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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Clues Emerge in Commuter Crash; House Passes Economic Stimulus Plan

Aired February 13, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. A smoldering crash scene and new clues about why the commuter plane went down. This hour, the investigation and raw emotions after the deadly nosedive into a house.

Plus, the president's economic rescue plan now depends on the Senate. A long night of voting is under way. But there are still some Republicans who are complaining that the process is moving way too fast.

The best political team on television is standing by.

And Bill Clinton goes public with his advice for President Obama. How one commander in chief may learn from another's mistakes.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Investigators say the crew of a doomed commuter plane noticed significant ice buildup on the wings and windshield before the crash. Now you heard that briefing live in THE SITUATION ROOM. It was just a short while ago. And officials say it is still too early to know if the ice definitely caused the plane to slam into a house, killing 49 people onboard and one on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: A significant ice buildup is an aerodynamic impediment, if you will.

Airplanes are built with wings that are shaped a certain way. And if you have got too much ice, the shape of the ice -- or the shape of the wing can change, requiring different air speeds and so forth.

So, that's about all I will say with that. The aerodynamics of it changes as ice is significantly built up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Deborah Feyerick is covering the crash near Buffalo, New York, and she filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flight from Newark Airport was moments away from landing in Buffalo, the first officer calmly telling radar approach controllers the flight number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 3407 approach.

FEYERICK: But then communication with the plane stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 3407, Buffalo tower. (INAUDIBLE)

FEYERICK: On the ground, people knew something was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see planes or hear planes go over all the time. So, as the plane was going over, you knew something was wrong.

FEYERICK (on camera): So, it was almost stuttering, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, just like that.

TOMASITA TRUJILLO, WITNESS: It sounded like something was like starting to grow, like starting to get stuck in there. And it just started hitting against it.

MARY JANE LUCE, WITNESS: You had the feeling it was going to come right down on you. And then all of a sudden it stopped, absolute silence for a few seconds, and then the explosion.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Witnesses say flames shot 50 feet in the air, consuming everything.

DAVID LUCE, WITNESS: The house was gone. And that was probably no more than, you know, a minute-and-a-half or two minutes. And when you looked amount the site, it was pretty clear that it was unlikely that anybody had survived. It was just an immediate fireball.

FEYERICK: People ran from their homes, desperate to help.

JAIMEE LYNN TRUJILLO, WITNESS: The whole part of the plane, that it was just -- you could see some parts to it, and then it engulf in flames. At that point, I heard a woman screaming. I turned behind me because I heard a woman screaming: "That's my house. That's my house."

And I turned around and she was barefoot. And this couple behind her was holding her up, because she fell to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of my friends had been an FAA controller, and he said, when a plane hits, it virtually disintegrates. And he was right. There was just nothing left.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And, Suzanne, keep in mind, as the plane was nearing the airport, the crew had lowered the landing gear. And it appears that is when the problems began.

According to the flight data recorder, the plane began to pitch and roll within 15 seconds of the flaps being activated. Now, the crew tried raising the gears and also the flaps, and that happened just moments before the recording went silent, all of that right now under investigation. Radar controllers didn't even know anything was wrong until the plane fell off the screen -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Deborah, right there on the scene at the crash. Thank you so much.

President Obama spoke briefly today about the plane crash, offering his condolences and his perspective on the disaster. He specifically mentioned Beverly Eckert. She's a prominent 9/11 widow who was killed in the crash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones. And, as always, our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and save lives and who are still on the scene keeping people safe.

Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of end of single day. One person who stood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight, and who I met with just a few days ago. You see, Beverly lost her husband on 9/11 and became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day.

And in keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband's birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. So she was an inspiration to me and to so many others. And I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, one of the homes that Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed into belonged to a woman named Karen Wielinski. This trapped Karen and her husband and daughter inside. And she told her story to WBEN Radio. I want you to take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KAREN WIELINSKI, HOMEOWNER: I shouted first, in case anybody was out there, and then just kind of pushed what was on me, part of that, off, and crawled out the hole.

I had heard, like, you know, a woman crying. And I -- when I came out of the hole, you know, the back of the house was gone. The fire had started. I could see the wing of the plane. And Jill was over to the side, you know, crying, of course, hysterical.

To me, it looked like the plane just came down in the middle of the house. And, unfortunately, that's where (AUDIO GAP) was. He was a good person, loved his family.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: We are learning more about the passengers aboard Flight 3407 from really the people who knew them best.

Our CNN's Mary Snow has been talking to friends and loved ones of the victims.

And I know you're getting a much fuller picture of those who were on board.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, in this grief- stricken community, people certainly coming together.

You know, officials have been very careful not to talk about the victims by name, in terms of a big list, because of the sensitivity issues. They're trying to reach family members and notify them. Family members are coming here to Buffalo.

But we are starting to learn who was killed in this crash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): In an instant, 50 lives were lost when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed. First officer Rebecca Shaw, seen here on her Facebook page, was just 25 years old. Her mother said she had been flying for about a year-and-a-half.

LYNN MORRIS, MOTHER OF VICTIM: She was light. She loved to flight. It was her passion. She just -- she just loved flying. And any time she could be in the air -- she was an amazing woman. She came very, very far. She -- you know, she was just full of energy. She would try anything, do anything, was up for any new experience. And she just loved life.

SNOW: Beverly Eckert had become a well-known advocate for 9/11 families after losing her husband, Sean Rooney, in the tragedy. She had been slated to attend a ceremony at Canisius High School, where a scholarship had been set up in her husband's memory.

Fifty-five-year-old Susan Wehle was a cantor at Temple Beth Am. She was returning from a Costa Rica vacation. Her friend Rick Ellis was going to pick her up at the airport and last heard from her at 8:29 Thursday night. She sent him a text to say her plane was delayed, and that she would take a taxi if it was too late.

She would go to places that I could only dream of. And every time she would go, she would do things spiritually to bring her closer to the earth, to bring her closer to God.

SNOW: Also going home to Buffalo, 66-year-old Alison Des Forges, recognized as one of the world's leading experts on Rwanda. She's remembered as a role model and human rights activist. Friends and colleagues say she may have been barely five feet tall, but she was a lion of a force, fighting to stopping the genocide in Rwanda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For somebody who had spent much of the last 20 years flying around the world for the people of Rwanda, I suppose there's a sad irony that she met her fate on an airplane.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Also, two musicians who played with Chuck Mangione's band were also killed. The band was supposed to play here in Buffalo tonight.

We are here at Temple Beth Am. And that is where Cantor Susan Wehle was -- used to work. There is a memorial service here tonight, one of many being held, obviously, throughout this weekend.

And, Suzanne, I spoke with Governor Paterson earlier today. He met with many of the families who have lost loved ones, and he said some of them had expressed that they wanted to go to the crash site. And he thinks that will be happening in the next few days -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Sure. Thank you very much, Mary.

More breaking news -- a crash landing in London just a short while ago. A British Airways passenger jet scraped across the tarmac at London City Airport after part of its landing gear failed. All 71 people on board emerged safely. Only one person was taken to a hospital with a minor injury. And the flight was heading from Amsterdam to London when the plane's nose wheel failed on landing.

Well, Jack Cafferty is joining us at this hour.

And, Jack, what are you following in "The Cafferty File"?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Bill Clinton says when it comes to right-wing talk radio, it's time for what he calls more balance on the airwaves.

Clinton says the government should either bring back the fairness doctrine or have more programs that present the other side -- quoting now -- "because, essentially, there's always been a lot of big money to support the right-wing talk shows. And let's face it. Rush Limbaugh's fairly entertaining, even when he's saying things that I think are ridiculous" -- unquote.

This follows some recent chatter among some Democratic senators about possibly holding hearings on radio accountability, even though no hearings have been scheduled as of yet. The fairness doctrine required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial topics.

But, in 1987, the FCC found it unconstitutional. Congressional Democrats tried to bring it back, but President Reagan vetoed that effort. Last fall, several Democrats began talking about bringing back the fairness doctrine, which worried Republicans and of course the right-wing radio talk show hosts.

But, at the time, then Senator Barack Obama said he didn't support the idea of the fairness doctrine. He said it was a distraction to more pressing issues in the media business. It would be interesting to know how the President Obama feels now. Nevertheless, just the possibility of this, just the possibility of this has the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity positively buzzing.

Here's the question: How would you regulate talk radio? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

Of course, the easiest way to recommend that stuff is with a little knob that allows you to turn the radio off.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Thank you, Jack.

Millions of Americans need them. The president says, well, they're on the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The goal at the heart of this plan is to create jobs, not just any jobs, but jobs doing the work America needs done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: But will those jobs come anytime soon? Well, that is one of many questions about this economic plan.

Also, the plan is more than 1,000 pages long, and lawmakers have only hours to read it. So, how will the $787 billion really be spent?

And Bill Clinton knows what it's like for a president to have problems. But wait until you hear the advice that he's now giving to President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, President Obama is on the verge of scoring a huge victory.

Right now, the Senate is voting on the $787 billion economic plan. It was approved in the House today. But not a single House Republican voted for it. And the plan could be on the president's desk by Monday.

Let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who's been following all of the details on Capitol Hill.

Obviously, a lot of activity going on where you are.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne.

And I was just over inside the Senate chamber watching this vote, and it looks like 57 senators have now voted yes. So, they just need three more. And as we talked about earlier, they're not going to get the 60th until about 10:30 tonight. But, still, this is really mostly Democrats voting for this, not just in the Senate, but also all Democrats in the House earlier today. And, you know, this is something that is an enormous bill, millions -- excuse me -- billions and billions of dollars. But these lawmakers, they didn't have a chance to start reading it really until 11:00 last night because changes were being made up until then.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Democrats are delivering President Obama's economic plan with the warp speed that he demanded, but that meant little time for lawmakers to actually review it.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I don't know how you could read 1,100 pages between midnight and now. Not one member has read this.

BASH: Across the Capitol, lawmakers and staff pored through pounds of paper, trying to determine exactly what's in the bill before approving an unprecedented $787 billion.

What's at the heart of those 1,000-plus pages are some $280 billion in tax cuts and more than $500 billion in government spending. Supporters insist, the goal of this economic plan is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jobs, jobs, jobs.

BASH: First, for people who don't have jobs, here's what's in it: $24.7 billion to subsidize health insurance for nine months for most laid-off workers, up to 33 weeks of extended unemployment benefits, and an additional $25 a week.

But creating jobs is what Democrats insist the hundreds of billions in spending will do, by investing in infrastructure projects, like energy-efficient building, roads, bridges, and mass transit, for example, $27.5 billion for highways, $1.1 billion for airports that prove they can start construction work now, $8 billion for high-speed rail, a big funding boost thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is pushing for a grant to build a train from Las Vegas to Southern California.

But there are also programs like $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, which critics argue will not stimulate the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill is loaded with wasteful deficit spending on the majority's favorite government programs. We need jobs, not mountains of debt to be paid by our children. We can do better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, again, the Senate is currently voting, and, once again, we expect this to take place up until at least 10:30 this evening. And that is because the deciding vote will be somebody who is back in his home state, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He's back, unfortunately, for a wake for his mother. So, they're holding this vote. They're bringing him back on a government plane. The White House arranged this.

President Obama's administration arranged for him to come back, so that he can have this economic stimulus bill to his desk this weekend, so he can likely sign it on Monday.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Dana. Extraordinary move. Thank you.

For Americans who are struggling, President Obama says that passing this plan means that help is on the way. He is eager to get the bill on his desk so he can sign it as soon as possible.

My colleague, CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian, has more -- Dan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the president is looking forward to signing the economic stimulus bill. It's been a huge priority for this administration, working with Congress, holding town hall meetings, and even today Mr. Obama was still pitching the plan.

(voice-over): Selling the plan to top business leaders at the White House, the president said creating jobs is one road to recovery.

OBAMA: Not just any jobs, but jobs doing the work America needs done, repairing our infrastructure, modernizing our schools and our hospitals.

LOTHIAN: But there are questions about how quickly some jobs will materialize once money from the economic stimulus bill starts flowing. In East Peoria on Thursday, the president touted Caterpillar's ability to rehire some laid-off workers.

But, a short time later, the company's CEO said any rehiring won't happen for years. And, in the meantime, he's predicting even more layoffs.

JIM OWENS, CEO, CATERPILLAR: But I think it's going to take awhile before the stimulus package kicks in.

LOTHIAN: The White House didn't back down.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It would likely over time provide Caterpillar the opportunity to recall employees who have been laid off.

LOTHIAN: This White House trying to stay on message was dealt another surprise when the second choice for commerce secretary pulled out. Republican Senator Judd Gregg said the partisan divide was too wide. Presidential adviser and CNN political analyst David Gergen says this administration is experiencing growing pains.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: My own sense of it is, having worked here before, that when you are trying to do too many things too quickly, it's like having -- juggling two many balls in the air. You usually drop one or two.

LOTHIAN: Robert Gibbs says the president was disappointed, but is still committed to pushing bipartisanship.

GIBBS: I think there will be bumps along the road to changing the way this town works. I don't think that those bumps will end after four weeks, and may not end after several years.

LOTHIAN (on camera): Next week, the president rolls out another piece of his overall effort to help the economy. On Wednesday, he will be in Phoenix, outlining a plan to stem home foreclosures -- Suzanne.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Dan.

After a rocky week for the Obama administration, Bill Clinton is offering some advice. Well, we're going to tell you what he's saying.

Also, one senator says no one's had time to even read the 1,100- page stimulus bill. Does he have a point?

And the fate of the bill comes down to the votes of just a few moderate Republicans. Is that now the template for future battles?

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, Bill Clinton is speaking out about the first few weeks of the Obama administration. And he's got some advice for the new president.

Our CNN's Kate Bolduan is here with the details.

And, overall, Kate, does he give him high marks? Is this a good report card or a bad report card?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, it seems a good report card. President Clinton, former President Clinton, is out promoting a weekend conference hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative. In an interview with NPR, he talked about the new administration, saying, in his view, President Obama is off to a good start.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I, Hillary Rodham Clinton... BOLDUAN (voice-over): The last time we saw former President Bill Clinton, he was standing by as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state. Now, after a rocky week for the Obama administration, the former president is offering advice to the new president, advice from someone who's been there.

Clinton spoke to National Public Radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When everything happens at once, and you start, there are going to be some inevitable glitches, as there were in the appointments processes that he faced, that I faced. Those things just happen. And the only advice I have is just to get up every day and keep thinking about the future.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Mr. Obama's already had the benefit of Clinton's advice during a January 7 lunch hosted by then President George Bush.

OBAMA: For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel, and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary.

BOLDUAN: Now, after almost a month in office, Clinton, famous for working late nights at the White House, also had some personal advice for Mr. Obama, as he told NPR.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

B. CLINTON: You have to realize you could work 24 hours a day and still leave work on the table. So, there has to be some time carved out for your family, for your friends, for some balance in life.

And he seems to be adapting to that very well. So, I think he's doing just fine without my advice. And I think we all wish him well.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Also during this interview, President Clinton says his mega-charity foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, like so many charities right now, has taken a hit because of the economy, Clinton saying they will need to head back to the drawing board to broaden their donor base and also, Suzanne, keep charitable donations from drying up.

It's pretty amazing to think it's really hitting everybody, even that big foundation.

MALVEAUX: Right, absolutely. Wow.

Thank you so much, Kate. The stakes are high for President Obama right now as the Senate votes on his economic rescue plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've had a spirited debate about this plan over the last few weeks. Not everybody has shared the same view of how we should move forward. And at times, our discussions have been contentious.

But that's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Stand by to hear the president's final pitch for the stimulus at length, and unfiltered.

And some uncomfortable moments for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in recent days -- her conflicts with the Senate and what it tells us about political battles ahead.

And remarkable images of the plane crash near Buffalo right after it happened. One of our I-Reporters was on the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama is in Chicago at this hour. His plane landed at O'Hare International Airport just moments ago. He's in Chicago for a four-day weekend, his first visit back home since being and becoming president.

Well, it is the deadliest attack in Iraq this year. A female suicide bomber struck a tent filled with women and children today south of Baghdad. Forty people were killed and about 80 others wounded. The victims were on their way to a religious festival.

And Blackwater Worldwide is hoping to revamp its image by changing its name. The company is now calling itself Xe. That new name is spelled X-E.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are watching the Senate voting on the $787 billion economic plan. It could be cleared by the Senate tonight and be on the president's desk by Monday, this after being approved in the House earlier with not a single Republican vote.

Today, the president acknowledged the political dissent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: One of the reasons we've come so far is because so many of you recognize the urgency and necessity of taking action. This plan has won the support of groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers but also the AFL-CIO. And the goal at the heart of this plan is to create jobs, not just any jobs but jobs doing the work America needs done; repairing our infrastructure, modernizing our schools and our hospitals, promoting the clean alternative energy sources that will help us finally declare our independence from foreign oil.

It's a plan that will put people would work building wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars. We'll upgrade our schools, creating 21st century classrooms and libraries and labs for millions of children across America. We'll computerize our health care system -- at last -- to save billions of dollars and countless of lives as we reduce medical errors.

We'll lay down broadband Internet lines to connect small schools and businesses so they can compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. And we will rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges and repair our dangerously deficient dams and levees so we don't face another Katrina.

In addition to saving and creating jobs, we'll also ensure that folks who've lost jobs through no fault of their own, can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage. It will provide badly needed middle class tax relief -- putting the money into the pockets of workers and their families at a time when many of them are experiencing greater distress.

It will also provide sensible tax relief to businesses that are trying to make payroll and create jobs. And our focus is not only on large businesses, but also small businesses that are probably feeling the credit crunch most acutely.

Now, passing this plan is a critical step. But as important as it is, it's only the beginning of what I think all of you understand is going to be a long and difficult process of turning our economy around. To truly address this crisis, we will also need to address the crisis in our financial sector, to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. And we need to confront the crisis in the housing sector that's been one of the sources of our economic challenges. I'll be discussing that extensively soon.

We're going to need comprehensive financial reform in the way government relates to the financial markets in order to deal with the complex challenges of the 21st century, both as a way to assure trust and also ensure that a crisis like this can never happen like this again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The plan the president will likely soon get is not the plan that he first picked. That is partly due to a small, but very powerful group of Republicans.

CNN national correspondent, Jessica Yellin, joining us -- tell us a little bit about this. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, it's a very bitter pill for a lot of Democrats to swallow. Right now, an enormous amount of power resides with a handful of moderates in the Senate. They are the respect from Maine and from Pennsylvania, a Democrat from Nebraska and an Independent from Connecticut, whose votes are crucial to future White House victories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): When the White House and Congress reached a stimulus deal, the Senate's top Democrat was brimming with praise for...

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Patriotism and the courage of three brave senators -- Specter from Pennsylvania, Snowe and Collins from Maine.

YELLIN: All three Republicans -- their votes essential to getting a stimulus passed. It took three more hours for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to publicly agree to the deal. And she seemed less than overjoyed.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have come to an agreement with the Senate as to how we will go forward. And I think people are pretty happy about that.

YELLIN: Multiple Democratic sources tell CNN Pelosi spent the intervening hours talking to Reid, White House officials and even the president, explaining her members were enraged over changes in the bill.

Some House Democrats say they feel for the speaker. Though she oversees a huge majority in the House, though she helped elect a wildly popular Democratic president, her reach is limited. Her stimulus bill was rewritten, stripped of provisions her caucus thought essential to appeal to a handful of Senate centrists.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: I want to thank the Senate majority leader for bringing us all together.

YELLIN: Don't expect that group to break up -- Republican Senator Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, Democrat Ben Nelson and Independent Joe Lieberman. The president needs those centrists on major issues like health care and energy reform. And that's a political reality not lost on the speaker, who's now looking to the future.

PELOSI: There will be, I hope, more bipartisan votes. I know there will be more bipartisan discussion.

YELLIN: Which means House Democrats will have to get used to putting off some of their priorities and making compromises many won't like.

(END VIDEO TAPE) YELLIN: Now, some Democrats find this dynamic especially frustrating because on election night, President Obama won with what they thought was a mandate for sweeping change. And look at it -- the president's approval ratings dwarf the approval ratings of Republicans in Congress. But public approval doesn't get legislation passed, Suzanne. Senators and members of Congress do. And they need to continue to move those Republicans.

MALVEAUX: And we've seen that Obama is now a pragmatist, really, very much in the center now.

Thanks, Jessica.

The House Republican leader blasts the Obama stimulus bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Not one member has read this.

What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours?

But nope, we don't have time to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Well, does he have a point?

Where is the transparency the president promised?

The best political team on television is here to discuss that.

Also, who are President Obama's allies in the Democratic Party -- the ones who work for compromise or the ones who push his agenda?

Plus, gripping new images of the deadly plane crash just in to THE SITUATION ROOM -- video you have probably not seen before.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Here we are with 1,100 pages -- 1,100 pages, that not one member of this body has read. Not one. There may be some staffer over at the Appropriations Committee that read all of this last night. I don't know how you could read 1,100 pages between midnight and now. Not one member has read this.

What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours?

But nope, we don't have time to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: House Republican leader John Boehner blasting the $787 billion economic stimulus bill just before the House passed it -- once again without a single Republican vote. Well, joining us to talk about that and much, much more, CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and CNN political contributor Stephen Hayes of "The Weekly Standard;" and Democratic strategist James Carville, also a CNN political contributor. They're all part of the best political team on television.

You know we had to do this.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course. We have our own copy.

MALVEAUX: You know we had to bring this out, our own copy here.

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Throw it on the floor.

MALVEAUX: You know, it's like six inches...

BORGER: Have our own (INAUDIBLE) and...

MALVEAUX: I don't know how much it weighs.

BORGER: But I know you've read every page of it, right?

MALVEAUX: Oh, you know I can't say I have.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: And I guess that brings up a point here. Obviously, does he make a good point?

If the president signs this on Monday, is it fair to the American people that they haven't been able to take a look at this?

BORGER: Can I just say this, that the Republicans had enough time to thumb through most of the bill to cherry pick out the parts that they decided were pork -- remember that -- early on. So I think there are a bunch of Republicans who have actually read a lot of this bill. And it's -- it's theatrics. I mean that's -- you know, I recall that when Ron Reagan passed his first large budget, there were Democrats on the floor coming to the floor with a 1,000 pages saying woe is me, we haven't read it.

MALVEAUX: See, and isn't kind of par for the course?

I mean, these guys don't ever read this stuff, do they, anyway?

HAYES: Yes, right. And I...

MALVEAUX: I mean...

BORGER: Well...

HAYES: When you put it in context, I think there are a lot of bills that members of Congress don't actually read. That's sort of the dirty little secret in Washington. But I think the issue is actually a lot simpler than Gloria makes it. He said -- the president said they were going to have 48 hours. Nancy Pelosi committed to having 48 hours to give members to read the bill. They didn't do it.

So John Boehner is perfectly within his rights to pitch a fit about the fact that very few people know what's in the bill and that they didn't live up to their own promise.

MALVEAUX: James, does it really matter?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Oh, come on. The thing has been posted since last night. There's nothing new in it. This debate has gone on for three weeks. Lou Dobbs has been reading parts of the bill on his show.

These guys, they vote for a continuing resolution on a $1.8 trillion budget after it comes out of conference committee 12 hours later.

I mean, look, it's Mardi Gras time down here in New Orleans. And this stuff goes on. And it's -- it's just air. That's all it is. He doesn't -- Boehner doesn't mean any of that. It's just silliness and we ought to just take it as such.

MALVEAUX: James, you know, the president really put a lot of time in at least courting Republicans.

HAYES: Right.

MALVEAUX: Do you think it was worth it?

Do you think he should just give up on that and basically go with the base at this point?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, my friend, Rahm Emanuel, said today that they did waste some time on bipartisanship. I mean, look, this is speeches. This is for college kids in Iowa and columnists in weekly magazines and newspapers.

MALVEAUX: Huh.

CARVILLE: Everybody knew that this thing wasn't going to happen. Look, I didn't get a chance to talk to Rahm on the phone today, but when I do, I'm going Rahm, they don't want you to succeed. They're not going to be for you -- none of them.

This guy, Congressman Cao down here, who's a Republican, just got elected and said he wanted to vote for this. They hammered him. They wouldn't let him vote for it. Judd Gregg was going to go and be Commerce secretary. They hammered him.

And so everybody understands that the Republicans -- Rush Limbaugh said it. He said, I don't want him to succeed. It's a show that's dominated by talk radio and the Southern base. And that's just what the Republican Party is now. BORGER: Well, I actually don't think it...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: There's nothing strange there.

BORGER: I actually don't think it's that simple, in a way. I mean, I think, you know, James, you would say, also, that there are a lot of ideological differences here. That just won't -- yes, sure, there are those folks who don't want President Obama to succeed.

CARVILLE: Gloria...

BORGER: But there are real ideological differences in the approaches to this stimulus package, you know?

They be -- Republicans believe that it needs more tax cuts.

HAYES: If they -- if the president really wanted bipartisan, he wouldn't have outsourced the writing of this bill to Nancy Pelosi, who I think most people, including Democrats, view as a strongly partisan Democrat in the House of Representatives.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's...

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Let's actually talk about the process, obviously, because we were watching this unfold on the Hill.

CARVILLE: Oh.

MALVEAUX: And there were 18 moderates. They were in this room. They were holed up, basically trying to figure out a compromise. They're pretty much known as the work horses. And then you've got the show horses -- folks who were going out to the cameras who had a very different kind of take on this.

I want you guys to listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R ), MAINE: I assured the president that I want to help him get a bipartisan package that is both effective in helping to turn our economy around.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: A few Republicans are bound and determined to throw a monkey wrench into Obama's recovery plan. That would be too bad.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I find it really rather amazing that the senator is holding up a bill -- holding up a bill is theatrical. Did you ever do that when George Bush was president and he sent down a bill twice as big as that? Did he ever do that? Because you can do that. That's theatrics. SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Well, we're really trying to work together to get this done. It's -- America's future is way too important to let partisan differences separate us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: James, who does Obama need more, the work horse or the show horse?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I would like to know the total number of hours that Senator Reid has been in these negotiations in the last 10 days. And if somebody wants to do that -- and I think you'd be floored how much time that they've spent doing that.

You're right, and I don't know, maybe Dana's appalled by the fact that you have senators giving speeches. That's hardly anything new in Washington. But, you know, Senator Schumer, he might be a lot of things, but lack of work is certainly not anything anybody accuses Senator Schumer of.

But I understand. Everybody -- we've got to blame everybody equally here. But I would love to know the number of hours that Senator Reid has been in negotiations with senator Collins and Senator Specter and Senator Nelson.

MALVEAUX: Gloria, real quick...

CARVILLE: Real, you know...

BORGER: You know, they've all been up there for lots of hours, James. You know, Rahm Emanuel was up there one day for 10 hours alone locked in a room with these senators. And, you know, that's a tough job.

MALVEAUX: All right, we've got to leave it there.

HAYES: Right.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, Suzanne, we're working on one thing, which is my understanding of what it means to be bipartisan and why that's even important to what's happening in Washington, D.C. Or whether it even should be.

There was an election, right?

Tonight, we'll have the latest on that Senate vote on the massive spending and borrowing bill. We'll have the latest.

Also tonight, finally some help for homeowners hammered by this economic crisis. A bold move -- some leadership from two of the country's biggest banks, finally, to help families stay in their homes. We'll have that story.

And tonight, new clues in the tragic plane crash near Buffalo, New York that killed 50 people. We'll be going live to the scene of that tragedy.

Tonight, the other failure of the federal government agency in charge of protecting American consumers and you from dangerous food -- what is going on at the FDA and why is their leadership still tolerated?

We'll have that special report tonight.

And among our guests, a Republican and a Democrat strongly opposed to the stimulus legislation -- you know, the legislation neither Republicans nor Democrats have read yet. It's just a trillion dollars. Don't worry.

Please join us at the top of the hour for all of that and much more -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Good seeing you, Lou.

Dramatic new images of that deadly disaster near Buffalo -- new images from a CNN iReporter taken moments after the crash.

We have much more for you on that.

Plus, basketball stars weigh in on President Obama's game. We'll go live to the All Star weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: And back to our breaking news. The commuter plane that nosedived into a House in Clarence Centre, New York. That's just outside of Buffalo.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is looking at the area of the crash.

Some incredible iReport video that you've been watching. And, obviously, you're taking a look at exactly where this occurred.

Can you show us?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We're going to pinpoint where this happened right now, Suzanne.

We're going into about seven miles away from the Buffalo airport here at Clarence Centre, to the northeast and eyewitnesses who saw the plane in its final moments, said it was heading away from the airport, in the direction of the northeast, toward Long Street, the crash site here -- an area of single family homes along Long Street, but back onto an open field.

But the plane made a direct hit on one of these homes. On Google Street here, we can show you what the street did look like -- single family homes, close together. That white house right there is the house that was hit by the plane.

If we can move along the street here, you can see the houses either side are very close. But the two either side only suffered superficial damage.

Take a look at some of the iReport pictures we got in. This one from Will Charland. His video and the pictures that you can see here showing the inferno -- the blaze that was happening right there. Will Charland was telling us that he heard the crash happen and he saw the plane just about 150 feet above him. The crash happened and then he said the sky lit up like it was sunrise all of a sudden. You can see the sirens, the first responders arriving on the scene right there. The house next door -- you can see he was trying to zoom in, trying to figure out what this was that had just happened.

That right there, as he focuses on it, you can see it come into view a part of the plane behind one of those houses.

MALVEAUX: And, Abbi, you were saying off-camera that he got so hot, he had to back away. He was that close.

TATTON: So many of or iReporters have said that they started filming these scenes and then they had to move back a street. As the firefighters arrived there, they had to move back. The heat was just too much. Other people saying they could smell the smoke three miles away.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is how would you regulate talk radio?

Former President Bill Clinton thinks it might be time for the return of the fairness doctrine.

Will in San Jose writes: "If you want more left wing talk radio, then listen to it and buy the products advertised during the programs. "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" are great shows that do just fine without government help. If other shows aren't doing well, it's because, frankly, they aren't any good."

B.J. in Florida writes: "This is so obvious, the moon would truly be green cheese if anybody disagreed. The fairness doctrine should be reinstated ASAP."

Joseph in Los Angeles: "Somehow, I don't think Bill Clinton would be pushing for the fairness doctrine if it were liberal talk radio dominating the airwaves."

Richard in Kansas: "There are good and bad radio talk show hosts for sure. But it certainly doesn't need to be regulated. If elected officials can't take criticism, they ought to find another line of work. All opinions count in this country." Marie says: "Yes, it's all so funny and harmless until somebody pokes an eye out. The constant hate spewed every day from popular conservative hosts will continue until something major happens to put a stop to it."

Terry in Iowa: "In all things, we must abide by the Constitution, from right-wingers to left-wingers, we all have the fundamental right of free speech. I despise much of what talking heads like Limbaugh or Stern spew on their radio talk shows, primarily because it's ignorant, biased propaganda. It is of little moral, intellectual or entertainment value."

And Keith in Twinsburg, Ohio says: "Every radio, like a TV, has knobs on it to either change to another station or to turn the damn thing off. That's all the regulation I need. I like to make my own decisions."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds and hundreds, Suzanne, hundreds of others.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.

I'm sure hundreds.

Some basketball greats offer a different type of critique of President Obama. We'll tell you whether they think the new president has got skills.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The NBA's best players are in Phoenix for the league's All Star game.

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, is actually there -- and, John, I hear that there's some critiquing of the president going on, but it's not what we think.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not what you think, Suzanne.

Good afternoon.

You know, we're in Phoenix this week, "STATE OF THE UNION" live. And every week we do a diner segment. We've done them from Vermont, from Indiana, from Illinois, from Ohio. Well this week, because the NBA All Star game is here, we sat down with five NBA greats -- past and future players, current players. We had Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and Chris Paul.

And we sat around the table. And the first part of our discussion was about the election of the country's first African-American president. And we discussed that and what do they think about the economy, what do they think about having a politician instead of a basketball player as a role model? And in the case of Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, he was born in South Africa. He lives in Canada full-time. We asked him how the election of Barack Obama has changed the United States image around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE NASH, PHOENIX SUNS: I don't even have a vote and I couldn't be happier. For me to understand, from an international perspective, how people will look at America now that Mr. Obama is president is -- is a heartwarming thing. Because I think I've noticed, over the last eight years, you know, the image of Americans and the country, you know, really go down from where it should be.

KING: Somebody watching this might say, what do these guys know about the struggling economy in the country?

They're all well paid. You know, they're not hurting like I am. And maybe a guy has lost a factory job in the middle of the country. He's an autoworker who got laid off. He works at Caterpillar in Illinois, and he got laid off.

Do you guys see that?

And is that how you judge your new president?

MAGIC JOHNSON, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I grew up in Michigan. Father, two brothers worked 30 years for General Motors. OK? So I'm in it even right now as we speak. I've got relatives who now, whether you got laid off, are worried that they're going to get laid off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, we were talking politics in that segment. But, of course, we have a president now who says basketball is his favorite sport. So, Suzanne, we brought along some tape and we broke down his game.

Wait. Watch the form. Watch the form.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lefty is always for shooting.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lefties'...

KING: All right, here, you guys. Three. There's a three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now there's like more people.

KING: Now, what do you think?

To the right a little bit, right?

But shouldn't he have a little more swagger after hitting a three like that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's got plenty of swagger.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's that Harvard cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

The Harvard cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you do it?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're president, you've already got swag.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right. Let's see. Watch his form now. I'm going to stop him here.

How is that?

Are his eyes in the right place?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he got...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got his head up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got his left elbow in. Has his elbow in. He ought to follow through his legs.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all in the result.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the result?

KING: Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine. Fine.

KING: In these beds, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

KING: OK.

Form's good?

How would Bill Russell do that differently?

BILL RUSSELL: I would never go out (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: He'd get closer. That's how.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSELL: We can go out there and dump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A lot of fun sitting down with them. They were gracious with their time. Suzanne, more of the political discussion, more of the breakdown of the president's game and, also, some substance, as well -- an aerial tour of the U.S./Mexico border.

All this weekend on "STATE OF THE UNION".

MALVEAUX: OK. Great.

Thank you so much, John.

THE SITUATION ROOM is now on six days a week. Don't forget to watch tomorrow night at 6:00 Eastern. Among Wolf's guests, Senate Judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.