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Averting the Fiscal Cliff; Hillary Clinton in Hospital

Aired January 1, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to pick up tonight's breaking news.

The House right now gearing up to vote on the tax bill that takes the country off the fiscal cliff, at least for the time being, passed the Senate early this morning by a wide, totally bipartisan margin, 89-8. Then it hit the House, where Republicans hit the brakes hard. They objected because the bill deals mainly with restoring middle- class tax cuts.

Let's talk -- let's listen to Nancy Pelosi right now.



I believe that we will heed the American people, come together with a strong vote. We will increase -- by voting for this legislation and passing it in a strong bipartisan way, we will increase the confidence of consumers, of the markets, of businesses, of employers to hire more.

We will extend unemployment insurance to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This is very, very important, not only to those individuals, but to our economy, because this is money that is spent immediately, injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs.

We will extend permanent tax relief for the middle class, for more than 98 percent of American taxpayers, more than 97 percent...

COOPER: Well, Dana Bash and essentially have been working their sources all day, working them hard as they try to stay ahead on this fast-moving story. They join us right now.

So, Dana, when do we expect a vote to actually take place, within this hour?


It's been moved up a little bit according to the Republicans, who run the show here. They say they do expect it probably in the next half-hour to 45 minutes. Perhaps it means that members are as tired as everybody else is, that they want to finish the debate and go back. But one thing that I just mentioned before and I think it's worth saying again and that is the procedural vote that took place to get to us this point was very, very big, a big bipartisan vote; 408 members voted for it and that means almost all of the Democrats voted for it. It is significant in that this is the kind of procedural vote that is almost always pretty partisan and it really does signal as you're just hearing from the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi on, the floor, that there is going to be a bipartisan effort to get this passed.

People will fall off on the Democratic and Republican side, but it is going to be a bipartisan vote.

COOPER: And what accounts for that? Because earlier in the day, there was all sorts of dissension, Eric Cantor, among others, saying they weren't going to go for it.

BASH: He might at the end of the day vote no. Certainly you're going to see again a lot of Republicans and a fair number of Democrats vote no as well.

But what accounts for that is this is I think a classic compromise that nobody likes, meaning everybody lost things that they want and that is actually the way legislating used to be, that not everybody is happy, but you realize that you got to do what's best in order to actually get something passed.

COOPER: Jessica, in terms of the White House, do they view this as a win for the president?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is something obviously the president campaigned on.

And what's in this bill is largely -- they're largely Democratic priorities, Anderson; $450,000 as the threshold wasn't what the president wanted, but in principle that is the notion that the president wanted, tax increases for the wealthiest Americans. It extends unemployment benefits for a year and it's not paid for.

Republicans wanted it paid for. But think about some of the other measures. They're doing things like patching this doctors' payments, but they're not doing it through Medicare retirement age increase, something that the Republicans want. They're not taking a bite out of entitlements.

So the way they have engineered this bill, it's largely formed to win as many Democratic votes as possible, precisely because they knew that they would need as many Democratic votes as possible because it would go down exactly the way it's going down tonight.

There's a lot for Republicans -- there's some things for Republicans to like in it too, but, yes, a win for the president tonight.

COOPER: Dana, talk about the behind the scenes that got us to this point. What took so long to get a vote at this late hour today? BASH: The way a Republican source summed it up to me is that as far as the way the Republicans in the House go, they have to wind themselves up and then you have to allow themselves to wind themselves back down. That is the way this day went from start to finish.

The Republicans were not happy with the Senate vote, even though it bears repeating as well that 40 out of 45 Republican senators voted for this. I mean, it was overwhelming among Republicans in the early morning hours this morning.

But Republicans simply are upset about the fact that it does raise taxes on wealthy Americans, it doesn't address spending cuts enough, and, as Jessica was saying, it doesn't address entitlements the way that they wanted it to. So what we saw today were a series of meetings where Republicans vented and the House speaker and others listened and they were trying to craft a way to get this result, but allow people to basically go through the process of grieving is the way another source put it, to understand that they're not going to get what they want.

There was a discussion and a move to potentially amend this at $300 billion in spending cuts, but the way that -- the tactic that the House Republican leadership used was to say we will see if we can get the majority votes to do that. If not, we will just put this on the House floor up-or-down vote and at the end by the afternoon, House Republicans behind closed doors, I'm told, relented big time because they realize, they understand the politics of this would be so, so bad for House Republicans, who are already basically the bad guys for a lot of what has happened with regard to this dragging out.

And so they did not want to be in a position for that to continue, particularly when the markets open tomorrow morning and for the economy to really suffer.

COOPER: Jessica, the tax piece of this bill for the Democrats, what does it accomplish?

YELLIN: Well, it raises the rate for the highest-income Americans, which was a fundamental principle for the president.

And it keeps down the rate for 98 percent of Americans, which is another principle for the president. And then it sort of puts it aside. If you think of a dinner plate and you got to deal with the protein, and the vegetables and the starch, it takes one portion of that and puts it aside. It says we have done our protein and now we have to tackle the vegetables and the starch next in the next fight.

And that will be debt ceiling and budget fights. So now that tax portion is put aside, they can move on to the rest. I would say, though, Anderson, as much as this is a win for the president, we should also acknowledge that this is a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.

That's something that even President Bush couldn't get passed. He only got it done for a decade. So President Obama has permanently extended the Bush tax cuts. So tonight Republicans should be happy about that piece of it. The one piece they didn't get is the continuation of it for a sliver of Americans. And so that's -- some Democrats are upset that that has happened today.

COOPER: Because, in terms of revenue, it's not a huge amount of revenue.

YELLIN: It's not a huge amount of revenue. Well, you know, what is huge? But some $600 -- I think, as I recall, some $60 billion over -- I think it's over 10 years.

COOPER: Yes, 10 years. Yes.

YELLIN: Yes. And it's also this principle that this is now codified into law and it's going to be very hard to change if they make an effort to change it.

The other piece of this that's a win for Republicans is that they're even having this larger skirmish over deficits and spending, which is a Republican priority, and the president is arguing on Republican turf right now.

COOPER: Right.

We have got a lot more to cover. Dana, Jessica, I appreciate it. We're going to be talking to you obviously throughout this hour.

Again, as Dana was just reporting, do expect the vote to occur within this hour. So, stay tuned for that.

You can follow me on Twitter. I will also be tweeting as well @AndersonCooper.

We will have more on the vote coming up on the fiscal cliff, on the bill, what Americans and the markets think of the mess in Washington. Charles Blow is here. Margaret Hoover is as well, and also chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight.

The fiscal cliff bill, which sailed through the Senate, got stuck in the House, is now heading for a vote possibly within this hour, probably within this hour. But the bill, if it passes, fails to do anything about spending, merely pushes the deadline forward for coming up with spending cuts.

In other words, get ready for yet another fiscal cliff battle a couple months from now.

Joining us now is "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow, GOP consultant Margaret Hoover and chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

So it looks like this is going to pass, Margaret. From the Republican perspective, how do you see it?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, a lot of Republicans are not going to vote for this, as we know. And I talked to a couple of folks on the Hill today, and they are extremely frustrated, responsible Republicans, moderate Republicans, who aren't going to vote for this frankly because they feel so powerless and out of control on the spending.

They don't understand how six to eight weeks from now they will have any more leverage on spending than they do now, than they did a year ago, than they ever have. There's a huge amount of frustration and powerlessness I think from a lot of these Republicans who I think a lot of us would call responsible Republicans.

COOPER: Although there are plenty of liberals who are concerned about what this means for negotiations two months from now, the fact the president has moved from his $250,000 position to $400,000 $450,000.


I think this is the very nature of compromise. You're not going to get everything that you want. You will have to kick -- people used this analogy all day, kick the can down the road a bit. You have to come back at it, live to fight another day and say I will deal with what we can deal with now. We will stop ourselves from going over the fiscal cliff because that is responsible governance.

And if we can do that, then we can come back. They will have a chance to deal with...


COOPER: Isn't that what governance used to be? Is this governance, Ali?


I think it's important to note that there are far fewer competitive districts in the country right now. Instead of doing something because you're worried that somebody from the other party will take your seat, you're doing something because you're worried somebody will challenge you in the primary.

COOPER: Right, there will be a primary challenge.

VELSHI: Who is more conservative than you are.


VELSHI: We have that. We have campaign finance laws. We have got constant campaigning and we have got this idea that if you compromise in any fashion, you're not doing the right thing for the governance of the country, you're actually giving something up, you're caving. We were talking about winners and losers. Going from $250,000 to $450,000 was actually a sign of, OK, you know what? We're going to have to compromise to get what we want. But what has happened here is you have seen the people who will not compromise.

They're not the ones Margaret is talking about. I'm talking about Marco Rubio. I'm talking about Rand Paul and I'm talking about all these guys who are jockeying for position. They're going to run for something.


VELSHI: They have chosen tonight not to put the country ahead of their own interests and that will come back to bite them.

HOOVER: What you have, though, Anderson, is a lot of -- Republicans are all over the map. You have the Republicans you just mentioned, Ali, and you also have Republicans in the House of Representatives who want to vote for it who can't. You have Republican governors who are supportive of it. You have got Republicans in the Senate, the majority of the Republicans actually voted for this.

You have McConnell, who is a huge winner tonight frankly because he was able to deliver most of his Republicans to do it. The reason this deal happened is because of him and Joe Biden. So Republicans are completely scattered. There is no central messaging from the Republican Party on this. Guess who else is missing in action? Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party. Where is he? He's got elections coming up in four weeks from the leaders of the party chairs across the country who are uber-conservative, Tea Party types who would not like anything other than what the House Republicans are doing, which is voting no.

COOPER: What does this mean about the Tea Party? Because didn't Boehner sort of try to go around them basically?

BLOW: I think the Tea Party has been weakened significantly in the last election, presidential election. Only 21 percent of Americans said they identified as supporters of the Tea Party.

Their kind of control over the Republican Party is substantially weaker. But I do think you have hit it on the head, Margaret. There's a centralized kind of feeling among Democrats that they can make compromises and they will not pay the ultimate price for that compromise.

That is no longer something that is in the kind of DNA of the Republican Party. We don't need to make any kind of false equivalencies here. We don't need to kind of paper over it. This is a Republican problem. They are no longer able to govern as a kind of full-fledged party.

VELSHI: Charles, there's one economic argument that has come apart here. And that is the Tea Party conservative Republican argument that we want a government that spends money responsibly, doesn't overtax people. That got divorced somehow from the idea that we ended up with people who were defending the rights of people who earn more than $500,000 a year not to pay 4.6 percentage points higher in taxes.

And no one can give me an economic argument as to actually why that was sound. We went from just -- from protecting responsible government and your hard-earned money into just defending rich people. And that started to become a real cleavage that didn't make a lot of sense.

HOOVER: Yes. Republicans had a hard time countering President Obama's message, which the middle class grows. You grow the economy by growing it from the middle class out.

That's the one argument the Republicans haven't come up with a cogent response to. There's messaging problems. I would not say this is a Republican governing problem. I would say this is a House of Representatives governing problems. It looked like the Senate did OK today.

BLOW: The House that they control.

HOOVER: You're correct. But this is also what happens too when you have no -- you basically have a vacuum in leadership in the Republican Party. You don't have the presidency. You don't have the Senate and the House of Representatives is not controlling these members.


BLOW: They have a vacuum in leader because they have extreme positions.

HOOVER: Well, and that goes across the board in Congress. As you know and as Ali just said, all of these House districts have become more polarized.

There are less Blue Dogs in the incoming class than there have ever been, only 14 in the one that is going to start on Thursday. And there are 50 Tea Party Republicans. You have a smaller, a diminishing number of moderates in both parties.


COOPER: And we're watching a debate right now live on the House floor continuing on. We do anticipate the vote occurring within this hour, actually relatively shortly, in the next 20 or 30 minutes or so.

Ali, but in terms of this gets decided tonight, what's the next schedule? Because we still have another vote two months from now.


VELSHI: Right. There are three different things now. You're going to get to have this fight three different times. The first one is the debt ceiling, which we hit on December 31, yesterday. The Treasury can do what they did last time. They have got $200 billion that they can shuffle around and keep us going for maybe another month.

So I'm calling that the Valentine's Day cliff. We're going to see that again. That's the debt ceiling. That, the Republicans actually do have a great deal of leverage on. Then you got the sequester, which were those cuts across the board, half in defense and half in non-defense. This agreement postpones that for two months. You are guaranteed in two months to have this discussion again.

And then the one we all forget about, it is the government's job to actually come up with a budget, something that has not been done in several years.

COOPER: Which is crazy.

VELSHI: Crazy. That is going to come up. That is actually not technically due until September, except we're about three years overdue.

Immediately, we will have a budget debate. We will have three very distinct debates where these same discussions are going to take place.

HOOVER: To be fair, though, it is the Senate who hasn't passed a budget in three years.


VELSHI: Right, but to the average American, it's Washington that hasn't passed...


VELSHI: When I get in a cab, all I need the cab driver to do is get me to my destination. The only constitutional responsibility the government of the United States has is to pass a budget. It's the one they don't do.

You're right. But I'm saying, when you're the average voter, you guys just all need to get your act together.

HOOVER: But you can give the House Republicans a little bit of credit.


VELSHI: I will give them a little credit. And I'm going to give them a lot of credit when they pass this thing tonight because finally something will get something done.

COOPER: Guys, stick around for that, Charles Blow, Margaret Hoover, Ali Velshi. They will be back. We're going to have more from all of them later in the hour as we wait for this vote.

More now on a key player in the drama. Grover Norquist holds no elective offense, no official title, for that matter. He's a lobbyist, the president of a group the Americans for Tax Reform. He's been a central figure in this and every tabs debate Washington has had for the last 20 years. For those two decades, his position on taxes has been simple, don't raise them, no time, not ever, never.

This time, though, he says the Senate tax deal, even though it raises tax rates on wealthy Americans, is kind of sort of OK, and that's got a lot of people somewhat confused.


COOPER: Grover Norquist joins us now.

So you said that voting for this deal which increases taxes on households earning more than $450,000 annually would not violate your pledge that lawmakers made to their constituents. Help our viewers understand that, because lawmakers who signed that pledge, they promised to oppose any effort to increase income taxes, tax rates for individuals, for businesses. How does the fiscal cliff deal not violate that pledge?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: It's technically not a violation of the pledge. But I understand why a lot of Republicans have said, look, even though what's happening is the tax cuts disappear and we're restoring them for most people, so we're not raising taxes, we're actually cutting taxes.

COOPER: You're saying because the Bush tax cuts have expired yesterday.


COOPER: So just basically they expired yesterday, so technically these are still tax cuts?

NORQUIST: Correct.

I understand, and I understand if you're a congressman or senator, you have got to go out and convince not me that you have technically not violated the pledge. You have to convince your constituents.

The promise that congressmen and senators make is to their voters, to their state, not to me, not to Americans for Tax Reform, not to anybody else, to their voters.

They need to be able to say with a straight face they fought to protect those tax cuts for everyone. And all the Republicans in the House have done that more than once, and that they're fighting to oppose any and all tax increases period. I think you can look your voters in the face and say, we voted to protect them for everybody. The Democrats won the Senate, wouldn't pass that bill. The president's in the White House. He would veto that bill.

Here's the best we can do right now and we continue to fight for everybody going forward.

COOPER: Is compromise really that dirty a word, though? For this Congress to move forward, for things to actually work, is this a good system? Is this a good -- to constantly have this brinkmanship, these battles that go late into the night. This is just the beginning of it, this is not even the end of it.

Critics say your pledge limits the flexibility that members of Congress might otherwise have to make compromises.

NORQUIST: Well, OK, define compromise, OK?

Richard Nixon and Ted Kennedy could compromise very easily. Richard Nixon wanted the government to get bigger and Ted Kennedy wanted it to get much bigger. They compromised every year somewhere between bigger and much bigger. And each one said, see, I did the best I could.

Today, however, we have two parties that are no longer regional parties, north vs. south, but actually committed to principles. The Democrats have an expansive view of the role of government. They want higher taxes in order to spend more money. The Republicans want lower taxes and spending less money.

If somebody wants to go east and somebody wants to go west, what would a compromise be? I'm in favor of compromising in the direction of liberty. We had a compromise in 2011. Republicans wanted to cut spending $6 trillion, the Ryan plan, and we agreed to $2.5 trillion in spending cuts. That was a compromise. We wanted more spending. We got less because Obama wouldn't support more spending reduction.

So you can have compromise in the direction of liberty, but raising taxes and spending more money, which is what Obama wants to do, is moving away from liberty. That's not compromising for the American people. That's losing.

COOPER: But you're painting it in extraordinarily stark terms.

NORQUIST: Well, that's -- the two parties are extraordinarily -- want to go in two different ways. If you want bigger government vs. smaller government, what would a compromise look like?

COOPER: Do you see any room in the Pentagon budget for cuts?

NORQUIST: Oh, yes, absolutely.

Look, serious conservatives need to make it very clear to the taxpayers Republicans, conservatives are looking at the entire budget and saying, where can we be more efficient and more effective? We have a rather large Pentagon budget, larger than most of the other counties in the world that have armies, navies and air forces all added together.

COOPER: Right, combined.

NORQUIST: And we should have a strong military. We have got to keep the Canadians on their side of the border. We ought to make sure nobody can throw a punch at us successfully, but to argue that we can't reform some of the pension questions and some of the contracting decisions that are made -- and the good news is the Republican Caucus, the Conservative Caucus among Republicans -- the Republican Study Committee leader, Jim Jordan, made the comment that while he was concerned about how the sequester might affect defense, he was more concerned that those cuts might not take place.

Part of a strong America is not to have this massive spending that we have been having.

COOPER: I will have you on for another discussion on your concerns about the Canadian invasion maybe for another broadcast.

NORQUIST: We have got to keep an eye on them.


COOPER: I'm glad you raised the issue. We haven't focused enough on it.

NORQUIST: Aha. You see?


Grover Norquist, Grover, thank you.


COOPER: All right, up next, Secretary of State Senator Hillary Clinton spending another night in the hospital, as doctors are treating that blood clot in her head. We wanted to know how dangerous her condition really is.

We're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon, ahead.


COOPER: Here's the last-minute debate on the House floor, members having their final say before voting on the fiscal cliff bill, the vote expected within the hour.

As we wait, let's just take a quick look at some of the comments.


REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: ... be applied to any and all bills that we consider in this House.

Compromise is not the art of perfection. By its very definition, a compromise contains elements that neither side likes. But it also contains pieces both sides can embrace. What we will do tonight is not only adopt a piece of legislation that will give literally tens of millions of Americans the assurance that their taxes will not be raised, millions of small businesses that their taxes will not be raised, millions of people who through no fault of their own are struggling to find a job and try to keep bread on their table, the assurance that we will be there to help.

Tonight, we will come together and do something else. With 37- and-a-half-hours left to go in the 112th Congress, we will display to all of our constituents that, yes, in the final analysis...

COOPER: As we said, the vote expected to take place within the next half-hour.

We obviously are going to bring all of this to you live. Our coverage of that is going to continue.

But we do want to take a quick break and focus on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's health.

I talked a short time to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon, about her recent health problems, about a blood clot in the brain. Let's take a look.


COOPER: A blood clot in the head sounds very serious, no?


The big distinction here you want to know is this clot inside a blood vessel or it is not? That's the first question doctors are going to ask. If it's outside a blood vessel, meaning the blood vessel has actually ruptured or opened up for some reason, and you're basically accumulating blood outside of the vessel, that's a bigger problem.

Let me show you on this model really quickly. Let's say you had a blood clot that was actually on top of the brain and it was putting pressure on the brain. That would obviously be a problem, maybe even something that would require surgery.

Most importantly, you wouldn't want to give blood thinners. That would make that problem worse and it would also burn a bridge in terms of possibly performing surgery, should she need it. In her case, let me show you here, Anderson. She actually has a blood clot inside one of the blood vessels. It's in a vein that actually drains blood away from the brain.

So, take a look here. I think you can see this blue area in here.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: Those are veins. And these veins take blood away from the brain. In her case -- this is the left side. In her case, on the right side, but just for the sake of this model, it's right about here. That's where that vein is. A clot is in that area in her case. Think about it like this: you've got blood going to the brain. That same blood eventually has to leave. If it's not leaving, the pressure starts to build up in the brain, and that's what the doctors are most concerned about. That could lead to a stroke or some other problems.

COOPER: By the way, I think I misspoke. I said '88. I believe it was '98...

GUPTA: Ninety-eight.

COOPER: ... when she had the blood clot before.

So how is this treated? I think they're giving her blood thinners now.

GUPTA: They're giving her blood thinners, and they hope that eventually, by thinning the blood, that that clot will start to dissolve and that it will eventually open up and allow the blood to start to drain. That can take some time. And this issue that you bring up about that blood clot in '98, it sort of gives doctors this idea that she is just one of these people who may be more likely to form clots.

COOPER: And why are some people more likely?

GUPTA: You know, we're constantly in state of clotting and not clotting in our body. You're doing it right now. I'm doing it right now. Some people tip the balance a little bit more towards clotting.

COOPER: Clotting is?

GUPTA: Clotting is just forming blood clots, you know, within the blood. So the blood is constantly circulating, but you can get little clots. Like if you cut yourself...

COOPER: Like a -- like a grouping of hardened blood or something?

GUPTA: Right. Like if you cut yourself, you'll notice a clot that forms around a cut. It's the same sort of thing except it's happening inside the blood vessel. So she may be somebody who's more likely to clot. And as a result of that, and on this particular problem, she may need to be on these blood thinners.

COOPER: And if that doesn't work?

GUPTA: If that doesn't work, that's a very interesting question, Anderson. They do want to open up that -- that particular blood vessel. So they -- what you may need to do in these situations, if the blood thinners aren't working, is actually put a little catheter, literally thread it all the way up into the brain. It's called an extraordinary procedure. You go through the area just in the leg.

COOPER: From the leg all the way through to the head?

GUPTA: You're threading it all the way up.

COOPER: Why do you have to go so far?

GUPTA: It's one of these blood vessels that you can -- you can access pretty easily. You have to find somewhere where you can get into the body easily and safely. And then you thread that up, and then you can actually, you know, put some of that medication right on the clot directly.

COOPER: That's crazy that they can do that. That's amazing.

GUPTA: Yes. And take -- and get this: if that doesn't work, sometimes what they'll do is they'll take -- literally take this corkscrew type device, put it into the clot and then pull the whole clot all the way out of the body.


GUPTA: It's a pretty extraordinary thing. Thankfully, you don't have to do it very often. And I should say, this problem that we're describing in general is a pretty rare thing.

COOPER: Is that a risky thing, though? Putting that thing in the...

GUPTA: It is risky. You know, it's a challenging procedure, and it's risky because these veins -- this vein that I'm describing, it's a thin-walled structure. So you don't want to tear it.

COOPER: How much room are we talking about? How thin are these?

GUPTA: The blood vessel itself is pretty tiny, but the wall is really thin. It's like a piece of cheese. So if you were -- you don't want to cut it or open it up in some way, because that would obviously cause even more bleeding.

COOPER: When you're threading it, how do you not just, I mean, poke through the wall?

GUPTA: You're literally threading it and watching this monitor simultaneously and basically guiding it by watching the monitor.

COOPER: That's incredible.

GUPTA: I mean, people train for years to do that kind of thing.

COOPER: Wow. Amazing. Well, obviously, we wish her the best. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Amazing.

Let's take a look at some of the other stories we're following right now. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha. ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a New Year's Eve celebration turning to tragedy in the Ivory Coast. A stampede following a fireworks show killed at least 60 people, many of them women and children. The country's president calling for three days of mourning and a speedy investigation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un talking about ending confrontation with South Korea. In his first New Year's address, he spoke about the importance of reuniting the two countries and criticized the hostile policies of what he called anti-reunification forces in the south.

A Spirit Airlines flight struck another plane after landing at Ft. Lauderdale's Hollywood International Airport. The plane carrying 162 passengers was taxiing when its wing hit the tail of an empty plane parked overnight. Spirit Airlines says no one was hurt.

And Anderson, look at this. A wild scene caught on tape in New Zealand. A fisherman reeling in a small shark when his catch suddenly becomes bait for an even larger shark. It attacked, as you see, chomping down and triggering a tug of war with the fisherman.


SESAY: I would have said, "You can have it."

COOPER: Amazing stuff. Amazing.

Isha, thanks.

Up next, we're going to go back to Washington where the House is getting ready to vote on the fiscal cliff bill. We're going to take a short break.


COOPER: We're continuing our breaking news coverage as the House gets ready to vote on a tax bill to haul the country back up the fiscal cliff, at least part way back up the cliff for now. The bill, which easily passed the Senate, makes the Bush tax cuts permanent for about 98 percent of Americans and raises rates for the rest.

House Republicans briefly staged rebellion today, seeking to make changes to the measure, but by day's end the House leadership steered things back to a straight up-or-down vote on the Senate version, which could come at any moment.

Dana Bash and Jessica Yellin, they've been following this, well, it feels like for years now. Also with us, "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow, Republican consultant Margaret Hoover, and chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

So Dana, what's the latest on Capitol Hill? The vote is, what, minutes away?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably minutes away. If you look at the House floor right now, Dave Camp, the chairman of the House ways and means committee is speaking. He is supposed to be the final speaker before we see this vote. So hopefully, it's not too far away.

And, you know, it has been sort of something that we don't see very much on the floor of the House, which is you have been hearing Democrats and Republicans -- mostly Democrats speaking, frankly -- in support of something, and something that is not just passing a post office. It's something that has real consequence, and it really has to do with very different positions when it comes to their philosophies on the economy.

COOPER: And, Jessica, in terms of from the White House, what are you hearing?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've been watching this all night as closely as we have, Anderson, and waiting for final passage. They've been optimistic all day that this would happen, but they just want that last vote so they can breathe a sigh of relief.

We are waiting to see whether the president will come out and make a statement. It would be our expectation that something that he would be inclined to do. This would be seen as a victory by him. If not, I would expect something on paper from the president. Both the president and vice president Biden were involved in these negotiations the last few days, as you know.

Vice President Biden directly on the phone with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell going back and forth into the early morning hours overnight, 12:45 a.m. one night, and the pow-wowing with the president in the Oval Office until 2 a.m. one morning with his team and up again at 7 a.m.

So this has been a White House to Capitol Hill negotiation and then back and forth. So everybody here will be very relieved when this is done for the nation.


YELLIN: And for their own to move on to the next agenda. We'll see whether the president goes on to Hawaii from here, Anderson.

COOPER: And Dana, is the vote about to start now?

BASH: That's exactly what I'm looking at. I can see it but not hear it, to be honest with you. I'm right off the House floor and I'm looking at a monitor here. And it looks like it's going to start potentially at any minute.

COOPER: Let's just listen in here for a second.

BASH: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And pass Senate Joint Resolution 44 if ordered. This is a 15-minute vote. BASH: Yes, that's -- the answer to your question is yes. This is the big vote on the bill that the Senate passed. We should remind our viewers that at 2-ish this morning, by a humongous bipartisan vote, 89 senators, and that included the vast majority of Senate Republicans, 45 Senate Republicans, voted. Forty of them voted yes. So it is going to be very interesting to see the difference between that and what we see today with regard to House Republicans.

COOPER: And Ali, we've already seen markets reacting in Asia.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, markets are up right now in Hong Kong, which is the biggest market that's open right now.

But let me just give you two very clear points where this is going to cost Americans. No. 1, while we were all fighting about whether people who earn more than $400,000 should see a 4.6 percent increase in their -- in their income, everybody loses 2 percent on your next paycheck. There was the payroll tax holiday. And I don't hear anybody -- I didn't hear anybody, Republicans or Democrats, fighting for the average American who is going to see 2 percent less in their check.

No. 2, last week the S&P 500 -- many of you will have a 401(k) that looks like the S&P 500, particularly if you're lazy and don't mix it up -- it was up 15 percent. It closed the year up 13.4 percent because of this nonsense. So they cost you. If you have $100,000 saved up, you've been working a lot of years, it cost you a few thousand bucks that now won't multiply over the next 15 or 20 years that you work. So this has cost Americans a lot of money because of this.

COOPER: Let's go to Dana Bash. Dana, what are you hearing?

BASH: Anderson, you can probably see people walking by. Just a second ago the House speaker walked from his office, which is right down the hall here to the House floor. I asked how he was feeling, and he just sort of looked down, didn't -- was sort of a half smile, half smirk saying good. Don't think he had the best day, but he's certainly going to have a relief tonight after this vote it done.

COOPER: And what is the number that we should be looking for in terms of the vote tally to get this passed?

BASH: We believe that the number we should be looking for and if you see at the bottom of the screen, you see the total right now, for example, is 80. The number we should be looking for is 217. Generally, if the House -- if there are no vacancies, the majority of the House is 218, but there are vacancies. So we are looking for 217 for the magic number in order for this to pass.

COOPER: And there had been some talk of voting, of adding amendments to the Senate -- Senate bill, but they didn't have the votes for that, the Republicans.

BASH: Correct. That's not happening. They say that they didn't have the votes for that. The way that they -- their strategy in order to make this happen -- we're talking about Boehner and his fellow House Republican leaders -- was to say that they were going to go around and ask Republicans in their caucus whether or not they would be for voting for this amendment, knowing that it could throw this whole thing into turmoil because the Senate probably wouldn't take it up.

And then they came back pretty quickly, saying, you know, we don't think that there is the support so we're just going to go ahead and vote for -- and vote for the Senate bill straight up or down.

It was -- it was an intentional and very interesting strategy that they decided do that, allowing everybody to say their piece, to have a potential bill to answer some of their concerns, the biggest of which was that there aren't enough spending cuts in here, but in the end they shoved it aside and decided to fight another day.

COOPER: We're also joined by Charles Blow, a columnist for "The New York Times," and Republican strategist Margaret Hoover. Charles, does anybody come out of this looking good on Capitol Hill?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I don't think so. I think this kind of confirms what the public thinks about Congress, which is that it is broken. And, you know, it's even extraordinary for us to be sitting here discussing this as if it is a suspenseful thing that's happening in Congress, as if it's supposed to be suspenseful.

COOPER: Right. This is not a natural disaster. This is not a natural cliff.

BLOW: Not at all.

COOPER: This is a man-made cliff.

BLOW: This is completely manmade. They made it.

COOPER: To force themselves to lead, to make big decisions.

BLOW: To force themselves to do something that they ended up not doing.

COOPER: Right.

BLOW: And then they wait until the very last minute, and then somebody is going to come out of this and say, "We won." And people are going to, you know, try to pat them on the back. It's , you know, patting your teen-ager on the back for taking a shower. No, you're supposed to do that actually. We don't actually have to celebrate that.

COOPER: It's governance. That is what the job is.

BLOW: It's governance. That is actually what you are sent to Washington to do. And they are just -- they're failing at that basic fundamental part of their job. COOPER: But it's interesting, listening to Grover Norquist, Margaret. I mean, he paints this as this situation where you have diametrically opposed, you know, sides, and there's no way any kind of compromise is possible, because you have people of strong principle on both sides who are just tugging in different directions. Is that how you see it?


COOPER: I mean, hasn't Washington always been like that?

HOOVER: Well, look, the one thing we're ignoring is that the unsung heroes of this entire episode are Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, who are two people who actually were able to collaborate, who were able to get a deal done. Frankly, they weren't even called in until the 11th hour. They're the ones who got us across the finish line. So they actually deserve a lot of credit here. I think they are the people who come out smelling pretty good, and frankly, should be called in tomorrow to start working on the next deal six weeks from now. And I think, frankly, that was the secret sauce. I mean, they were the magic thing that was different in this.

COOPER: What was the strategy, Ali, of not having some sort of a grand bargain? Just wasn't possible; they just couldn't do it?

VELSHI: Yes. And the weird thing is when you take this into the world that I normally operate in, the world of business, you put a poison pill in to avoid a bad thing from happening and, generally speaking, most thinking people avoid the poison pill.

Congress, it's like they go -- it's like it's candy. It's like, "Let's take the poison pill." So they -- what Grover said I just don't believe to be true. Grover said that there are -- Republicans and conservatives believe in small government and low taxes, which is not untrue, and that liberals believe in high -- bigger government and high taxes.

I'm not really sure that there are really sure there are people who believe in higher taxes. We'd all like to be lower taxes. The issue is we've drawn those lines, and you have to become an either/or and you don't compromise. And part of that is like what we said earlier. We have very few competitive districts left in this country, and we have too many elections, too much money going into elections. We have Citizens United, which has really spoiled our ability to have -- I mean, Margaret is not really agreeing with me on this, but I think it's damaged the ability to have fair campaigns. Every other...

COOPER: Boehner, by the way, just voted yes.

VELSHI: There you go. He actually comes out looking better. Every other country has this major industrialized nation has the same degree of good and bad governance, and they do it a lot less -- with a lot less complication and a lot less money than we do. The money is really poisoning the system here. And Grover Norquist is a lobbyist.

HOOVER: For as much as the money may be influencing the system, it certainly didn't influence the outcomes. The side that spent the most money didn't win this election.

VELSHI: Who wants -- who wants...

HOOVER: Just for the record. Just for the record, though. That's my point.

VELSHI: But they've messed this up. So they've cost people; they've cost them the 2.5 percent in their 401(k)s. They cost them the 2 percent in their payroll tax.


HOOVER: ... money and power.

VELSHI: And just to save people who earn more than a million dollars a year from not paying taxes.

BLOW: Just because they didn't win the election, but they do have an enormous influence on whether or not somebody gets primaried. So just because they didn't win the presidential election, it's not really the barometer we should be using on this. We should be using whether or not, you know, that kind of money can swoop into a local race or a congressional district where people do not have millions and millions of dollars and they can dump a few million and completely alter the contours...

HOOVER: With absolutely full transparency. So voters take that knowledge to the voting booth. And they decide do they want, you know, Sheldon Adelson picking their candidate or not? And would Newt Gingrich have stayed in as long as he did if it hadn't been for a single individual that kept his primary campaign alive? So we can -- honestly, we can debate Citizens United any time but this is...

VELSHI: Wait a second. Put aside Citizens United for a second. Just look at Grover Norquist who likes to tell everyone who ever asks him, this isn't a pledge to me and the Americans for Tax Reform. This is a pledge to constituents. My constituents don't have 10 million bucks to drop on a campaign when something goes wrong. Grover Norquist does, provided by Karl Rove and his PAC and by the Koch brothers and their PACs. That's where Grover gets his money from. It's like the NRA saying they're a membership organization. That's what -- that's what Grover Norquist is doing. No, it's not.

It's a lobby group with a lot of money that's meant to preserve special interests for people. And that's -- that has a lot of influence on what's going on with these congressmen.

HOOVER: You're right, it does have an influence on how polarized this Congress has become and how really the inability of Congress to begin to do what Anderson said, is start working together and collaborate.

COOPER: Also it's the House, where they're running every two years, so they're in a constant state of running. They're in the constant fear of a primary battle. In the Senate they're at least -- you know, they have six years. They're able to look a little bit more long term.

VELSHI: And a few thousand bucks means a lot in a House race. So you know, when Grover has $10 million, that's a lot of influence. That's a lot of -- he's not just a regular guy. I love the way he paints himself as just another guy who doesn't want tax increases. That's just not true.

COOPER: So in terms of the next battle that we're facing now two months from now...

VELSHI: The debt crisis will be the next. That will be probably within a month. And that's -- that's a big problem, because unlike this, Anderson, where I can give you abstracts as to how it affects the economy, if we don't extend the debt limit, the government shuts down. That's going to be -- that's going to feel much more urgent. This has a much bigger influence on the United States and the global economy.

COOPER: How do you think markets will react tomorrow, U.S. markets?

VELSHI: Well, at the moment, if this passes in the next five minutes, it will be fine. And we've seen here, we're seeing Asian markets doing quite well on this news.

BLOW: With the debt limit -- but the markets will freak out, right?

VELSHI: At some point -- at some point -- it cost the U.S. very little to borrow, right? One point seven percent for ten years, better than any mortgage that anyone can get. But at some point, that's because Europe is in such bad shape. Europe is actually starting to get its act together. At some point, someone will say, "You Americans really can't -- just can't handle this very well." And people will shift their money away. It's not going to be overnight, it's not going to be massive, it's not going to be terrible, but everything will become more expensive, including our debt, including our mortgages and including our car loans. And that's what we have to watch out for.

COOPER: Ali, I know you're going to be taking over coverage in ten minutes from now. I know you've got to go down to another set for that. So we'll say good-bye to you right now, but we'll see Ali again in ten minutes from now, because our coverage, even though we anticipate the vote to occur within the next ten minutes, reaching what we believe will be 217, we -- our coverage, obviously, is going to -- there's a lot more to talk about in the next hour.

I want to bring in Dana Bash right now. Then how does John Boehner come out of all of this?

BASH: Well, something interesting just happened. I think you mentioned it. Our Deirdre Walsh is telling us she's over on the other side right now, on the House floor, watching how members are voting.

She reports that John Boehner, the House speaker, voted yes. That's significant for two reasons. One is it is the tradition that speakers do not vote. They usually do not vote, and they only vote when they want to make a point. They want to make a point, whether it is Nancy Pelosi voting on health care or in this particular case, when we talk to John -- hopefully we can talk to John Boehner and ask him himself.

But it seems to be that he wants to make the point that he understands what these Democrats were talking about on the floor, that compromise isn't easy and you don't always get what you want. And you have to vote for the best deal that you can, particularly when you're talking about something that really affects Americans' pocketbooks.

So I think it was really significant that the House speaker voted and voted yes for this deal.

And I also just want to give our viewers an update of where we are in this vote tally, since it's going on right now. So far 153, as you said. We believe 217. It sort of depends on how many people are voting. But that would be that high threshold. And the other thing I want to point out is the split among the parties, if you can see they're on the screen. So far, 99 Democrats have voted yes, and 57 Republicans have voted yes.

So definitely is the kind of bipartisan split that we anticipated to happen. But we still see that there are still 172 members that still have not yet voted, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to bring Charles Blow in and Margaret Hoover. We had Trent Lott on the program recently and also George Mitchell. And just listening to them talk, they were decrying the state of Capitol Hill today, where compromise is a dirty word and, you know, they were saying, "Look, we had tough battles back then. But we actually -- both sides talked to each other. You don't see that happening now."

When did that change? Why did that occur?

BLOW: Well, I think part of what we were talking about before, which is that the Republicans get primaried more. Part of it is the never-ending campaign cycles...

COOPER: Right.

BLOW: ... where you have a tremendous amount of money. Part of it is also what we're doing here. It's 24-hour news, it is social media, it is people tracking every minute of everything that everybody says to the point where, if you are out of line, you get called on it immediately.

When you are able to -- when you are able to have conversations and go back and forth and change your mind a little bit from day to day and no one was tracking that every minute that you were doing that, I think it was a little bit easier to govern.

COOPER: It does seem, also, like politicians are playing to those cameras a lot more than they had the ability to back then or playing to Twitter, because they're constantly -- rather than sitting around the negotiation table, they're out in front of cameras.

HOOVER: And who's on Twitter? Who's on Twitter are their constituents? They're actually spending a lot more time with their constituents, because they're going home very weekend. If they have votes only four days a week, they go home on Thursday. They spend most of -- just as much time almost in Washington as they do with their constituents and their families, which on the one hand is quite good. They're representing the will of their constituents.

On the -- on the flip side, they're not spending time with each over. They're not getting to know each other as people. They're not -- they're not -- their kids aren't going to soccer games together. Their wives or their spouses aren't socializing, and the camaraderie of Washington, which is I think what the former senators were discussing, has really, really disintegrated in many ways.

COOPER: Jessica Yellin is also joining us from the White House. From the White House perspective, Jessica, what happens tomorrow? Margaret was saying, you know, Joe Biden should be down there on Capitol Hill working on the next one. Is he continuing to be involved or was that sort of a last-minute Hail Mary maneuver?

YELLIN: No, the vice president has longstanding relationships that are always in use up here. But I think the White House is prepared to pivot very quickly into the next battle, and that's both the battle over the debt ceiling and also over the postponement of these guaranteed deficit cuts, guaranteed pay-down on the deficits, called the sequester. There's $1 trillion left on that, and that will come due at January -- what is it, March 2, two months from the day this passes. And so that will happen right around the same time as the debt ceiling.

And so we turn around and head into another huge, titanic battle over both those issues, Anderson. And I think it will take all the power and might that the vice president has and the president's popularity and, you know, his second term mandate, if he has one at this point, to do that. I do think he has a mandate and some capital right now to spend, but he's going to have to spend it in this fight.

HOOVER: To Jessica's point, I mean, he has actually a very full plate of things he wants to get done. He wants to do immigration. He wants to do gun control. I mean, these are huge issues that take a lot of political capital to get over the finish line.

And instead he's got to be haggling over the next debt ceiling crisis and the budget and all these fiscal issues. And so to Jessica's point, she raises a very strong conundrum the president is facing. How is he going to handle...

BLOW: It's not just him, though. This is going forward, not just Obama, but the next president and the next Congress. This is kind of the way -- we're kind of stuck -- mired in this -- this is kind of the way it's working now.

This is not just about what Obama's, you know, mandate might be or his agenda might be, but what is the next president going to do when they run up against the same thing, when you have a majority group that is able to exert so much influence and to just basically stop everything from working, which is what has happened. And that means that the next group that's in the minority will also do the same thing. They've kind of demonstrated that it works.

HOOVER: Maybe. Maybe. But there is this alternative perspective that this is actually a very bad alchemy of personalities at the negotiating table right now. That somehow the combination of John Boehner and Barack Obama simply isn't getting it done, and somehow that combination is poison. But if you had a different set of people at the table, maybe you hear Republicans decrying the president's leadership skills. And maybe -- you hear a lot of Republicans right now decrying John Boehner's leadership skills.

COOPER: I was just going to interrupt. The bill just passed. Let's go to Dana Bash. So Dana, it's passed for sure?

BASH: That's right. If we're looking at the screen now, as it's passed with some wiggle room, 223. And of course, there are still 56 members who still haven't voted. I think that's noteworthy.

But also noteworthy again is to look at the party split of how this vote is so far. Republicans 76, yes; Democrats 149, yes. You know, we were told earlier in the day by Democrats that they thought that they would probably deliver the majority of these votes, and it certainly looks like that's exactly the way it's going. A hundred and forty-four so far, Republicans have said, "Unh-uh, we're not going to sign onto that."

A very different, even proportionally, than what we saw in the Senate in the early morning hours this morning, where only five Republicans voted against this deal. So it is certainly noteworthy. This is done, it has passed, and that means the next stop is the president's desk to sign it.

COOPER: And how quickly does that occur?

BASH: It depends. There are some technical and procedural issues that they have to go through. They have to enroll it. That's what it's called. And so it might take a day. Sometimes they can move it faster if they really feel that they want to do that. Perhaps in this case, that may be one of these times, since we are talking about just hours until the markets open, particularly even before that internationally, but particularly in the United States.

So there might be pressure that the president feels to do that. But since markets move on, you know, sort of psychological issues, this is certainly a psychological plus for them. They see that it's going to happen. They see that it's passing and it will pass overwhelmingly partisan.

COOPER: And Dana, Jessica Yellin, in the minute we have left, was talking about the House pivoting quickly. How quickly are we talking about in terms of pivoting to the next battle and on Capitol Hill?

YELLIN: Oh, probably very, very fast. The next official battle will be now in two months, which is when the sequester or those mandatory spending cuts will now kick in, since this bill that they just passed delays them for two months.

So absolutely, that is going to be the next battle. And it's probably going to start very, very soon. And of course, the big one, which really matters for our economy, which is the U.S. reaching its debt ceiling going on -- teetering on the brink of defaulting on this debt. And so absolutely.

And I've got to also say that, of those now 82 Republicans who are voting yes, many of them are doing it because they feel it is important to make sure that 98 percent of Americans keep their tax cuts in place but also because, tactically, they see what's next is a vote or a debate or a fight where they believe that they have leverage, which is on the debt ceiling.

COOPER: Yes. Dana Bash, Jessica Yellin, I appreciate your reporting. I know it's been a colossal day, a monumental task for you both. Appreciate it.

Margaret Hoover, thanks very much.

Charlie Blow from "The New York Times" for being with us.

That does it for us. Ali Velshi takes over our coverage next.