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Senate Democrats Win Key Test Vote; Falling Unemployment Rates; Up Close in Afghanistan

Aired December 21, 2009 - 12:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for your top-of-the-hour reset.

I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is noon on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is reconvening. Democrats score a big win in their push for health care reform.

It is time to dig out from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. The latest on travel troubles from that monster snowstorm.

And it is time for giving. Toys for Tots, how the program is faring through these difficult economic times.

Let's get started.

President Obama moves a step closer to claiming victory on his top domestic priority, health care reform. Early today, Senate Democrats voted to move the legislation forward.

Last hour, the president had this reaction...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States Senate knocked down a filibuster aimed at blocking a final voted on health care reform and scored a big victory for the American people. By standing up to the special interests who prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now, the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference for families, for seniors, for businesses and for the country as a whole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: The Senate is reconvening this hour.

For more on the vote and what happens next, let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, live on Capitol Hill.

OK, Brianna, look, late days, long nights, early mornings, short turnarounds. This is starting to feel like real work here being done by the Senate.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the week of Christmas, no less, Tony. HARRIS: Yes.

KEILAR: This is the first in a series of procedural votes that we're going to see this week. The real deal, which is the vote that would actually pass health care reform through the Senate, we're expecting that to come Thursday night, Christmas Eve. Maybe Wednesday.

But the reason we paid so much attention to this test vote is because it required 60 votes. And that vote that actually passes health care through the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday, that only requires 50. That's why this was so important.

It was a party line vote, 60-40, unanimous Republican opposition. And ahead of this vote, there was a lot of vitriolic back-and-forth over exactly why it was going on so late in the evening. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Make no mistake, if the people who wrote this bill were proud of it, they wouldn't be forcing this vote in the dead of night.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is not about partisanship or about procedure. And everyone knows we're here at 1:00 in the morning because of my friends on the other side of the aisle. For them to say with a straight face -- and I notice some of them didn't have that straight face -- that we're here because of us is without any foundation whatsoever, and everyone knows that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, after this vote that we're expecting right now to happen on Christmas Eve could get bumped earlier to Wednesday if Republicans don't object. We'll see about that, Tony.

After that, this process will go into the new year. The Senate will have passed a bill. The House passed its bill back in November. And the House and Senate will have to get together, hash out their differences, work out what they want in a final bill, and that is what they would presumably vote through their various houses and then send on to President Obama's desk -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well, Brianna, what are some of those key differences that the conference committee has to work out here?

KEILAR: Abortion is going to be -- again, it's going to play a huge role, and that's because there is stricter language, more restrictions on insurance coverage of abortions in the House bill. And what you have is some anti-abortion rights Democrats in the House who are already saying that this deal that was brokered in the Senate isn't acceptable to them.

So that is one thing. And then the other one is that public option, that government-run insurance plan. It is in the House bill. It is not in the Senate bill. So that's quite a wide chasm that they're going to have to figure out how to bridge -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. OK.

Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar for us.

The Senate health bill, what's in it and what does it mean for your medical care? Brianna actually will be back later in this hour to break it all out for us.

A big crowd gathered in Omaha, Nebraska, yesterday. It was an effort to get their senator, Ben Nelson, not to support that Senate health care reform bill.

Take a look. You'll see here former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at the podium. There he is. Huckabee said he didn't like how the bill was put together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I know that the members of the Congress and the president has continued to say that we needed a bipartisan consensus bill. Well, let me at least congratulate the president on one thing. We do have a consensus bill. Nobody likes it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: In reaction to that gathering, several Nebraska state senators and Democratic Party officials gathered this morning to show their support for Senator Nelson.

OK. The wicked weather has moved on, thankfully, but it has left a backlog of passengers at some of the nation's busiest airports. And we're talking about record snowfall and high winds causing hundreds of delays or canceled flights yesterday at Boston's Logan International Airport. New York's three major airports, including LaGuardia, remained open, but passengers were stranded there, too, with 1,200. Yes, 1,200 canceled flights.

Washington's Reagan National Airport had to shut down after more than 16 inches of snow came down, the highest one-day total ever in December. The FAA now reports flight delays of less than 15 minutes -- really? -- at all major airports on the East Coast.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Unemployment numbers dropping. Good news, right? Well, it may not be for everybody.

First, though, our "Random Moment" in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Oh, man. OK.

Just in time for Christmas and coming to a mall near you, wide receiver for the New England Patriots Randy Moss, our "Random Moment of the Day." Randy Moss as Santa.

Can't you see it? Oh, sure, you'd have to brush in some gray and some white into that beard, lighten up the coat and hat just a bit. But all the rest, he has got it, right down to the cheery holiday disposition.

Randy -- Randy, what's your message to the boys and girls?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY MOSS, PATRIOTS WIDE RECEIVER: These shoulders that I have on my body, you can put the Earth on it. So just let you know, I bounce back. I appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: A Randy Moss Christmas, your "Random Moment of the Day."

Why? Just because.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: So, the tides are turning, finally. The latest government numbers show the unemployment rate in many states is dropping.

Susan Lisovicz is back with us from the New York Stock Exchange with details.

And Susan, this is following the national unemployment number, which shows that the national unemployment rate fell from, what, 10.2 to 10 percent last month?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And these are these small steps that we are happy to convey. The balance is shifting, Tony Harris.

Finally, more states reporting a declining unemployment rate for last month than those that reported an increase. And that's something we haven't seen since April.

By the numbers, 36 states reported a lower unemployment rate. Eight states reported a higher unemployment rate. Six states held steady.

For most states, the drop in the unemployment rate was small, but there were some exceptions to that. Kentucky, for instance, had a big drop in the unemployment rate. Connecticut had a sizable decline as well.

And, you know, there are certainly some states where the suffering is just profound. Among them, a state we've talked about quite a bit, Michigan, with an unemployment rate nearly 15 percent. But it is one of the states, Tony, that reported a decline.

In terms of lowest unemployment rates, North and South Dakota, under five percent. Actually, 4.5 percent or lower. So, this is a trend that we'd like to continue to see in the new year.

HARRIS: Well, that leads me perfectly into my next question for you, Susan. I'm a little concerned about these numbers because, as you know, a lot of people have just sort of -- just stopped looking, and they're no longer even being counted. When those folks come back into the picture, the numbers will probably go up again. But generally speaking, is the unemployment rate likely to keep falling?

LISOVICZ: Yes, for that reason that you just cited. It's one reason, but the other reason is, I mean, just think about the damage that we've seen -- 7.2 million jobs lost since December, 2007, when this recession officially began.

It's going to take a while. It's as simple as that. You know, we only saw job loss only of 11,000 in the last month, in November. We could see a positive job number early next year. But remember, this is an economy that needs at least 100,000 jobs...

HARRIS: That's right.

LISOVICZ: ... added in a healthy economy. So we have a lot of ground to make up.

But the fact is, these are small steps and part of a trend. Remember, earlier this year, Tony, we saw in January a job loss of nearly 750,000 in one month. So, in the same year, to go from that in January to November, a job loss of 11,000, that's huge.

HARRIS: That number in January was unbelievable. That was absolutely staggering.

LISOVICZ: We were in the trenches at that time. And remember, you know, that's when the market started to rally a couple months later because it started to see that thing would maybe hit rock bottom. And so we've come a long way. It may not feel that way for a lot of people, but we are making some progress.

HARRIS: All right, Susan. Appreciate it. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

HARRIS: So, the overall jobless rate in America is dropping. But not for everyone. Why are more African-Americans out of work?

We are talking with the president of the National Urban League later this hour.

Unprecedented access is what we're talking about here to the war in Afghanistan. Coming up, our Barbara Starr talks with us about her exclusive reports from Afghanistan.

That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Taliban militants on the attack today in Afghanistan. Four militants were killed during a three-hour assault on a marketplace packed with civilians. An official says four militants were killed, 11 people wounded. This latest fighting comes as thousands of additional U.S. and NATO troops arrive in coming months.

Barbara Starr just returned from the Afghan war zone on Friday, and she joins us live now from our Washington studio.

And Barbara, good to see you.

First of all, what can you tell us about the drastically different security challenges across the country?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Tony, they are different. And I think that's what U.S. troops are going to be walking into, very different circumstances depending on where they go in Afghanistan.

In the south, of course, very violent in Kandahar and Helmand. That's the real heartland of the insurgency right now.

We traveled a good deal through the eastern section of the country, the Panjshir Valley, Langham (ph) province, Kunar province. You see some of our pictures there. A little less violence, but not less complicated, because what U.S. troops are finding, they tell us, in these hill towns, in these mountain valleys, the people who live there are fiercely independent. And a lot of them, they don't want coalition troops, they don't want the Taliban there, and in some cases they don't even want their own government there.

They are very independent-minded people. So here's the challenge: Should the U.S. pull out of these areas where they're not welcome? That's one of the real questions facing U.S. troops. And if they pull out, General David Petraeus tells us one of the concerns is they might just open the door to a new Taliban safe haven in the east.

So, a very complicated situation all across the country -- Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, Barbara, what was the most surprising thing you learned?

STARR: Really, there was a very interesting piece of intelligence circulating around. Now, no one is saying yet that they can verify it's true, but here's the question on the table. Mullah Omar, the man you will remember, one of the founders of the Taliban movement, long said after 9/11 to be hiding in the border region of Pakistan. Now U.S. officials are looking at reports he may have fled that border region and is in the teeming city of Karachi in Pakistan.

If he is now in that city, the key question, who in Pakistan helped him move there, who was protecting him, and does it open the door to the possibility of U.S. or Pakistani forces, eight years after 9/11, maybe finally being able to get to him?

Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, that's intriguing. All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, thank you.

STARR: Sure.

HARRIS: Got to get back to the big snowstorm that really roared up the East Coast and left a lot of people sleeping in airport terminals.

CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff is at New York's LaGuardia airport with a look at the impact on holiday travelers.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Tony, 250 flights were canceled here at LaGuardia over the weekend. So, this morning, we've got long lines of travelers desperate to catch a new flight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Sixteen inches of snow shut down Washington's Reagan National Airport on Saturday. By the time it reopened yesterday, lines stretched outside the terminal. Roads in the capital area were no bargain, either. Nearly a foot of snow fell on New York's Central Park.

With a school snow day already declared for Monday, in some parts of the Tri-State area it was all fun and games for the kids. But to the east, Long Island felt the full force of the storm. Twenty-six inches of snow fell in some neighborhoods. Drivers stranded everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is kind of a disaster.

CHERNOFF: And at LaGuardia airport, hundreds of travelers were stranded too. Nothing but long lines and even longer delays. Hundreds of flights canceled leaving this Denver-bound student no choice but to spend a second night sleeping at the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a little sad to think it might be Christmas. So, if I get there before then, then I'll be happy.

CHERNOFF: As the storm marched up the coast in New England, snow drifts 10-feet high made traveling treacherous. In Boston, white out conditions at Logan airport left a lot of planes and a lot of travelers idle for hours.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF: The airlines say they're doing everything they can to get travelers to their destinations. But keep in mind, these have been some very tough times for the airlines, so it's not as if they have dozens of planes to haul out to add extra flights.

So, if you're traveling anywhere, get ready to snuggle up. There won't be extra seats on the flight.

Tony, back to you.

HARRIS: Starting to get a bit more encouraging today. Allan Chernoff for us.

Checking our top stories now.

Stopped, snarled and stuck. That pretty much sums it up for passengers stranded by the gremlin that hit the Eurostar train surface between London and Paris.

Eurostar says heavy snow caused five trains to get stuck in the Channel Tunnel Friday, trapping more than 2,000 people. Eurostar now says partial service will resume tomorrow.

The U.S. government has sent 12 Gitmo detainees back to their home nations. Four were transferred to Afghanistan, two to the Somali land in the northern region of Somalia, and six to Yemen. That leaves just under 200 detainees still held in the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A farewell of a different sort today. A public memorial service for evangelist Oral Roberts, it's being held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the school he founded, Oral Roberts University.

The TV evangelist died last week. He was 91.

We will have another check of your top stories in 20 minutes.

Tough times are taking a real toll on charities. Even a favorite like Toys for Tots. A look at how the Marines are fighting back even harder to bring Christmas to kids in need.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Last year photojournalist Bob Crowley turned his lens on a Toys for Tots program in Boston running desperately short on gifts with the holidays closing in fast. That story really made a difference, and their needs were met.

Bob returned a year later to see how toys and tots are faring in these difficult times.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SGT. CLINT SCHRIBNER, BOSTON TOYS FOR TOTS: The Marine Corps. mission for Toys for Tots is to collect and distribute toys for needy children in our areas. We have approximately 700 total campaigns.

We are fighting battles, but in a different way. We're fighting the poverty battle here in the United States.

KAY CARPENTER, TOYS FOR TOTS VOLUNTEER: We have a lot of toys. We're using them up rapidly. We're filling orders like crazy.

They're delivering on the 18th of December. They'll be here between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning. They go out as fast as they come in. We've run out of some toys, but overall we're doing better than last year.

BETTY WHALEN, TOYS FOR TOTS VOLUNTEER: Can you leave that one there?

As soon as we sort all of this we'll start making up orders and it'll be gone.

We'll empty this and he can pull this out first.

Ideally, they would be full of toys that we would just pick from to fill the orders but they're not. They're not.

UNIDENTIFIED TOYS FOR TOTS VOLUNTEER: It's a problem every year, running out of toys at this time of the year, but eventually we get the orders out.

WHALEN: Down to the wire usually. It's been tough the last couple of years. It's tough for everybody with the economic climate the way it is. Home losses, job losses, lack of funds.

CARPENTER: It's very important to keep our boxes full because we can't get orders out to people and organizations who need them in time for Christmas. You can keep donating even one small toy is wonderful, but everybody needs to get involved in doing it, so our boxes are not empty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And you can hear more about Toys for Tots and other inspirational stories in CNN's hour-long special, "Giving in Focus." It airs Christmas Day, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And there is an encore presentation on December 26th at 3:00 p.m.

As the fight for health care reform rages on in the Senate, we will find out who the real winners and losers are.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: The Senate back at work this hour after an early morning vote on health care reform. Democrats scored a big win in their push to overhaul the nation's health care system. The Senate reform bill passed a key test vote, 60-40, the margin needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

The legislation faces two more procedural votes. The first set for tomorrow. The bill is on track for passage on Christmas Eve.

So, what do you say? Let's do this -- let's take a look at some of the bill's winners and losers.

Alison Kosik is at the CNN Money newsroom in New York.

And Allison, good to see you.

Who's coming out ahead and who's taking a bit of a hit in health care reform? ALISON KOSIK, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: OK. Well, Tony, one obvious loser is the indoor tanning industry. It got burned as the Senate bill adds a new 10 percent tax on those services, which could raise an estimated $2.7 billion over 10 years.

Now, on the flip side of this, cosmetic surgeons, they came out looking pretty good in all this. Senate leaders dropped a proposed five percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures. People were calling this one the "botax."

And not surprisingly, of course, the tanning industry is not happy about this. It says the tanning tax just transfers a tax from rich doctors to struggling small businesses.

Another industry that's not celebrating today, generic drugmakers. They failed to overturn a provision that lets brand name companies sell certain biotech drugs for 12 years before facing competition from generics. But companies that administer drug benefit programs like Medco are winners. There was speculation last week, Tony, that senators may tax these pharmacy benefit managers, but that hasn't happened so far -- Tony.

HARRIS: Got you.

Alison, what about more well-off Americans? A lot of Democratic reform proposals have looked to raise taxes on them. Are they taking a bit of a hit on this bill?

KOSIK: They are. They're going to get pinched in this. Listen to this.

People making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 are going to pay more taxes under this bill. It raises the Medicare payroll tax almost one percentage point to 2.35 percent above those income thresholds. And what this means is an individual making $250,000 a year is going to pay almost $1,200 a year.

Tony, if you're looking to read more on health care reform, go ahead and check out CNNMoney.com, and hey, follow us on Twitter, as well -- Tony.

HARRIS: Always, always. All right, Alison, appreciate it. Thank you.

Today is the winter solstice. Feels like we've got a huge head start. And the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. You don't have to tell that to these folks. Take a look at New York, Rhode Island, Iowa, Massachusetts. Man, all digging out from this snowstorm that dumped a record one-day amounts in many places. Just dig on. Dig on, my friends. Chad Myers and there is another event that's starting to take shape.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Tough economic times really taking a toll on minorities. A closer look at what's causing the gap and what can be done to get minorities back to work.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: The massive health care reform bill in the Senate is meant to bring insurance to all Americans. But as we learned from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for some this comes too late.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK WINDSOR: So wonderful. You can just shoot all day, you know.

Taking pictures just makes me a happy man.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A happy, uninsured man. When Mark Windsor was just 27 years old, doctors removed a large cancerous tumor from his neck. Windsor thought he was cured and left a job with company paid health insurance to become a photographer.

WINDSOR: Perfect.

I had gone a few years without recurrence and I just felt confident that, you know, I just couldn't let that dictate my life.

GUPTA: But the cancer returned. In the beginning, Windsor was lucky. He found a hospital and surgeons who agreed to remove the tumors at no charge. But there were limits.

WINDSOR: You knew that you weren't going to get anything extra. You were just going to get this out of your body.

GUPTA: Today, 46 million Americans have no health insurance. The American Cancer Society says, as things stand now, patients without private insurance are 60 percent more likely to die within five years of their diagnosis.

By the fall of 2006, the cancer was back. And the surgeon who donated his services was gone. Mark simply couldn't afford the proper care, more surgery and radiation. So he made a desperate decision. He married a good friend and she put him on her health insurance.

GUPTA (on camera): People get married, obviously, because they fall in love.

WINDSOR: I don't think I want to answer that.

GUPTA: Can I ask you, did you get married because of health care insurance?

WINDSOR: Well, some, yes.

GUPTA: That's what we -- is that where we've arrived at is . . .

WINDSOR: That's what we've arrive at. GUPTA: You had to get married to get health care insurance.

WINDSOR: Well, I didn't have to. I could have just -- the tumor was getting so bad, I would have been dead by now.

GUPTA (voice-over): After getting married, Windsor had insurance and had he care, but it was too late. The cancer had spread to his lungs. Today, there's nothing more doctors can do. Mark Windsor knows he will die.

WINDSOR: I wanted to be around a lot longer than I'm going to be around. And I wanted to have hope. I will not see my daughter have grandchildren and watch them grow up. I will not complete my job and task in life that I'd like to finish. I'm weak and tired. I only wish that all Americans had the opportunity for health insurance in this country.

What's up, buddy.

GUPTA: Well, it's safe to say that Mark Windsor was a champion of health care and health care reform and fought passionately about this. I had a chance to have several conversations with him. But Mark Windsor did pass away from the tumors that were just described. They eventually became too much and they overwhelmed him. He passed away just a couple of months ago.

I really wanted to talk to his family specifically about what his feelings were on health care reform and what he might have thought about what was happening now.

ALLEN WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S BROTHER: I don't think that the health care bill will go as far as Mark would have wanted it to go. I think he would have been very happy that it being something done about health care. But I don't think it's going anywhere close to where he would have wanted it to. He wanted it to be so that everybody could have access to health care.

GUPTA: With regard to the way that he eventually got covered, I mean what -- was it simply too late or what happened at the end, Val?

VAL WINDSOR, MARK WINDSOR'S WIFE: We were too late. Had we reconnected maybe even six months prior to when we did, maybe it would have been a better opportunity for him. But by the time we re-met each other, because we were friends in high school and all that -- by the time we got back together, this tumor on his left side had so encompassed and entangled itself in everything else, that there was no way to get it all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Yes, boy, Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you.

And this solemn note. Mark Windsor would have turned 54 today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A quick check of our top stories right now.

Tens of thousands of people on the run in the Philippines as a volcano is about to blow its top. More than 44,000 people are in evacuation camps following a warning the scientists, but the Mayon volcano could erupt at any time now.

And in Iran, tens of thousands of mourners turned the funeral of the country's most senior dissident cleric into a massive anti- government protest. Despite heavy security, chants of death to the dictator rang out. The man being remembered, the Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died yesterday. He was 87 years old.

Despite falling unemployment rates overall, African-Americans appear to face the biggest uphill battle in their search for work. At last check, the nation's jobless rate stood at 10 percent. The jobless rate for blacks, 15.6 percent. That's higher than all other races the Labor Department tracks, including Hispanics at 12.7 percent and whites at 9.3 percent. Look, the continuing trend has many up in arms, including Marc Morial president of the New York-based civil rights group the National Urban League.

Marc, my friend, it's good to see you. Thanks for taking the time and happy holidays to you, doctor.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Good to see you. Happy holidays to you and everyone who's watching today.

HARRIS: Well, Marc, we called on you because economic empowerment is part of the Urban League mission. So a real basic question here. I know there are several explanations, but why does black unemployment always seem to run dramatically higher than white unemployment in this country?

MORIAL: Because African-Americans are disproportionately have lower educational attainment levels. And unemployment rates are typically lower for those with the most education. And if you come down the ladder, a person without a high school diploma typically will have a higher unemployment level than those with, let's say, a graduate degree or a college degree. So those disproportionalities to an extent count for this difference, as well as continued discrimination in the labor market.

But the important thing today is the National Urban League believes that there's something we can do as a nation. And we think in the short run, the Congress and the president should embrace a direct job creation initiative because it's going to take a number of years for the private economy to grow, to absorb the large number, and it's about 15 million, Tony, of unemployed Americans. And this recession is affecting everyone, but it's affecting communities of color to a greater extent.

HARRIS: Yes. So what exactly specifically are you talking about here, Marc? Are you talking about a stimulus program directed to the African-American community that is a jobs creating stimulus program?

MORIAL: We think that a direct job creation program would be somewhat like Roosevelt's WPA or something tried in the Nixon years, and that was a directed emergency job creation initiative where the government would, in effect, finance cities and states, universities, community colleges and others in hiring people. They may be police employees. It may be public safety employees. They may be clerks. We think it's better for the government to spend money to create jobs directly than it is for to us continue to finance unemployment insurance extensions, the expansion of the food stamp program.

We're going to have to work through this recession, which is the deepest and longest of any since the Great Depression. This is no ordinary economic downturn, Tony. And while the economy has begun to change and the president and the Congress have taken important steps, we think more needs to be done and that areas of high unemployment need to be targeted for assistance, and that is job creation.

HARRIS: Interesting. Interesting. So help me here with this. My understanding is that the National Urban League recently convened a green jobs summit. What came of that and is there real hope for black employment in a green economy?

MORIAL: I think there is hope for black employment in a green economy. We think it's the type of thing that has long-term potential. There are no immediate large number of jobs that are going to come. But in the long run, we think it holds promise for the entire nation. But we think if African-Americans and people in urban communities are prepared and informed and if there's a commitment by the private sector and the government to include all communities in the green jobs push, there can be jobs. But in the short run, in the short run, the hope for green jobs is not enough alone to put the many millions of people back to work that need to be put back to work right now.

HARRIS: But chiefly, got to get that education gap closed, got to get more African-Americans, particularly African-American males into higher education?

MORIAL: No question. There is no question, Tony, that long- term, educational attainment, job training, these sorts of things are very, very crucial. And we're really talking about two things here. We're talking about what needs to be done in the short term and then what has to be done in the long-term. And I think no one could have imagined two years ago that this recession would be as difficult.

And while you see some growth in the economy, it's not fast enough and it's not enough to make sure that the human misery that's out there from joblessness is being addressed. So I suggest, and we strongly believe, that we should do something sweeping. We should do something dramatic.

Look, we bailed out Wall Street. It stabilized the banks. It stabilized the stock market. Now we need a main street jobs initiative that's going to put millions of Americans back to work. These are tough times and during this holiday season, while it's the spirit of the season and many, many people out there who are going to have a tough holiday season because they're without work or because they have family members without work. HARRIS: Absolutely. Marc Morial, National Urban League.

Marc, as always, great to talk to you.

MORIAL: Thanks, Tony.

HARRIS: Terrific to talk to you. Happy holidays to you and your family.

MORIAL: Same to you.

HARRIS: Very quickly here, let's get you to cnnmoney.com because, as we tell you here every day at this time, the CNN Money team just does a flat-out terrific job in getting you the latest financial news, analysis, all of the things that impact your wallet, your jobs, your future. Let's get you to the New York Stock Exchange now. A little better than three hours into the trading day. Coming up on three and a half hours into the trading day. And as you can see, it's a nice rally. Holding steady now. Triple digit gains right now. The Nasdaq, I believe, up as -- up 24. Thank you. Right there on cue.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a closer look at what's causing the back and forth in the health care reform bill. We break down what's in the bill and how it could impact you. That's next right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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HARRIS: Ouch. Ouch. I really just banged my knee on this. Ah, that hurts.

Let's take a look at that big health care reform bill being pushed through the Senate right now. Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, joining us live from Capitol Hill.

Sorry.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You OK there, Tony?

HARRIS: Man, it's not funny. It hurts like crazy.

KEILAR: It's not.

HARRIS: It's a funny bone and it's not funny.

All right, Brianna . . .

KEILAR: Somehow appropriate.

HARRIS: Oh. If you would, let's start here. Lay this out for us. If there is no public option in this bill, what insurance options will currently uninsured Americans have?

KEILAR: Yes, there is no public option. That government-run insurance plan that's in the House bill, not in this one. What there would be under the Senate bill is a network of not for profit private plans that would be run by a government agency. It would be a network kind of the way federal employees get their benefits now. Actually run by the same government agency that -- oversee -- or overseen by the same one that oversees theirs.

Also there would be more regulations on insurance companies. This would saying to insurance companies, you cannot deny someone coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. You can't drop them from coverage because they get sick. You can't put annual or lifetime caps on the amount of insurance coverage that they get.

And there's also in here, Tony, something that, you know, we haven't talked a lot about. But $10 billion for community health centers. And what this would do is provide access to health care to more people and also more affordable health care so people won't have to go to the emergency room, which is very expensive, obviously.

HARRIS: Yes. All right. Got it.

The House bill says you must get insurance or face a fine. Is that language in the Senate bill?

KEILAR: It is in the Senate bill. So you have to get insurance. If you don't, you would pay a penalty. And also, there's help in here for Americans to purchase insurance if they can't. For instance, there would be a federal subsidy, essentially a coupon, for families of four. This is just on numbers based on families of four that make about $88,000 or less. And then for families of four that make about $29,000 or less, Medicaid would be expanded to include them as well, Tony.

HARRIS: Next steps here, Brianna.

KEILAR: So this was a procedural vote that we saw early this morning, but it was a key one. It required 60 votes. That's why it was such a high hurdle that needed to be cleared and it was. We're going to be seeing the actual vote where the Senate will pass health reform out. We're expecting that Thursday, possibly Wednesday. After that, though, Tony, you know, there is a whole bunch of other steps. The Senate and the House, they have to hash out their differences. They have to settle on a final bill that presumably they would both be able to pass and then send that to President Obama's desk. That, of course, taking us into the new year.

HARRIS: And, finally, before I lose you here, we really haven't seen the end of abortion being a major issue, have we?

KEILAR: No, we have not. Because actually in the House bill, there is stricter abortion language restricting insurance coverage of abortions. There was a deal struck in the Senate to toughen up the abortion language in the Senate, but it's still not as tough as in the House bill. And you actually have some anti-abortion rights Democrats who say that this is unacceptable what's in the Senate bill. So they're going to have to hash out that big difference. It's going to be a fiery debate, Tony. HARRIS: Yes, yes, terrific stuff. Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.

Senate Democrats celebrating their health care reform bill, but we've got new poll numbers that might wipe those smiles right off those faces.

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HARRIS: Senate Democrats may be celebrating their health care overhaul bill, but our new poll numbers indicate a lot of ordinary folks aren't cheering along with them. Here to help us sort out the numbers, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, good to see you.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

HARRIS: Let's dive in here. What does our new polling say about Senate Democrats and their health care reform bill?

BORGER: Well, you know that old adage, be careful what you wish for?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

BORGER: Well, it looks like the Senate Democrats are going to have an awfully hard time selling whatever reform they get out of the Congress. Take a look at our poll, just about favoring an opposition to the bill. You'll see that 42 percent, only 42 percent favor the bill. Fifty-six percent oppose the bill. That's a full 14-point split. It's a little better than it was back at the beginning of the month, Tony. But it's clear that the longer this bill has languished out there for the last few months, people have found reasons not to like it.

And the Republicans have made some headway here. And let me show you why. There's one key reason. Take a look at this. After all of the debate, people just don't think this is going to help them much. Only 22 percent change for the better. You see a full 76 percent either for the worst or no change at all. So it's very difficult to sell a huge piece of legislation which people just think, look, it's not going to help me and my family. You're going to have to prove it to me.

HARRIS: Yes. I got one more for you here, Gloria. Do Americans think President Obama is doing a good job in the White House? Any polling on that?

BORGER: Well, we do. He is not in the stratosphere any more, Tony. If you look at our polls, you'll see that 54 percent approve now. That's up from 48 percent in early December. Forty-four percent disapprove. Fifty percent disapproved of him in early December.

But he's falling short because folks had very, very high expectations of this president. Let's take a look at some numbers we have on his expectations. Now, 48 percent say he's fallen short. In May, only 28 percent. So he's not living up to what people thought he could actually do for them.

HARRIS: What do you think is dragging down those numbers? Is it the debate on health care? Are there other factors here that . . .

BORGER: I think the economy.

HARRIS: The economy.

BORGER: I think the economy, of course. But also don't forget, this is a president who decided to go all-in with his entire agenda. It's hard to accomplish that much in a short period of time.

HARRIS: Right. Gloria Borger for us.

Gloria, as always, great to see you. Thank you.