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THE SITUATION ROOM
50 Dead in Buffalo Plane Crash; Crash Landing in London; Dramatic Video Right After Crash
Aired February 13, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MALVEAUX: Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I want to take you right now. This is the first time that we are seeing live aerials. These are -- I stand corrected. This is not live. This is on tape. These are aerials over the crash site of the Buffalo crash there. You can see still a smoldering. And you see the flames. You see the smoke. Obviously, people who were there at a site right afterwards talked about the huge blaze.
And I want to bring in our own Jeanne Meserve, who has also been following this story, as well.
What does this say to you that we are still seeing, at this site, flames and smoke?
Really quite amazing, considering this happened some time ago.
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this plane had a considerable amount of fuel on it. There also have been reports that there was a natural gas leak at the point of the explosion.
What it says to me is that it's pretty remarkable that the crash site is such a contained area, that instead of plowing into a number of houses, this plane made a very rapid and quick decent, apparently, and appears to have only hit the one -- the one house.
As you say, a great deal of smoke and flames still visible there. And yet, investigators have been able to go in. They have been able to get the flight data and voice recorders from that aircraft and brought them down to Washington and are getting some very valuable clues -- very valuable clues as to what happened to this flight.
MALVEAUX: I understand that you are also following the investigation closely about the cause and the circumstances around this.
MESERVE: That's right. And at this point, there are no definitive answers, investigators say. But as I mentioned, that a lot of very strong clues.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE (voice-over): The explanation for the crash of Flight 3407 may be here in the flight data and cockpit voice recorders recovered from the scene and already undergoing analysis in Washington.
STEVEN CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The crew discussed significant ice buildup -- ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings. The flight data recorder indicated airplane deice, which is a system in the airplane that helps deice those wings and windshields and surfaces on that aircraft, that the airplane deice was selected in the on position.
MESERVE: The flight was coming in for a landing at Buffalo. Tower tapes give no hint of trouble until controllers are unable to raise the crew.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, approach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, Buffalo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, now approaching.
MESERVE: The controllers ask other pilots for help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1998, look off to your right side about five miles for a Dash 8. It should be 4300.
Do you see anything there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative, Delta 1998.
MESERVE: The flight went down abruptly from an altitude of 1,500 feet just five miles short of the runway -- its quick descent an indication of catastrophic failure.
A possible culprit -- icing. There was light snow and fog in Buffalo at the time of the crash and shortly afterward, other pilots reported problems with ice.
Flight 3407 should have been able to survive icing unless something else went wrong. A local resident says he did hear something peculiar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could tell when the plane came in, it was going erererererer. And we see planes or hear planes go over all the time. So as the plane was going over, you knew something was wrong.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: The NTSB says just one minute before the recorder stopped, the landing gear was put down and the wing flaps readjusted for landing. That caused severe pitch and roll of the aircraft within second. The crew attempted to raise the landing gear and readjust the flaps, but then the recording ends. The plane had crashed.
Despite all the indications that ice was a factor, finding a definitive cause or causes is likely to take weeks or even months. And experts warn, Suzanne, that early speculation about crashes is often wrong.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jeanne.
Jeanne Meserve following all the details about the investigation of the crash out of Buffalo, New York.
Now, I want to bring our viewers -- this is Adrian Finighan in London.
And he is going to give us an update.
We are following another plane crash, this one taking place -- the crash landing at London City Airport -- Adrian, tell us what you're learning.
ADRIAN FINIGHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, 72 people had a pretty lucky escape here in London tonight when a British Airways jet, a BAe 146 -- it's a small four engine commuter jet -- crash landed at London City Airport.
Now, as far as we understand it, what's happened is that a nose wheel malfunction has caused the jet to scrape along the runway. The evacuation slides deployed. Everybody managed to get off the aircraft. One person has been hospitalized, though, with minor injuries.
Now, the thing about London City Airport is the steep approach. Aircraft come in at, what, something like 5 percent -- an angle of 5 percent as opposed to the usual 3 percent. That's because London City Airport is in the heart of the city's financial district. It's surrounded by a lot of pretty tall buildings.
And this aircraft came into land. We don't know whether it was a technical malfunction or something to do with the steep angle of approach.
Weather, though, in this accident here in London tonight, Suzanne, unlikely to have been a factor. It's cold, but it's not freezing. We had some snow here in London last night, but it's been much milder today. There's been something of a thaw. So people here don't think that ice has anything to do with what happened to the aircraft on the runway.
But 67 passengers, five crew were aboard the aircraft as it came in to land and the nose wheel collapsed. London ambulance officials said that four people were treated on the scene -- at the scene for minor injuries, one person hospitalized.
London City Airport's single airstrip, which is short compared to airports like London's Heathrow and Gatwick, that airport has been closed. Flights are being diverted -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Adrian Finighan out of London.
Thank you so much for the latest details. Well, Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- and, Jack, it's good to see you.
What are you working on?
CHETRY: It's good to be seen.
Part of President Obama's appeal during the election campaign was his call for a new era of transparency. He was going to shake up the way things are done in Washington. And lord knows, he's trying.
But when you look at how this stimulus bill is moving through Congress, it sure sounds a lot like the way old Washington operated.
Late last night, 11:00 or so, the stimulus plan -- all 1,071 pages of it -- finally appeared on a Congressional Web site. This gave lawmakers only a few hours to read it before voting.
Nobody can read almost 1,100 pages of stuff written by lawsuit in a half a dozen hours.
So the House passed the bill without having read it. And the Senate is expected to do exactly the same thing shortly.
$800 billion -- nobody in either chamber of Congress knows all that is in there -- not exactly -- which ought to help us all sleep well tonight, right?
The Democrats promised lawmakers and the public would have at least 48 hours to read this thing before they vote. They lied. Again, old-fashioned politics. This is classic stuff -- wait until the last possible minute -- President Obama wants this on his desk by Monday -- and then cram it through.
The Associated Press says the stimulus bill is clearly: "The result of old-fashioned sausage making," with pet projects coming to light that hadn't been included in the original bills.
So here's the question -- what does a 1,000 plus page stimulus bill the public had virtually no chance to a chance to look at say about the new era of government transparency?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jack.
And the Pentagon takes a hit in the revised stimulus package.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It cut defense and veterans -- and we all talk about our commitment to veterans here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: But Democrats say there will be more money spent on veterans.
So who's got it right?
Also, a family who lost a loved one in the World Trade Center struck by tragedy again -- a prominent 9/11 widow among those aboard Continental Flight 3407.
Plus, Hillary Clinton flexing her diplomatic muscle -- her warning to North Korea. The secretary of State, in her own words.
MALVEAUX: We want to go to Abbi Tatton -- eyewitness iReport, obviously of the crash -- Abbi, what are you learning?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, at 10:17 last night, Will Charland, who lived just about three blocks away from this crash site said he was walking outside of his house to a neighbor's house. He looked up, saw a plane about 150 feet above him. And then he said the next thing he felt was the sky lit up like the sun was rising.
He videoed this. You can see neighbors rushing to the scene.
Just watch and listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it hit already and I talked to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: You can hear the first responders beginning to arrive -- the fire trucks getting there as they're moving into the scene. As his video goes in -- on from Will Charland, you can see that he's moving -- he's moving his camera in, trying to figure out what it is he's looking at -- is this a plane that just crashed into this house?
You can hear the neighbors discussing it as they're filming, what they're seeing.
Further on in the video, he moves away from the scene. IReporters telling us that it was just too hot to stand anywhere near the street as the first responders were getting there, getting in to help people.
This video and many others that we were getting from neighbors all around at iReport.com -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Abbi, those are incredible pictures, to actually think that someone got that close and they were able to capture all the detail -- the firefighters running to the scene and the fact that it was so hot that they had to step away from that. But you can obviously see the flames and the firefighters that are actually there. And unbelievable that he was able to get -- get that close.
TATTON: And Will, when he was interviewed today, was telling CNN that this is just something that he now thinks he will never be able to get out of his mind. He was glad that he could be there to document it.
But this is just something that will stick with him and it's something that he wishes, Suzanne, that he never saw.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.
The co-pilot of the plane that crashed was Rebecca Lynne Shaw. And her family spoke out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY KOMO)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We loved her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We loved her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the best little sister you could have. And we miss her. We're just trying to be a family now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was just brilliant, beautiful, excited. She would walk in and everyone would be in smiles because you just couldn't help yourself, because she was always so happy and so smiling and she loved her husband so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything that you want to add?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was perfect. (INAUDIBLE) too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Also, among those on board the doomed flight, a 9/11 widow and a prominent activist for victims' families. And she actually met with President Obama just last Friday.
CNN's Brian Todd joins us live.
And I remember that day when the group came to privately visit with the president.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
MALVEAUX: What do we know about her?
TODD: Well, she had become familiar to many of us, Suzanne, beyond last for instance, going far back from that, for her tireless efforts on behalf of 9/11 victims' families and other terror victims.
Now, her friends and family members are telling us her death in this crash is triggering those emotions that none of them wanted to have again.
BEVERLY ECKERT, 9/11 WIDOW: My name is Beverly Eckert. My husband Sean...
TODD (voice-over): To the end, Beverly Eckert stayed on message. She was on Flight 3407 to attend a celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday and to present a scholarship in his honor.
Eckert's husband, Sean Rooney, died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11. His sister describes Eckert's death in this tragedy as horribly surreal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The suddenness and, I guess, in a way, violence of this kind of thing is just -- it's so similar to September 11th that it just brings back all of those thoughts and all of those emotions and fears that came up then.
TODD: Cynthia Blest says on September 11th, Beverly Eckert was on the phone with her husband as he became tracked in the tower and broke the news to him that he wouldn't make it out alive.
That kind of emotional strength led Eckert to campaign tirelessly for 9/11 families, promoting a ground zero memorial.
ECKERT: It's hard to turn around and see the hole in the skyline where my husband's building used to be.
TODD: And relentlessly pushing for the creation of the 9/11 Commission and for its recommendations to be enacted. At one point, she got emotional when it looked like part of the effort might fail.
ECKERT: But if this bill doesn't pass, I don't think I'll ever -- I don't think I'll ever be able to go back there. I think I'll be too ashamed.
TODD: But 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer remembers that behind that dignified grief, there was steely resolve.
TIM ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: She would sometimes come up to me as we were grilling witnesses on what happened on 9/11 and she'd tell me, here Tim, here's four or five more questions to ask these folks. We want answers.
TODD: Answers Beverly Eckert pressed for in the final days of her life. Just last week, she met with President Obama to seek a voice at the table on terror issues.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And she was an inspiration to me and to so many others. And I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead. (END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Right now, her sister-in-law is taking some comfort in remember Beverly Eckert as, in her own words, someone who was delightful and funny and who fell in love with her brother, Sean Rooney, in high school in the Buffalo area. But Cynthia Blest also says: "I am hoping now I'm going to wake up and find that this didn't happen."
It's just surreal for them -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Brian, I understand that she really had a reputation for someone who learned quickly how to navigate and move around in Washington. Because, obviously, as an activist, that's not an easy thing to do.
TODD: It is not. And if you're not from here and you don't know the ways of this town, it's very hard to pick it up. And Tim Roemer told me that when the 9/11 families first started campaigning for issues here, a lot of them didn't even know how big Congress was, didn't know how to navigate.
She was one of the quicker studies and became very, very good, he says, at pressuring members of Congress to get enacted the things that they needed to do. As he said, she was very tenacious.
MALVEAUX: Yes. She was a tough woman.
Thank you very much.
TODD: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Well, turning to the investigation, let's bring in our severe weather expert, meteorologist Chad Myers -- Chad, it's looking increasingly like it's weather that could have been a factor, with significant ice now being reported on the plane.
What can you tell us about how that might have impacted the scene?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, there are so many ways that ice affects an airplane. And the biggest one is it affects the lameter flow of the air.
Is the flow going over the plane or is it bumping over the plane?
Here's why it makes a difference. This is Bernoulli's principle, by the way. And if I blow across this piece of paper, you would expect it to go down because I'm blowing down. But it will not. It will go up. That speed that we're taking over this piece of paper -- that speed of the air creates a low pressure system. That low pressure takes the wing and pushes it up. That's how a plane flies.
That's what a wing is supposed to look like -- nice and flat. But if you take that wing and you put pieces of ice in the front, you take that wing and you don't make it smooth anymore. All right, here's what we're going to do. We're going to crumple it up. Do the same thing. It doesn't matter how hard I blow on it, we don't have lameter flow anymore. We don't have that paper going up anymore. We don't have lift and we stall the aircraft.
We, also, with ice, can make the plane heavier. You had 49, 50 people on board. It could have felt like 100 people on board. Here's the plane itself. There are so many surfaces for ice to form. We knew it was on the windshield. It could have been on the propellers. There's a little bit of a heater on every propeller, but there still could be ice there. There's the leading edge of the wing, which we've heard so much about this pneumatic boot that expands and contracts with air inside and it breaks the ice off.
What about the back?
What about the stabilizer on the back?
Was it covered in ice?
And so many other things will happen in this investigation. It won't take just one week. It won't take a day. It will take quite a bit longer for them to figure out what all went on last night -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Chad, my understanding is, is that this type of plane, they often fly in kind of icy weather.
MALVEAUX: What makes those planes successful and this one go down?
MYERS: We don't know that. We simply don't know if there was something the pilot did do, didn't do. Maybe one of the deicers didn't work. I've been looking at all of the Twitters around. Some of the -- spoke of the pilots who are speculating it may be the flaps, because they deployed the flaps.
Maybe -- maybe both flaps didn't go down the same. That caused a little bit of yaw. That caused some of that with -- that tilting that we talked about.
We do know that this plane was covered with ice. There's no question. This very well may have been an unrecoverable crash from just the volume of ice on it.
A very complicated map here, but what I want you to see is from 15,000 feet down, this entire area here, from blue to rime ice and surface ice, severe clear here, that is icing. And that's what this plane was flying through. It was getting covered with ice.
It's when the temperature and the dew point -- or the relative humidity -- they're close together. So the relative humidity about 100 percent all the way up where this plane was flying. And we're below all the way. This plane was loaded with ice. It might have been a plane where it just couldn't come down. We don't know and we may not know for a while, but they will figure it out.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Chad.
I love the visuals.
Thank you so much, Chad.
MYERS: You're welcome.
MALVEAUX: We are just moments away from the beginning of the final vote on President Obama's stimulus package. We are standing by to take you live to the Senate when that begins.
Plus, an American kidnapped in Pakistan -- now, new developments -- a dramatic videotaped plea.
MALVEAUX: There is disturbing video out apparently showing an American United Nations official who was kidnapped in Pakistan now pleading for help.
Our CNN's Stan Grant is in Pakistan, in the capital -- and, Stan, what have you seen?
What do you know about this tape?
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, the tape shows John Solecki. Now, he was the chief of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Quetta, Pakistan. It was there that he was kidnapped on February 2nd. Attackers fired on his vehicle, killing his driver.
Not much has been known of his fate since then. One group, the Baluchistan United Liberation Front, has been linked to this. They're a separatist group pushing for the separation of Baluchistan Province, along the Afghan border.
Now, Associated Press has been handed this video. It shows the man blindfolded. And this is a little of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SOLECKI: I am sick and in trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRANT: John Solecki there saying he is sick and in trouble. He goes on in that video to ask the United Nations to assist in his release. The United Nations still actually trying to ascertain who it is that has actually kidnapped John Solecki.
Now, just a week ago, another video was released of Peter Stanczak, a Polish engineer, being executed by the Taliban. No suggestion that there is a Taliban link to this kidnapping.
But, Suzanne, it does show just how dangerous Pakistan is becoming for foreigners.
MALVEAUX: And I'm assuming the United Nations is following up on this.
What can you tell us about that?
GRANT: Well, the United Nations is trying to ascertain exactly who has taken John Solecki. As I said, there is one group, this Baluchistan United Liberation Front, who have been linked to it. They have been claiming responsibility. That has not been confirmed.
And very, very little is known about this group. There is a separatist movement in Baluchistan, along the Afghan border, but it is not believed to be linked to Islamic militancy, which, of course, we see a lot in Pakistan. It is believed to be a separatist push.
One of the demands coming out of this video is for the release of prisoners who've worked for this separatist group that have been taken prisoner by the Pakistani government. That is one of the demands of the people who have taken Senate leader captive -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK, thank you.
Stan Grant out of Pakistan.
Fred Whitfield is monitoring all the other stories that are incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- and, Fred, what are you watching?
What are you following?
WHITFIELD: All right. Hello, again, Suzanne.
Well, it is the deadliest attack in Iraq this year. This morning, a female suicide bomber set off an explosive in a crowd of mostly women and children. The victims were on their way to a religious festival. Forty people were killed and about 80 others wounded. The attack took place between two towns south of Baghdad. This is the third straight day of bombings in Iraq tightening Shiite pilgrims.
U.S. secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging North Korea to avoid any provocative actions that could undermine peace talks. She made the comment in New York today during a speech to The Asia Society.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will need to work together to address the most acute challenge to stability in Northeast Asia -- North Korea's nuclear program. The Obama administration is committed to working through the six party talks. And I will discuss with South Korea, Japan and China how best to get the negotiations back on track. We believe we have an opportunity to move these discussions forward. But it is incumbent upon North Korea to avoid any provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Clinton is scheduled to leave Sunday for her first overseas trip as secretary of State. She'll travel to China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Blackwater Worldwide is Xing out its tarnished brand name and changing it to Xe. The new brand name is spelled X-E. The name change is part of a rebranding effort that grew more urgent after a 2007 shooting in Iraq that killed at least 12 civilians. The company has also renamed its subsidiary which conducts overseas operations and domestic training. Instead of Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, it is now called U.S. Training Center Incorporated.
And U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is out of the hospital. She was released today, eight days after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. A statement from the Supreme Court says the disease was caught early and did not spread beyond her pancreas. Ginsburg has said that she plans to be back on the bench when oral arguments resume on February 23rd.
She is, indeed, a tough lady -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Good news.
Thank you, Fred.
Well, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, plane crash tragedy -- 50 people are dead as a commercial airliner slams into a suburban neighborhood outside of Buffalo. And now, word of a crash landing in London. We'll give you the very latest details.
Also, D-Day for the stimulus package. Just hours after the House approved the $787 billion plan without any Republican support, the Senate prepares to vote.
What will those so-called moderate GOP senators do when their name is called?
And Bill Clinton weighs in on the first weeks of the Obama administration. The former pilots has some advice for the new president. And we'll tell you what he's saying.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now to the fallout over the stimulus bill coming up from John McCain.
CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, you've been looking into all the details and, obviously, this is a senator who is not happy with what is in this package.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Suzanne. You know, when you talk about losing out, here's an example of how the military lost out in this. The army was looking at anywhere between 600 million and 900 million for construction and ended up with less than 200 million.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): The military and veterans are getting billions less than what the stimulus package first proposed.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The conference report provides more funding for grants to provide high speed Internet to Americans, $7.2 billion, than it does for military and VA and Veterans Affairs construction.
LAWRENCE: It wasn't always that way. The House initially allocated $7 billion to those projects, the Senate about the same. But the compromise cut it down to $4 billion.
Senator James Inhofe says, "It's unfathomable that only 1 percent of this bill goes toward defense spending."
Pentagon officials say they're not disappointed because the stimulus money is separate from their budget.
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: For us, anything helps.
LAWRENCE: Democrats argue the package has billions for military hospitals, new homes and child care centers, and $150 million to hire more people to process veterans disability claims.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Money that otherwise would not have been spent on VA will be because of this stimulus bill.
LAWRENCE: But some say with two expensive wars, it doesn't make sense to push project that aren't even required to be the most needed.
WINSLOW WHEELER, CENTER FOR DEFENSE INFORMATION: When you start talking about rushing to the front, day care centers and chapels and that kind of thing, you're not spending defense money very smartly.
LAWRENCE: Some Republicans say the stimulus should have just accelerated the construction plan the Pentagon already had scheduled.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: We know it is money that we're going to spend any way. It would be stimulative and it would be the right kind of spending. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LAWRENCE: So why did the VA lose out on some of its money that was initially in some of those earlier packages? Well, remember, the need for this stimulus was based on speed and a source with knowledge of some of the negotiations tells us that with so much money already allocated to the VA in the last Congress, there was some concern there whether they would be able to spend more money that quickly -- Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Chris.
Chris Lawrence, out on the Pentagon.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
MALVEAUX: Want to take you directly to the capitol. That is where our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, as I understand that the vote is under way now in the Senate.
What can you tell us, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. It just started a couple of minutes ago. And as we talked about earlier, this is going to be certainly an interesting vote and that is because the Senate -- this is going to be it, this is going to be the final vote. And after it's done, it is going to go to the president for his signature, but it's going to take quite some time for this to be finished and here's the reason why, Suzanne.
It is because Democrats have exactly the number of votes they need to pass this. They need 60 votes and that's exactly what they have. And that is because Democrat Ted Kennedy, who's suffering from brain cancer, he is not here. So what they are going to do is they're going to hold this vote open for one other senator that they need who is not here. That is Democrat Sherrod Brown. He is currently in his home state of Ohio because he's attending the wake of his mother.
So what they are doing is the White House is sending a government plane to get him as soon as that wake at about 8:00 tonight. They're going to bring him back here and we expect him to cast the final and we expected to be the decisive vote at about 10:30 this evening.
So you see a lot of activity going on on the floor right now. We expect most senators to vote right now and then leave, frankly, but expect to see the floor open for the next five hours or so until Sherrod Brown comes and cast what we expect to be that 60th vote to give the president this massive, massive stimulus bill. $787 billion. And as you well know, it has been a top priority, what he and Democrats insist is going to jump start this economy.
MALVEAUX: And Dana, it really seems like an extraordinary move for them to do that, to bring that senator back. Can you give us a sense of why that's so important that they are going through this lengths to do -- to cast this vote? BASH: They don't have -- I mean the reality is they really don't have a choice. They only have three Republicans who they know are going to vote for this. And they don't expect any other Republicans to do it. Those three moderate Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who were so involved in negotiating this compromise, and it's only because of their support that they can have this vote in the first place.
They don't expect any more. So that mean they don't have any other vote to spare that's why they are doing this. I just got off the phone with a Democratic leadership aide and I said, you know, you didn't have to go to these lengths to necessarily bring Senator Sherrod Brown back here on this plane. Could you have waited until Sunday? And the answer was that the president said he wanted this by President's Day Weekend.
President's Day Weekend is going to start tomorrow basically and that's why they decided to do this. It's not unprecedented, but it definitely is rare to take this kind of move to bring a senator back who's home for personal reasons.
MALVEAUX: Are there any senators that are concerned that this is being rushed, that this is happening too quickly?
BASH: Definitely. And mostly, it is the senators on the Republican side. You know, it was very interesting, we talked about this earlier. In the House, no Republicans voted for this again. We thought maybe one or two were leaning towards voting yes. For example, a congressman or a Republican congressman who represents New Orleans that you know very well.
He was talking about the fact that he would likely vote yes, he decided to vote no, and that is primarily because, in terms of Republican philosophy, they look at this massive bill and they say it is too much government spending, it's too much debt for the country and for the deficit, and that's why they decided best to vote no.
So that is certainly the dynamic here, and the other dynamic is definitely that this bill was not completed, it was not put on the government Web site. Senators and congressmen were not able to read this until 11:00 last night. And so that's another the reason why mostly Republicans are saying we didn't have a lot of time to look at this.
BASH: The reality is they weren't going to vote for it any way.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you. Thank you very much, Dana Bash.
Shocking levels of filth are discovered at a peanut processing plant in Texas. We'll tell you exactly what inspectors found.
And we'll tell what a reporter said that made cycling star Lance Armstrong say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: As a society are we supposed to forgive and forget and let people get back to their job? Absolutely. I'm not sure I will ever forgive you for that statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Republican sources close to Senator Judd Gregg tell CNN that concern over who would control the next census was the tipping point in his surprise decision to withdraw his nomination for commerce secretary.
For more on that, our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, joining us live.
And Candy, obviously, you've been following the back and forth here. What was the big deal about that?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's funny, , I was asked that a couple of times last night by people outside Washington, why is this such a big deal? And I said there are two very big reasons.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Nothing drives Washington as much as money and politics and no place drives money and politics as much as, no kidding, the census bureau.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The census is a department or an entity within the Department of Commerce that will administer the census. Commerce secretary will oversee that and obviously in consultation with Congress and the White House.
CROWLEY: The census bureau counts and dissects the ever changing U.S. population every 10 years, numbers that form the basis for drawing new congressional districts within states and deciding how many U.S. House seats a state get. So Republicans were alarmed that the suggestion that administration officials, like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, would oversee the census.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Commanding the census director to report directly to the White House is a naked, political power grab and transparently partisan.
CROWLEY: On the money side of it, the power of the census bureau is far beyond that gargantuan $789 billion stimulus plan about to pass. Try $3 trillion. The amount of money the federal government will send to state and localities over the next 10 years. It is money for things like roads, bridges and health care for the poor.
Historically, because of a reluctance to respond and the sheer volume of people, urban dwellers and minorities are under counted, leaving states and cities short of what they may need.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: I think based on an undercount, you lose about $2,200 per person.
CROWLEY: There is more. City planners quarrel over the numbers to decide where to locate new schools or post offices. Business has used them to decide where to locate new stores, and on and on.
MCCAIN: We're going to be talking more about this issue. We can't have the census taken from the Department of Commerce and put in the White House. We can't politicize the process of the system.
CROWLEY: Too late. Decades too late.
CROWLEY: As you know, Suzanne, the White House says it has no intention of taking over the census bureau, putting it inside the White House. Nonetheless, they are sticking by the fact that they will work in coordination with the director of the census. It is a very, very big deal.
MALVEAUX: A political hot potato. Thank you, Candy.
More revelations today about the peanut company at the center of that salmonella outbreak that has killed nine people.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is covering that story, and Ed, there seem to be some pretty shocking details that we're learning today.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if you're the faint of heart, you probably don't want to hear much of this, but that Peanut Corporation of America today, also just in the last few hours, filed for bankruptcy liquidation. All this comes as inspectors here in Texas made disturbing discovers at that west Texas plant.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Peanut Corporation of America runs this processing plant in the small Texas Panhandle town of Plainview. Three days ago, health inspectors discovered several dead rats, excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space over an area were peanuts are handled, and preliminary test in the plant also show the possible discovery of salmonella in some products.
The plant is now closed indefinitely and the Texas Department of Health has ordered a recall of all the plant's products dating back to when the plant opened four years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is simply outrageous.
LAVANDERA: The peanut plant operated unchecked in Texas for four years. Texas health officials say the Peanut Corporation of America never applied for a license to open here and because of that, health inspectors never checked it out until a month ago when news of the salmonella outbreak was tracked to the company's Georgia plant. The head of the Peanut Corporation of America refused to answer questions from congressional investigators.
STEWART PARNELL, PEANUT CORPORATION OF AMERICA OWNER: I respectfully decline to answer your questions based on the protection afforded me under the United States Constitution.
LAVANDERA: But two years ago, a member of the Peanut Grower's Association toured the Plainview plant and did not see any signs of filth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The plant was just immaculate. We walked in the door. We put on our hairnets, we put on the suit covers, the lab coats. We didn't touch the equipment, the peanuts. The floor was clean. The doors were sealed tight.
LAVANDERA: The Centers for Disease Control now reports that 636 people in 44 states have been sickened in the salmonella outbreak and that nine people have died.
LAVANDERA: And Suzanne, the state officials, the state health officials here in Texas say that Peanut Corporation of America could face some heavy fines because they weren't licensed to operate here in Texas during the last four years, but, of course, that on top of the fact that they're under investigation by federal authorities for criminal violations. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: There are a lot of people concerned about this story. Thank you, Ed.
An angry exchange between Lance Armstrong and a journalist who struck a nerve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARMSTRONG: You are not worth the chair that you're sitting on with a statement like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: What the reporter said that has the cycling champ so angry.
Plus new video and new details emerging in the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 3407. We have the very latest.
MALVEAUX: The House passes a revised version of President Obama's stimulus package and once again, not a single Republican voted for it. But where is the bipartisanship President Obama has been preaching?
Joining us to talk about that and much, much more, CNN's political contributor, Hilary Rosen, and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Thanks for joining us. Obviously, I want to talk about, first, what's happening right now, and Dana Bash reporting that the vote has started on the Senate floor. Really kind of some dramatic developments here. Senator Sherrod Brown, that they said they're going to have a government plane go get him after his mother's wake to take him here to participate in this vote.
Hilary, is that unusual?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's a little unusual, as Dana reported, but it's necessary here because, to avoid a filibuster, you need 60 votes and Republicans have not been supportive of this process and they're not supportive of this legislation and this is a top priority for the country right now. The country wants the Senate to act before they go in recess, and so they've got to pass it tonight.
MALVEAUX: Well, Mary, do you think this is a bit too rushed?
MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, and the American people think it's a bit too rushed. And this is the same thing they heard last fall. The sky is falling. We have to pass this right now. And then several months later -- we hear that well, we spent all the money, we don't know where it went and it didn't do any good.
So they want to -- they wanted to take time, they want to read the bill. No one's read the bill. Hardly anybody knows what's in it, even the people who wrote it, it's eight inches thick. So there needs to be time to digest this.
I think they're making a terrible mistake rushing this. And there's -- that's the reason the Republicans are failing confidence that they can stand on their principle and not be for this.
MALVEAUX: Hilary, we printed out that bill. And, obviously, it was, you know -- a huge stack, about three telephone books worth. What would be the harm in actually putting this vote off that -- for a week or so? I mean, is the economy going to blow up if they -- if they go back to their constituents and ask for some feedback and then come back in a week or so?
ROSEN: Look, there are serious urgency, obviously, to the economy right now. And that -- members of Congress do know what's in this bill. And the Republicans wouldn't vote for it if it were sitting out there for another two or three or four weeks. They've made a political decision that they're not going to vote for it because they've decided that spending is not the way to create jobs. They'd rather have tax cuts to create jobs.
And so I -- I really think the leadership is saying, you know what, we're going to, we're going to rush this through now, because we know the Republicans won't vote for it no matter what, and these are shovel-ready -- projects that can get moving the quicker the president signs this bill. MALVEAUX: Mary, let's talk a little bit about President Obama. Obviously, he reached out to Republicans. He had these closed-door meetings, he invited them to the White House, he made phone calls, there was a Super Bowl party at one point. What does he need to do? Or is this just a philosophical difference here and there's nothing he can do to bring the Republicans on his side?
MATALIN: No. You know, he must think that they're a cheap date, because a couple of drinks is not going to make them violate their principles. It's not as Hilary said they decided that spending doesn't stimulate the economy in the same way that tax reductions do. We have a history of tax reduction stimulating the economy going back to the '60s and again in the '80s and again in the early 2000s.
This is not something they've just happened upon to be obstructionist. Look, Obama is at 67 percent. Republicans aren't political. This is tough for them than to go up against him and the reason they're doing it is because their constituents are saying that they voted for Barack Obama because they believed in an overwhelming majority that he would be more likely to provide tax cuts than John McCain.
And two-thirds of them to this day believe that tax cuts are more stimulative than spending. That's just what people think and people know, and that's why they should take a break, and Obama needs to take a step back and try to re-explain this. What is the urgency? Why can't they read it? Why do we have to vote on it right now?
MALVEAUX: And Hilary, we heard cheap date there. I mean I've been talking to folks who say, well, maybe Obama should stop courting Republicans, just give it up and then -- and move on. Even the commerce secretary position with Judd Gregg didn't go -- didn't work his way and maybe he should just work with the base.
ROSEN: Look, this is a president who is not cavalier about this. He really wants to be bringing the country together. But he also firmly believes that the politics of tax cuts and that the old way of doing things to fix the economy, which is put the money back in the hands of the wealthy and let it trickle down is not working.
And the economy is where it is because we've had that policy for the last number of years. So I think you're going to see President Obama continue to say to Republicans, let's try and find common ground despite the fact there's no Republican votes for this. There are a lot of things in this bill that Republicans sought. And I think that he's going to keep at it.
And in the meantime, we're going to get something done, and that's better than where the Republicans would be, which would be to -- hold it back.
MALVEAUX: And Mary...
MATALIN: No, no.
MALVEAUX: Go ahead. MATALIN: No, Suzanne. You know, doing the wrong thing is way worse, just to do something, to spend over -- we're up to $2 trillion now, even the CBO says the job increases will be negligible, minimal, and the deficit will be exponential.
ROSEN: CBO doesn't say that.
MATALIN: Thirteen percent of our -- the percentage of our GDP is going to be in deficits. It's, as John McCain said, this is generational theft and people out there know it.
MALVEAUX: This obviously is a debate that will continue.
Thank you so much, Mary and Hilary.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty with "The Jack Cafferty File." Jack? What are you watching?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Suzanne, the question is: What does 1,000-page stimulus bill that the public had virtually no chance to look at say about this new era of government transparency?
Kind of a loaded question, I'll give you that.
Chris in Buffalo writes: "Transparency is like family values and honesty. All political hopefuls from the beginning of time, Mr. Obama being no exception, have claimed that these nebulous traits will be the cornerstones of their tenure in Washington. And then they actually get to Washington."
Rose in Arizona: "Are you kidding? There's no transparency in this. The Dems are shoving it down our throats and it's our money. We should all be very afraid this bill is going to fail and then what? Where's the change?"
Ron in Ohio: "Jack, that's why politicians have aides. Do politicians ever read whole bills? You know, we want quick action and when we get it, we complain that it's too quick. Come on. Any politician who has cared to be informed knows what's in the bill. Slamming the thousand pages down on the floor and whining is just grandstanding."
Steve in Scappoose, Oregon writes: "Finally found the bill on the Internet, Jack. I'm reading as fast as I can, but at $787 million a page, it's slow going. Still haven't seen your name or mine. I'll call you."
Michael says: "To say that no one has read this bill is a fallacy. That no one has read this bill in its current form is probably closer to the truth. I've read this bill, it's available through the Library of Congress at Thomas.gov. Not much has changed from version to version except the numbers involved. On the whole, a lot of the original language remains intact."
And John in New Hampshire says: "Transparent? Yes, like lead- lined concrete." Chris in New York: "Jack, stop whining, you're beginning to sound like Limbaugh."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog -- what? I'm hearing somebody yakking in my ear. If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there among hundreds of others.
There was an erroneous voice speaking to me and it was not originating in my head either.
MALVEAUX: You're not hearing voices, Jack. Don't worry.
CAFFERTY: No. Yes.
MALVEAUX: It was probably me. OK, thank you, Jack.
Lance Armstrong is about to make his comeback to competitive cycling, an event called the Tour of California. But before facing off against fellow riders, well, he had to face off the media. And that led to this bitter exchange.
Our CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has the details.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, things definitely heated up during that news conference for the upcoming race, the Amgen Tour of California. It began when an Irish reporter asked Lance Armstrong a question.
Armstrong recalled a scathing remark the reporter had made on a radio show awhile back and then let him have it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KIMMAGE, REPORTER, SUNDAY TIMES: My name is Paul Kimmage. I work for the "Sunday Times." I asked for an interview but I didn't get one.
ARMSTRONG: The reason you didn't get it, Paul, I wanted to make sure it was you because I don't know what you look like.
GUTIERREZ: Irish reporter Paul Kimmage found himself in the cross hairs of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong. Obviously, still steamed over something Kimmage said in a radio interview back in the fall, when Armstrong, a cancer survivor, and global cancer crusader, announced his plans to resume racing after four years in retirement.
ARMSTRONG: You said, folks, the cancer has been in remission for four years. But our cancer has now returned, meaning me. I am here to fight this disease. And I don't think anybody in this room would sit down for that interview. You are not worth the chair that you're sitting on with a statement like that. GUTIERREZ: A former cyclist turned journalist for the "Sunday Times of London" has written extensively about doping and the sport of cycling and has linked Armstrong with cycling's doping scandal.
STEVE MASON, SPORTS ANALYST: Kimmage and Armstrong clearly have got this sort of long-standing feud that goes back to when Kimmage described Lance Armstrong as a -- and doping as a cancer on the sport. That is an unbelievably unfortunate choice of words given Armstrong's personal battle with cancer.
GUTIERREZ: Steve Mason is a sports radio host in Los Angeles. He says rumors of the performance-enhancing substance use have dogged Armstrong since 1999 when his winning streak began even though Armstrong has never failed a drug test.
MASON: It doesn't matter what Lance Armstrong ever does, what he says, how many drug tests he passes, the European press is never going to give him full credit.
GUTIERREZ: Now, after years of walking the red carpet, and working on behalf of cancer research, Armstrong comes out of retirement at age 37 to race again. Mason says the irony is, if he's successful, the doping rumors will continue to persist.
GUTIERREZ: After the news conference, Paul Kimmage was asked for his reaction. He told reporters he wasn't interested in becoming the story, only in, quote, "fighting the cancer that is doping in cycling."
The nine-day race begins tomorrow. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Thelma.