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AMERICAN MORNING

Democrats Hopeful that Iraq Pullout Bill Will Pass House

Aired March 23, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: With today's convening of the 110th Congress, we begin anew.

FRANKEN (voice over): That was the rallying cry from the Democrats, the wheeling and dealing and hidden pork barrel spending would be no more. Fast forward just 10 weeks.

Democratic leaders face their biggest challenge so far. The legislation providing $124 billion in war funding combine with a troop pullout from Iraq next year. They're using every tool at their command, the same tools they criticized the Republicans for using. Good, old-fashioned pork.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA): It enjoys such limited support on the other side of the aisle that it had to be laden with unrelated -- unrelated -- pork in order to win enough votes to have any hope of passing.

REP. MARK KIRK (R-IL): It would provide $25 million in a bailout for spinach farmers. Another $74 million in taxpayer dollars for peanut storage, and $283 million for milk producers.

FRANKEN: And farm relief, which creates quite a dilemma for many members, even Republicans.

MARILYN MUSGRAVE (R-CO): Shame on the Democrats for playing politics with people's lives.

FRANKEN: Marilyn Musgrave normally wouldn't even consider supporting a troop pullout, but her district really needs relief. Put her in the undecided column.

MUSGRAVE: Of course, my heart is always with our troops. As it comes down to the wire, I'm just going to make the very best decision I can.

FRANKEN: Democratic leaders insist this is not pork. It's not just peanut storage, but money for spinach farmers, and dairy farmers, billions by the way, definitely not peanuts. But Republicans are cutting them no slack.

REP. CANDICE MILLER (R-MI): The Democratic leaders offered the voters change in November. But all we are getting -- all the nation is getting -- is politics worse than usual.

FRANKEN: The domestic money in the bill is tempting, but the White House warns that members should resist temptation.

TONY SNOW, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The one they're considering has zero chance being enacted into law. It's bad legislation, the president will veto it, and Congress will sustain that veto.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: There are any number of Democratic members who are similarly inclined to vote against this legislation, many because it doesn't go far enough for them. But they too are tempted by the pork and they're not talking to us. Surprised?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Yes, the fact that this pork is there reflects deep divisions in the Democratic Party, does it not?

FRANKEN: Well, yes. And what the Democratic leaders will say, this is the way it's done. This is how you get things done. You can stand on principle only so much. There are larger principles. They say, that require offering -- let's not call it pork, let's call it incentives.

M. O'BRIEN: Incentives. That would be the euphemism of the morning.

FRANKEN: It will be.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Bob. We have some questions, a lot of questions about this. And we'll put them right to the house majority leader, Steny Hoyer. He'll be our guest in about 30 minutes, right here on the program. Stay tuned for that -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: It's still a mystery this morning about what exactly happened to that busload of students from Springfield, Massachusetts. They were headed for an ROTC competition in Maryland, when 21 of them had to be taken off the bus -- taken to the hospital. They got sick on their chartered bus.

Symptoms were headaches, and burning eyes, and nausea. Some of them were throwing up. The bus pulled over on I-95 in White Marsh, Maryland. Happened late Thursday night. One of the students in fact had to be rushed to a shock trauma center. He was later released; 20 others were taken to area hospitals. They've all been released.

Still, though, nobody is quite sure what made the students sick and police say they've looked at the bus, and they can't find any obvious problems.

John and Elizabeth Edwards are back on the campaign trail already, even as soon as last night just hours after they announced Mrs. Edwards' cancer has returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: This is what happens to every cancer survivor, not that you ultimately get a bad diagnosis. But every time you get something suspicious you go into alarm mode.

And that's every cancer survivor that you know personally has exactly that experience. Of knowing that that pain they feel in their side, the ache they feel some place, could be the sign of something worse. This turned out to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: CNN'S Mary Snow has been following the story, with us this morning.

That has to be a tough decision. Because you can see people saying, let's chuck it all, and take care of your health. And that's not the decision they made after a lot of thought.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of thought, and a lot of speculation, because Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed in 2004, and they have talked about this a lot in those years. And certainly John Edwards said her health would be a factor in considering whether or not he would run, or seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

Last night just to kind of show how quickly things moved on. He was in New York for a fundraiser, and he said the campaign will go on and go on strongly. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've been confronted with these kinds of traumas and struggles already in our life. And we know from our previous experience that when this happens you have a choice. You can go cower in the corner and hide, or you can be tough and go out there and stand up for what you believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Elizabeth Edwards also on the campaign trail. She'll be joining her husband tomorrow in California. Tomorrow, interestingly enough, they'll both be talk at a health care forum, a presidential forum, and she will be joining him at that event.

S. O'BRIEN: Something they know a lot about.

It's interesting that she see seems so positive during the press conference. In a way, it was just really sad, bad, bad news. She was very positive during the entire press conference. She smiled through the thing. Laughed, told jokes in some places. Pitched her husband a little bit about why he should be president, at the same time. That really surprised me. I had friends who were watching it, who were crying because they know how dire this diagnosis is, for a woman, who is a mother with small children.

SNOW: Absolutely. And some of the people who were there were supporters from North Carolina who wanted to come out and hear what she had to say. And, you know, there was really a lot of speculation, but nobody knew for sure what they were going to say. And Elizabeth Edwards was very upbeat. And, as you said, did not shed any tears. And she said that she was really strongly supporting her husband to continue running.

S. O'BRIEN: She's tough, she's tough. If anybody can fight it, I hope she is the one who will do it.

SNOW: Very tough.

S. O'BRIEN: Mary Snow, thank you for a little insight there.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

Just in from Iraq, an incredibly close call for the country's deputy prime minister, Salam Al Zubai (ph). He just a few moments ago survived a suicide bombing in Baghdad, according to some reports we're getting in right now. We're hearing the bomber detonated explosives at an event the minister was attending and he was unhurt and five others were injured, however.

A rough couple days for Iraq's leaders; and the new leader of the United Nations as well, Ban Ki-Moon. Remember this tape from yesterday? Bombshell video, quite literally. A mortar exploding just yards from the news conference he was holding with Nouri al-Maliki. You noticed al-Maliki didn't even flinch. That's a sign of the times.

Of course for the United Nations, this brings back terribly painful memories. Makes us think about the United Nations and its involvement in Iraq. And, of course, takes us back to the terrible bombing years ago. Richard Roth covers the United Nations with more.

Good morning, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

This was a surprise visit for Ban Ki-Moon, instead, he got the surprise in Baghdad. Videotape that triggers reactions and memories involving the Iraq government and the U.N. and the new secretary- general.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH (voice over): That explosion welcomed Mr. Ban to Baghdad. The U.N. secretary-general was visibly shaken by the close call. This time the U.N. was lucky. In 2003 --

(EXPLOSION)

-- a larger suicide bomber attack on the U.N. compound in Baghdad killed more than 20 U.N. staff, including one of the leading diplomats in the U.N. system, Sergio Vieira DeMello (ph). That bombing forced a complete withdrawal from Iraq, by the U.N. and affected how the U.N. operates around the globe.

Thursday's close call reminded the U.N. family that Iraq is still a very dangerous place. DUMISANI KUMALO, SOUTH AFRICAN AMB. TO U.N.: The sad thing about Iraq, the first thing that it did, it just brought the memories of the friends that we lost there.

ROTH: It's been a love/hate relationship between Iraq and the U.N. since the Security Council failed to stop the war, some in Iraq take their anger out on U.N. personnel. The U.N. has since helped coordinate elections and provide other raid, but there are only 84 U.N. staff members in Iraq, along with hundreds of U.N. protection troops. And with explosions like the one that shook the new U.N. secretary-general, that likely won't change any time soon.

VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMB. TO U.N.: You know, you probably watch more television than I, so that would provide an answer to you. The main constraint is the security situation.

ROTH: And it's still an American show.

THOMAS WEISS, U.N. ANALYST: The reason that the U.N. has not been involved is they haven't been asked to do so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH: Ban continued his schedule in Baghdad, he's on a Middle East journey including safer places like Lebanon. He was in Baghdad to show the U.N. commitment, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. You know the halls of the United Nations as well as anybody. You were there yesterday as this all unfolded. What were people saying?

ROTH: Well, a lot of U.N. people were buzzing about it, bringing up the sad memories of what happened three years ago. But what was amazing to me is that when the official noon daily briefing of the U.N. happened, they didn't mention what happened to Ban. When I asked --

M. O'BRIEN: How do you explain that?

ROTH: They said, oh, he was fine, afterwards. I said look, President Ford was shot at buy Sergei Moore (ph) and the U.S. government announced it. The spokeswoman said Ban was not shot at.

(LAUGHTER)

M. O'BRIEN: My goodness --

ROTH: No, it really shows --

(CROSS TALK)

M. O'BRIEN: What is behind that? What is that?

ROTH: Well, it's just a style of that, if you don't just mention it, maybe it will go away. This happens around the world a lot. Now, maybe there was pressure and the South Korean leadership that is in charge now, in effect, at the U.N., very -- not media open -- to share information at all. He didn't take any press with him into Baghdad.

M. O'BRIEN: I wonder if that says an awful lot about the organization in general, perhaps so. Richard Roth, thank you very much.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: What is an international murder mystery took a new turn overnight, it involves Bob Woolmer. Maybe you don't know his name if you don't follow cricket. But he was the coach of Pakistan's cricket team. He was found dead in his hotel room, over the weekend, a day after his team lost in the Cricket World Cup.

Now, gamblers spend lots of time money on cricket. Some investigators think maybe mobsters, who lost money the game, because Pakistan's loss was a big surprise. They may have targeted the coach as revenge.

M. O'BRIEN: And now, for our next trick, word this morning, a relative of the Great Houdini would like to dig up his grave to see if the legendary escape artist was murdered.

Harry Houdini died in Detroit in 1926. The story, at the time, his appendix ruptured after he was hit repeatedly in the stomach. But there are persistent conspiracy theories. Houdini was widely known for debunking psychics and mediums and some suggest that was a motive for murder. So Houdini's great nephew now wants his body exhumed from its grave here in New York -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Lots of bad weather in the Midwest. Rob Marciano is watching the forecast for us. We'll check in with him in just a moment.

Plus, the Democratic leaders are putting it all on the line, including your tax dollars, trying to get the troop withdrawal passed. We'll see if they have the votes to pull it off.

And then, pet owners: First they were devastated, and then they got mad. Now they want to get even with the pet food company. We'll tell you about all the law suits over that tainted pet food. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: It was quite a surprise yesterday when Elizabeth Edwards announced that the cancer is back, but also said that the two of them are not quitting the campaign trail. The press conference was held in Chapel Hill.

John Edwards announced that cancer had spread to his wife's bones. But the big part we're focusing on this morning is they're not giving up. They're not stopping campaigning.

We've ask Ari Melber, who is a Democratic strategist, and also a writer for "The Nation" to join us with a look at this. Good morning, nice to see you.

ARI MELBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Was that a surprise to you?

MELBER: No, I think they're an aggressive campaigner group. They've campaigned together. They want to be out on the trail, they want to keep going. They made that very clear yesterday.

S. O'BRIEN: It's a pretty dire diagnosis, though. It's not, well, she broke her leg and we're going to slow down. It's not curable, he said.

MELBER: They're a family that, as people know, have been through a lot. It may come up again on the trail. The challenge for them is to speak about this in a heartfelt way, which I think they did yesterday. To share what's happening in their lives, but to not let it become a complete distraction from the agenda the senator is trying to run on.

S. O'BRIEN: There is not question about that. I thought it was a really moving press conference, considering it wasn't like people were crying during the press conference. She was very positive, she was very upbeat. And even took a moment, I noticed, to kind of pitch her husband as president, while she's announcing what is a really terrible diagnosis. I got a little clip of that, let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: This is what happens to every cancer survivor, not that you ultimately get a bad diagnosis. But every time you get something suspicious, you go into alarm mode.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Well, that's not the sound bite I was talking about.

There is one point where she says, my husband would be a great candidate. And the reason I'm focused on the campaigning is because he's a great president; and he needs to run this country and this election is really, really important. Politically, though, this is kind of a tough line to walk, isn't it?

MELBER: It is. You see this with several of the candidates. Senator Obama talks about his history and the adversity he's overcome. And really he's a unique person on the international stage. And Bill Clinton talked about what a rough childhood he had, and abusive father.

S. O'BRIEN: Everybody has their thing.

MELBER: Right. There are things you want to build in, but it's a hard -- as you say, it is a hard line to walk, because you don't want to be seen as exploiting your own history or the problems that your family's going through. S. O'BRIEN: Or even not being there for your spouse. At some point, there is going to be a treatment she has to get and maybe even as the election gets closer. And some event that he has to do and they're going to interfere with each other, one's got to imagine.

MELBER: Yes, I don't think politically voters will hold that against them because she said he's 100 percent behind him. So if she wants him to be out there, she doesn't want to take him away from the campaign trail, away from his ambitions. Then I think voters will see that positively.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes or no, do you think -- I mean, I have had friends who have said to me, I loved her so much watching that press conference. I'm going to vote for him. He has been low in the polls. Do you think that will give him some kind of bounce? Maybe that sounds callus, or creepy, or strange, but I heard from a number of people that they felt very connected to her, that that would help him.

MELBER: I think it gives him extra attention. I think it helps people identify with both of them. And I think, as you said, when they respond to it in an upbeat, genuine way and people look and say, those seem like nice people, good folks. Sure, that's helpful on the attention. I don't think a year out of the race this is why people pull the lever.

S. O'BRIEN: Democratic strategist Ari Melber, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

MELBER: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It is about quarter past the hour right now and Rob Marciano is in for Chad Myers looking at where the weather hot spots are.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, the growing headache in the housing market. There is an important new report out today. Ali Velshi will break it down for us and let you know how you stand if you're a buyer or seller, and, of course, depending where you are, too.

And the faces of friends, beloved pets lost after they ate some tainted pet food. We'll hear how some owners are fighting back and hear what vets say is the best way to protect your best friend. Stay with us from for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: This morning all across the country there's fear and outrage and a lot of sadness among dog and cat owners. We've seen so many faces of these beloved animals, who got sick, or died from eating tainted pet food. Their owners say that's what caused the death. And some of these grieving owners are trying to fight back. AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho has been following the story for us.

Good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

You know, pet owners do consider their pets family members, so you can imagine they're angry, confused -- and, most of all, sad about their loss. Add to that the cost of the care. It could run in the thousands. And that's part of the reason why some of the pet owners are now taking action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice over): Two-year-old Princess, a 90-pound Bull Mastiff was always healthy so when owner Sandy Bobb found her usually feisty dog suddenly sedate she started to worry.

SANDY BOBB, SUING GOD FOOD MANUFACTURER: She was at the bottom of my basement stairs, laid out, with her nose in the corner. And I said, this isn't right.

CHO: Her husband immediately took Princess to the vet.

BOBB: He kept saying, do you think she could have eaten anything? It's toxic. Everything is coming up toxic.

CHO: The next day Princess' kidneys failed and she died. The Bobb family was stunned. So was Jackie Johnson. Her cat, Gumby, got sick a month ago.

JACKIE JOHNSON, CAT HAD KIDNEY DISEASE: She immediately vomited, which is not usual. During the week she progressively got worse.

CHO: Gumby, like Princess, was diagnosed with kidney failure. But the 14-year-old cat survived. And a month later is still on an I.V. Johnson gave Gumby IAMS' brand Select Bites. Bobb fed Princess Natural Choice pouches; two of the 95 brands of cuts and gravy style dog and cat food recalled last week; 60 million cans and pouches in all.

While pet owners everywhere are worried, Johnson and Bobb are taking action, both have filed lawsuits against manufacturer Menu Foods.

BOBB: Sick to my stomach that how a company like that could -- you know, where is that quality control? How does something like that happen?

CHO: Menu Foods would not comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesman said the company is working on finding the root of the problem. The FDA believes wheat gluten, a thickening agent, may be the culprit. To date, at least 14 animals have died.

Veterinarian Cathy Langston, who has treated a dozen cases linked to the recall, including Bonki, says she's never seen anything like this.

CATHY LANGSTON, ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER: I'll admit, I was almost crying as I walked home last night thinking about all the animals that are affected by this.

JOHNSON: The goal is not retribution, per se. It's justice. We need to find out what happened.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: So, how do you know if your pet has kidney failure? Here are the symptoms. We're going to put them up on the screen for you.

You're pet has a loss of appetite, starts vomiting, drinks excessively or urinates excessively, all signs of dehydration. Now, if your pet is showing any of these symptoms, take them to the vet immediately.

Now, many pet owners are confused this morning about exactly which brands are affected, there are 95 of them. So the best advice is to go to the website, www.menufoods.com/recall.

And, Soledad, I checked it out myself and it really is helpful. I'm not a pet owner, but it really does walk you through it. And it takes you through all of the brands and you can click on them and tells you the dates and the lot numbers, and if you have any questions, you can call the number. And that is on the website as well.

S. O'BRIEN: That is scary stuff for pet owners. That really is. All right, Alina, thanks.

CHO: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Another housing report coming out today, it is a big one. We'll break it down for you, whether you're a buyer or a seller. Of course, it depends on where you are, too. It's 25 minutes past the hour, Ali Velshi here with more on that.

ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

This is the monthly existing home sales report. We talk about existing homes, we talk about new homes; existing homes are the bulk of the market. Now just to give you a sense of this, the Fed earlier this week said the housing market hasn't bottomed out.

But take a look at how many houses get sold in the United States every year, we'll get an adjustment to this number today. But 6.3 million homes get sold in the United States. This is still a healthy home market.

And the average price -- not the average, I'm sorry -- averages don't work for home prices, the median, the price at which half the homes sell above and half the homes sell below is about $210,000. That's way down from where it has been in the past.

But it's, you know, it does depend, as you said, on where you live. Now, KB Home, which is the fifth largest home builder in the country, announced that its profits fell 84 percent. And it has been said that these foreclosures and sub-prime, and all that will affect it, but it said that sales were down in the Southwest and the Central parts of the country, and up in the West Coast, and flat in the Southeast.

Now, here if you're buying a house in New York, for instance, you're getting no discount. The prices are actually up here.

M. O'BRIEN: Right. I hear it's a hot market here.

VELSHI: It's hot.

M. O'BRIEN: So, I think it's important as we talk about the housing all the time to remind people, it is a very localized thing. It really isn't a national market here.

VELSHI: Right. If you need to sell in the Southwest and buy in New York, you're in trouble. But if you're buying and selling in New York it might be a wash.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

VELSHI: So averages and medians don't necessarily work. It just gives you a sense of what the trend might be.

M. O'BRIEN: Ali Velshi, thank you very much.

Top stories of the morning coming up next. We're following word, just in, of a bomb attack on the deputy prime minister of Iraq. Close call for him.

Plus, a big day for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, he is attacking on billions to get the votes for a war spending bill, which would get the troops out of Iraq by September of '08.

Also a survivor's message. Singer Sheryl Crow has some important words about fighting on with breast cancer, after Elizabeth Edwards talked about her new diagnosis.

And the mortgage meltdown. Where you can buy a home for less than the price of a car. It's true. We told you how localized it was, it really is. The most news in the morning, right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning to you. Friday, March 23rd. I'm Miles O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm Soledad O'Brien. Thanks for being with us. We'll following the breaking stories for you this morning out of Iraq. A bomb attack happened near the home of the deputy prime minister of Iraq. Also not in Iraq, but a fiery explosion at a weapon's depot. Thousands of people were forced out of their homes this morning. We're hearing what might be the surprising cause.

M. O'BRIEN: The best democracy can buy and you're paying for it. Are votes for the Iraq spending bill being bought with your money?

S. O'BRIEN: An amazing story of survival. A New Hampshire woman walks away from this, yes, that would be her car and that would be a branch straight through the windshield. We'll tell you what happened.

M. O'BRIEN: And a world famous cricket coach found strangled and there are a lot of questions about who done it. Was it a mob hit? All that ahead.

Democrats are drawing a line in the Iraqi sand. It appears likely they will succeed in passing a $122 billion war bucks bill that demands U.S. combat troops be out of Iraq by September '08. But in order to get the votes, Democratic leaders started trimming some choice pieces of pork. Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer is the House majority leader. He joins us now from Capitol Hill. Congressman Hoyer, good to have you with us on the program.

REP. STENY HOYER (D) MARYLAND: Good morning, Miles, thank you very much.

M. O'BRIEN: Before we get to the pork, let's talk about the bill. Liberals in the party were reluctant to go along with this because they felt that the deadline was not aggressive enough. What do you say to them?

Clearly there are those in the caucus who thought we went too slowly and some who thought we went too fast. What we tried to do is fashion a congressional response for the first time in four years that says that Congress is going to make policy and set parameters with respect to the war. That's what the American public expects the Congress to do and it expects us not to be complacent, complicit and rubber stamp, no strings attached, whatever you want, Mr. President of Congress. Our role is to make policy on behalf of the American public and the American public on November 7th clearly said we want to change the direction.

M. O'BRIEN: What do you think? Do you think the bill is, from your view, is that deadline aggressive enough?

HOYER: Clearly I believe that deadline or timeframe is a timeframe that we can pass through the House of Representatives. That is the key question, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: But what happens --

HOYER: The key question is, do you have the votes? This is a compromise we worked together, we worked across the party spectrum. We think this is a reasonable, doable, responsible way in which for us to proceed in Iraq. It very much mirrors, by the way, the Iraq study group headed up by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton. So we think this is a responsible way forward. M. O'BRIEN: Let's take it from the other side of the political spectrum for just a moment. Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run. But I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: And continuing along that line of thought here is the thought that you would give a date certain to the world, to the enemies that that's when combat troops would be leaving, would give the enemy a tremendous advantage, wouldn't it?

STENY: Miles, who's the enemy? Are the Sunnis the enemy. Are the Shia the enemy, both of whom are killing our people? The enemy is really the failure of the Iraqi government to come together and bring this to a political resolution. Every general, every member of the Iraq study group made that observation. This is subject to a political solution. What we're trying to do is say to the Iraqi government, this is your responsibility. You need to step forward. You need to bring political reconciliation. You need to bring legislation sharing revenues and you need to bring --

M. O'BRIEN: Doesn't it --

HOYER: Miles --

M. O'BRIEN: If you're an insurgent or you're involved in sectarian violence you lay low and wait for the U.S. troops to leave because you know they're leaving in September '08.

HOYER: You're talking about 18 months, Miles. This is not tomorrow or over night. If the president is going to succeed as he says his new program's going to succeed, he has given the timeframe in which to do that. This bill gives him all of the resources he has to do that. This bill does not in any way impede General Petraeus or any of his commanders or any people on the ground from exercising that strategy or tactics they believe is necessary and appropriate to accomplish their objectives. What it does say, however is that, Mr. President you said approximately 90 days after this war began in May of 2003, our mission was accomplished. Four years later, that mission, obviously, has expanded greatly and has not been accomplished.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about -- I have a --

HOYER: What we're saying therefore, there needs to be a timeframe.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, we're running out of time. We got to talk about the pork, speaking of expansion, expansion of this legislation, a lot of pork added on to it. Let's go through the list just briefly. We've heard a little bit about this. There's $74 million in there to help peanut growers store their peanuts. There's $25 million for spinach growers dealing with that e. coli problem, $252 million in milk subsidies, $3.3 billion in crop and livestock losses. All of these may be worthy programs one way or another, but doesn't it in some way trivialize what is perhaps as important a vote as any vote you'll have to start loading the pork up on this?

HOYER: Absolutely not. First of all, I don't accept your definition of pork. The fact is, yes, there are some add-ones. There is an add-on for Katrina, those victims of Katrina. There's an add-on for children's health which should have been funded...

M. O'BRIEN: Why not do them in separate bills then? Why not keep the war vote as a pure vote on the war one way or another?

HOYER: The pure vote is national security here at home and national security abroad. The president has not funded properly either the war or domestic programs. This is a bill that will have add-ons, yes, but add ons for what we believe to be emergency objectives. Children are going to start being kicked off health care rolls in the richest countries on the face of the earth. We think that is a priority. We have funded fully the effort in Iraq, as you know and furthermore, we've expanded funding for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

So the president will get all the resources he needs, but in addition to that, we're going to take care of veteran's health. In addition to that we're going to respond to the deep drought relief that is necessary as a result of the drought over the last three years throughout the Midwest and other places in our country. We're going to respond to the veterans' health. Everybody saw Walter Reed. It is clear that this administration has under funded the health for our veterans as well as the health for our active duty personnel. So these are emergency matters we think need to be responded to now. This is a vehicle in which that can be done, but at the same time, we give to the president all the resources he says are necessary to fund this effort, but at the same time, we do what the Congress is expected to do by the American people, set parameters to go forward and to succeed.

M. O'BRIEN: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, thanks for your time this morning.

HOYER: Thank you, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We got some breaking news out of Iraq for you this morning, an incredibly close call for the country's deputy prime minister. Witnesses say Salam Zibai (ph) was injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up. The U.S. military says Zibai is hospitalized. They would not comment any further than that. An official with the deputy prime minister's office told CNN at least three people were killed, five others wounded in that suicide bomb attack. And then we got word from Basra in Iraq, British troops apparently reporting an incident there in the northern Persian Gulf. OK, this is coming to us from Reuters this morning. It gets a little complicated so listen up. The British forces saying that there's been an incident, they're using that in quotes, an incident in the northern gulf. They say that some kind of British or American military personnel were seized by an Iranian ship. There's been this incident in the northern gulf. Apparently, all this is being based, according to the Reuters story, on a fisherman who declined to give his name. He said six or seven foreign military personnel, that would be what he thought were the British or American personnel on two boats were stopped as they were checking these Iranian ships. As they were doing that in the northern gulf, they were detained by other ships that appeared on the scene. No sign of any violent confrontation that we know of at this point. We're going to try to get some more details on this story. All we know is it's an incident at this point.

Let's get right to Kyra Phillips. She's been reporting from Baghdad for us all week. Kyra, let's go back to this first report of the explosion, this bombing attack a very close call this morning. Good morning.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And tell me, Soledad, because everything is happening at the last minute, do you see the video? Is it rolling right now?

S. O'BRIEN: We've got it. Let's ask them to throw it up on the screen for us. If we've got it guys, put it up. They're putting it up, Kyra. Why don't you go ahead and tell us what you know.

PHILLIPS: Terrific, Soledad. Thank you so much. We actually just got this video. We were able to go over to the scene for the first time. You're kind of getting a feel, the different reality check for what it looks like when a suicide bomber blows himself up in a location like this. It is actually pretty grim and I obviously don't have to go into details about what you see, but we're getting word now that at least three people were killed, five wounded. This is what I can tell you. It is the compound for the deputy prime minister, one of the deputy prime ministers here in Iraq Salam al Zibai.

Of course, when explosions like this go off, it rocks Baghdad. You hear it, you know something's wrong. We're told now, it was an assassination attempt, this suicide bomber in a vest. I don't know if you're able to see this. As a matter of fact Peter, I don't know if we can zoom in. This is actually one of the ball bearings, Peter, tell me if you're able to come close on that, that is inside of the vest of a suicide bomber. This one coming from the man who blew himself up today. Thousands of these little ball bearings explode from the vest, Soledad, when something like this happens. Obviously the detonation device in there, also you can see the power that these little balls of metal can cause anybody or anything around them when they blow themselves up.

This is what happened, apparently they believe this was an inside job that this suicide bomber worked himself into the compound, people knew who he was. He was able to walk up on the steps of the compound of the deputy prime minister, make his way into the room. If you see by the video, it was devastating. It knocked out a number of rooms in this compound. We're told the deputy prime minister Salam al Zibai was taken to a U.S. military hospital in the green zone, not sure of his conditions. We heard there were serious injuries. We don't know if, indeed, he has died in this blast. Just confirmed three killed, five wounded at this point.

Also, another car bomb exploded outside the compound, so not only was there a suicide bomber, there was also an additional car bomb. This just, again, shows that you can't trust anyone, even if you're working for the deputy prime minister of Iraq, you don't know, Soledad, who is working for the enemy and who is working for you.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. The damage that you see. I'm actually surprised that a suicide bomber could do the damage, I mean, we're watching pictures, Kyra, of this wide space, actually, where you could see some of the timber down and obviously things have come off the ceiling. It looks like a lot of damage from one suicide bomber.

PHILLIPS: You know what, that's a great question and hold that thought. I'm going to ask our security guard, I'm not going to actually say his name, but the suicide vest, I'm going to ask him this off camera, because he's here with me obviously, it's always a dangerous situation. She's asking about the detonation. She's amazed by the destruction of one person with one vest. Can you give me a feel for how powerful those explosives are in the vest. Are we talking -- this is a blast that can go how far?

In a contained room he's saying a blast like this can cause so much damage because there's so much around. If he was out in an open field, obviously, it would be much different but because he's in a tight, enclosed area, that type of explosive, what they use, these sort of handmade explosives, Soledad, are extremely powerful and I'll get more details in what exactly could be in that vest for you. So next time we talk I can tell you, but you can obviously see --

S. O'BRIEN: It almost looks like a demolition site. Obviously a little bit gory there. Wow, I'm surprised that one person could do that kind of damage wearing one suicide vest. These are pictures, Kyra, that you just got. I know you just came back from the scene, wow, this is very tough. Hey, Kyra, let me stop you there for one second because it looks like we're getting some word that maybe the prime minister in fact, the deputy prime minister guys, the deputy prime minister who we told you had survived this blast, the word we're getting now is that, in fact, he's not stable yet. He is a Sunni deputy prime minister. He was hospitalized after the suicide bombing. Kyra has been showing us the aftermath, really the devastation that one of these vests can cause. We heard he survived, but, clearly, he is not stable yet. Kyra, that is clearly not a good sign if they're telling us that.

PHILLIPS: No. I can tell you just a little background on him. I was taking some notes through our Iraqi sources to tell you a little bit about him. You're right. He's a Sunni. He is from an area called Sorba, that's his district and right now there's a tremendous battle going on in his hometown, Soledad, between the Sunni and al Qaeda. This is obviously somebody, a controversy surrounds every leader in Iraq, obviously, but he's got that going on in his home district. They're saying this could be attack from people that see him as a traitor within his own Sunni core, so that's why it's possible that this person was working for him and was able to be convinced by other people within the corps that this man was a traitor and that he shouldn't be a deputy prime minister of this government here in Iraq but it could also be an attack from other religious factions. They try desperately to get along among different religions, but, as you can see, this is the reality of what you're up against whether you're a journalist, whether you're a leader in the Iraqi government, whether you're in the U.S. military, you still cannot trust who is around you in your circle 100 percent.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, let me just read for folks the AP wire which says that the Iraqi deputy prime minister Salam al Zibai is in unstable condition and undergoing surgery. So I guess it sounds like he's still in surgery after he was wounded. He has been wounded in this double bomb attack. I wonder how much of that damage, Kyra, that we've been seeing and talking about comes from the fact that it was a double bomb attack, one from the inside and one from the outside as you were telling us. You know what I thought was really telling Kyra, was that yesterday when the UN Secretary-General kind of ducked down when there was a bombing inside the green zone but Nouri al Maliki did not. Literally, he didn't even -- you saw no motion in his body as his guards came over and tried to almost usher him out. What a comment on how frequent this must be to not even jump when there is a bombing.

PHILLIPS: It's an everyday occurrence. I can tell you all through the day and all thru the night I hear the explosions. I can feel the reverberations from the explosions. You hear the gunfire. You hear the choppers. It does become a normal way of life. But at the same time, Soledad, you got to keep your head on a swivel. In many circumstances you don't want to let it panic, you don't want to worry, but you've got to have some fear because that's what makes you a smart individual in a situation like this. You want to be aware of your circumstances and react and not be passive. So, in one way, Nouri al Maliki yesterday seemed calm and he didn't react and he was telling his guards, leave me alone, I want to stay here. But at the same time, you have to take precautions and you have to be aware, situational awareness. You have to be aware of your surroundings and know that you must react. You can't ever become complacent. You can see what happened today. If this indeed is an inside job, they were trusting everybody around the deputy prime minister and look what happened.

S. O'BRIEN: That is quite remarkable. I think it's also, Nouri al Maliki yesterday certainly knew the eyes of the world were watching this press conference as he sat down with the UN Secretary or stood up to do this press conference when the UN Secretary-General, part of the reason probably why he did not jump, he knew how important it was to give a sense of, it's all fine. It's in control. We're going to continue with this press conference. If there is word, in fact, that the deputy prime minister has been seriously injured or if it gets worse than that, what kind of an impact is that going to have on everything else that has been negotiated at this point, Kyra? PHILLIPS: Sure. I mean there are so many leaders in the process, Soledad. If this man, if this deputy prime minister dies, it is going to create a bit of a domino effect. What is next? What are the realities here? Who would take his place and also the issue of security. I mean, that has to be looked at now, too. The word that I'm getting is even all the security guards around the deputy prime minister's compound are arguing with each other. What happened? How could this happen? We got to talk about safety. We've got to talk about security because if, indeed, these leaders can't even be protected and can't survive what's happening here in Iraq, how is there ever going to be a resolution and how are you ever going to find peace because the Iraqi government has got to be able to take over this country and they have to take over their security and every single day we are seeing these setbacks. So, it's frustrating.

S. O'BRIEN: Certainly from our shores here in the U.S., that leads to the question, should U.S. troops still be there? Are they making any progress? How long will they be there? Can it be considered success, et cetera, et cetera, everything that frankly is being debated in Congress today. Kyra Philips has been in Baghdad for us all week, Kyra, thank you. I really appreciate you showing us that ball bearing. It's just amazing stuff. We're going to continue to update this story and obviously we're going to watch the medical condition of the deputy prime minister. It looks like he may still be in surgery and that he is not in stable condition. He has been wounded in this double bombing. Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: We'll keep you posted on that.

Also, pet owners all throughout this nation having to deal with all kind of issues this morning, anger and outrage and in too many cases sadness as they get ready to bury their dog or cat. This after eating some tainted pet food. We'll bring you the latest on what they're doing to try to stop this from happening again. Stay with us. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: We have some breaking news to tell you about on the southern portion of Iraq. This coming out of Basra, British authorities, British troops reporting the possibility that several British troops might have been picked up by Iranians in the northern Persian Gulf. According to Major David Gell (ph), who is a British military spokesman in Basra, there has been some sort of incident somewhere in the northern Persian Gulf where somehow, some way, some Iranians may have picked up some British Marines, perhaps as many as a dozen. There's conflicting numbers out there right now. This was witnessed by a fisherman and that's how this word has gotten out to us. We have some reports from Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon indicating that there was, in fact, some sort of incident involving British royal navy forces, British Marines. No U.S. military involvement in this one way or another. Unclear if the British might have strayed into Iranian territorial waters there in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians for their part we're told by Jamie McIntyre downplaying the incident. We're tracking it for you, trying to sort that one out. Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Let's get to some health headlines for you this morning. Soda corrodes your teeth, we all know that, but believe it or not, it's nearly as bad as battery acid. A new study out says that prolonged exposure can eat away at your enamel, comes from the Academy of General Dentistry. Critics of the report say that test is not done fair. You don't swish soda around in your mouth for 48 hours. Most of us brush our teeth. That wasn't figured into the study. Nonetheless, according to the academy, root beer is the best option. It's less acidic. It contains no phosphoric or citric acids.

A Pennsylvania man is out of the hospital this morning with a brand-new heart. He says he feels like he could run a triathlon. That's only a third of the story though. His name is Gary (INAUDIBLE) and he's had three hearts in the last month. Went into the hospital, his original heart failed, had to be replaced by an artificial heart and that bought him enough time to undergo transplant surgery and get a brand-new third heart.

Older people say they'd much rather not be surrounded by hard bodies when they exercise. I so agree with this. I don't want to see those people if they're in good shape and I'm flabby. A study of almost 1,000 people aged between 30 and 92 found that people over 50 would rather be alone, work up a sweat alone than be with young people. They did say though, they have no problem working out with people their own age. The study comes from the University of British Columbia. I totally agree with that. More on this story or any health story, you can go right to cnn.com/health.

M. O'BRIEN: It's either inspiration or humiliation.

S. O'BRIEN: It's depressing.

M. O'BRIEN: That Pittsburgh teen who was trapped under a pile of concrete the other day, remember that one, he is out of the hospital and he is talking. Fourteen year old Robert Maust was chasing a ball on Tuesday, the ground underneath him gave way pinning him under a two ton concrete barrier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MAUST, SURVIVED CONCRETE COLLAPSE: It came down on me and just crushed me. It was unbelievable pain. As soon as I could breathe, that's when I prayed. That was my first instinct. That was before anybody came down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: He got a lot of poise doesn't he? Rescuers used airbags to relieve the pressure so they could secure a harness around the barrier and lift it off of him. Officials are still trying to figure out what caused that collapse.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, are media giants ganging up on youtube? Ali Velshi minding your business. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here on CNN.

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M. O'BRIEN: First there was youtube. Now it's me too tube, right?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what they're calling it, but that's not the official name.

M. O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE)

VELSHI: Major media companies are sort of saying, you know what, we're tired of trying to convince Google to respect our copy rights so NBC Universal and News Corporation have decided to join hands and start up a new video service. They're probably not going to bother with the short videos that make youtube so famous. We are talking about the commercial content which has everybody's socks in a bunch, because people can put it on the youtube. People download it and the companies that create these television shows aren't getting credit if it. So this new service which will be up by summer is going to have what they call premium content which is code for current stuff. You will pay for it, think iTunes style. But it will be around. Viacom which is suing Google and youtube for over a billion dollars says it might contribute content and NBC and News Corporation are saying that they might partner up with either Yahoo! or Microsoft or AOL, which like CNN, shares a parent in Time Warner. So it really is all of the big names saying if Google and youtube can't work out respecting our copyrights, we're going in on our own.

M. O'BRIEN: Shades of the whole Napster discussion.

VELSHI: Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: In theory then, once this is up and running can go and get it for free at youtube or pay for it at this other thing.

VELSHI: That's kind of right. We'll see how that pans out.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ali Velshi.

S. O'BRIEN: We're coming up on the top of the hour. Rob Marciano is at the CNN weather center for us. He's in for Chad. Hey, Rob, good morning to you. Midwest I guess is where you're focused this morning.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Same thing as yesterday, Soledad, maybe shifted a little bit farther to the south, but the same areas are getting some moisture. So there will be sporadic flooding. There are some rivers over flood stage but it doesn't really want to move, not today, not tomorrow, really not over the weekend and some of this moisture will stretch east. We'll have the details.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

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