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THE SITUATION ROOM
Health Care Springs Forward; Boehner: Dems Don't Have the Votes; New Info on Tiger Woods' Crash; Boys & Girls Club Funding in Jeopardy
Aired March 12, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a legendary high school sports powerhouse and the subject of a movie "Remember the Titans." But it's rated as one of the worst performing schools in the nation.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In the year long push for health care reform, President Obama has crossed off a lot of would-be deadlines on his calendar, but now he's penciling in a new target date. That would be March 21st, the first full day of spring. We learned today that Mr. Obama is delaying his trip to Indonesia and Australia until then, and that gives Congress an extra three days to sign, seal and try to deliver a reform bill.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm delighted the president will be here for the passage of the bill, it's going to be historic, and it would not be possible without his tremendous, tremendous leadership.
BLITZER: The top Republican in the house is skeptical that Speaker Pelosi has the votes to get reform passed without any Republicans and just Democrats. Listen to John Boehner in an exclusive interview with our Candy Crowley.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: They can pass this all on their own. There is bipartisanship that's involved in this town right now with regard to health care is there is bipartisan opposition to what they're attempting to do.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think -- because you're a pretty good vote count -- does she have 216, the speaker?
BOEHNER: If she had 216 votes, this bill would be long gone. Remember, they tried to do this in June or July last year. If they had the votes then, it would be law. They tried to pass it in September, October, November, December, January, February. Guess what? They don't have the votes.
BLITZER: We're joined now by a Democrat who has been outspoken in the health care debate, Anthony Weiner of New York. Thanks for coming in. Does Nancy Pelosi have 216 votes right now?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I don't know about right now, but she's getting real close. There are a couple questions that still have to be answered. One is, what does the actual bill written on paper actually look like? The actual CBO score is something only written in whispers right now. We'll have to see that. Then we have the biggest of all major moving parts, which is how do we trust the United States Senate to pass this reconciliation package without a hitch? I sense some real momentum now. I think we're going to get this down b done by the end of this week.
BLITZER: You don't trust the Democrats and the house to get the 51 votes they need, do you?
WEINER: We passed 290 bills that have not even been touched by the Senate, they haven't been able to get very much done, so we're asking for a real leap of faith to trust they're going to fix their own bill on reconciliation. We're getting closer on that as well. It is one of those unanswered questions. The direct answer to your question is we probably don't have 216, but we're definitely going that direction.
BLITZER: Because what you would need to do and correct me if I'm wrong, let's walk through this, because it's very sensitive and delegate. The house would have to pass the Senate version as is without any change, and then the president would sign that into law. Only then would you be able to deal with amendments of this reconciliation that you would then pass and send to the Senate, and they would have to approve that with 51 votes. So, in other words, if there are delays in the Senate, if the Republicans start attaching amendments and this process goes on endlessly, you're going to be stuck with that Senate version, which is the law of the land.
WEINER: You've identified exactly the problem, which is why we're going to construct something that will allow essentially the tick and the tock to happen with one another. The Senate bill has to move virtually at the same time as the reconciliation package to satisfy people like me who simply don't trust the Senate to do this. That's why it's going to be very closely wound together, and I think that's what the American people want also, because the Senate bill really does have some deficiencies that we want to fix, making sure that the donut hole was filled, making sure the subsidies of people forced to get health care can keep up with the cost of health care. These types of things have to get fixed, yes, you're right, that's the complicated walk here, but the two things have to be very close together to satisfy house members.
BLITZER: Because once the president signs that senate bill into law, those special benefits for Louisiana or Nebraska or Medicare recipients in Florida which your district, people in New York state won't get any of those benefits, that will be the law of the land if the Senate doesn't take further action.
WEINER: That's right. This whole discussion about the improvements to the Senate bill are really about taking out some bad things they have in and scrubbing some things that we had in the house bill and making sure they're part of the Senate bill as well. But that's what's delicate about this Wolf. Don't underestimate this. A lot of house members simply don't trust the Senate here, and that's part of the problem that we can have a very nice agreement on paper, or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid can have a nice conversation, but there's a lot of skepticism and that's why Nancy's job has been made very difficult.
BLITZER: Can Nancy Pelosi get 216 without Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, who is very firmly against abortion? He said he has 11 or 12 other Democrats who voted for health reform, but if that Senate language on abortion stays in, he said they will vote no this time around. Can she get 216 without them?
WEINER: If she has to and we have to, we will. I hope not. Look let's face a very simple fact of this debate that even if we wanted to resolve some of the things that Congressman Stupak thinks are deficient, there is a limited path to do these types of substantive changes. I don't like the hide amendment which says that no federal money can be used for abortions, but it's the law of the land today, it will be the law of the land when this bill passes. I hope that Congressman Stupak and whomever else are look at this bill this from this perspective realize the time is not now to resolve the hide amendment. They will have other opportunities. In answer to your question, yes, I believe we're going to pass this. I don't believe we're going to further endanger a woman's right to choose in order to do it.
BLITZER: Here's what Michael Moore the filmmaker told Anderson Cooper last night about this health care bill that's now before you. Listen to this.
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: I thought we're about, we want the best. We want to be able to be the best, do the best. This bill right now, personally, it's a tragedy as far as I'm concerned because it has nothing to do with universal health care.
BLITZER: And it doesn't have the so-called public option that you and so many other Democrats wanted. Go ahead and respond to Michael Moore.
WEINER: You know what, I've compromised a long way. I've been on with you in the past and I said I thought there should be a single payer system like Medicare for all Americans. I compromised the public option to get a sliver of competition, and now I'm still fighting tooth and nail to make sure that's included in the reconciliation. This comes down to a fundamental question that goes into all legislating. Do you let the perfect be the enemy of the good? There is no doubt that the senate bill with the changes made by the house are far, far better than the status quo. Far more people will be covered, far more people will be protected. Is Michael Moore right? He's been right about a lot of this debate, and if me and Michael Moore were sitting in a room, we would probably write a better bill than this. This is what we're down to, which is, do we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and I say the answer has to be no to that.
BLITZER: Here's what's irritating some folks, and I want you to respond. In the house when they passed the separate legislation amending the Senate version, they're going to throw in major changes on student loans, how the government deals with student loans for college kids all over the country. Is this a smart idea to throw this into the so-called reconciliation bill?
WEINER: There is a lot of language thrown in, ran through. The fact of the matter is whenever we do a reconciliation bill; it always includes different areas of the budget because we're trying to make things work. We're trying to reduce the cost to middle-class families and those struggling to make it. We're trying to reduce the burden on the government by taking out all these fees that would go to banks, butting them in taxpayers' pockets instead. Would reconciliation means for your viewers? It's making the budget resolution fit the new hands, so I think it is appropriate that it's in there. It saves the taxpayer a lot of money.
BLITZER: It also helps they don't have 60 votes to pass it. They might get 50 plus Joe Biden, that would be 51 and they could pass it that way. Congressman Weiner, thanks very much.
WEINER: It's been my pleasure. Thanks.
BLITZER: Could new revelations about the events surrounding his car crash delay Tiger Woods' reported comeback plans? We have new information.
And high above the southern border, unmanned aircraft track illegal immigrants until agents on the ground can catch up with them. We're going behind the scenes.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not exactly breaking news, but times are tough in cities and states all over the country. High unemployment, dwindling tax revenues, forcing local governments to make lots of cuts in order to keep things running. Cnnmoney.com highlighted some of the quirkier services to be done away with. For example Miami is cutting the position of chicken catcher. Apparently the city was overrun with loose chickens four years ago, so they hired a full-time chicken catcher to the payroll. No more. Chicago is toning down its annual July 4th fireworks presentation. Detroit's outsourcing its traditional yellow school bus service to private companies. Some school districts have cut bus service altogether. Parents now have to transport their kids to school. Henderson, Nevada doing away with a free coffee program for seniors. St. Louis is considering charging residents for a once-a-week trash collection. Colorado Springs turning off the city's least efficient streetlights, and they're grounding the two police helicopters. Speaking of police, San Diego getting rid of its horse-mounted patrol after nearly three decades, and Los Angeles, drowning in debt, wants to take the zoo off the city's books. They're negotiating with a non profit group to take over the operation of that. North Las Vegas will quit offering free medical exams to city council members. And some Utah lawmakers want to make the 12th grade optional. Here's the question. How would you suggest your town save money? Give us your thoughts, CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog. Did you know Miami had a full-time chicken catcher?
BLITZER: I didn't. Thanks so much. We'll come back to you shortly.
We're learning more about the car crash that exposed the Tiger Woods sex scandal, even as Woods reportedly planned to return to pro golf within only a matter of a few weeks. Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti has more on these documents that were just released in Florida. What are we learning Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Today the Florida highway patrol released records that arguably raise even more questions about what happened that night. Remember, it was about 2:00 in the morning thanksgiving night when Tiger Woods left his house, crashed his SUV into a tree at the end of his driveway. You'll also recall that an ambulance took Woods to the hospital, but his wife didn't go with him. Why? Well a Florida highway patrol report refers to the paramedics, and Tiger Woods is called D1 in this record. You'll see an excerpt from it right now. The record states that one of the crew stated that D-1's wife couldn't go into the ambulance because this was a domestic. That language in cop speak usually means a possible domestic dispute. Tiger Woods said in his public apology that his wife did nothing wrong, that she never hurt him and that she used a golf club to bash out the windows of the SUV just to get him out of the locked car after the crash.
BLITZER: Are we getting any or information on these suspicions that either he was drinking or taking certain medication before the accident?
CANDIOTTI: A lot of that is still unknown because no blood tests were ever handed over to the police. We already that his wife told police that her husband had a drink earlier that day but she didn't remember exactly when or how much and that he did have pills for sleeping and for pain, Ambien and Vicodin. This report, and there's another one, said she brought the pill bottles out to the paramedics that night.
BLITZER: These newly reduced documents Susan give us more information about what Florida troopers did in order to get more information about Woods' condition that night.
CANDIOTTI: We're learning a bit more. First, the records department at the hospital was closed that Friday. So the Florida highway patrol went back the following Monday. They were told the computers were down, and they need a warrant, and we already know that the state's attorney would not press for a warrant saying that the troopers had quote, insufficient evidence. The bottom line here is that the investigation is closed police say and Tiger Woods insists he has more to say about it, so we may never know exactly what happened that night leading up to the accident unless of course Tiger Woods changes his mind or unless his wife Elin decides to talk about it. At this point, I think it's highly unlikely.
BLITZER: I think you're probably right. Susan Candiotti, good report. Now the reports that Tiger Woods is preparing to make his comeback are out possibly at the masters tournament in early April, will he be able to put the scandal of his personal life behind him?
Joining us now, CNN sports business analyst Rick Horrow. He's coming out with a brand new book entitled, "Beyond the Box Score." Rick, thank you for coming, and this is a huge, huge deal not only for Tiger Woods but for golf, for business, the interest would be enormous if he shows up at the masters.
RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Well first of all, I haven't finished reading the tabloids talking about I'm sorry. How do you say I'm sorry 19 times in 13 1/2 minutes. He did that. Hard to do, and now we're into when does he come back? Well as far as Tiger's concerned Wolf, let's not hold a bake sale for the guy because he makes $103 million a year, at least did, and he does have Nike and he does have EA Sports that will stand by him. If he plays well out of the box, then remember he resumes his chase for Jack's major record. If he doesn't, we talk about his tattered image once again. It's all about what he does between the ropes.
BLITZER: What if he wins the masters? That's a huge what-if given the fact he hasn't played now in several months and golf is so much a game of focusing in, and it's so hard to imagine that you can focus after what's going on.
HORROW: It's hard to believe this guy has won what he's won at 34 years old. He might be the greatest sports star in the history of the world although I know I'm prone to overstatement. Take a look at what it does in the golf business. 1% decrease in merchandise sales and golf playing. But it reinvigorates again. He was the guy who went from nine millionaires in the story to 91.
BLITZER: Are you surprised he could come back in only a few weeks? When he made that huge apology and he has a lot of work to do.
HORROW: I'm not quite sure when he comes back. Nothing would surprise me except if the stories are true about maybe the masters, it is going to be the biggest story, as we said. He's only going to come back if his competitive mind thinks he has a shot at winning.
BLITZER: In other words, he's going to be practicing between now and then to see if he's really ready to play a lot of serious golf.
HORROW: Yeah, he's practicing now, and remember, corporate America is waiting for him now, because when you look at all these endorsement deals. Even ones where they're sure they're ready to get on the Tiger bandwagon and I think in the future every deal after he comes back regardless of how well he plays will be shorter and smaller and easier to terminate. It will say even Lebron James. So $12 million in endorsement deals, it's not only by what Tiger Woods has done but what he's going to do.
BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story with you Rick. Thanks very much, Rick Horrow our sports business analyst; The wife of Harry Reid under goes surgery today after breaking her neck and her back in a car crash, what the doctor's are saying about the procedure and her condition.
And the government has a serious warning for parents who use those popular slings to carry their babies.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what do you have?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. The wife of Senate majority leader Harry Reid underwent surgery today after breaking her neck and back in a car crash. A doctor at the Virginia hospital where she's being treated said the procedure successfully stabilized her injuries and she is not at risk of paralysis. Reid's daughter also was injured when a tractor-trailer ran into the rear ended the car the two where driving in yesterday and is now being released from the hospital.
The government has warning for parents who use those popular slings to carry their babies. They can suffocate. They've investigated 13 deaths and it is now urging parents to be cautious when using them with babies younger than four months. The group says the sling can press against the baby's nose and mouth and restrict air supply.
Scientists say the decapitated remains of 51 men in a mass grave last year belonged to Vikings from the dark ages. Scientists were also able to find out details about the climate the men lived in and what they eat. I would say it's pretty unusual. Pretty amazing story if you consider Vikings from the dark ages, and what do you know, a little peek back in history.
BLITZER: Who knew? Lisa thank you.
We have another story here, Dan Seymour, a former advisor to President George W. Bush will announce within the next month whether he'll run for the senate from New York State. That's coming from multiple sources confirming that information to CNN. He's seriously considering a run. If he runs Seymour would take on the Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand who was appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat when she became secretary of state. Three prominent New York Republicans say Seymour is being encouraged by state party leaders to enter the race. Seymour worked for the defense department during the build up to the war in Iraq. After the invasion, he became an adviser and chief spokesman for Paul Bremer. Seymour now works in New York as a private equity executive. He is married to CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who is not commenting at this time. We'll watch and see his decision.
A Virginia high school featured on the big screen is having real life drama. Now that it's been labeled one of the worst performing schools in the country. President Obama has praised the work being done by the boys and girls of America. Some senators are now demanding to know why the non-profit group spent so much money, perhaps on salaries.
BLITZER: A CEO's million dollar salary and bonuses, millions spent on travel, conventions, lobbying fees, all are raising eyebrows among U.S. senators. This time it's not corporate executives and their sites, but rather executives of a very popular and long-standing charity. CNN's Lisa Sylvester is here in THE SITUATION ROOM working this story for us. It's the Boys and Girls Clubs of America that do important work, but what is going on here?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, as you well know, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America has done a lot of great work over the years helping underprivileged kids. Last summer President Obama visited one of their clubs, reading to the kids, but now the group's executives are coming under fire. Four Republican senators want to know more about the national group's finances, and we'll start here with their 2008 tax records. The president of the non-profit organization has a base salary of $360,000, a performance bonus of an additional $150,000, and then on top of that, an annual benefits package, including contributions to a retirement fund, totaling more than $477,000. Total annual compensation for the president, $988,591. Other expenses the senators are inquiring about? In 2008, the group spent a little more than $4 million on travel, more than $500,000 on lobbying and more than $1 million on conferences and meetings. This is all coming at a time when boys and girls clubs have had to close because of a lack of funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Is it legitimate to be siphoning off a lot of money, taxpayers' money, to high salaries and travel and lobbying efforts when we have needs for keeping the Boys and Girls Clubs open because they serve such a useful purpose, and particularly in poverty-stricken, low-income areas of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: So, the reason why Senate lawmakers are looking into all of this is because it's taxpayer dollars that are involved here. About 40 percent of the Boys and Girls revenue comes from federal funds and they're seeking a reauthorization now, $425 million over the next five years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What do the Boys and Girls Club, the leadership, what do they have to say about this?
SYLVESTER: Well, the group is, in fact, defending it expenses. The $4 million in travel, well they say that covers 350 national staff members who are often visiting local clubs. And they say they're CEO, Roxanne Spillett's pay is comparable to other charitable groups.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EVAN MCELROY, BOYS & GIRLS OF AMERICA: Our CEO's compensation, our executive compensation is totally in line with similar non-profit organizations. If you look at the lists that are published online about the non-profit sector, you would even find that her salary and overall compensation is lower than many comparable executives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I know you've been doing some checking. Is that true, is her salary on line with other comparable charity groups?
SYLVESTER: Well, what we did is we took a look online and there's a group, it's called Charity Navigator. And what they do is they track non-profit charities and they say that the average CEO salary for 2009 for groups in 100 million or more in expenses, is $462,000. The president of the Boys and Girls Club annual salary and bonus, if you tally it up, about 550,000, so it is, Wolf, actually higher than the average.
BLITZER: But if you bring in another $400,000 and retirement, annual retirement, that brings it up to close to a million dollars a year.
SYLVESTER: Yeah, we're talking a lot money, here. And again, keep in mind, this is at a time when the Boys and Girls Clubs -- well, there's some of these clubs are having to close because they don't have the funding and the resources. Well...
BLITZER: Stay on top of this for us, because the sad thing is that a lot of little boys and girls could be hurt if people stop making contributions because they're upset about a million dollars a year going to the president and CEO of this charitable organization.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
A Virginia high school that won such accolades for the inroads it made toward integration that it became the subject of an aspiring film now has earned a far more dubious distinction. It's listed as one of the nation's poorest academic performers. CNN's Brian Todd when to T.C. William's High School in northern Virginia to find out what has happened -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this school has legendary status and clearly does not lack for resources, but right now it is struggling to get out from under the label of being a poor performer.
(voice-over): The midday rush between classes at T.C. Williams, a vibrant, diverse and legendary high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Its successful efforts at integration in the '70s immortalized in the movie "Remember the Titans."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You going to command your troops tonight, you understand? Twins right, 48, zero (INAUDIBLE). Let's go.
TODD: It's a sports powerhouse, boasts a $100 million facelift that includes a rooftop garden and a state of the art water recycling system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids added this as a way to trap the rain waters, so that they can feed the sprinkler system.
TODD: Every one of the nearly 3,000 kids here is given a laptop. Despite all this, T.C. Williams has been singled out as one the nation's poorest performing schools by state and federal officials.
Given the education crises in places like Kansas City where half the schools are closing, this label has Alexandria City School superintendent, Morton Sherman, fuming.
MORTON SHERMAN, ALEXANDRIA CITY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: We don't' deserve that dissertation. I think it's an overbroad net and it caught us.
TODD: City and school administrators complain that that the low achievement label is based on four tests in reading and math, tests where T.C. Williams kids, they say, didn't miss the national average by much. And they say federal and state officials don't take into account the fact that 80 percent of the graduates here go on to college and that dozens of advanced placement classes are offered.
But a state education official tells CNN that over the past two years, T.C. Williams has not reduced its failure rate in math and reading enough to qualify for the certain federal money. The school has never met all the testing benchmarks covered in the No Child Left Behind Law.
I spoke about that with Chris Amundson, an analysts with the independent think-tank, Education Sector.
(on camera): What do you think is brining T.C. Williams down, here?
KRIS AMUNDSON, EDUCATION SECTOR: Well, I think there are certainly some student groups that have problems. You have kids who may have never going to school in their home country, who came here not speaking English and not very long ago. You've got kids who are living in persistent poverty and may have moved seven or eight times.
TODD (voice-over): More than half the students here live at poverty level, but administrators say only about a quarter of them bring down the school's average. Still, administrators here say no excuses. Morton Sherman says the fact that a fifth of the school's Latino students drop out is awful.
Assistant principal, Tammy Ignacio tells me they've got to do some triage.
TAMMY IGNACIO, EXEC ASST PRINCIPAL T.C. WILLIAMS H.S.: Extensive tutoring in math instruction, Reading instruction and working with teachers to provide them with the tools that they need or tell us that they need.
TODD (on camera): Now that it's been given that low achievement label, T.C. Williams can get up to $150 million in federal money, but to do that it's got to make one out of four difficult and radical choices. It can fire half the faculty, it can reopen as a charter school, it can overall it's academic programs which would include lengthening the school day and the school year, or it can shut down completely and in that case some of the money would be disbursed to the schools that take the kids. But Morton Sherman says that last option of shutting down, really isn't something he can do, because T.C. Williams is the only high school in the Alexandria City system, and there would essentially be no other high school to take these kids -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd in northern Virginia watching this story. Thank you.
A wider look now. How many U.S. schools are in actual trouble? According to the Education Department, 12 percent of the country's schools produced 50 percent of its dropouts, 5,000 schools are ranked among the lowest performing schools, nationwide. The department intends to invest $4 million to turn the lowest achieving schools around. They will try.
The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, says the government of Israel insulted the United States during Vice President Joe Biden's visit, this week. We have details.
Former child star Corey Haim's death may be linked to a massive prescription drug ring. We have detail of that, as well. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what else is going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi Wolf, well the California attorney general now says former teen actor, Corey Haim's death is linked to an illegal and massive prescription drug ring. Jerry Brown says his office is investigating an unauthorized prescription drug in Haim's name that was found in an ongoing investigation of fraudulent prescription drug pads. The coroner's office has not yet ruled on cause of death. Haim died Wednesday at the age of 38.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still sounds upset about Israel's decision to build new housing in a disputed air of Jerusalem. She spoke with CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Daugherty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), US SECRETARY OF STATE: The announcement of the settlement on the very day that the vice president was there was insulting. I mean, it was just really a very unfortunate and difficult moment for everyone. The United States, our vice president, who had, you know, gone to reassert America's strong support for Israeli security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Earlier, Clinton called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to complain about the move -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah, she clearly was not happy about that and neither was Biden, the vice president of the United States. And we'll see how -- what impact it has on U.S./Israeli relations. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that report.
CNN is debuting a documentary this weekend about one man's journey to becoming a woman. We're going to talk about that along with the first transgender community to work on Capitol Hill, stand by.
And a powerful weapon of war used to catch illegal immigrants. We're tracking the story along the U.S./Mexico border.
BLITZER: This weekend CNN will premier its eye-opening documentary, "Her Name was Steven" which chronicles one person's transgender journey from husband and father to a new life as a woman. Diego Sanchez has already made that very personal journey, as well. He's a legislative assistant to Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and is the first transgender person to work on Capitol Hill. He's also a veteran's civil rights activist for lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender issues. And Diego is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much for coming in.
DIEGO SANCHEZ, LEGISLATIVE AIDE TO REP BARNEY FRANK: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Tell us about this transition, as you call it. When did you realize that you were not the person physically you were born?
SANCHEZ: It was very early in life. At the age of four or five, I told my parents that I was born wrong and...
BLITZER: Because you were a little girl at the time.
SANCHEZ: I was a little girl at the time.
BLITZER: What made you say that?
SANCHEZ: I felt that I was wrong. I just knew that I wasn't right. It wasn't right. I had friends who were boys and girls and I knew that I wasn't right. And my mother actually brought out the copy of "Life" magazine with Christine Jorgensen on the cover and said, I don't know if it's going to be OK for you, but this person was born a boy and became, grew up to be a man and became a woman. I think by the time you grow up, it'll be OK.
BLITZER: Because you didn't think you were just like being a tomboy or something like that?
SANCHEZ: Oh, no, it's much, much deeper than that. Gender identity is much deeper than just simple behaviors, simple activities.
BLITZER: So, walk us though the process. Then what happened?
SANCHEZ: Then what happened was I got to struggle through growing up in the rural south, in Georgia, but I was able to find people who were filled with love. My parents were very supportive and always have been, and I just worked my way by focusing on work, which is why things that -- for people like me who don't get to work is why we need things like the employment non-discrimination act. We never had it when I was growing up, but if we had it for young people growing up now, their lives will be much smoother.
BLITZER: So, how old were you when you actually started the surgeries, the actual -- the work to change you from being a woman to a man?
SANCHEZ: Well, I don't know that I ever felt like a woman. I knew that I was born female and I knew that I was identified as a girl, but I was so duly socialized. I always felt that I was a boy and I just happened to be in a body that didn't match what my insides were. To answer your question directly, though, I started looking for surgeons when I was 18 and it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I actually was able to -- began to transition.
BLITZER: How long did this transition take?
SANCHEZ: I'm still transitioning now...
BLITZER: And how old are you now?
SANCHEZ: I'm 53.
BLITZER: So, it's taken all these years.
BLITZER: And what's it been like?
SANCHEZ: It's been phenomenal on the back end of it. It's been phenomenal to have been able to know that this is possible and that people can achieve this and I've had the luxury to be able to do that, and it is a luxury.
BLITZER: It's been worth it?
BLITZER: All the pain, all the suffering.
SANCHEZ: Of course. BLITZER: All the years of abuse or whatever you went through, it's been worth it?
SANCHEZ: It's been worth it, and the hardest part where -- is most people in this country and many countries really want to do nothing more than be with their families and work from one day to the next, and so many people are not afforded that right now.
BLITZER: What would you say to those people who may be watching right now struggling with what's called gender identity?
SANCHEZ: I would say there is hope. There are resources, including HRC, the National Center for Transgender Equality and many others on a state or local basis. Laws have begun to change ever since 2002, so hang in there and we're doing the best that we can, right now.
BLITZER: It's not cheap. Does health insurance pay for this?
SANCHEZ: No it doesn't. But the more important thing when you're thinking about geographically looking at the beautiful CNN maps that you made them 3-D over time, that 38 states, it's still legal in 38 state to be fired simply for your gender identity, including my home state of Massachusetts. And in 29 states, it's still legal for someone to be fired for their sexual orientation. And the way to distinguish those, gender identity is who you are, sexual orientation is who you're attracted to or who you like. They're not the same thing.
BLITZER: And most of the transition has been men who want to at least female, men who want to become females as opposed to the other way; is that right?
SANCHEZ: Absolutely. When you look at medical transitions and you look at documentation, both in our country and in countries with a national health care, you find that the number is three times the number of people who were born male who transition to female than people who were born female and transition to male.
BLITZER: Diego Sanchez, thanks very much for coming in.
SANCHEZ: Pleasure, thanks for having me.
BLITZER: So, how would you suggest your town save money? Jack Cafferty has your e-mail, that's coming up. But I just want to alert our viewers that CNN has an important documentary on this whole issue of transgender transition, what's going on. It's entitled -- the premier will be tomorrow night, "Her Name was Steven," Saturday and Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. If you want to know more about this compelling story, Saturday night and Sunday night, the CNN documentary, "Her Name was Steven" right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: The question is, how would save your town money? Miami is going to fire its chicken catcher. Over the last four years, the guy has caught 15,000 stray chickens and rooster roosters, sounds to me like he's earned his keep, but he's out.
Sue in New Jersey: "Why does the town tax office need a staff of four or five, not counting the town tax collector who makes over 150 grand in salary? Cut the staff to two, let the other two people go. Simple as that. Do the same with the other offices where there's duplication."
Chuck writes, "My town has a city bus service that's hardly utilized by anyone. Every little 20-seat mini bus you see running up and down the streets is almost always empty. The service only exists because the federal government subsidizes it, but there are expenses galore."
I'll bet there are.
Z in Tampa writes, "I worked with some county hospitals. Those executives being paid $200,000 to $600,000, they are peter principled out. It takes them 6,000 hours to watch 60 minutes. Some of them can't even do e-mail or sink a phone and yet they're in management and decision making positions."
Kathy in New Jersey: "Stop paying 1975 sick days with 2010 dollars. Sick days are to be used for sickness. Use it or lose it. It seems I'd have been healthier if I had worked for my own town instead of a large corporation. Town employees obviously never get sick and then retire with thousands of tax payer dollars."
Bob writes, "My town refuses to lay off any workers, therefore, their answer is to raise taxes on anything they can. With house prices down a continuing spiral in employment, it keeps getting worse. They're living in the past, not the present. The only reasonable answer is to cut back on non-priority services, no overtime except for emergencies and put a hiring freeze on bonuses and promotions -- put a freeze on hiring, bonuses and promotions."
And Chad in Los Angeles, "For L.A., this is easy: Tax all elective cosmetic surgery and procedures. This would only affect the wealthy, which is ideal. If you can afford to make yourself look younger, then you can afford to help the city balance its budget."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile.
The guy got 15,000 chickens in four years. That's pretty good, isn't it?
BLITZER: Yeah, that's a lot of chickens.
CAFFERTY: They might want to keep him on. There's a lot of stray chickens in Miami.
BLITZER: I want you to have a great, relaxing weekend, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Oh, well, thank you, I'm going to try and I'll see you Monday.
BLITZER: See you Monday. Thank you.
U.S. drones are in the air tracking illegal immigrants. We're going to give you a behind the scenes look.
BLITZER: Texas lawmakers pushing for unmanned aircraft to be deployed along the border with Mexico to look for illegal immigrants. It's an expensive proposition. CNN's Ed Lavandera has this report.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're in Ft. Wachuka in southeast Arizona. We're about to give you a close and personal look how unmanned aircrafts are patrolling the southern border.
(voice-over): Inside this small trailer, a team of three Custom and Border Protection agents are steering a Predator II unmanned aircraft along the Mexico/Arizona border. Jerry Kerskey is at the helm and it's already busy.
(on camera): So Gerry, so what's the situation we got here?
JERRY KERSKEY, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: This is a group that we got off a cold hit from a sensor.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The camera spotted 14 illegal immigrants crossing through rugged mountainous terrain some 40 feet away. They have no idea they're being watched from 19,000 feet in the sky.
KERSKEY: Border patrol agents should be responding.
LAVANDERA: But then a surprise pops up on the screen.
KERSKEY: We got another group. We got how many? Start counting them.
LAVANDERA: There are now 31 illegal immigrants walking north, already 14 miles inside the United States. This is a huge area, and the border patrol lacks the manpower to fully patrol it. It's the reason some want to expand Predator patrols all along the southern border.
(on camera): You think sending more Predator aircraft across the border would help?
KERSKEY: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's much more cost-effective to do that.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): We'll return to that scene in the mountains in a moment. Earlier in the day, the Predator focused its camera on me to give you a simultaneous aerial and ground view.
(on camera): I'm told it's five and a half miles in that direction. I can't see it, but we're going to put it to the test, walk around this park and see what I look like in the eyes of the unmanned aircraft.
KERSKEY: The suspects are now running across the field. He's gone under some bushes in a covered area, so we'll keep our camera focused in that area. If he tries to pop out either side of that, any angle on that, we'll know which way he goes.
LAVANDERA: I'm going to keep moving and see if I can find any other place to hide.
(voice-over): I find a place to sit under a tall pine tree.
KERSKEY: And you see him moving around in there, trying to hide. The suspect entering what appears to be a playground area. He can run, but he can't hide.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Makes you feel like you're 10 years old playing hide and go seek.
(voice-over): Of course, these CBP agents are engaged in a real- life version and border patrol agents have now found the 31 illegal immigrants we told you about earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once he starts the inner vehicles, you can just guide us in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the group, let's see, they're start to go run across the road now.
Stop, stop. The group is to your right. You're less than 30 yards from them. The group is running. The group is running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Jesus Christ, that's what - try get away from those clouds here.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Those clouds come at the worst time possible.
KERSKEY: Exactly. Exactly, so you know, you got elements out there that you don't control. So, but tomorrow is another day. We'll be right back at it try to get more.
LAVANDERA: It's 11:00 and the mission for this aircraft is over tonight, but the scenario some 40 miles away continues to play out. Border patrol agents are still looking for those 31 illegal immigrants. We know they've caught three, but everyone here will have to wait to see how it all plays out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, good report, thank you. By the way, a few hours after Ed sent us that report, border patrol agents called to say they had captured 18 of the 31 illegal immigrants in that group.
Tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, we have several special guests. Karl Rove will be joining us. General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and a major debate on education with Arne Duncan, the education secretary, and Bill Bennett, the former Reagan Education secretary, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. And I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, CAMPBELL BROWN.