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House To Vote On Controversial Sandy Aid; U.S. To Assist France In Fight In Mali; "Birth Tourism" Business Booming In U.S.; Obama Considers Executive Action On Guns

Aired January 15, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, Congress about to vote on a relief bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy. A Republican representative who will vote against the relief tells us why in just a moment.

Plus, France tripling the number of troops the country is sending to Mali. What does this mean for America's role in that fight?

And an OUTFRONT investigation into a booming business, birth tourism. Foreign women giving birth in the United States so their kids will be citizens, but this time, we're not talking about people south of the border. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the battle over Superstorm Sandy. So the House of Representatives is going to vote tonight, really just imminently, on a controversial relief package for the victims of the devastating October 29th storm.

A $17 billion aid package was approved earlier today and at this moment, another $34 billion is at stake. I know this might sound like an easy vote because disaster relief always gets approved.

But right now, when it comes to spending this country's money, every single dollar is getting subjected to scrutiny and just as we saw with the fiscal cliff battle, not everyone in Washington thinks this disaster relief should pass.


REPRESENTATIVE TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA: The $16 billion is to quintuple the size of the community development block grant program. That's the slush fund that pays for such dubious projects as doggy day care centers. It doesn't even have to be spent in the hurricane area.

The $2 billion is for highway repairs, anywhere in the country, including up to $20 million each for Guam, American Samoa and the Mariana Islands that aren't even in the same ocean as Hurricane Sandy.


BURNETT: The $20 million is a lot on a little island. Tom Foreman joins me now. Tom, obviously, you know, we're so used to pork being laden in these bills and of course, it makes all of us angry, but where is the pork in this bill? Is it really that bad? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, if you listen to the Republican critics, I have been listening to them all day, they say the pork is everywhere in this $34 billion amendment that the Democrats tacked on to this emergency spending measure for Superstorm Sandy.

So take a look. This amendment includes $194 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to buy equipment to improve weather forecasting and for tending to their satellites. It would give $2 billion, billion with a "b" for repairing roads virtually anywhere after a natural disaster, including, yes, Guam, which is about 8,000 miles from where Sandy struck.

More than $100 million for Amtrak to tend to its trains and tracks in the northeast corridor, even though it looks like less than a third of that would involve repairs directly related to sandy and its damage.

And the amendment includes $16 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help with disaster relief, rebuilding an economic vitalization -- revitalization, but not just in Sandy's path, in any disaster zone anywhere in the country.

That is what the critics have been pointing to all day and calling pork, Erin, because while they admit that some of these programs may have merit, they say they just do not belong in an emergency relief bill and that this spending is more about Democrats building up government programs than rebuilding from Sandy.

BURNETT: Interesting. Of course, as we all know, you can put all that money in, and when there's a disaster somewhere else, they ask for more anyway. I mean, that does appear to be the way it works.

Tom, I know this infuriated some lawmakers from New York and New Jersey, both Democrats and Republicans. You know what, when it's you, you want the money. Doesn't matter what your party is. There was certainly irony in that, but how have they fought back against these accusations of fat pork?

FOREMAN: Well, vigorously would be the first word. But time and again, they pointed out all the items in this amendment, which would indeed help rebuild businesses. Get people back into their homes, repair infrastructure and they keep insisting all this money is vital for long-term comprehensive recovery.

A few times they even lit into their fellow lawmakers from other places like the gulf coast, saying in effect, we took care of your disasters, now you owe us. This did get nasty at times, I have to say, as it often does when one side calls a funding bill important and the other calls it pork.

But I will say art of it makes it tricky. I mentioned, for example, the money for NOAA, for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yes, there's money in there for things, which probably anyone would say doesn't really directly relate to Sandy. But in that same section, there are parts that do directly relate to Sandy. So the problem is in any given section, the Democrats can point and say see, this is about Sandy, and the Republicans can look at another part and say yes, but what about this $20 million here, what about this $30 million here, what about this $75 million here.

BURNETT: That's pretty disturbing, disgusting, one might say. All right, thanks very much to Tom Foreman.

Republican Congressman Tom Huelskamp of Kansas is going to be our guest in just a moment. He is voting against this, but we have some very specific questions to ask him on why that vote might not add up.

John Avlon is here with me now though, and John, I want just to ask you this question. Pork disgusts me and disgusts every American. Someone's pork is someone else's, I don't know, best part of the animal.

But the point is, why is it always in there? Why can't these guys just realize Americans want a clean bill and a transparent bill, cut out the crap for lack of a better word.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That should not be too much to ask, but the problem is as you said someone's pork is someone else's lifeline and this is disaster relief. We're 11 weeks after Sandy. What has folks really furious is the hypocrisy.

A lot of these lawmakers from the gulf coast who begged for assistance and got it quickly after disasters devastated their region. But now all of a sudden, listening for the club for growth and being callous rather than doing the right thing for people who are suffering.

BURNETT: But the right thing you say, but hold on. Why not then give the Amtrak money that you need? Why is two-thirds of it going to non- Sandy related things? Give them the amount they need.

AVLON: Part of this though, Erin, is about narrative. I mean, remember the first Sandy bill that just passed a week or so ago, 67 Republicans voted against it. It was one page. There was no pork.

But still, the argument those 67 gave was that it was full of pork. It is disgusting, when Democratic lawmakers lard up a bill for disaster relief that are unrelated, people should be furious.

But can't we get it together do the right thing for folks who are suffering? Should we derail the whole thing and get nothing done?

BURNETT: That's a very good point and thanks to John Avlon. Now let's bring in the Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. Sir, let me start with the bill that John just mentioned.

You were one of the 67 members who did vote against the initial $9.7 billion Sandy relief bill. I know you voted against it today as well. Let me just play what your fellow Republican Congressman Frank Lobiondo said today about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK LOBIONDO (R), NEW JERSEY: To my colleagues who are from states who have had disasters, some rather recently, who have decided that we need to change the rules of the game, shame on you. Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes. California, congratulations, did you get rid of the Andreas fault? Mississippi's in a drought, do you think you're not going to have a flood again? Who you going to come to when you have these things?


BURNETT: A Republican of New Jersey obviously passionately feels differently than you do, sir. How do you respond to his point?

REPRESENTATIVE TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: Well, a couple things. Our goal is to make sure the money we spend actually gets to those that need it. Also, the earlier vote last week about flood insurance, we have a program that's hemorrhaging and needs to be reformed to make sure it works.

But one thing to note is according to the Congressional Budget Office, 80 percent of these funds won't be spent for two years. So we don't have to spend those today or authorize those today.

We just want to make certain the money gets to those in need and it does in a proper way and make sure it goes to the course in which it gives full opportunity for people to comment as to see how the money's going to be spent.

BURNETT: Much of what you say makes a lot of sense but of course, usually when there's disaster relief aid it comes very quickly. This has frustrated your colleagues from New York and New Jersey and New England. Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey, of course, has been very vocal about Sandy aid.

He called out John Boehner directly. I want to just ask you the question this way, sir, especially because you come from Kansas. In New York and New Jersey, and Connecticut, where they were hit by this storm, they look at it this way.

For every dollar they spend, they send to Washington every year in taxes, here's what they get back, New Jersey, 61 cents, Connecticut 69 cents, and New York, 79 cents.

In Kansas, they might say look, you guys are loading of us every year. You get $1.12 for every dollar you send in. Don't they deserve their money back? Isn't this a chance to give it to them?

HUELSKAMP: Well, I don't know what those numbers are, but we have an America today that everybody is getting back more than they send in because 40 cents out of every dollar that's spent in Washington, D.C., whether it's relief aid or for any other purpose, is borrowed.

What we're trying to do here is make certain if we're going to spend $50 billion or $40 billion or $10 billion, it should be done in a fiscally responsible manner, especially if 80 percent of the aid is not going to be spent until 2015, why do they have to rush it through.

I mean, there is going to be pork items in this bill, there is no question. Smithsonian, numerous other places have nothing to do with disaster relief. That's what happens around here far too often.

That's what I'm concerned about is when we're borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar, we should at least take a little time to make certain it gets to those who actually need it and there are millions of Americans in need.

BURNETT: Let me ask you a question, Congressman Lobiondo when he mentioned the drought, obviously that affects you directly right now in Kansas. There's a drought right now according to the Department of Agriculture in 104 Kansas counties. So you this has got to be personal for you.

You voted in favor of the bill to provide aid to Kansas, $383 million. Now, about that vote, you said well, look, that money came from other programs so that's why it was OK. You weren't getting new money.

But the scope of the disaster at least right now for Sandy is much, much bigger than that in New York and New Jersey. So is it fair to demand that money come from other quarters?

HUELSKAMP: Well, again, 40 cents out of every dollar is borrowed. I voted for an amendment earlier today, which says we can pay for it with cuts elsewhere, especially actually authorizing the money today when they're going to wait two years to spend most of the money, but I voted for some drought relief for Kansas.

It has a tremendous impact, but we did that by cutting other AG programs. I think that makes sense. It's time we quit borrowing money to spend money because there's just no money. There's no big bank up here. It's empty.

We're out of money. We want to make certain, especially dealing with this debt ceiling that which we do it in a fiscally responsible manner.

BURNETT: Again, you raise some fair points, but back to that point about the states and what they pay in, would you be willing given your point of view overall in borrowing money that if Kansas pays in a dollar, gets $1 back.

So 12 cents of every dollar, and I know you're not sure where I got the number, but assume for a moment that number is right. This is the Tax Foundation number, that you would give that back, Kansas would get a whole lot less from the federal government right now, would you sign on to that?

HUELSKAMP: Well, I don't agree with those numbers. We got a whole tax code that actually helps states like New York that have higher taxes because they can take that of their federal income taxes. That has to be part of that as well. But I think we need to do less in Washington, but certainly helping those in need in situation like this is actually something we probably should be doing, but again, if you're not going to spend 80 percent of the dollars for two years, what's the rush? Why are we hurrying?

Let's get to the direct needs right now and that's what I think is important. That's why I offered transparency amendment that said let's go see where this money is going. That went on there. I think that's important.

FEMA needs some reform. Yes, we should have reformed it the last two years. They should have reformed it a decade ago. They should have reformed it after the Katrina problems. Hopefully, we can make some progress when we do that.

BURNETT: Congressman Huelskamp, thank you very much. We appreciate your time tonight.

Still to come, France has sent more troops into Mali to fight the war there and the United States promises to help. But what is help really going the mean for American troops?

Plus, an OUTFRONT investigation, birth tourism. Paying women big money to come to the United States and give birth to new American citizens.

And President Obama goes it alone on gun control. One senator compares the president to a king.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, war and terror in Mali. France ramping up its offensive against Islamist militants tonight, tripling its troops on the ground. They now have about 800 and getting support from another 1,700 French soldiers in the region.

Now the offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants trying to take Mali over has gotten now full support from the White House.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We share the French goal of denying terrorists a safe haven in the region, and we support the French operation. We are supporting the French by sharing information and we are considering a request for logistical support.


BURNETT: But is the offensive working and will the United States has to get more involved? Lindsey Hilsum is in the capital of Mali tonight, Bamako. Lindsey, thanks for taking the time.

I guess, the basic question is when the world tries to determine can France handle this and resolve this, what progress are the French making in pushing the militants back? LINDSEY HILSUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the French are making huge progress at the moment. There have been bombing raids overnight and in the early morning for several days now.

I have been speaking to people here in Bamako who have relatives up in the area where the fighting has been going on and they say it's in the main towns, which the Jihadists were controlling.

They have just melted away now and said people up there are very happy because they hated those Jihadists and the French, there's a lot of enthusiasm for the French. The question though is yes, they've managed to make them melt away into the desert now, but will they come back.

BURNETT: Obviously a huge question. Yesterday, we spoke to Omar Hamaha, the military leader of Ansar Dine, one of the al Qaeda-linked groups there, and he said, look, we're continuing to make progress towards Bamaka. Obviously, he wants to make that point.

But he also said this was going to be a long war and as dangerous as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think from what you are understanding that this is going to be a quick operation or is that something that could be incredibly drawn out?

HILSUM: Well, I think that the French can do an awful lot at the moment because the mistake that the Jihadists made was whereas before they had been hiding in the towns, so it was impossible to get them by bombing because you would have killed so many people.

They decided to come south to come towards the capital and that meant that they exposed themselves. That is why the French are doing this now. It's a window of opportunity. They're out in the desert. They're on the roads, and some of them are in their camps outside the towns.

But also, what some of these Jihadists are doing is that they will just lie low. They will lie low in the towns and then also, they do have people in other places so I think that there's a great danger of acts of terrorism here in Mali and other places in Mali, possibly elsewhere in Africa because West African troops are supporting and also, they have threatened in France as well.

BURNETT: Lindsey, the United States obviously has said or yesterday when I was speaking to the Pentagon, they said for sure we are going to get involved in this conflict. The question was how. As you heard the White House saying maybe that will be logistical support, it could be transport.

Is there a perception from what you're hearing on the ground that France will do this on its own or that the United States may have to get involved in a more significant way, not just logistics and things on the margin, but a boots on the ground kind of way?

HILSUM: No. I think that the French being the former colonial power here and the French having a very significant army, I think that when it comes to things like air raids and troops actually on the ground, the French will do it.

But I think that where the Africans will need the Americans is in exactly those areas, logistics, transport, even things like food and equipment because the African armies, they just don't have those things. The most difficult thing for the African armies is to keep their soldiers fed and watered and to give them shelter so that is one area where the Americans may come in.

And the other area is drones. One of the reasons that the French are able to attack accurately some of the fixed positions of the Jihadists is because drones, French, maybe American, have been flying over that area for the last six months or year, and I think that that kind of assistance will be very welcome to the Malian government and to the French as well.

BURNETT: All right, the American drones, we hear about it again. Well, thanks so much, Lindsey. Appreciate your taking the time from Bamako tonight.

HILSUM: You're welcome. It's nice to speak to you.

BURNETT: All right, and now I want to bring in CNN's national security contributor, Fran Townsend. So Fran, today, the president of France said something that just really stopped me in my tracks. He said France has no intention of staying in Mali, but we have an objective.

That is when we leave, there should be security in Mali, a legitimate authority, an electoral process and no more terrorists. All right, if you substitute Afghanistan for Mali in that sentence, it sounds a heck of a lot like the United States objective in Afghanistan, which of course, was not met and has been abandoned. Can France get that job done?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, it's sort of one of these big audacious goals. You sort of have to wonder what the president of France was thinking of. I mean, it's one thing to have a limited objective to get your hostages out, to support the Malian government and troops, to try and provide security to the capital and to assist. Those are achievable goals, but this is really quite stunning.

BURNETT: Stunning and something that could mean something much more significant or drawn out. I know, but the Pentagon says look, we're definitely going to be involved in Mali and then they use that -- they describe it that way to me. But they said, not troops on the ground.

Obviously, adamant that it won't take that formal -- although, of course, special operations are already there, what happens if France fails? I mean, Mali after all is the number one haven right now for Jihadists around the world. If France fails, what is the United States going to end up having to do?

TOWNSEND: I don't think -- look, the way Jay Carney describes it from the podium it sounds what I call the Libyan model, right. We are going to support and provide intelligence, logistics support, maybe some air support, but we're not going to put troops on the ground.

They have a big belief, the bigger threat and I think it's probably correct, direct threat to the United States is from Yemen. So we're not interested in getting involved in Mali. Look on the African continent. The one direct threat to the United States from the African continent really does come from Somalia.

We can trace Americans who have gone there to fight and we don't want the sort of really sad history of Blackhawk down. We don't want to go back to Somalia. We're not going to Mali. The Malians know it. The French know it. We will provide some support, but we will not put boots on the ground there.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much to Fran Townsend. OUTFRONT next, an investigation, Chinese companies luring women to America to give birth and then demanding citizenship.

And the history of the NRA, what it was is so different, everyone, than what it is right now. We'll tell you how it became what it is today.


BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, birth tourism. It's a booming business in the United States. Chinese companies operating in the shadows are luring pregnant women to the United States to give birth all in the hopes of getting U.S. citizenship for their newborns. Here's Kyung Lah with an OUTFRONT investigation.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They don't want to be seen. They won't stop to talk.

(on camera): You're going on a jog? I can jog.

(voice-over): They came from this house. Quietly catering to pregnant Chinese women like this one.

(on camera): We just wanted to chat with you a little about what brings you here.

(voice-over): Who are they? They wouldn't respond to CNN's calls for comment, but they're just one of many businesses that publicly advertise to Chinese mothers-to-be. It finds its roots in Beijing.

This storefront and this one, offer package deals. On Chinese language web sites, they advertise to parents, offer a step by step guide to obtain a U.S. visa, and then arrange travel to inviting U.S. homes, where 24-hour nurses and doctors will care for the mother.

It's called birth tourism. Dozens of these houses are scattered across California, operating in the shadows within the suburbs of L.A. pay them thousands and according to their ads, they will help you obtain U.S. citizenship for your newborn. (on camera): Have you been inside?


LAH (voice-over): Arthur Chen, a legal Taiwanese immigrant, lives next door to what he calls a maternity hotel. On his street, he sees a lot of pregnant Chinese women every day.

(on camera): Why would a Chinese mother come all the way to America to give birth?


LAH (voice-over): If people from Mainland China get an American passport he says their life can be different, potential access to U.S. education and once the child turns 18, says Chen, they can help others get green cards and become U.S. citizens. Neighborhood protests have sprung up around the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go back to your country!

LAH: Local authorities have busted some of these houses for code violations, but not for so-called birth tourism. That's because under current federal laws, it's not illegal.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: They are legally barred from denying a visa on the basis of someone being pregnant.

LAH: That's the way it should be, say the parents of 3-month-old Francine. The family who lives in Beijing traveled to a U.S. maternity hotel so Francine could be born in America. Dad is a naturalized U.S. citizen and says he understands why Chinese citizens come to the U.S. to give birth.

VICTOR LI, PARENT: They pay the fee, they got a visa. They do it legally so some people are upset saying the Chinese are taking advantage of the services. Well, we can say the same thing to Americans, some of them, taking advantage of Chinese services there in China.

LAH: Back at this house, workers continue to move in baby items, prep for meals and the shadow industry continue to thrive right in the open. Kyung Lah, CNN, Roland Heights, California.


BURNETT: And now our fourth story, OUTFRONT, executive order. President Obama is making good on his promise to support new ways to curb gun violence. Tomorrow, he's expected to embrace 19 steps, 19. They like having lots of things on their list of things to do.

He says he's got 19 things that he can do through executive order that will bypass Congress and the powerful opposition that he faces there. Now among the 19 items, he would improve the way the government enforces current gun laws, obviously that's a big problem because you know, you can enforce the laws we have and have a whole lot of change in this country before you even did new laws.

But in terms of new laws, he wants to keep better data on where the guns actually are and expand mental health reporting. He also wants to direct government agencies to conduct research on gun violence. Now, these proposals don't significantly alter our nation's gun laws. That's important to point out.

But already, Republicans are mad and challenging the president. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul compared the president to a king, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network, I'll quote Senator Paul, "I think having a monarch is what we fought. The American revolution over and someone who wants to bypass the constitution, bypass Congress, that's someone who wants to act like a king or monarch."

OUTFRONT tonight, Reihan Salam, also a writer for the "Daily Review" in addition to being a contributor here you see every night and Michael Waldman, former speech writer for President Clinton. OK, great to see both of you.

Kings, monarchs, I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder. Reihan, let me start with you though, Republicans are angry because this is executive action and you know, some might say look, if you can do a lot of these things through enforcement, why wouldn't you do that first?

Indeed, that is a part of what he's going to do, but there is a point here that some say there's between 300 and 20,000. I don't know why the range is so broad. But anyway, of gun laws in this country, isn't this outrage just political?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, part of the issue is that whenever you have a party that's out of power, they are concern about the abuse of executive power. When you have a Democratic president, the Republicans are upset about it. When you have a Republican president, that Republican president will tend to use executive action as well to get around Congress.

So I think that that's natural to some extent that there's going to be that outrage and that it's selective outrage.

I'll also say, however, that there are few things the president has the discretion to do. For example, look into gun research and promote research into hand gun violence. It's very hard -- that actually is counteracting some of the very powerful lobbies that are pushing against that kind of research so I think that --

BURNETT: You think that research is a serious, smart thing. That's an interesting point.

SALAM: I think that's the one piece of this that I think is unambiguously a good thing.

BURNETT: All right. And you're saying this coming from the right side of the spectrum. I am, I'm just saying that's an important point. A lot of people might say, oh, research and they would be more likely to scoff at it. MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYU: It sounds noncontroversial, but actually, this is something that the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress have blocked in recent years. There's actually a provision in the spending laws that said that the Centers for Disease Control can't do research if it might help, quote, "promote gun control".

So there's actually some political heft to this --


WALDMAN: -- and we -- look, we want these policies in the heat of this moment, we should do everything we can to do more to prevent gun violence.

But we want to make sure we're using the facts. We want to make sure we're not just ruled by emotion. We can't do it if we don't have the research.

So, if we don't want to make some of the mistakes we made in the war on drugs, we need to have this research among many other things. These -- look, these executive actions are, from what I can tell, well within the power that any president has to enforce the law and make policy.

There are other big things like an assault weapons ban that Congress has to be part of.

BURNETT: Right. And I want to ask about the assault weapons ban, because -- by going with 19 executive orders, that's a whole lot of things, a lot for people to digest. Nineteen sounds like you're doing something. Three is kind of wishy-washy, five, whatever. You get double digits, you're doing something psychologically, right?

Is he shying away from an assault weapons ban? You know, Harry Reid has said they can pass this in the Senate but doesn't think it could pass the House. Is the president basically saying, look, forget assault weapons ban, I'm not going to get it so I'm going to go for these 19 things?

WALDMAN: Well, you know, I worked as you know for President Clinton and Democrats have a kind of ancestral memory of when they passed the assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill and the tremendous political price that Democrats in Congress paid.

I think probably in addition to the substance of it, one of the things the White House wants to do is to begin to break the idea that the NRA has such omniscient complete power over government, make the progress he can make and that will actually help in the legislative fights, not drain away the energy.

BURNETT: The NRA is seen as all powerful in so many ways. And we have a really great report on that in just a moment.

But, Reihan, let me just ask one more question. It still seems to me aside from all the new things you can do, we can all discuss what those are, and the nuances of it, there is this issue with the fact that there are a lot of laws on the book which are not enforced. So, it obviously isn't that -- isn't as easy as the president just says, enforce them, or is it?

SALAM: I think that's absolutely right. There are many gun laws that are on the books. The problem is that, in general, you're looking at criminal prosecutions. We have a panoply of laws, yet it's very difficult to actually apply these laws to the crimes we have.

That's why prosecutors have so much discretion because frankly, in any particular criminal case, you know, it's kind of like they're selecting from a menu. I think this is actually a broader, chaotic problem with the mix between federal laws and state and local laws. So, this is part of the reason why there is so much discretion for the executive.

And, frankly, this is not the right way to solve the problem, in my view, for the president to come and do this. We need to clean up the laws on the books that we have right now to make them easier to follow, make them more coherent but that's something you need Congress to do.

BURNETT: Well, the power player in this room obviously is the NRA, as Michael said. And this might just amaze both of you and I think all of you watching. Did you know that the NRA today has said that 250,000 people have signed up and joined the NRA as members in just the past month? They say that is an unprecedented spike in new members, it is a pretty stunning statistic.

And it's the kind of support that has helped transform an organization that at one point everybody was focused on training soldiers into now one of the most powerful and feared lobbying groups in the United States of America.

Here's Jim Acosta with the NRA's rise to power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're ready to make a difference for freedom in this country.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These days, the National Rifle Association is a Washington power house. The group's tough-talking executives --

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We face the most dangerous election of all of our lifetimes.

ACOSTA: -- to its legendary past president, the late Charlton Heston.


ACOSTA: The NRA's influence has few rivals.

But it wasn't always that way. The group got its start after the Civil War as a firearms training organization.

ADAM WINKLER, LAW PROFESSOR, UCLA: The NRA began with humble origins. It was started by two former Union soldiers right after the civil war. They wanted an organization to help American soldiers learn how to shoot and American civilians who would be the next round of soldiers to learn how to shoot accurately.

ACOSTA: UCLA law professor Adam Winkler says flash forward to the 1930s.

Voters cried out for new gun control laws in response to the bloody bank robberies of the Great Depression, like those depicted in the film "Public Enemies."

When FDR signed the National Firearms Act into law in 1934, one of the legislation's top backers, Winkler says, was the NRA.

WINKLER: The NRA was a strong supporter of gun control laws.

ACOSTA: In the 1970s, the group began lobbying in Washington and its more conservative members seized power.

WINKLER: This group of hard-liners staged a coup at the annual meeting of the membership in 1977, where they manipulated the rules of order and literally overnight, ousted the entire leadership of the NRA and replaced them with hard-liners.

ACOSTA: When the '80s brought the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the '90s witnessed violent street crime in the inner cities, gun control efforts rose and so did the NRA.

RICHARD FELDMAN, FORMER NRA LOBBYIST: The NRA is very good at letting the folks back home in the districts know how their elected officials voted.

AD NARRATOR: We are millions of people just like you.

ACOSTA: The NRA now boasts approximately four and a quarter million members. Last month, as new gun control efforts picked up in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the NRA says it recruited 250,000 new members, and that's coming off an election year when it spent $19 million on campaign ads.

VIVECA NOVAK, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Much of that was against President Obama. A lot of it was against Democrats running for Congress.

ACOSTA (on camera): Had they spent that much money prior to that?

NOVAK: No. No. This was a new development.

ACOSTA: Only on Obama --


ACOSTA (voice-over): The question now is whether the NRA's history will take a new direction after Newtown.

WINKLER: If Republicans refuse to bring anything to the floor even for a vote, we'll see that the NRA really is still strong-arming elected officials.

ACOSTA (on camera): The NRA would not talk to CNN on camera for this story but a spokesman for the group points out the NRA is not just picking up what it calls an unprecedented number of new members. The gun lobby is raising money as well for what it predicts will be an expensive and hard-fought battle on gun control. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


BURNETT: All right. I want to bring Michael and Reihan back.

I just think that that is amazing, that the NRA, Michael, at one point was fighting for gun control, they thought it was appropriate and it has since then become a much more absolutist organization. I'm curious about this unprecedented spike in membership.

I did the math quickly so if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I think about a 6 percent increase in their membership in just one month. That's pretty incredible.

This whole discussion, is this going to galvanize the people for guns more than those against guns?

WALDMAN: It's an amazing thing. When you look at this past campaign and the few years before that, there was no real talk of gun control, of gun violence legislation. But the leadership of the NRA told its members and people who they wanted to join, your Second Amendment rights are at risk, they are going to come, take away your guns.

It is primed for polarization. And while there's a broad kind of common sense middle, I think, on gun issues in the country, those groups are not yet, anyway, organized. They are not as intense and, of course, people fear that someone's going to take their gun away might be stronger than people's home for more sane policies.

BURNETT: Fear is always stronger than hope. When you have a job loss, for example, people are angry and afraid who are losing their jobs. The wide, maybe, majority of people who are benefiting in that particular case may not be hopeful.

SALAM: I think that's right but I think Michael is talking about the middle on gun regulation. The problem is that a lot of the folks who have been talking about gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings really have sounded rather more aggressive. There hasn't been talk about the importance of defending an individual right to keep and bear arms. Rather, they have been talking a very pointed way that feels to gun owners as though they are being criticized, legal gun owners are being criticized. Again, these are the gun owners who are not responsible for a crime. I think that that's why I think the NRA would be very wise to try to strike its own middle ground. The NRA needs to say that, look, for something like universal background checks, it's not going to solve the problem but that's something that might make a difference in terms of limiting things like straw purchases. On the other hand, an assault weapons ban and many of these other symbolic ideas are things that are not necessarily going to reduce gun violence.

So, in my view, the NRA would actually be very wise to say that, look, we're against gun trafficking and we want to see reform of the laws to be sure that gun trafficking decreases. But we are against symbolic moves that are actually making it seem as though legitimate gun owners are the problem, when in fact they're not.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

And breaking news. The House just voted to add billions of dollars to hurricane Sandy aid to help those in the Northeast affected by October -- the October 29th storm. The final measure, here's the number: 241 to 180. Forty-nine House Republicans voted against the final bill. One of those 49, Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, we just heard from earlier in the program.

He voted no on that relief because he says there was to much pork in it: $194 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also, $2 billion for repairing roads anywhere. That does include Guam and the Mariana Islands, as well as American Samoa. And about $118 million for Amtrak, of which only a third of that would go directly to Sandy affected areas.

Well, still to come, Lance Armstrong's apology tour now in full swing. What he told Oprah and what it means for his future and his fortune.

And Florida's governor hounded by reporters over a dog featured in his campaign that is no longer with him.


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: how much lower can he go? For more than a decade, Lance Armstrong denied his use of performance- enhancing drugs. He lied to our faces.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: The questions have continued, the suspicion has continued.

I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped.

If I can't be any clearer than I've never taken drugs, then incidents like that could never have happened. How clear is that?

We have nothing to say. We have nothing to hide.


BURNETT: Even after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong had used illicit performance-enhancing drugs and the International Cycling Union stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong continued to deny the allegations.

So why now? Why did he decide to admit the truth in an interview? Well, Oprah Winfrey had this to say on CBS this morning.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH'S NEXT CHAPTER": I think he was just -- he was just ready. I think the velocity of everything that's come at him in the past several months and particularly in the past several weeks, he was just ready.


BURNETT: Now, Winfrey says she was mesmerized by Armstrong's answers but -- this is something we thought was really important. She said she's leaving it up to viewers to decide if Armstrong was, quote- unquote, "contrite".

Now, Armstrong's case of being the golden boy who turned a sport with a small following into a sensation, a man who became a role model for children and adults alike, a man who was a larger-than-life athlete and person, to me, seems similar only to Tiger Woods. Tiger's failing of course was more personal but we all felt violated by it.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I'm embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry.


BURNETT: Now, more than three years later, Tiger hasn't fully come back. He hasn't won a major since 2008 but, you know, the disgust a lot of people felt about him has subsided. Now, Tiger did not have a choice in coming clean and maybe at this point neither did Lance. But can he be forgiven and redeemed?

Paul Callan is a criminal attorney. Mike Paul is a reputation management consultant.

And, Mike, let me start with you.


BURNETT: The public now can speak in a way that they couldn't a few years ago when this happened to Tiger Woods.

PAUL: Right.

BURNETT: And on Facebook here on CNN, just a few people -- this guy's a loser and liar, wrote one woman. He's not sorry for what he did. He's sorry he got caught.

Those are the people who are filled with anger and disgust.

And man, though, said, "Look, the cheated, he made mistakes, he didn't kill anyone, he's not a bad guy. He cheated in his sport, but on the bright side, he's done a lot for people with cancer. What he did was wrong but I'm sure he'll have a hopeful return."

So, in the heat of the moment, some people are incredibly angry by this. It went on for so long. His denials were so vehement. Will this P.R. parade, though, rehabilitate him?

PAUL: Well, hopefully, it's not just a P.R. parade. Hopefully, it's heartfelt. Hopefully, it's something that is including a repentant heart, which I think is key to any key true apology. I think he needs to look at this as not an end point but a beginning, something he has to talk about for the rest of his life.

If all those things are in place, it's a possibility. But it will not be the talk, it will be the walk we're looking for later.

BURNETT: Well, and everybody knows he's only doing it because he lost his titles and all of the testimony of his other racing mates came out. I mean, he denied it in the face of accusations for a decade. Does that change the fact? I mean, does that make people -- I mean, he didn't do it because he felt like all of a sudden I feel bad about it.

PAUL: Well, all the time that has passed is certainly not helping his cause at all.


PAUL: But one of the things that I would be saying if Lance were my client is, you know, this is easy to do when you're in a tube by yourself, thinking only of your own accomplishments.


PAUL: When you think of your family, your kids, your kids have to go to school. How do they defend you right now? What kind of message do you want to have for them?


PAUL: For all those kids that you talked to in the cancer hospitals, for example, what do you want them to be thinking right now and their parents who believed you?

BURNETT: Right. And to your point, for those people, he has done a lot of good.

Paul Callan, I want to ask you something but before I do, I want to play for you an ad. His biggest sponsor, this sponsor, part of his hundreds of millions of dollars fortune, was Nike. And it -- this was such a big part of who he was denying doping. This was part of a Nike ad. I want to play it.


ARMSTRONG: Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?


BURNETT: All right. Will his admission to having lied open him up to losing his fortune?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think it's going to make a huge dent in his fortune because for him to get his public reputation back, he's going to have to fight his way through numerous courtrooms. The U.S. Postal Service, $30 million was pumped into that team. There may be a suit against him about that. There's a whistleblower suit, tens of millions of dollars of liability there.

All of these sponsors like Nike who trusted him, trusted his character. Now they find out that he in fact was using illegal drugs, he was doing blood doping.


CALLAN: In the end, his reputation I think has really been damaged and he's going to lose those lawsuits.

BURNETT: Los those lawsuits. Lose a lot of money. Does he face jail time?

CALLAN: Well, that's an interesting question. There's a deposition that he testified in in Texas in 2005 under oath, he clearly said I never used drugs, it's as clear as day, it's perjury.

One thing going for him, statute of limitations is gone. So he cannot be cannot be indicted for that. But the federal government has the right to look into wire fraud cases, and he could be indicted on federal charges.

I don't think he will, but certainly it's something he's got to consider.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

And, please, keep taking to our Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think about Lance Armstrong and whether he can be redeemed.

OUTFRONT next: the governor of Florida has been accused of using his dog to get elected. Are reporters being too rough on him?


BURNETT: During his campaign for governor of Florida, Rick Scott announced his family had rescued a Labrador retriever. He was very excited about it. He actually held a contest on Facebook to name the retriever and the fans decided on the name Reagan.

But then when Rick Scott took office, something happened. Reagan disappeared. The last time Reagan made a public appearance was the day before Scott was sworn in, back in January 2011. Kind of weird, right? Aren't Labs always in your business?

So, the press decided to find Reagan. After a very thorough investigation, "The Tampa Bay Times" learned this week that Rick Scott had actually given up Reagan shortly after being elected because apparently the dog got too nervous around the governor's mansion with all the hustle and bustle.

Now, to the governor's credit, he adopted another shelter dog. Why did he get a dog in the first place? Maybe because voters really like people who really like dogs.

From George Washington on, our elected officials have found creative ways to be seen with their dogs in supposedly candid moments. I mean, seriously?

On the campaign trail, walking in the Rose Garden, lounging on the White House porch. Now, we know that all of them really love their dogs, but it certainly didn't hurt that they also helped them project a certain aura of manliness while still appearing nurturing, the perfect combo.

That might also be the reason one of the first things our current President Barack Obama when he was elected was this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sasha and Malia, I love you both, more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.


BURNETT: The president, of course, finally settled on his dog Bo, as in B-O. Maybe, you know, I don't know. What do you think of someone who names a dog after their own initials? OK, but whatever. We're saying it's great that our leaders like dogs. We love dogs, too -- and cats.

We'll be right back.


BURNETT: And we have breaking news. CNN can confirm two people have died after a shooting in a parking lot at a Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Kentucky. Now, this is about two hours southeast of Lexington, Kentucky. Police say a third victim was taken to the hospital with injuries and the reason for the shooting is still unknown at this time.

Two individuals came to the state's police post and we're being questioned. That's what we've been told. It's unknown whether they were suspects or witnesses. We'll keep you updated on that.

Thanks for watching.

Anderson starts now.