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House Democrats To Unveil Final Version Of Health Reform Bill; Strategy for Afghanistan; A Dangerous Game

Aired October 29, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Here are some of the other stories catching our attention today.

Boeing headed to South Carolina to build its new 787 Dream Liner. They already make parts for the plane at a plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. The company got millions in incentives and workers there even voted to break with the machinist union. Boeing will still build some of the planes in their main plant that's in Washington State.

A Texas woman is rolling the dice with her murder conviction. Susan Wright got 25 years for stabbing her husband 193 times. An appeals court now says she deserves a new penalty phase if she convinces the court; it was a crime of passion the sentence is capped at 20 years. If she loses, she could get life in prison.

A woman got more than she bargained for when she posted a suggestive ad on Craigslist looking for World Series tickets.


SUSAN FINKELSTEIN, PHILLIES FAN: I was hoping to get cheap tickets and maybe meet someone and talk and bat my eyelashes, and maybe get some cheaper tickets. Cheaper tickets, discounted.


COLLINS: Instead she got busted. Police say the 43-year-old Phillies fan offered sex to an undercover officer in exchange for the tickets. She says she was just negotiating. Now a Philadelphia radio station is offering her free tickets. She says she's in if there are no strings attached. And by the way, as you probably, know the Phillies beat the Yankees in last night's game one of the World Series, and beat them bad.

We're watching Capitol Hill this hour. After weeks of debate and compromise over three different bills, House Democratic leaders are ready to present one version. Our Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar is standing by where the big unveiling is set to happen, just a half hour from now.

Brianna, do we expect to understand all of the detail that will be laid out, or will we just sort of hear bits and pieces from this plan?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, we are expected to get the actual bill, Heidi. But that said, it should be coming out shortly. It's not out yet. It's hundreds of pages, no doubt. And we do generally know the outline of it.

First, let me just tell you what will happen today. This is the unveiling of the House bill for health care reform. They're doing this ahead of the Senate. This is a very significant step.

Right now all Democrats in the House are in a meeting, not far from here. What they're going to do is they are going to come down these stairs here. The West Front of the Capitol for this event that, as you can see, people are milling about behind me.

This is really the grandest place to have a photo opportunity. This is, for instance, where President Obama was inaugurated. This is really quite a spectacle that House Democrats are having today, as they push their bill out there.

So, what's in it? Well, it does have that public option, as we expected. It's not the most liberal form of the public option. In order to get some moderate Democrats onboard, Heidi, Speaker Pelosi had to go with a more moderate version. Also it includes individual and employer mandates. That means individual people are required to get insurance, and employers are required to contribute to the health care costs of their employees.

Also, there's a tax on the wealthiest Americans who make, as individuals $500 million, or as a couple $1 million - pardon me, $500,000, as a couple, $1 million. That is how this will be paid for. We do understand the price tag is under $900 billion, but we are waiting for those exact numbers, which are expected to be out. Also, bottom line, Heidi, under this plan, as all of the others, health insurance companies could not deny coverage to people on the basis of pre-existing conditions - Heidi.

COLLINS: OK, so yes, those are some great points, or at least bullet points, for what this bill is going to be about. But if it doesn't have any Republican support because we're not expecting any, what happens then?

KEILAR: It is not expected to have Republican support and, quite frankly, Democrats don't need it to pass this health care bill. I think what's also really interesting is we're expecting some Democrats to fall off. Some moderate Democrats who will have problems, even with this sort of watered down version of the public option.

I spoke with one moderate Democrat yesterday who said he's probably still going to come to this event, but he really wants to read the bill. And he's not sure if he's going to support it. That just goes to show you some of the folks showing up, some of the lawmakers showing up here today, may not be sure they're even going to support this bill that is being touted in this large spectacle of a press conference.

COLLINS: All right. We know that you'll be talking with all of them. Brianna Keilar, sure do appreciate it. We'll check back later on. Thanks. Meantime, a group opposed to more government involvement in health care is crisscrossing the country. Today the Tea Party Express rolls into two states on the West Coast. First stop, Redding, California, and then this evening, Medford, Oregon. The group hopes to visit 38 cities in 19 days. It's message, less taxation, and less government spending.

Have we finally turned a corner in this recession? Numbers just out this morning show a boost to the economy after more than a year of contraction. But does it mean we've got a trend going on, or is it just the results of the government goosing the economy? CNN's Christine Romans joining us now from New York with more on that.

Yes, that's the main question, right? Sustainability?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Sustainability, and what drove this rebound in the economy. What this means is the economy actually grew in July, August and September. It grew after four quarters of declining, at pretty painful declines, some of them.

The president's chairwoman, of his chief economic advisory council, Christina Rohmer said that it was the stimulus, in fact, that accounted for all of that growth that we saw in the quarter. Somewhere between three and four percentage points of real GDP was because of that stimulus.

So supporters of the stimulus will say this is exactly what it was designed to do. It was designed to get into the economy and get it to grow again. But is it sustainable? That is the question. When you start to pull back these things, the government intervention that is propping up different parts of the market, you want to see the economy start to grow again on its own.

And you want to see job creation. That's something that we're not seeing here. We're seeing in that quarter economic growth, but without job creation.

When you look within these numbers, Heidi, I see things like Cash for Clunkers in there. You can see exactly where that adding to economic growth. Also, the home buyer tax credit adding to economic growth. You can see exactly those things that Congress and the White House have been trying to do to get the economy moving again (AUDIO GAP)

The economy finally grew, after a very long painful period. Up 3.5 percent, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, it is hard to talk about all of that without mentioning where we'll be 10 years from now, with the health of the economy and debt.

ROMANS: We just have no way of knowing. That is the big concern. Somebody put it to me this way. You can't worry about the cost of the war when you fighting the war. In many cases that's what all of the stimulus spending, all of this government intervention, all of these moves from the Fed, the Federal Reserve Bank, it has been fighting this war in the economy. And this, at least this quarter of economic growth is the first kind of sign that maybe the worst of that is behind us.

You'll hear a lot of people, Heidi, say this is the first real concrete evidence that the recession is over --or at least maybe ending. We're entering a new phase here.

COLLINS: Yes, I wonder, though, if this is a kind of a war against ourselves. Could be interesting to really watch those numbers as we go here.

All right. Christine Romans from New York . Sure do appreciate it. Thank you.

Want to get straight to the New York Stock Exchange for a look at how Wall Street is reacting to this report now. Susan Lisovicz is there.

Good morning to you, once again, Susan. Investors seem to like the report. But we need to be clear, there are still major roadblocks, of course, when it comes to the economy.


First of all, yes, investors like what they hear. There was a big sigh of relief. Futures changed when it came out an hour before the opening bell. GDP is usually not a big market mover because it's such an old report. And this is the first of three, by the way, that will measure GDP for the third quarter. But it is such a pivotal period, the period between July and September. There was a noticeable change in activity.

Yes, some of these programs Cash for Clunkers, the extension of the -- not the home buyers -- first-time home buyer tax credit really kicking in, and so consumer spending picked up in a big way. And the economy grew at 3.5 percent, which is the best showing in two years. And yes, the best evidence yet that the longest and deepest recession, since the Great Depression, may have ended.

Christine talked about consumer spending, which rose by nearly 3.5 percent. Something else that we saw in this massive report, business spending picked up. Businesses spent more in equipment and software; first increase in nearly two years. You may have noticed whether going to the grocery store or the department store, there's just not a whole lot to choose from. Everyone has pared back. Eventually, you need to reorder these products. We saw some of that.

We also saw exports. The U.S. does actually make things and send them overseas. That weak dollar has helped. But when you talk about the future, everybody talks about these fiscal steroids. And so this is not a barn burner of a rally today, Heidi. Remember, we've had three triple-digit declines in four days, because there's concern. Next week we'll get the jobs report. We could see 10 percent unemployment. Today we got jobless claims; 530,000 new jobless claims. That's actually down. But 5.8 million people are still collecting unemployment. So, jobs are tough. The concern is guarded, you know, for the future given the high unemployment rate and still tight credit, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. Those are certainly some of the barriers we need to keep our eye on, just trying to keep it all in perspective here. GDP is good.

LISOVICZ: Things are getting better.

COLLINS: Need to keep things in mind. Yes, very good. All right, Susan Lisovicz, thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Honoring the fallen. A solemn ceremony for 18 Americans killed this week in Afghanistan. President Obama saluted the flag-draped caskets as they arrived overnight at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Among the fallen 15 U.S. troops, three drug enforcement agents. October is now the deadliest month for U.S. troops in eight years of war.

The United Nations stepping up security for their workers in Afghanistan. The move comes one day after five U.N. workers were killed in raid by Taliban fighters. Nine others wounded in the attack on a guest house in Kabul. The U.N. is also now asking nonessential personnel to leave the country before the November 7th runoff election. They excused nonessential workers before the last round of voting in August, as well.

Another drenching, which means more flooding in East Texas. The ground so saturated already streams and rivers have nowhere go but out of their banks. You're looking now at the Sabine River. Wow, it has reached something like 33 feet in some places. Flood stage is at 25 feet. So, obviously well over that in some of pictures coming in from our affiliate there, helicopter shots.

Rob Marciano, standing by now, to talk more about this. And the weather across the country.

Some people seems like they can't get a break. Seems that these storms are coming to all the same places.


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And then, this, the debuting of this, Heidi, it is the Trick or Treat forecast.

COLLINS: All right.

MARCIANO: (INAUDIBLE) on the illustrative pen, making this happen. I'm not sure where he these goblins or pumpkins.

COLLINS: You're not taking credit for that?

MARCIANO: But they look pretty darn nice. :Pretty scary. That guy especially, I mean, this guy looks really scary. If you live in St. Louis, I would be very, very scared.

COLLINS: You're scared.

MARCIANO: Anyway we'll drill down on this forecast a little bit. May be a little bit of a mess across the northwest and parts of the Appalachians. We'll talk more about that tomorrow.

COLLINS: OK. Very good. Rob Marciano, thank you.


COLLINS: A dangerous game. We all know that football is an inherently rough sport but should players be better protected for life after football?


COLLINS: A Montana jury says baseball players aren't being adequately warned about the dangers of aluminum bats. They rules against the maker of Louisville Slugger bats in the case of a teenage player who was killed by a batted ball.

The family of Brandon Patch was awarded $850,000. He was killed in 2003 when a ball hit him in the head.


DEB PATCH, BRANDON PATCH'S MOTHER: We came into this not knowing, you know, we were just hoping to prevail is all for Brandon. This is for Brandon. And for the other kids on the field.


COLLINS: The judge may still award punitive damages as well. A spokesman for the bat maker called the decision an indictment of the entire sport of baseball.

So this is a debate that's been going on for a long time. Wooden bats versus aluminum bats. We'd love to know what do you think about this story. The aluminum bat lawsuit. It's on my blog this morning. You can get an idea a little more about the story and then we would love to hear more on what you think about it.

First off I want to share these with you for people who've already written in. Stephen says this, "Wow, now we can have an ever useful label similar to 'coffee is hot.' It doesn't take a label to know that, just common sense."

Next from JB, "Another great example of people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. At this rate, if I cut my hand while cutting vegetables for dinner, I should sue the maker of the knife."

And finally from Robert, "Aluminum bats are an abomination that should have been banned. They are just a way to save money because aluminum bats don't break like wooden ones sometimes do. Something that causes injury or death is not the way to go to save money."

There is still time for you to weigh in on this story. What do you think about the aluminum bat lawsuit? You can always go to and tell us what you think.

Risking permanent injury. It's something football players face every time they strap on a helmet. But are those helmets enough to stop brain injuries? That question led to some emotional testimony on Capitol Hill.

CNN's Kate Bolduan with the story.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Head rattling tackles, hard hits are what many sports fans say football is all about. But from high school to the NFL, concussions and potential long lasting effects was the focus on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

DICK BENSON, SON DIED OF FOOTBALL INJURIES: Don't let it happen again. Please.

BOLDUAN: Dick Benson's son died of a head injury he sustained on a high school football field. Merril Hoge played eight years in the NFL and said he had to retire because of repeated brain injuries.

MERRIL HOGE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: After my second concussion I was escorted into the training room where I flatlined. As they started to resuscitate me, I popped back up and they rushed them to the emergency room where I'd laid in ICU for two days.

BOLDUAN: A recent study commissioned by the NFL suggested retired players may face a higher risk of dementia and other memory- related problems. Five times higher in players 50 and older, 19 times higher in players age 30 to 49. The NFL has resisted making a connection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a link between playing professional football and the likelihood of contracting a brain related injury?

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: You're obviously seeing a lot of data and a lot of information that our committees and others have presented with respect to the linkage and the medical experts should be the one to be able to continue that debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just ask you a simple question. What's the answer?

GOODELL: The answer is the medical experts would know better than I would with respect to that.

BOLDUAN: But the NFL Players Union is demanding the league start paying attention.

DEMAURICE SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NFLPA: What I see is the need to embrace almost a decade of medical literature and then move forward.

BOLDUAN: A point echoed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters herself married to a former player.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: It is a dangerous sport. And people are going to be injured. The only question is, what are you going to do? Are you going to pay for it?

BOLDUAN (on camera): The author of that most recent study testified the findings of dementia risk, while important, don't prove a link. The players union stressed they're not looking to Congress to legislate hitting on the field but Chairman Conyers says he'll now seek records on players' head injuries to conduct an independent examination of the health risk. Something the players union would like as well.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Time now to check some of the top stories we're watching this morning.

Three men from a radical Islamic group are on the run following FBI raids in Dearborn, Michigan and Detroit. The leader of that group was killed in a firefight with federal agents during one of those raids.

Five of his followers are due in court this afternoon. They face several charges including possession and sale of firearms.

Four teens charged in the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old girl could appear in court today. The indictment happened -- the incident, pardoned me, happened outside the girl's high school homecoming dance in Richmond, California.

Police arrested three of the suspects Tuesday night. A fifth person arrested, a 21-year-old man, is also in custody but has not been charged. The police expect to make more arrests. The girl was released from the hospital yesterday.

Another day of traffic gridlock expected in the San Francisco bay area today. Crews still working to repair the damage San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. Live pictures for you there now. 5,000 pounds of metal fell from the span onto the roadway Tuesday night.

State transportation officials are urging commuters to plan alternative routes. The 73-year-old bridge carries an average of 280,000 vehicles every day.

Weighing a new strategy for Afghanistan and a possible deployment of thousands of more troops. We'll hear from two congressmen who served in the region to hear their take on the way forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Let's quickly take a look at the new developments this morning in Afghanistan. Another U.S. service member is dead. Killed in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan. This is the deadliest month, in fact, for U.S. troops there since operations began in 2001.

President Obama was at Dover Air Force Base overnight to honor fallen troops from Afghanistan. The bodies of 18 Americans killed in the country came home. That includes the three DEA agents who died in a helicopter crash on Monday.

President Obama expected to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House tomorrow. The president is getting their input on the possible new strategy for Afghanistan. That plan could include as many as 40,000 new troops.

California representative Duncan D. Hunter served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan as a marine. Pennsylvania representative Joe Sestak is a former three-star admiral who led operations both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. He is now planning a run for the Senate.

We appreciate both of you being here. We appreciate your service as well. Thanks for joining us today.

Let me get to this with you, Congressman Hunter. As we said you served as a marine in Afghanistan. You think President Obama needs to definitely send more troops. What are your ideas on how many and when?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: You know, first off, we're just congressmen. We were in the military but it's not our job to be saying what we should be doing tactically. That's General McChrystal's job. That's why the president put him there. That's why he is. He is arguably the foremost expert on Afghanistan in the entire military. Literally. He is arguably the smartest guy. So let's...

COLLINS: So then it sounds easy. Don't you just -- don't you just take his recommendations and go?

HUNTER: Take -- yes. Absolutely. Take his recommendation if you want to win -- if you want to do what the administration talked about earlier this year if Afghanistan is the central front for the war on terror and we want to win there and we can win there, let's do what it takes to win and that's follow General McChrystal's recommendations.

And, you know, 40,000 troops, that's his median number. I think that there's higher numbers in his findings. 40,000 is what we're all talking about. But that's the minimum.

COLLINS: Right. Right. Well, Representative Sestak, it's obviously a good point. There's a lot to talk about with letting generals run wars and giving them what they need. But you don't think it's as easy as that, correct? REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: No. I was on the ground in Afghanistan early in the war but I was also very fortunate to have worked in the White House for President Clinton as director of defense policy. I do think a president, a commander in chief, has to look at not just what his general tells him for Afghanistan but he has to look at the whole of the national security fabric.

For example, over the last 4 1/2 years we cannot meet any other op-plan or war plan, an arsenal of war plans, because our army is in such a state of poor readiness. Now he has to take that and other elements into consideration. And he should. I liked his approach.

But I do believe we should come to closure. And I am supportive of a measure to increase but I'm supportive of a measured increase for one goal. The eradication of the al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan. There's no more al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We need to ensure we also have benchmarks to measure success or failure that can trigger an exit strategy or alternative strategy if the cost becomes more than the benefit.

We have to measure that. Leaving behind a society that if we had not gone to that tragic misadventure in Iraq we could have secured this place by now but one that is opposed to re-entry of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We can't nation build now. It's gone too far south. It's not worth the cost.

But I support a measure to increase because I think the general does have the right approach of a counterinsurgency that we can eradicate those who planned against us and did for 9/11.

COLLINS: Obviously, there will be people who disagree with you about Iraq until, you know, the sun sets but I think some of the questions today and with the point that we're at with the Afghanistan war certainly circle around September 11th.

Representative Hunter, what do you say to the people who say this Afghanistan war is not winnable?

HUNTER: It is winnable because, one, you know, people like to use what I've heard called as the graveyard of analogies and that's Russia couldn't do it, Alexander the Great couldn't do it, the Brits couldn't do it. How can we win in Afghanistan?

One, we are not occupiers. We are liberators over there. And for us to stabilize Pakistan, to make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for those who would destabilize a nuclear Pakistan. It's a very strategic place, I think, in the international role for national security. You have Iran to the west, you know, former satellite states north.

You have China there to the northeast. It's extremely important that we stabilize Afghanistan so as not to destabilize Pakistan. I mean it's -- it is winnable. If we don't win there, it's going to become a petri dish for al Qaeda and other terrorists.

No, I don't like to be one of these folks who always say, you know, watch out for another 9/11 but that's what we're talking about here. We're talking about, you know, an actual place where you are going to be people training to have another 9/11. And -- I mean that's a very real scenario, very serious.

It is winnable. We just have to give -- and we talk about an incremental troop increase. I don't think incrementalism is a way to go. I think Vietnam taught us that. Iraq taught us that. If we're going to win, let's win big. Let's surge. Let's do it. Get it done. The more people we get over there, , the faster we win this thing and faster we'll be coming home.

COLLINS: It's a good question. This has to be the last word. Forgive me, Representative Sestak, but how much time do we have to make this decision? We're on the sixth meeting for the president with military commanders tomorrow.

SESTAK: I think strongly that the president has to come to closure here within this week. It's time. He's had the information. You notice today that what he's doing is focusing upon local entities. A new study by Friday that will say we can't rely upon a corrupt central government. That's not a partner. It'll really be the warlords.

And remember, there's only 20,000 Taliban that are in Afghanistan. This isn't like Russia. Russia killed 1 million Afghanis. They dislocated from the homes 5 million. It gave rise to an insurrection of 250,000. Seventy percent of those 20,000 Taliban are there for wage, not ideology. We have an opportunity here. It's not a large window. And I think we need, after having due deliberation -- I think he's done it well -- I want my commander in chief before he places our men and women in harm's way more to think it through and other things that are going on throughout the world...

COLLINS: Guys...

SESTAK: ... but now is the time, I think, that we can reeliminate al Qaeda and have a place where ideological -- radical Islamists are not on hold. Or in charge.

COLLINS: All right. To the two of you, we certainly appreciate the discussion. We like seeing you sit next to each other as well from the Republican side of things and Democrat side of things. Thank you so much, gentlemen. Representative Duncan D. Hunter and Representative Joe Sestak. Thanks again.

SESTAK: Thank you.

HUNTER: Thanks.

COLLINS: After weeks of debating and compromising, House members have come up with one plan to overhaul health care, and Democratic leaders getting ready to unveil it. Live pictures for you. Bring it to you in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Quickly want to take you to Nancy Pelosi. We're listen to this new version that's being unveiled right now by the House. Health care reform. Let's listen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE (D-CA): Social Security and then Medicare and now universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans.


We are brought to this historic moment for our nation and our families because of the work of our three great chairmen of the committees in House. Chairman Charlie Rangel of Ways and Means.

Thank you, Mr. Rangel.


Chairman Henry Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.


And I think that George Mitchell -- George Miller has a hearing, Chairman George Miller has a hearing, as do some of our other chairs and other members. They're in hearings because the work of Congress does not stop just because we have an important message to give to you.

But I am very grateful for the cross-section of members that we have -- generationally, geographically, philosophically, in every way, from all of the committees of jurisdiction that worked on this legislation and also members of the caucus who participated over and over again under the leadership of our chairman, John Larson, and our vice chair, Xavier Becerra.

So here we are. For nearly a century -- it's really over a century -- leaders of all political parties, starting over a century ago with President Theodore Roosevelt, have called and fought for health care and health insurance reform.

Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans, laying the foundation for a brighter future for generations to come.


The Affordable Health Care for America Act is founded on key principles of American success: opportunity, choice, competition and innovation. We have listened to the American people, we are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges. And we are putting it online for all Americans to see.

Here's what our health insurance reform legislation will mean to American families, workers and the economy.

Thank you, insurance companies of America. (LAUGHTER)


This is why this legislation is important: affordability for our middle class. It lowers costs for every patient, reins in premiums, co-pays and deductibles, limits out-of-pocket costs, and lifts the capon what insurance companies cover each year.

Affordability for the middle class, security for (inaudible)seniors: by strengthening Medicare secures the financial stability and solvency of Medicare for years to come, provides seniors with better benefits and guaranteed access to their doctors.

And in this legislation, we will immediately begin to close the doughnut hole.


Affordability to the middle class, security for our seniors, responsibility to our children. It reduces the deficit, meets President Obama's call to keep the cost under $900 billion over 10years, and it insures 36 million more Americans -- 36 million more.


As I said, the bill is fiscally sound, will not add one dime to the deficit, as it expands coverage, implements key insurance reforms and promotes prevention and wellness across the health system.

The bill will expand coverage, including a public option to boost choice and competition in the health insurance reform (sic).


It covers 96 percent of all Americans, and it puts affordable coverage in reach for millions of uninsured and underinsured families, lowering health care costs for all of us.


One other very important feature is that it will end discrimination for preexisting medical conditions.


It opens doors to quality medical care to those who are shut out of the system for far too long.

And because of the work of our members and -- meetings across the country, we know that prevention and wellness are an important part of this legislation. It puts a major new emphasis on preventative care, expands access to screenings and other treatments to keep Americans healthy and promote workplace wellness.

The drive for health care reform is moving forward. The Affordable Health Care Act will ensure, again, affordability for the middle class, security for our seniors, and responsibility to our children.

As we consider -- continue to move through the legislative process, it is critical to remember what this means to the American people. Today we will hear stories that serve as our inspiration. We will listen to people whose hopes are our motives for action.

Our president has said our success will be -- our progress will be measured by the success of America's families in making progress for themselves. And so these stories are a place that need our attention, will have our action, and we look forward to hearing them.

I have -- we are very proud of the work of everyone in our caucus and all the staff that's been extraordinary. The public's input has been absolutely necessary.

But a key player from the start, working with our three chairmen, coordinating that effort so that we would arrive at something historic, something that changes the way business is done in Washington, D.C., by having these three committees work together and come together with a bill to make significant change for the better for the American people -- it simply would not have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of our great majority leader, Steny Hoyer.


REP. STENY HOYER, MAJORITY LEADER (D-MD): What a day. What a day for America and what a day for all of our people.

This day would not have happened had it not been for the indefatigable leadership and focus and work of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.


Today, we are one step further on a long, hard road: the road to bring quality, affordable health care to every one of our fellow citizens. But in this Congress, we're here to introduce a new health insurance reform bill, thanks to the commitment to this cause shared by every member of our caucus.

I told members of the press and the public over and over and over again there is not one member of our caucus, from every region of the country, who did not say to us, "We need to adopt health care reform. For Americans struggling with the cost of health care, this is an urgently needed bill."

But befitting the importance of this legislation, the process of putting it together has been deliberative, transparent and open; the most deliberative, transparent and open process I have seen for any bill in my 29-year career.

We have held over 100 hearings on health care since 2007. This year alone, under the leadership of the chairman of our caucus, John Larson, we've held close to 3,000 health care events in our districts in every part of our country.

Three committees have spent 160 hours of hearings under the leadership of Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman and George Miller. Markups on health care legislation have been held openly with all types of amendments offered and discussed.

Much of the legislation that's being announced today has been available for review and comment for over three months online so that every American could read it and give us their input. And the members of the Democratic Caucus have listened to our public.

And, yes, we're here at a historic time, when for over half a century a family elected by their citizens to come to this Congress have raised the banner of health care for all that they could afford. I want to congratulate my friend, the principal sponsor of this legislation, John Dingell of Michigan.


We will keep our promise and commitment to the integrity of this process by making the bill's full text, which will be online, as the speaker said, as we speak, and the manager's amendment, to make sure we have this exactly right, publicly available for 72 hours before the members are asked to vote, and by ensuring a full floor debate.

Health insurance reform has come through all that scrutiny and debate a stronger, better bill because this is an idea whose time has come, this is an idea that we will enact, this is an idea that will lift up all Americans and give them the affordable, quality healthcare that they can count on.


We know that seniors in America are particularly concerned with health care. I'm one of those seniors.


HOYER: Don't tell anybody, please.

Here to talk about seniors being advantaged by the passage of this bill is my good friend, a member of the Education and Labor Committee -- deeply involved in the fashioning of this bill - the gentle-lady from New Hampshire, Carol Shea-Porter.



REP. CAROL SHEA-PORTER (D-NH): Good morning.

I'm very pleased to have a senior with me from the great state of New Hampshire. Priscilla King and her husband Bernie have been hurt by the Medicare Part D prescription drug doughnut hole. And so I'm honored to introduce her to tell her story.

Can you please come up, Priscilla?

And thank you for being here.


PRISCILLA KING, ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS: My name is Priscilla King. I am 70 years old, and a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans from Bow, New Hampshire.

My husband, Bernie, and I have been struggling for years to afford our prescription drugs. Between the two of us we must take 13different medications each day, sometimes two or three times a day.

We live on Social Security, and after all the bills are paid, we have less than $100 each week for food and gas and everything else.

I am proud that my state's representative, Carol Shea-Porter, is helping to make prescription drugs more affordable, and by closing the Medicare doughnut hole.


We have gone into debt because of the times we have fallen into the doughnut hole. I think it's wrong that when you're in the doughnut hole you must keep paying your premiums but get no benefits in return.

Can you imagine buying a meal at a restaurant but only getting an empty plate?

COLLINS: All right, giving you a big of the flavor of this unveiling. Of course, we've been telling you all morning long that we would hear this today. Now listening to some personal stories there.

But this is the new version -- the House version, I should say. House Democrats unveiling their idea for health care reform. All taking place in a very famous area in Washington. The west front of the U.S. Capitol. This is where President Obama took his oath of office.

Listening now to some of the representatives who are proud of their work today. First off, we heard from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then Steny Hoyer to get some of the details, anyway, of how this will look.

And our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is there as well to help us wade through some of what we have just learned. And Brianna, you did a great job earlier laying out what we expected to hear. We did hear some of those things. But this idea of the negotiated rate public option is what is, I think, going to generate a lot of questions from the American people today upon this new information.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a really teetailed (ph) aspect of explaining what the public option is, but basically, a more liberal form of the public option would have been just to base how you reimburse hospitals and doctors on Medicare rates. Say, "Doctors and hospitals, we're going to pay you this amount of money," and it's set.

A more watered-down version of the public option would allow the federal government instead to negotiate those rates, and those rates could be higher. So, that's really considered a more moderate version of this. That's what they're going with. And they had to go with it. Speaker Pelosi had to go with it because she had to get some moderate Democrats on board, and they weren't going to go for that more liberal public option.

So, you've got that, Heidi. Very important for our viewers. Like the other bills, this one says to insurance companies, "You cannot deny insurance coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition."

And then let's talk a little bit about the money of this. This is a bill that falls under that cutoff point that President Obama said. Nine hundred billion dollars, he said, is the max. This sort of by the skin of its teeth. Eight hundred ninety-four billion dollar. As we heard Speaker Pelosi say, it's deficit-neutral. That means it doesn't add to the deficit. We'll be bringing you more details about what's in this bill as its posted online very soon, Heidi.

COLLINS: OK. Well then, my question would be -- because we know what the Senate version is that we've been looking at for quite some time -- some of the criticism that came out was that there are still 25 million Americans who are not going to be covered. When you get that price tag under the $900 billion, and even though we're hearing there from Washington today from Speaker Pelosi that 36 million more Americans will be covered, are there a significant number of people in this plan that will also still be left out?

KEILAR: According to the numbers that have come out or that were being quoted by Democratic officials, CBO, which is that number cruncher for Congress, the Congressional Budget Office, says 96 percent of Americans will be covered under this bill. That is higher by a couple percentage points than the Senate bill. So, it says 36 million more Americans will be covered, but no doubt 4 percent of Americans not covered. There will be millions of Americans who are not be covered.

COLLINS: All right. Brianna Keilar, just getting the details now. We continue to wade through them. Sure do appreciate it from Washington this morning.

Need to get to this breaking news as well right now. A short time ago, a shooting at a synagogue in North Hollywood. Los Angeles police say two men have been shot in the legs and taken to the hospital. Pictures from our affiliate KTLA show a suspect being taken away in handcuffs. Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. We will pass on more details as soon as we get them.

Also want to make sure we get to this. We have a response to today's Democratic health care bill unveiling from the House. Mike Pence is going to be joining us. Republican from Indiana in just a moment.


COLLINS: Back to this breaking news right now. A short time ago, a shooting at a synagogue in North Hollywood. Los Angeles police say two men have been shot in the legs and taken to the hospital. Pictures from our affiliate that we're looking at here show a suspect being taken away in handcuffs. Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. We'll pass along any more details as soon as we get them.

Meanwhile, want to get back to another story we've been covering all morning long. Want to get the Republican reaction to the House Democratic health care proposal that we just heard about.

Live from the steps of the Capitol there, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is on Capitol Hill for us with more from his perspective and the party's perspective. You heard the announcement coming from Nancy Pelosi and from Steny Hoyer. Right out of the gate, what are concerns of the Republican party because obviously we didn't see any Republicans there today.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: No, you didn't, Heidi. Thanks for having us on.

I was struck by the tone of the press conference. It seemed more like a victory lap after a bill is passed than when one is introduced. But sometimes it's a good idea to take a victory lap if you're not sure you're going to make it to the finish line. I expect Democrats really understand that this $900 billion bill that could go over a trillion dollars if they add in their fix for the so-called "doughnut hole" or if they added back in the "doc fix," which is a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next ten years -- this could go well, well beyond the president's threshold number.

And it seemed like this is more about building momentum behind what I think the American people really rejected this summer. This is just another version now lurching out of the back rooms after weeks of closed-door negotiations. It just looks like another freight train of big government with more taxes, more mandates and more spending, and that's not what the American people want in health care reform.

COLLINS: So, what you're saying is even though it's under the $900 billion price tag the president was hoping for, that there could be more costs that would be worked in later before final passage of this. Are you talking about the taxes then that will be put on the wealthy Americans?

PENCE: We're digging into it just like you are at CNN right now. It's 2,000 pages long. It includes the word -- I know this so far -- it includes the word shall 3,425 times. This really is a government takeover of health care in America. I think as the American people dig into this, it's going to become more obvious that this is a massive new bureaucracy.

The taxes you talk about, at least what's being reported in the news, the so-called surtax -- half of that surtax is going to fall on small business owners filing as individuals in this country, and so, it appears for all of the world like a massive government-run insurance plan paid for with a freight train of mandates and taxes and bureaucracy.

And Republicans are going to continue to raise the curtain on our plan. We really believe that the American people deserve health care reform that allows them to purchase health insurance across state lines. Does medical malpractice reform...

COLLINS: But there will be some who say, as reported earlier, you know, Democrats don't think they need the Republican support on this.

PENCE: Well, you know, there's a minority of Republicans in Congress, and that's technically true.

But I always tell people a minority in Congress plus the American people equals a majority. The Democrats may be able to pass this government-run insurance plan that will lead to a government takeover without Republicans, but they can't pass it without the American people.

I think when the American people get a look at this massive bill, you know -- I got to say one positive thing, Heidi. Republicans and a few Democrats were fighting to get at least a 72-hour waiting period on this bill, and it looks like we have gotten that...

COLLINS: Yes, we did hear that.

PENCE: ... We are going to get at least a week to look at this 2,000-page bill. That's still going to be kind of tough to digest.

COLLINS: Well, and what about the pre-existing condition idea? That is also in there.

PENCE: Yes. You know what? That's something that I think could be a part of bipartisan consensus. I know -- my own family had to go on a state guarantee fund in Indiana when I lost my job about 15 years ago and my wife was pregnant. We can work together in a way that's fiscally responsible to deal with pre-existing conditions, but a massive new government-run insurance plan paid for with hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes is not the answer.

COLLINS: Well, everyone will look at it very, very closely. It's many pages long. We just wanted to make sure that we give equal time here the best we can.

Representative Mike Pence. Republican from Indiana, thanks so much for your time.

Again, it's the main story of the day. We continue to follow it here. I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Tony Harris.