobbs.com.

We thank you for being with us. Join us here tomorrow.

Good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

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