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House to Vote on Budget Deal; Interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Lost in Translation; Did Newtown Shooter Give Warning Signs?; Phone Calls on Flights?

Aired December 12, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Has anyone checked the temperature in hell? Because, when we're this close to a bipartisan vote on a budget, and it looks like it might pass, and we're ahead of schedule, no less, well, it's got to be pretty chilly down there.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has told her side in the House of Representatives to embrace the suck and vote for the budget deal. Will they listen? Pelosi joins us exclusively as the House prepares to put the budget deal to the ultimate test.

The world lead. He was supposed to be interpreting for the deaf, but an interpretive dance probably would have made more sense. Now the hand-signer from Nelson Mandela's memorial says, this was no prank. Hear his explanation.

And the pop culture lead. What? No nod for Oprah, nothing for "Mad Men"? All the shockers and the snubs from today's Golden Globe nominations.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the politics lead.

It could happen just an hour from now, a vote in the House of Representatives on a bipartisan budget plan. This has played out essentially the same way as those old Rankin/Bass Christmas specials usually do, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "The Year Without a Santa Claus."

Just like Christmas is always in danger of not happening in those specials, well, it looked as though we wouldn't have a budget deal at all this year, but wait. Thanks to a last minute Rudolph-like save, a budget deal is on the table, this year's reindeer with red shiny noses guiding the congressional slate through the fog of D.C. dysfunction, Congressman Paul Ryan Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

Now, Santa is closer to putting that deal under the National Christmas Tree, if it holds. Here are the broad strokes of the plan, which will be voted on as early as 5:00 p.m. Eastern. It would set the budget at just over $1 trillion for the current fiscal year. That would avoid another partial government shutdown looming in January. For the 2015 fiscal year, the budget will increase by $2 billion. The deal would also eliminate $45 billion from the next round of those forced spending cuts. And, overall, it's supposed to reduce the deficit by $85 billion over 10 years.

But, of course, it would not be a compromise in Washington unless there were a lot of unhappy people. Republican Party Senator Marco Rubio and the office of fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz have said the deal does not cut spending enough. A number of prominent conservative groups are objecting to the deal, which prompted some harsh words from Speaker John Boehner.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's not everything I wanted, but when groups come out and criticize an agreement that they have never seen, you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are.



Some liberal Democrats aren't happy that the deal doesn't extend long- term unemployment benefits, which are set to expire next year.

Yet Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told me she expects this bill to pass when I met with her just a short time ago. She's backing the legislation as the best that can be achieved for now, but she had some choice words for the plan behind closed doors when advising her Democratic colleagues to vote for it.


TAPPER: So this morning, you told your members, embrace the suck.


TAPPER: That's a quote.


TAPPER: That's a quote.

PELOSI: That's a quote, yes.

TAPPER: First of all, where -- before I get to the substance of the bill, where did you get that from?

PELOSI: Where did I get it? I think it really captured the moment, wouldn't you think?

TAPPER: Oh, I'm not criticizing it. It seems to sum up what you think of this legislation.

PELOSI: Well, it's not just the legislation. It's the whole process and the fact that we don't have unemployment insurance and those kinds of things, but at the end of the day, we need to have a budget.

Where it came from, and I was impressed by -- when I heard it was from Patrick Murphy, former congressman. He was telling us one time about what it was like to be in Iraq. He was the head of a unit in Iraq.

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: And he said, you would be there. You would have like a 30-, 40-pound package you had to carry around all the time. It was 130 degrees. You couldn't take a shower for a month. It was awful. So what we decided was that our approach would be to...

TAPPER: You're not going to say it to me?

PELOSI: Not on camera.


TAPPER: Embrace the suck. OK.


And so then you roll with it. Right? So, that's what I was saying to them. I used Patrick's story about how they coped there to say, I understand every concern you have about the procedure, the this, the that, what's in, what's not, but the fact is, we have to get a job done, so...

TAPPER: You don't want to look right at the camera and say embrace the suck?



PELOSI: You will be using it. I'm telling you, you will be using it.

TAPPER: You were very critical of the fact that unemployment insurance benefits were not extended for, I think it's 1.3 million Americans.


TAPPER: You called it immoral.

PELOSI: It is immoral.

I think it is immoral that we have in our country, people who work hard, play by the rules are unemployed through no fault of their own. Really, it's a safety net for our system as much as it is for individuals, and this is just the start. It will be more than -- that number will more than double in the next six months if we do not honor our commitment to unemployment benefits.

TAPPER: You say you haven't given up on that.


TAPPER: But do you think Senate Democrats negotiated a bad deal, or do you think this is just the best any Democrat could have gotten?

PELOSI: No, I think that they took it to a draw.

TAPPER: Other Democrats are opposed to this bill, even though you are going to vote for it, and you said Democrats won't let it go down.

PELOSI: No. They won't let it go down.

And, again, how do you register your concern? By voting for it, moving it along. Clear the deck, so we can have a straight out discussion of our value system, whether it comes through raising the minimum wage, whether it comes to unemployment insurance, whether it comes to passing an immigration bill, passing background checks.

The list goes on, and the list goes on.

TAPPER: And you don't -- Democrats will not let it go down?

PELOSI: It won't go down.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about what they have been able to achieve this year, because I think, just as a strict matter of math, it's one of the least productive Congresses in American history.

PELOSI: Well, it is that. And that's unfortunate, because American people have needs. We have responsibilities to them.

So it's not only just the number of bills. It's the unattended-to responsibilities that we have that are not being addressed. Republicans have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to creating jobs. Job creation is an answer to so many challenges our families face, our economy faces. And we really have to pass legislation that invests in growth and produces jobs.

The immigration bill -- and all these things, we have the votes on all of these issues. We have strong bipartisan support. We just need the speaker to give the signal to take it to the floor.

TAPPER: Speaker Boehner has an unruly group of Tea Party Republicans.

How have you been able to control, cajole, convince, work with the feistier progressives in your caucus, both as speaker and as minority leader, in a way that he has not been able to do with Tea Party Republicans?

PELOSI: Well, there's a very fundamental difference.

First of all, we do not have the equivalent. There is nothing equivalent in the House Democratic Caucus to the Tea Party, for many reasons. Most importantly, they are here to undo government. President George Washington cautioned when he left office against political parties, they are at war with their own government.

So, while we don't want any more government than we need, we need the government we need, and that's what they're here to undo.

TAPPER: One of the things that I have always found kind of charming about you and Speaker Boehner is, you really do seem to have affection for one another.

PELOSI: We have a good rapport, yes.

TAPPER: You like each other. What do you say to him when it comes to how he has led his Republicans this year and Congress?

PELOSI: Well, I think that we all have to make some very difficult decisions about how to bring bills to the floor that may not have a majority of the votes in our own caucus. I have had that experience myself.

But I always say, just let them vote their hearts out. Make sure they can vote for whatever it is they want to vote for, but make sure that they also can vote for or against whatever we need to do. And that's really kind of what I have tried to convey to him.

These are not ploys or interparty bickering or anything like that. These are philosophical differences. What is the role of government? What is the public/private partnership? You want to just have the private side without the public part of it? Those are legitimate debates over the history of our country.

But now their party is dominated by people who do not believe in government, and that they don't believe in government, they don't believe in science, and they don't believe in the presidency of Barack Obama. So it's a trifecta. Those people have hijacked the name Republican, which has made such a valuable contribution to our country, the Republican Party. But they have taken it over the cliff.

TAPPER: The 2014 midterms right around the corner, it seemed as though Democrats were in a strong position after the government shutdown, and then there were a couple months of bad stories about the Web site and the rollout. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.

And, according to polls, Democrats are not in as strong a position as they were right after the shutdown.

PELOSI: In the districts that we have to win, we feel very confident about where we go in and what our opportunity is in those districts.

And I think some of the more recent polls will show that that was turbulence that we went through, but it wasn't a brick wall that we couldn't get through in terms of the Web site and the rest. The Web site was unfortunate for the American people. The impact it had on politics is incidental.

Our case is always about the same thing. It's about jobs. It's the economy. It's the economy. But our case is going to be focused on women. When women succeed, America succeeds. Women make, by and large, 77 percent of men in the same job. So valuing work, paid leave, paid sick leave, it's really important for women to succeed in the workplace, for families to succeed, and advancing early childhood learning.

TAPPER: I have heard some progressive advocates say, they're concerned about the Obamacare rollout, not just the Web site, but also things, like if you like your plan, you can keep your plan not being true for people, because it undermines the argument for progressive advocacy in government, that it says, sure, Democrat can go out there and say these things, but if the actual implementation isn't what it was sold as, that could hurt liberal politics.

PELOSI: Well, you know, don't spend a whole lot of time on that, because the Affordable Care Act is going to be a giant plus over time.

And what's important is not what it means politically, but what it means personally to the American people as a policy and as an improvement in their lives. And, so, while some may say that -- and I don't disagree with any of it -- we want government to work and the government that we have to work.

The rollout was -- I don't even know if disappointing even comes close to the word I would use. But the fact is, we're getting over that. It's transformative. It stands right there with Social Security, with Medicare, with affordable health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege. It's really going to be great.


TAPPER: Our thanks to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Coming up: It's been nearly a year of wondering why -- now stunning new details about the last days of Adam Lanza. Could the Newtown shooting have been prevented?

And, at first, some thought he pulled off a prank that would make Baba Booey jealous, but the interpreter for Nelson Mandela's memorial now he says he was hallucinating. But was he a threat to the president?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, our national lead. You're looking at live pictures from the national cathedral here in Washington. You can hear a violinist playing "Imagine."

Residents of Newtown and some victims' families from Sandy Hook Elementary are participating in a vigil to honor victims of gun violence one year after the tragedy that changed their lives. The event today is meant to mark not just the 26 who were killed in Newtown but the thousands who have been killed by guns in the past year.

A brand new book is out this week with chilling details of what happened inside that elementary school. It raises questions about the mother of Adam Lanza, his first victim that morning. The book is called "Newtown: An American Tragedy."

The author of the book, former "New York Daily News" writer Matt Lysiak, joins me now from New York.

Matt, let's start with the victims and their families. We will be speaking to a Newtown victim's mother tomorrow, Nicole Hockley. But you spent a lot of time in Newtown, talking to the family members.

How are they doing?

MATT LYSIAK, AUTHOR, "NEWTON: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY": You know, it's been my experience that the grieving process has been just a uniquely individual one for each family. But I found during the time, the brief time I was able to spend with some of them that I drew inspiration from how they were able to cope and deal with such a devastating loss. A lot of us, I have three daughters and it's hard to fathom how you deal with the loss of a child, but to see them day after day really fighting in many cases for things that they believe in deeply, it's nothing short of inspirational.

TAPPER: Your book talks a lot about the victims, the families, who these children were. Let's turn to the killer, though, if you would, because your book really, most of the details that are the most shocking are about Adam Lanza. You write that his mother had found gruesome drawings in his room. You wrote, quote, "One drawing she described was of a bloodied woman clutching a rosary as bullets ripped through her spine. Another sketch depicted a large rolling grassy field lined with the corpses of young children."

These are very disturbing images you described, and yet Lanza's mother decided not to confront him about the sketches. You know, we don't even refer to 27 victims at Sandy Hook although technically, she was the 27th victim.

Do you think Nancy Lanza did everything she could?

LYSIAK: No. But, look, you know, I've -- at "New York Daily News", I've covered a whole bunch of these mass shootings. And they dominated the last seven years of my life, in many ways, covering. I was in Tucson, Aurora and Wisconsin.

And particularly in this case in Sandy Hook, this is something that could have been and should have been prevented. I was able to obtain several years' worth of Nancy Lanza's e-mails for my research and it paints this picture of this 10-year period where she's fighting to get treatment for -- Adam wasn't just sick. He was extremely mentally, severely mentally ill. And over time, she's trying to get treatment for him but isn't -- she fails miserably at this.

But then in 2008 or 2010, rather, things really fell off a cliff in terms of Adam, his mental illness increased, we know he was on no medication and one of the threads that have run through my research on that also applied to the other mass shootings that I have worked on is, you know, we have these very severely mentally ill people and they're not getting treatment. And my fear is that this trend of escalating mass shootings is going to continue if we don't act in this matter and figure out some way to just get these extremely disturbed individuals some sort of treatment. TAPPER: And the people responsible for this treatment, the mother who instead of succeeding in that vein, went shooting with him, bought him guns, had guns around the house. And then, of course, the person we don't talk about a lot, his father. You write about how Adam cut off contact with the father in 2010, when his father seemed to be moving on after the divorce, he remarried.

Was that it for the dad, that's it, his son cut him off, his severely mentally disturbed, emotionally problematic son cut him off and then he just let it go? He just walked away?

LYSIAK: It appears to be the case. He did -- I have evidence that the father really did make an effort, though, to be part of his son's life, but Adam also distanced himself from his brother, eventually his mom. He cut himself off.

I mean, this was a man, a young man with absolutely no grip on reality. And the fact that he was just allowed to sit in his room for countless hours plotting this terrible crime, surrounding himself with these violent images, covering his windows with garbage bags, you know, it's unsettling, to say the least. Now, nobody could have envisioned that he would go into sandy hook but it wasn't a far stretch to look at this situation and say wow, this is a very dangerous young man, we need to help him immediately, get him some sort of treatment.

You know, it never happened.

TAPPER: I know. It's horrible.

The book is "Newtown: An American Tragedy." Matt Lysiak, thank you so much. It's a tough read but an important one.

Coming up on THE LEAD, turbulence for the ears. The FCC wants you to be able to make phone calls at 20,000 feet. But another government agency says please keep your iPhone silent. Who will win this battle over using cell phones in flight?

And the politics lead. America is living in a de facto state of spin but what is 'PolitiFact's" lie of the year? Coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In more national news, traveling on a plane can be frustrating enough between the body scans, baggage fees and questions of etiquette about how to climb over two perfect strangers to get to the bathroom.

And soon, you could also be forced to suffer through passengers yammering away on their cell phones. Less than an hour ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to consider lifting its ban on cell phone use during flights, which would include the ability to make voice calls along with sending texts and e-mails.

But not everyone in the government agrees enabling six-hour talkathons is a good idea. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx tells CNN he's considering banning in-flight calls because letting people talk their ears off isn't fair to everyone else's ears. This is something the majority of flyers don't want. Fifty-nine percent of air traveler say they'd be against the rule change.

If you didn't have a beef with the one percenters of the world before today, well, this might be the trick. Four people are dead and the teen responsible won't have to spend a second behind bars because he's apparently too privileged for prison time. Sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit the night he plowed his truck into a stranded driver and group of Good Samaritans who had stopped to help.

Couch's lawyers argued that it's not the teen who is to blame for the deadly DUI but his wealthy parents. They say Couch was always given whatever he wanted and there were no consequences for the behavior. And the so-called "affluenza" defense, well, it actually worked. Instead of getting the 20-year sentence prosecutors were pushing for, a judge ordered Couch for 10 years probation, plus time in rehab. And he'll likely do that rehab at a fancy luxury facility in California.

One family member of the victims reacted to the sentence by saying, quote, "My healing process is out the window."

And another unbelievable court case will be the focus of a documentary right here on CNN tonight, "Unreal Dream" is the incredible story of an innocent man sent to prison for killing his wife and his fight to clear his name. It airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, he seemed like as much as an interpreter for the deaf as Garrett Morris' character on "SNL."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our top story tonight --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our top story tonight!


TAPPER: But the guy caught signing gibberish at Nelson Mandela's memorial wasn't trying to punk us. He says he was in the middle of a breakdown. Was this a harmless goof or a danger to the president?

And if award shows were a high school cafeteria, the Golden Globes would be the one with all the cool kids, some say. So, why are some of the biggest names in Hollywood suddenly getting the chess club treatment?