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The Situation Room
New Breakthrough For Autism?; President Obama's Winter of Discontent?; Dramatic Rise in Autism; Sources: President Obama Close to Climate Deal; 'Strategy Session'
Aired December 18, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Deal or no deal? President Obama is staring at the prospect of success or the possibility of failure on two of his top priorities.
The weather outside is about to be frightful, a monster storm forecast to slam the East Coast with up to two feet of snow, including right here in Washington, D.C. Holiday travelers could be in for the worst.
And one in every 110 children with autism, that disturbing estimate coming out, as we meet a boy previously said to be autistic now to be said autism-free. Can intensive therapy offer a breakthrough?
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama could suffer a long winter of discontent. Right now, he faces the prospect of being frozen out on two things he really wants, here in Washington, a deal on health care reform, and, in Copenhagen, a deal on climate change at those climate talks. There's been deep divisions between the rich nations and the poor nations and discord between China and the United States, all of what could potentially scuttle a deal that President Obama flew all the way to Copenhagen for, trying desperately right now in these minutes to secure it.
We're waiting for a news conference with the president. We will have a live report from Copenhagen straight ahead. And once the president speaks to reporters, you will see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That is coming up.
In the meantime, the deal-making is equally frantic and the stakes equally high right here in Washington. The president and many Democrats hope for a health care bill by Christmas. Could yet another Democratic senator right now be standing in their way?
Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has the latest.
What is the latest, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that key Democrat we're now talking about, Wolf, is Senator Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska.
He is now the last known Democratic holdout on the health care reform bill. And while he has many objections over this health care bill, his main one is over abortion. He is an anti-abortion Democrat, and he is worried about what's in this bill. He wants to toughen it up, put some more restrictions in there, make sure that no taxpayer dollars go to pay for abortion.
Now, he's been laying low, but we have been waiting outside of his office now for the past couple of days. He actually met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, and he said they're trying to bridge this divide, Wolf. But it's very unclear if they are going to be able to do that in time for a tentative schedule than been laid out.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is hoping for a key test vote on all of these updates to this health care reform bill by very early Monday morning, 1:00 a.m. Monday morning, if you can believe that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I can believe it, because they're desperately trying to wrap it up in the Senate before Christmas Eve.
Where is the bill, though, right now? Have we seen the actual text of this bill?
KEILAR: We have not seen the actual text of all of the changes that have been made to the bill. These are the changes that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put in there in his effort to try and get all of his liberals and his moderates on board, so that he can get to that key 60-vote mark that he needs to reach in order to pass that.
The other thing that we haven't seen, Wolf, is the all-important price tag on what an updated bill would look like. We're still waiting for those numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This is very important, to keep it at a certain level to get all of the 60 senators on board that are needed.
And we could be seeing those numbers as well as the updated bill tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: Republicans certainly aren't making it easy for the Harry Reid and the Democrats to get their final vote in the Senate by Christmas Eve.
KEILAR: No, and this is the drama that's unfolding. As there is this deadline looming, and as we are expecting perhaps a couple feet of snow here in D.C. that could even slow things down, Republicans are really using the rules of the Senate to drag things out as long as possible.
They're actually saying that they will want all of these changes to the bill read out loud. We understand this is about 500 pages, that this will take about 10 hours. So, it's very possible that's what we see happening on the Senate floor tomorrow, that entire -- all of the updates to this bill being read for hours on end. BLITZER: All right, right, Brianna, we're going to stay in close touch with you. Thank you.
Washington, D.C., is set to become the next place where gays can get married. Today, the mayor, Adrian Fenty, signed a same-sex marriage bill. The D.C. City Council passed it this week. The next step, members of Congress have 30 days to review the measure. It's considered unlikely they would block it. Washington's mayor says the measure is historic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADRIAN FENTY (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: Marriage inequality is a civil rights, political, social, moral and religious issue in this country and in many nations. And, as I sign this act into law, the District of Columbia, from this day forward, will set the tone for other jurisdictions to follow in creating an open and inclusive city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There are other jurisdictions allowing same-sex marriage. It's legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa. A law legalizing gay marriage in New Hampshire takes effect January 1.
Virginia declares a state of emergency to help it prepare for a monster storm forecast to slam that state, as well as others along the East Coast. Right here in Washington, D.C. -- get this -- there could be two feet of snow. Other places are bracing for the storm. They include the Carolinas, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
This likely could not come at a worse time, this being the last weekend for travel before Christmas, lots of shopping supposed to take place this weekend as well.
Let's go to Brian Todd. He's over at Reagan National Airport here in Washington.
Reagan -- Brian, this situation is going to cause a lot of concern for travelers and potential travelers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
The story here at this hour is one of anticipation, as this airport and the others in this area get ready for this major storm to come. Right now, no major delays either here at Reagan National or at Washington Dulles.
And we're going to show you why. Our photojournalist, Ken Tooey (ph), is going to pan to his left, show you the tarmac out here at Reagan National, as people head down the escalators and go to their gates. No snow here yet. The terminal is very -- almost empty right now. The conditions are very dry right now. The planes are all taking off pretty much on time. The forecast, though, as you mentioned, a foot or more of snow in this area, possibly up to two feet. And one airline told us that, in anticipation of that, the flights today are pretty full, and many passengers are have told they are moving up their flights in order to beat this storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a taste. People are going to be in for an interesting weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't exactly know when the storm is, but I'm just getting out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We changed our flight to get out a day early, so we could avoid the snow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to the Florida Keys, but there's no snow there, because it's really sunny. If there were snow there, then it would probably melt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: People here hoping it melts sooner, rather than later. But it's going to be bad before it gets better. An airport authority official has given us some very crucial information here, Wolf. He the passengers -- she says the passengers have to check with their airlines starting tomorrow morning, because that's when the cancellations are going to start, flights are going to be canceled probably in the overnight hours and early tomorrow morning predawn in this area.
This official told us that United Airlines is already planning to cancel some flights overnight, so check with your airlines before you go.
BLITZER: It's going to be a messy situation here on the East Coast. We're watching it closely. Brian, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is in Copenhagen at the climate change summit.
He's now reporting that President Obama is in the final stages of closing a climate change deal with China and other key nations, in these, the final hours of the summit.
A second source is telling CNN that there is -- quote -- "a meaningful agreement that the president is about to announce."
We're going to go to Copenhagen in just a few moments, get our own report, Phil Black. He is on the scene for us. We're also standing by for this news conference that President Obama is scheduled to have momentarily. You will see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM. It looks like a tentative deal has been reached in Copenhagen. We will see what it means, how significant it really is, all that coming up. Stand by. Jack Cafferty has a question for you. It involves no increases for Social Security and a very big increase for some federal agencies. Stand by for that.
And we're learning, President Obama, as I just said, is in these, the final stages of closing a deal on the climate change talks in Copenhagen. We're going there live in just a moment.
And you have heard of high credit card rates, but a bank offering an interest rate -- get this -- of almost 80 percent? How can this happen here in the United States of America?
BLITZER: Just recapping our top story, it looks like they have reached some sort of deal in Copenhagen. The president is ready to announce what has been achieved. We're going to go there just in a few moments.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty, though, for "The Cafferty File" right now.
Jack, what's going on?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It happened quietly at the White House this week, almost like they didn't want us to notice.
President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill which increases budgets of many federal agencies by about 10 percent. The bill includes $450 billion for the operating budgets of different departments. Among those seeing increases, the FBI, Veterans Health Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.
Democrats say the spending is critical in order to help the economy out of the recession, but Republicans are slamming what they call out-of-control spending and criticizing about $4 billion going to more than 5,000 earmarks requested by individual lawmakers. Doesn't exactly sound like the change President Obama promised, does it?
One watchdog group says the earmark projects include the construction of a Kentucky farmers market, the renovation of a historic theater in New York, and the restoration of a Rhode Island mill. The bill also approves a 2 percent pay raise for federal workers.
Meanwhile, 50 million Americans receiving Social Security won't be getting any increase next year for the first time in more than three decades. So, nothing for the country's seniors, but there's always money for more government.
Here's the question. Do some federal agencies deserve a 10 percent budget increase when people on Social Security get no increase at all?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you. We are going to get back to you in a moment.
But I want to go to Copenhagen right now, the breaking news coming out of Copenhagen. Looks there's some sort of deal that has been achieved.
Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is on the scene. He's joining us on the phone.
Ed, what do we know?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president is about to come out. We have got a small group of reporters waiting for him in Copenhagen before he heads back to Washington. We're expecting him in the next couple of moments.
And what he's going to announce, according to two officials, two U.S. officials, he's going to announce that there has been an agreement reached here in the final hours of this two-week summit to basically set a nonbinding goal of reducing the Earth's temperature by two degrees Celsius over the next decade.
One of the officials told us that the president in the last hour or so has been working furiously behind the scenes with Chinese, Brazilian, Indian officials, others, trying to basically work out the final language of this.
I think the significance is that it is a breakthrough, but, on the other hand, it's much, much less ambitious than what the president and the other key leaders had set out to achieve initially.
It does, as far as we can tell from the early stages of this, set any specific carbon emission cuts for these countries to follow through on to reach that nonbinding goal of reducing the Earth's temperature by two degrees.
That's what's going to be key, is when the president comes out and explains exactly how he believes we're going to reach that goal. Again, it's a nonbinding goal. There had been earlier drafts of this agreement that were suggesting that the leaders would have to come back by the end of 2010 that would be legally binding that they had to come back with carbon emission cuts to show exactly what they were going to do in the years ahead to reach this goal.
So, immediately what we're going to have to find out from environmental groups is whether they believe that this is -- is just too shallow, if it's just too broad and not specific enough and not binding enough to make sure that it's actually enforced, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to check all those details and get back to you. I know the president is getting ready to brief reporters on this agreement, on this deal. We will have much more on this story coming up. Ed's going into that briefing with the president right now.
Hundreds of patients say an Indiana doctor botched their surgeries, and he's been on the run now for more than five years. Authorities finally capture him. You're going to find out where. That's coming up.
And holiday travel can be crowded and stressful, so why is the queen of England taking a train? The story, that is coming up as well.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A credit card outrage. A bank is offering a card with an interest rate of nearly 80 percent. Yes, you heard that right. Under new federal protections for consumers, a number of controversial practices will be banned come February, but interest rates won't be capped.
Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is joining us now to explain.
Gerri, I guess a lot of folks are asking the question, how is this possible?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, this is one that even the industry experts are shaking their heads at.
First Premier Bank -- that's a South Dakota credit card issuer that targets people with poor credit scores -- as you say, is charging a 79.9 interest rate on cards. And that is the highest we have ever heard from.
According to experts, the subprime card issuer boosted rates as a way of making up profits expected to be lost once the new cards act goes into effect in February. Now, the new law, as you say, doesn't cap interest rates, though it caps other fees.
Banks have been complaining that the consumer-friendly rules will hurt their bottom line. Let's break this down.
If you had a $500 balance at a 79.99 APR and made only the minimum payment, you would pay $349 in interest in the first year. But by making the minimum payment, you would take 29 years and three months to pay off the balance, and you would have paid $3,200 in interest.
Experts say that, as we get closer to the February 21 deadline for compliance, more and more card issuers will try to squeeze out as much in profits as they can. And that means higher interest rates. Subprime credit cards will see significantly higher rates, 35 to 40 percent, maybe even higher. Regular prime credit cards could see rates of 16 to 17 percent on average by the end of the year.
Look, if you do have the right to opt out of the increased rate, you won't be able to use the card going forward. So consumers here are very much in a tight situation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The regular -- I just want to be precise. The regular prime credit rates, you say, could see 16 percent or 17 percent; is that right?
WILLIS: Correct, on average.
BLITZER: All right.
So, what can people out there who are watching do to help protect themselves?
WILLIS: Well, as we say, everything is moving very quickly. You can expect a lot, from lowered credit limits to interest rate changes and increased minimum payment amounts. Even if something looks like junk mail from your card issuer this year, don't throw it away. They're probably talking to you about changes in the terms of your card. You definitely need to read it so you can at least be informed about what the changes might be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Gerri, thanks. Good advice from Gerri. She always gives us good advice.
Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. Hello to you.
And hello, everyone.
Yemeni officials confirm a top al Qaeda figure has been killed in an airstrike. CNN has learned that Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al- Kazemi died in attacks yesterday in the southern part of the country. Officials say the strikes targeted a training camp and were the largest against the terrorist group in Yemen this year.
An update on the Brazilian boy who had 42 sewing needles pushed into his body. Doctors are prepping the 2-year-old for emergency surgery to remove a pin that punctured his heart and other needles threatening vital organs as well. Police say the toddler's stepfather admitted to inserting what he called the blessed needles in a series of bizarre rituals.
And an Indiana doctor facing fraud charges has been found in Europe after being on the lam for five years. Mark Weinberger was arrested on a mountain in Northern Italy. Three hundred patients say Weinberger misdiagnosed them or performed incorrect or botched surgeries. The doctor disappeared while traveling with his wife in Greece. She has since filed for divorce -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Fred, thank you.
A sign of the tough economic times, perhaps. The queen of England heading away for a Christmas holiday, not in a royal carriage, not on a private jet, but on a public train.
Abbi Tatton is joining us now with more on the story. Abbi, what's going on in England?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Her royal highness, Wolf, slumming it on public transport with the rest of us, but not quite. She was actually in a first-class carriage. As you can see there, the queen peering out of a window.
That was her arriving at King's Cross Station there, ready with her head scarf on, for the 95-minute journey to King's Lynn to Sandringham House, where she spends the Christmas holidays.
She does have a royal train available to her, but in this case she chose to travel with her subjects, and, in so doing, saved them all a considerable amount of money. This is the royal train here. It has an office, a queen's salon, a bedroom, a sitting room and a heavy price tag of about $90,000 per journey.
Over here on public transport, there she is getting on the 10:45 a.m. to King's Lynn. And that costs about $70 to the taxpayer there, rather considerable savings. The royals have been criticized in the last few years for the hefty price tag of their travel, over $10 million in the last year, but, in this case, Wolf, you cannot fault the queen on choosing the slightly cheaper option, just slightly.
BLITZER: When you were a little girl growing up in England, you took the train, public transport, I take it.
BLITZER: All right.
TATTON: You think I have got a royal train?
BLITZER: No royal trains.
TATTON: Nothing like it.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks.
A dramatic rise in autism cases being reported today by the CDC. We have more on what is going on -- plus, one mom's fight against those statistics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Julie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Jake.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you're the best!
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Is it possible to recover from autism? We have this family's incredible story.
Also, climate change and health care. Did President Obama try to take on too much?
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Iraq's prime minister calls an emergency meeting of its national security council, accusing Iran of seizing one of its oil wells. We will have the latest on the situation from Baghdad. That is coming up.
Why does the nation's capital want to charge a volunteer group tens of thousands of dollars to hold a free medical clinic? We're digging into that story for you.
And what could be a fire danger for many homeowners, major concerns about some of the materials used during the nation's housing boom.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We just want to remind you that we're awaiting President Obama's statement. He's about to speak to reporters in Copenhagen on this apparent climate deal. How significant of a deal is it? What -- what does it really mean? We will go to Copenhagen, hear from the president here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.
In the meantime, a report out today shows a staggering increase in autism, especially in boys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds a 57 percent increase in new cases in just six years. One in 110 children now have autism. That's up from the previous estimate of 100 -- one in 150. About one in 70 boys and one in 315 girls has autism.
But the CDC says it is not known whether the increase is due to more kids developing autism or solely to changes in awareness and identification. One thing that is known is that early and intensive therapy can certainly help.
CNN's Kiran Chetry has one mom's amazing story.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a baby, Jake Exkorn was everything his parents hoped for -- happy and healthy.
KAREN SIFF EXKORN, JAKE'S MOTHER: He hit all the developmental milestones. He walked, he talked, he played.
CHETRY: But at 17 months, the light began to fade from Jake's face. K. EXKORN: At first he stopped responding to his name. And then he stopped playing. Then, by his second birthday, he stopped speaking entirely.
CHETRY: Karen worried it may be a hearing problem or a speech delay.
K. EXKORN: I never expected to hear the words "Your child has autism."
CHETRY (on camera): And what was that like to hear?
K. EXKORN: I was completely devastated. It meant that there was no hope for my son, and, yet, I was determined to help my son in any way that I could.
I knew that I wanted a treatment for Jake that had science behind it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake, do this.
J. EXKORN: And a lot of treatments don't. But the one that had the most science behind it was a treatment called ABA (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. Good.
CHETRY (voice-over): ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, is an intensive approach that uses repetition and rewards to teach autistic children the things that come naturally to most kids.
J. EXKORN: We wanted to teach Jake to respond to his name. So we'd say "Jake" and we take an M&M and we hold it up just between our eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake. Good looking, good boy.
CHETRY: Day after day, 40 hours a week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say "eye." Eye. Very good.
CHETRY: They plugged away, hoping to help Jake relearn what autism had taken away.
J. EXKORN: Going into this, there were no guarantees. Nobody ever mentioned the word recovery to us, so that wasn't our goal, ever.
CHETRY: And there continue to be no guarantees, but for the first time, a new study shows that early intervention therapy can improve language skills and behavior and raise IQ giving hope to parents of children with autism.
GERALD DAWSON, AUTISM SPEAKS: What we know is that if children receive early, intensive behavioral intervention, some of the children do lose their diagnosis. CHETRY: Geraldine Dawson is the chief scientist for the advocacy group Autism Speaks. She helped design the study and says symptoms of autism can begin as early as eight months.
DAWSON: So the most important thing is to be alert for those symptoms and then get into intervention right away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good for you.
CHETRY: Jake after a year of ABA therapy, showed progress.
JULIE: My name is Julie.
JAKE EXKORN, DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM: My name is Jake.
JULIE: Oh, you're the best.
CHETRY: Then at age 4, a turning point. When Karen took him for ice cream and without prompting, Jake told the man what flavor he wanted -- nilla.
K. EXKORN: The man had no idea that this was like this defining moment in my life. But this was huge. This was huge and this marked the beginning of spontaneous language for Jake.
CHETRY: What soon followed was an even bigger milestone when at Jake's four-year checkup, Karen was told her son no longer had symptoms of autism. The doctor said Jake had recovered.
(on camera): Did you believe it?
K. EXKORN: You know, hearing her say that, blew me away in the same way as when I heard her say the diagnosis.
CHETRY (voice-over): Today, Jake is a thriving 13-year-old. He plays basketball, football, and is every bit the typical teenage boy.
J. EXKORN: I like to hang out with my friends. I don't love to study. You know, sometimes I have to. I would describe myself as outgoing, athletic and nice.
CHETRY: A dramatic transformation for a family who once thought they lost their little boy to autism.
J. EXKORN: I don't think about too much of what I do. It is kind of crazy, but my mom and dad put in a lot of effort into it, and so did I. And it paid off.
CHETRY: In Sparkhill, New York, Kiran Chetry, CNN.
BLITZER: What a positive story that is. Good work.
Thank you, Kiran, for doing that reporting.
President Obama working right now for climate and health care deals. Here's the question: Is he taking on too much?
We're going to talk about that with our senior political analysts, David Gergen and Gloria Borger. They're both here live.
Plus, another deadly suicide bombing in Pakistan. Once again, a mosque is the target.
And we're watching the frightful weather moving in and about to slam the East Coast, including Washington and New York.
BLITZER: President Obama says the negotiators at the climate change summit in Copenhagen have reached what he calls a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.
Let's talk about what's going on there, the political fallout for the president.
Joining us now, our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen.
It seems wherever there are these big conferences, David -- I've covered a lot of them over the years -- it always looked very gloomy near the end, but then, all of a sudden, deal.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it has this roller-coaster feel, doesn't it, Wolf? And in this case, you know, we still don't know the details, but it does appear that the leaders, with President Obama there, have averted a disaster.
This looked like chaos only 24 hours ago and, indeed, much of today has been very fluid. What we don't know is whether it's a strong deal or just a moderate deal. It looks like it's going to fall short of what the environmentalists would like.
For example, there was going to be a commitment to have a legally-binding treaty reached by next year. That's apparently dropped from all of this. It's not clear we're going to have a way to monitor what China is doing.
In short, I think it may be very hard for the president to come back and convince the Senate, go pass this climate change bill because...
BLITZER: Because the devil is always in the details.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and they may say in fact that this is a first step towards getting some meaningful resolution to this issue, because if you can't set targets, specific targets, how can you hold countries to a goal, right? I mean, you need to kind of do that, and this may be one step shy of that. We just don't know all the details yet. BLITZER: Are there similarities here between the deal in Copenhagen on climate change and the deal that could be in the works on health care here in Washington?
BORGER: You mean, not done?
BLITZER: In the sense that it's certainly not going to be what the president really wanted, but it's going to be better than nothing.
GERGEN: I think that's true from the president's point of view. Whether the country thinks that is a different thing. On health care, increasingly, a lot of Americans are saying, you know, I'd rather have the devil we know, the status quo, than the devil we don't know, which we're -- not very appealing. But I do think what the president has discovered, it's really hard to get 60 senators to get together, and it's really hard to get 193 countries to get together, too.
BORGER: You know, it's interesting. You can't blame them for when you have a new president who has a mandate, who has control of both houses of the Congress, to say we're all in, even though there's a bad economy, we want to try and get all of these things, including climate change, including health care, including immigration reform.
But they thought health care was going to get down by August 1st, and it's not. And right now this is not a president with a 65 percent popularity rating, it's a president with a 47 percent popularity rating. It makes life very, very difficult.
GERGEN: But there's another quality about this. I think the public gets very bothered when everything seems to come together right at the end and there's a lot of confusion, and a lot of stuff, and you don't know quite what you're agreeing to.
GERGEN: And it's what's happened to the health care deal. I think people are getting scared of it in part because it has this kind of being thrown together quality. And it's going to be an interesting question if whether that is what we come out of Copenhagen with. Let's look at the deal...
BLITZER: Let's look at the details and see what they agree on in Copenhagen. Actually, it will have the support in the House of Representatives, but the Senate, it's a totally different matter.
BORGER: Well, and there's a frenetic sense to the presidency, which is that you have a president that keeps jumping in between these things, running in to save the day, whether it's in Copenhagen or coming back to cut a health care deal. Right?
BLITZER: All right. Well, we're going to stand by.
We're going to be hearing from the president shortly. He's going to be speaking with reporters, and we're going to have his Q&A with reporters. That's coming up. You'll see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Obama has apparently participated in a breakthrough -- at least that's his word -- at the climate change talks in Copenhagen. We'll hear what the president is saying to reporters. Stand by. We'll go there.
Meanwhile, the debate over global warming, whatever happens in Copenhagen is certainly heating up. Which side do you side with?
We have a debate between two men with dramatically different thoughts on climate change. Republican Senator James Inhofe, he's just back from Copenhagen. And Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, he's there right now.
BLITZER: The news that's breaking right now, President Obama has secured a climate change deal with China and other key nations at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen. We're waiting to hear from the president. He's speaking with reporters. We'll have that for you shortly.
We did get a sense of the mood though at the conference from a U.S. Senator and a congressman who attended.
I spoke to them in our "Strategy Session."
BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Congressman Markey is in Copenhagen right now. Senator Inhofe is just back from Copenhagen.
Did you get anything accomplished from your perspective while you were there, Senator?
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, first of all, I got a pretty good idea of what's going on. They're in the middle of kind of a group therapy right now.
Everyone there is hysterical, they're concerned that nothing is coming together. And my message was, Wolf, that the last time I was there was '03. That was Milan, Italy. And I read from my speech at that time, nothing had happened. And that's essentially what's -- nothing is happening now.
We have the countries, the developing nations, all thinking that they're going to come down and get a whole lot of money from the developed nations. That hasn't happened.
There's been a commitment by the president and by Hillary that, somehow, we'll come up with $100 billion a year from the developed countries, and I don't believe that's going to happen. And by the way, they're estimating a third of that would be from the United States, $30 billion a year. That's not going to happen.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Congressman Markey.
Anything happening over there, Congressman?
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, the president, in his address, made a very powerful statement about the need for transparency. And that becomes the last remaining major obstacle to reaching an agreement. And I do believe that his speech riveted this entire conference, and the Chinese and the United States are now trying to find a way of resolving that issue, but it has to be one that does guarantee transparency for the commitments that the Chinese are making.
BLITZER: Here's a clip of what the president said in Copenhagen. I want both of you to listen to this, and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is going to continue on this course of action to mitigate our missions and to move towards a clean energy economy no matter what happens here in Copenhagen. We think it is good for us, as well as good for the world. But we also believe that we will all be stronger, all be safer, all be more security if we act together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. The House of Representatives has a lopsided Democratic majority. It's already passed the House, the energy bill, the cap and trade legislation, as it's called.
Senator, do you and your fellow Republicans, backed by some Democrats, have the ability to block this legislation in the Senate?
INHOFE: Well, first of all, Wolf, you have to say not just Republicans, because at most there might be 25 votes. They need 60 votes to do it. And I have to say this, and I hate to say it in front of Ed Markey, but those bills are dead. They're not going to pass.
And I think people over there are in denial, they just don't want to admit it. But every time we have this legislation up, it is defeated by a larger and larger majority.
And only this morning, in "The Washington Post," they said only a third of Americans believe that scientists even agree that global warming is an issue and not even talking about whether it's caused by man or not. So I think that this issue, I know you can't believe that over there, because everyone's in the middle of this group therapy, but they are losing this issue. It is not going to pass the United States Senate.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman Markey, is what Senator Inhofe said true, that of this $100 billion that the developed nations are pledging to help the developing, the poor nations, that a third or so of that money will come from U.S. taxpayers between now and 2020?
MARKEY: Secretary of State Clinton said that the United States would pay its fair share. That has yet to be determined, but the key here is that we can no longer go on a course where we import $1 billion worth of oil every day from overseas, 365 days a year, $144-a- barrel oil.
That's the real tax on the Americans. We have to break our dependence upon ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia.
And what Senator Inhofe is recommending is that we just continue business as usual with our relationship with oil. And if we do that, then we will have this constantly recurring cycle of recessions based upon this importation of oil that wreaks havoc with our economy. And by the way, when Senator Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, and others all say they're going to work constructively on passage of a bill, the same prediction Jim Inhofe made about passage of a House bill, where he was wrong, will be true about a bill in the Senate.
INHOFE: Hey, Wolf, you can't leave it like that on the oil. We, right now, in the United States have the most developable resources of any nation in oil gas, 167 billion barrels that we could be developing, but the Democrats won't let us do it. That's equal to 25 years of importation from the Middle East. If we want to be self- sufficient, let's start developing our own resources, and that can be done virtually overnight.
BLITZER: You want to respond to that, Congressman?
MARKEY: I'll be glad to respond to it. Jim is absolutely correct.
If people are willing to pay $5 or $6 a gallon in gasoline, we can go to the most remote parts of the United States and use the most dirty and polluting ways of generating oil. But a smart way to go would be to move to wind and solar and geothermal and biomass, and a smart grid and all electric vehicles, so that we back that oil out from OPEC and don't substitute for it a continued addiction to $5 to $6 a gallon gasoline. And that's the recipe that Jim has us following and has had us following for the last generation.
BLITZER: All right.
INHOFE: Hey, Wolf...
BLITZER: Very quickly.
INHOFE: They always -- the liberals always talk about all this energy. Sure, maybe 20 or 30 years from now that will be a reality. In the meantime, we have got to run this machine called America. We have the resources to do it, and we need to do it.
BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.
MARKEY: We have three percent of the world's oil reserves.
INHOFE: That's not true, not true at all. We are the largest reserves in the world -- 167 billion barrels is what we have.
MARKEY: Absolutely untrue. Could not be more untrue.
INHOFE: Absolutely true.
BLITZER: We'll continue this discussion on another occasion. Good to have Senator Inhofe back from Copenhagen.
Congressman Markey, have a safe trip back.
MARKEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with both of you. We're going to fact-check that last point to see which one of you is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Guys, thanks very much.
MARKEY: I look forward to it.
INHOFE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. As promised, we recorded that debate earlier in the day, and we did fact-check that last point.
So here is the question: Who's right? Here's the answer: Both of them are, depending on how you add up the numbers.
Representative Markey says the U.S. has three percent of the world's oil reserves, and according to the Department of Energy, that is true, proven oil reserves. There are about 21 billion barrels of oil in America's proven reserves. That's oil that's already been found and can be drilled. So on that point, Congressman Markey is right.
Senator Inhofe says the U.S. has 167 billion barrels of oil that could be developed. That number coming from the Congressional Research Service by combining the amount of oil we know exists with the 146 billion barrels of undiscovered oil that probably exists on and offshore in the United States.
Both of them using numbers to back up their respective points.
Remember, we're standing by to hear from the president. He's announcing that there has been a breakthrough, an agreement in Copenhagen. We'll hear from President Obama momentarily.
In the meantime, let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Do some federal agencies deserve a 10 percent budget increase when people on Social Security get no increase at all next year?
Kevin in Massachusetts, "I think a little shared sacrifice is in order here, like budget cuts, pay freezes and furloughs for all government workers, including Congress. That would go a long way toward telling people they're not alone and that the government feels their pain. But after all, this is Washington. What was I thinking?"
Joe writes, "What irritates me more about this are the earmarks attached to the bill, which is something the president promised he would end. And the fact that much like when Congress votes to increase their own salaries, the bill was passed quietly. So much for transparency and responsible government."
Remo in Texas, "Transparency? How about sleight of hand I think hope is now 'nope.' Nope to job spending, refinancing mortgages, honest politicians and promises. At least now everybody's gotten the idea that it's business as usual."
"The only good president is a one-term president. This president couldn't lead himself out of the men's room without a committee and four weeks to talk about it."
Raul in Texas says, "Absolutely not. I'm a federal employee. This is wrong in times like these, when the economy is big-time in a depression. When is our government going to learn there's a spending limit? The elderly deserve the cost of living increase, not the feds."
Tom writes, "Elderly and disabled people on Social Security should get an increase before any able-bodied people do. People who work have the option to work overtime or get a second job to increase income. Elderly and disabled people don't have that option, so let's take care of our aging population, not hammer an extra nail in their coffins."
Jim in Georgia writes, "What kind of question is that? You sound like my wife: 'Why are we spending money painting the house when I need more shoes?' We do have to run the government, I think, don't we?"
And George says, "I'm on Social Security. Need you really ask how I feel?"
If you want to read more on the subject, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.
The war in Afghanistan, how the U.S. military is trying to prepare Afghan forces to stand on their own. Stand by for that.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker" right now, one of President Obama's allies in the Senate is urged to bow out. We're talking about Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. A former Democratic chairman named Ed Marcus tells a local TV station the senator should give up his re- election bid -- and I'm quoting now -- "for the good of the party."
Dodd is facing an uphill battle after controversy over his involvement in the financial bailout, but Dodd's campaign manager says Marcus is bitter over past sour grapes between the two men.
And what are you searching for on Google? The search engine sees more than a billion searches a day. Now it lists some of the top political topics of the year.
Among them, Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard University president who got into an incident with a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer.