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THE SITUATION ROOM
Health Care March Madness; President Obama's High Wire Act; Privacy; Financial Reform; Toyota Disputes Runaway Prius Account
Aired March 15, 2010 - 19:00 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, President Obama and Democrats put on their game faces and make their final big play for health care reform -- this hour the arm-twisting, the promises going on behind closed doors and the risks for the president if he comes up short.
Plus, Toyota now is fighting back against one man's claim about his runaway Prius. Did he try to profit off the carmaker's recall crisis?
And an explosion of new drug violence in Mexico, an emergency request from the Texas governor. He's asking the U.S. military to deploy a critical weapon to prevent blood from spilling across the border.
Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now the president and Congress are caught up in Washington's version of March madness. This editorial cartoon by Bob Gurell (ph) pretty much sums it up. Every one of the president's brackets says health care. We're just beginning a climactic week in the fight for reform.
Well the House Budget Committee has started the controversial process of trying to pass the bill without any Republican support. I want to bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar and honestly, House Democrats are scrambling to get these 216 votes that they need to pass reform. They're making the fixes to the Senate version of the bill. Tell us what is going on right now. I guess the sausage making, if you will.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There isn't. There's actually a dinner break here at the House Budget Committee, but they are and have been and will continue to after a short recess, reviewing and voting on an outline of the changes that Democrats want to make to the Senate health care package. So this is going to be a vote that could happen in the House, an end vote in the House, as soon as Friday or Saturday.
This is actually -- it's sort of a symbolic process because Democrats outnumber Republicans on this committee, but it's also essential for Democrats to be able to push their health care plan through Congress, to pave the way for the Senate to take up a final health care package and to pass it with only 51 votes. However, this is also a forum for Democrats to tout this bill and for Republicans to rail against Democrats like the ranking member on this committee, Paul Ryan, did a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), BUDGET COMMITTEE: You can't pass this health care bill the right way, and so now you pass it the Washington way. We are not governing here today, we are greasing the skids for an abuse of the budget procedure intended to control the size of government, not expand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Democrats point out on the flip side here that Republicans have used this controversial process of reconciliation only requiring 51 votes in the Senate for other measures that didn't have bipartisan support. Most recently, the Bush tax cuts. So it is this rhetorical going back and forth, Suzanne, as you can imagine.
MALVEAUX: And we know that the White House obviously pushing for it to move as quickly as possible by the time the president leaves now on Sunday for his overseas trip. Tell us what is in this legislation and what's out so far?
KEILAR: Let's talk about what they're planning to peel out of it. First off, remember that much maligned cornhusker kickback, that so-called cornhusker kickback; this was an agreement between Democratic leaders in the Senate and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson that would have relieved the state of Nebraska from picking up the tab for their part of expanding Medicaid. That's going to be pulled out.
And the big things that are in, that Cadillac plan tax, which is a tax on these higher end health insurance plans, there have been some changes so that after a deal was brokered with unions so that fewer of these plans will be taxed and that that tax is going to go into effect a little farther down the road. There's also a fix for what's known as the Medicare doughnut hole. A lot of seniors on Medicare, they start paying for prescription drugs or getting that benefit from Medicare, and then all of a sudden it runs out and they find themselves paying in full before they qualify for more.
That's called the doughnut hole. And this is supposed to get them out of that trouble. Also there's something that you may think is very strange. It's a student loan provision. You say what is that doing on this bill? Well, what it is, is it is right now private lenders are able to facilitate the lending of a lot of federally backed loans. And what this will do is take it out of their hands, put it solely in the hands of federal government -- in the federal government. But one of the reasons Democrats have decided to add it into this reconciliation process is they really have a hard time getting 60 votes. They can get 51 on this issue of the school loan, so they're tacking it on to this -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right, Brianna thanks so much. I'm sure you'll be there after that dinner recess. Appreciate it. Thanks again. Well of course, it's a high wire act for President Obama. He is working, you could say, without a net at this point. He flew to Ohio today for another campaign-style pitch for health care reform. I want you to listen to some of his remarks and how he played off of a shout- out from a woman in the audience. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hear a lot of people in Washington talking about politic, talking about what this means in November, talking about the poll numbers for Democrats and Republicans. We need courage.
OBAMA: Did you hear what -- did you hear what somebody just said there?
OBAMA: That's what we need. That's why I came here today. We need courage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: That's a new line. We need courage. I want to bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Gloria, you and I have both been talking to White House folks. What struck me about today's event was obviously he was being very personal about it. You know? He talked about this woman Natoma, and how she was suffering from leukemia. She needed health care, her premium is going up. He said I'm doing this for my mother who died of cancer, as well, and struggling with the insurance companies. White House officials, what are they telling you and when they take their argument to the Democrats, to these lawmakers and say, we've got to get this thing done.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: You know behind closed doors, it's a little less personal. It's about what's good for them. And the White House is making the argument to these House Democrats, look, you've already taken a tough vote on health care reform. You might as well have an accomplishment to show for it when you go home to face the voters in November. And then they're giving them a list of things that in Washington speak, Suzanne, they call the deliverables. You know? And it sounds like the movie "The Incredibles," but it's the deliverables --
BORGER: And they're saying these are things that are going to happen in six months. For example, they say you're going to eliminate lifetime caps on health insurance. So if you buy a policy now they can't say it's $1 million cap. You can use it as much as you need to. Another thing that's going to be very important, no exclusion of children with pre-existing conditions, so if you buy a new insurance plan and you have a child who is sick, they cannot be excluded.
Also, dependent children are now covered until the age of 26. So your children who are over 21 and may not have a job that pays their health insurance can still be on your policy. That's very important to a lot of families. And of course, small business tax credits to help small businesses buy health insurance. They say these are the deliverable items you can bring home to your constituents and they're going to see it within the next six months, and then the White House believes they're going to change their minds and they're going to decide that they like health insurance reform.
MALVEAUX: After all --
BORGER: After all, right.
MALVEAUX: One of the things that we heard from the president, he's been talking about, he says, you know, what's at stake here is obviously members of Congress, the Democratic majority getting something done. But the White House, this president has a lot at stake --
MALVEAUX: -- in terms of moving toward his agenda. How risky is this do you think?
BORGER: On a scale of one to 10, it's about 11. I was talking to one White House adviser today who said that the risk is kind of unprecedented. As you and I both this, this is an all-in president, but this is probably the biggest gamble he has made. You know back in January, you think back to January, we were all saying he's going to give up on health insurance reform and he's going to -- you know because he doesn't have the votes. He lost the Massachusetts Senate seat --
MALVEAUX: Right --
BORGER: And they decided, the president decided actually to go ahead. And so if they lose this fight, they're going to have a very tough time getting the rest of their agenda through Congress. They're going to have a tough time getting the Democrats to vote with them again. And so I think they're kind of putting everything in this pot right now.
MALVEAUX: And it's strange because in a way it's just like President Bush. He was kind of an all or nothing kind of guy.
MALVEAUX: I spent six months covering him moving from one place, one state to another talking about privatization of Social Security. Just did not happen. Is there progress? Is there real progress you believe that they're making at this point?
BORGER: Well they say they are, of course. I was -- one senior White House adviser told me today that Nancy Pelosi has some kind of soft votes, that there are folks, Democrats who really want to vote against the bill, but they don't want to be the vote that kills the bill. And so they've said to her, we'll help you out if you need us, but hopefully you won't need us. So she's keeping those in her back pocket. And if she needs them, you can be sure she's going to call upon them. But right now they're a little more optimistic than they were say a week ago at this time.
MALVEAUX: And I guess part of the strategy is giving the appearance of momentum and optimism to see if that actually builds on it --
BORGER: Nothing succeeds like success.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Gloria. Appreciate it.
MALVEAUX: Well Toyota is now casting doubt on a driver's terrifying story about a runaway Prius. What investigators are learning about this case and after the latest violence in northern Mexico, the governor of Texas wants the U.S. to deploy unmanned drones above the border. We're going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what they can do.
And could big changes be ahead for Wall Street? A new financial reform plan is on the table, what it means for the banks and for you. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File". Hey, Jack, what are you working on?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, why no one cares about privacy any more is the title of a piece on CNET.com, where it describes how as technology and especially social networking sites keep growing, people seem more and more willing to part with confidentiality. In many cases they give up some level of privacy in order to access these services for free. Think about it, millions of people go online every day to sites like YouTube or Facebook, Twitter, Google. They share pictures, videos, personal information about their family, their jobs, their education or even trivial things like what their favorite movie is or what they ate for lunch.
Why anybody is interested in reading any of this garbage is a much bigger question as far as I'm concerned, but I digress. It is more common every day for these services to be able to track you. Twitter now allows users to include geo location data in their messages and they're encouraging people to do so. Other services let you select who can monitor your GPS derived location every moment of every day through your cell phone. Google maps can show pictures to the world of your front door.
As for medical privacy, some people seem to care less who knows the intimate details about their health. They go online, share stories about cancer or other diseases or give details of their pregnancies. And then there's the ability of companies like Amazon or Netflix to gather information on your shopping habits and then suggest which movie or book you might want to buy next. It should come as no surprise that young people, the so-called generation exhibitionists are the most comfortable with all of this.
One 2008 survey shows only 41 percent of U.S. teens were concerned about privacy. Fifty-nine percent were happy to give up personal information to marketers. So here's the question. Are we as concerned about privacy as we used to be or maybe as we should be? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Post a comment on my blog. Do you frequent all those sites, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Well Jack, I assume you don't tweet then, huh?
CAFFERTY: I don't do any of that stuff --
MALVEAUX: I'm a Twitter. I started tweeting recently, well you know about six months ago.
CAFFERTY: Wolf does that, too. I -- no, I don't participate in any of that stuff.
MALVEAUX: Yes, but we're all curious about your life, Jack, so you know you could start.
CAFFERTY: That's one of the reasons I don't participate.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jack. It will be interesting what people have to say.
CAFFERTY: All right.
MALVEAUX: At the height of the Wall Street bailout and financial meltdown, President Obama had high hopes and big plans overhauling the system. Well today a somewhat less ambitious version of the banking reform is now on the table. It could still mean big changes for Wall Street and for everyday Americans. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, she is following this story for us. And Jessica, you've got tons of information. Can you break it down for us?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's break it down, Suzanne. Beginning almost a year and a half ago, remember, that's when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the whole panic began. It took 15 months from that time until the House of Representatives even began to pass its own bill on Wall Street reform. Now, remember, Congress promised after bailing out these banks, never again.
Today there is still no bill out of the Senate, but the Senate Banking Committee's Chairman Chris Dodd has introduced his proposal. Now, here's what's important about that, Suzanne, it has no Republican support, not one. And it needs one Republican to pass. So Chairman Dodd has made compromises to woo Republicans. And that means he has a bill that Democrats and Republicans are both going to criticize because it's a compromise.
Now I'll point out the element that's stirring the most controversy. The bill would create a new bureau that's designed just to protect consumers. Here's Senator Dodd talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), BANKING CHAIRMAN: This legislation will create a strong and independent consumer protection watchdog. This crisis started when people were given mortgages they didn't understand and could never afford. If there was a watchdog on duty, it didn't bark. We need to strengthen not only its bark but also its bite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Suzanne, this watchdog would have the power to ban abusive practices in credit cards, mortgages, pay day loans, things like that. Now it's going to be under the Dodd bill independent and it has enforcement power and it will be inside the Federal Reserve. Now we talked about those compromises. Here's where they come in.
The Federal Reserve -- putting this inside the Federal Reserve makes Democrats unhappy because the Fed's first job is to protect banks. That could conflict with protecting consumers and the Fed has failed to protect consumers in the past. But Senate Republicans, they object to the bureau, this watchdog, at all. They say it's just another layer of regulation when what's needed is better enforcement in the existing agencies so you can see the debate right there -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So Jessica, the whole point of this is to prevent these banks from becoming too big to fail, obviously, and having these bailouts necessary. Does the legislation actually address that?
YELLIN: It does address it but not as forcefully as for example, the White House had wanted. So how would it provide financial meltdowns? It will still allow huge banks to remain huge, but if they're on the verge of collapse like AIG, this bill would create a council that basically forces it into bankruptcy instead of holding the whole economy hostage.
And bailouts, yes, they allow that they're still going to have to maybe be bailouts in future, but banks will have to pay into a bailout fund going forward. If they ever dip into it, the money would be coming from the bank, not the taxpayers. And how about all those risky trades that everyone says got us into the crisis to begin with, the credit default swaps, those trades will still be allowed but they're going to be more public.
So regulators and investors can do a better job of seeing what Wall Street is up to. On this one there are really a lot of exemptions and loopholes, it's pretty murky, but the Democrats, Chris Dodd says it's better than the system we have now and it's a compromise that could get us to some new regulation -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK, Jessica, thank you so much. Thank you very much.
Well members of the Northwest plane that overshot the Minneapolis airport last year, you may remember that. We're going to tell you what's happening with the pilots of that controversial flight now.
And time flies when you're in the midst of an Internet revolution. The story your kids and grandkids might not believe.
MALVEAUX: Mary Snow is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Hey, Mary what are you working on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. Well the Northwest Airlines pilots who over-flew their Minneapolis destination last year are dropping their appeal. The Federal Aviation Administration reached a settlement with the pilots. They won't contest having their licenses revoked and they'll be allowed to reapply for them in 10 months instead of 12 months. At the time, the pilots told investigators they became distracted by an airline scheduling system on their laptop computers.
Continental Airlines is ending free food service for many of its passengers and will now offer meals for sale. An airline spokesman says the carrier expects a $35 million boost annually from cost savings and extra revenue. But passengers on some international routes, in first class or on domestic flights over six hours will still get free food.
Soccer star David Beckham is hoping to recover quickly from a torn Achilles tendon. The midfielder checked into a hospital in Finland today for surgery. His doctor says there's a glimmer of hope the 34-year-old could recover in time to play in the World Cup in South Africa this June.
Phillips-Van Heusen is aiming to become the world largest apparel maker. The company announced plans today to buy Tommy Hilfiger in a deal worth about $3 billion in cash and stock. Phillips-Van Heusen already owns Calvin Klein, IZOD and Arrow. Tommy Hilfiger will stay on as a principal designer for the line.
And here is a flashback -- so many young people have never known life without the Internet. But on this day 25 years ago, there was only one dot-com domain on the Web. It was the very first one and it was called Symbolics.com. By the end of 1985, there were six dot-com Web sites and 100 within two years. After that the Internet revolution took off. By 1995, there were 18,000 dot-com sites registered. Today -- listen to this -- there are more than 80 million and more than 200 million Internet Web sites in all -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Hard to keep up with. I remember I was using a typewriter in college. I guess that kind of dates me.
SNOW: It is hard to believe that we lived without the Internet.
MALVEAUX: A souped-up typewriter, though. All right thanks, Mary.
MALVEAUX: Well he had us on the edges of our seats, a Prius with a mind of its own careening down a California highway. Well, now, Toyota is shedding doubt on the story.
And is hailing a taxi in New York City an invitation to be ripped off? The city is investigating allegations that thousands of cab drivers have been overcharging riders in the tune of millions of dollars.
MALVEAUX: The driver's story was gripping, trapped behind the wheel of a runaway Prius. He topped 90 miles per hour before a Highway Patrol officer caught up to him and helped him bring the car to a stop. But now Toyota says an investigation is casting doubt on that account. Our Brian Todd has been looking into this. And Brian, obviously there are more questions now around this case than what we know.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many, many more questions, Suzanne, Toyota now pushing back very hard and very publicly against this driver's account of an out-of-control Prius. Jim Sikes had claimed the gas pedal on his car got stuck recently on a highway near San Diego. That it got past 90 miles an hour. Here's how he said he reacted at that time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SIKES: As it was going, I was trying the brakes. I was on the brakes pretty healthy. It wasn't stopping; it wasn't doing anything to it. And it just kept speeding up, just kept going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Finally a Highway Patrol officer caught up to Sikes, instructed him by loudspeaker to apply the brakes and the emergency brake at the same time and that tactic worked. He was able to stop the car. No one was injured.
But Toyota now says it is conducting a joint investigation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They tested Sikes' Prius and an identical one. And Toyota says Sikes' account is not consistent with their findings so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MICHELS, TOYOTA MOTOR SALES, USA, INC.: The system was tested under driving conditions and found to be functioning normally, indicating that if the accelerator pedal was stuck pressing the brake pedal would have resulted in dramatically reduced power to the wheels. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The reason for that, Toyota says, is because driving a hybrid car like the Prius with both the gas pedal and the brakes simultaneously depressed would cause serious damage to the motor and to other parts of the car, so it's designed to prevent that from happening. So if you depress the brakes and the gas pedal at the same time, power shuts off to the wheels as you heard the Toyota spokesman say.
And again, in their tests Toyota says the car performed as it was designed to do. Toyota said the car did not show damage consistent with the engine having been at full throttle while the brakes were on. Suzanne, it is now a he- said, she-said situation.
MALVEAUX: What is the attorney saying, Sikes' attorney? How is he responding to this?
TODD: His lawyer John Gomez pushing back very hard saying that this is not surprising that they can't replicate what happened to Sikes' car because Gomez says they can't replicate any of these incidents that are claimed in the sudden acceleration incidents during the recall. This is really not proving anything as far as not saying whether his client lied or was wrong. He said that doesn't say that. They can't replicate anything at this point. So, Toyota says they'd just going to keep looking into this particular incident, and we may hear more from them about Sykes' claim.
MALVEAUX: So, still a lot of questions.
TODD: That's right.
MALVEAUX: OK, thank you. Thanks, Brian.
Well, from a recall nightmare to a major rip-off. New York City says it's investigating taxi drivers who illegally overcharged riders. Victims of the scam may be able to get their money back. Our Mary Snow is in New York with the details.
Mary, I am very curious about this. I'm in New York all the time in these cabs.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so easy to take a cab, Suzanne. You know, call it the yellow line here in New York.
Ever have thought that you were ripped off in a New York City yellow cab? You very well may have been. The city has found that taxi drivers overcharged passengers to the tune of $8.3 million over the last 26 months.
Here's how it apparently worked. Drivers were charging riders the rate that is usually used for people traveling out of the city. And that's double the normal fare on average. Now, people were overcharged $4.45 per ride. Now, the city is looking to see if it can reimburse people who were cheated, but it won't be easy. For starters, you would have to have used a credit card. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: I don't know how practical it is to give people -- get rebates for people, but we'll certainly try to do that. We do have records. Keep in mind, we can only hold -- under the agreement, we can only keep the records for credit card charges for 30 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So Mary, there are a lot of cab drivers who have been implicated in this and a lot of victims. Give us the scope of the problem here.
SNOW: At this point, the city says there are about 36,000 drivers who overcharged on 1.8 million cab rides. However, the organization representing cab drivers is crying foul. The head of the Taxi Workers Alliance disputes that 36,000 number. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BHAIRAVI DESAI, NYC TAXI WORKERS ALLIANCE: We're deeply angry. I mean, this is such an attack on taxi drivers. It's going to affect drivers with every interaction with passengers, the back seat, you know, when at the end of each fare. These are men and women who work 12-hour shifts on a daily basis in one of the most dangerous jobs in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Now the city says the worst offenders were a group of about 3,000 drivers, and a criminal investigation is now under way. But finding people who were scammed won't be easy. Take a listen to this. There are 360 million cab rides in New York City every year.
Suzanne, if you get a rebate, you have to let us know.
MALVEAUX: OK. I'm following the story very closely, Mary. I might be one of those people. All right. Thanks again.
MALVEAUX: Well, a serial sex abuse case in the Catholic Church. Why it's turning a spotlight on the highest levels of the Vatican.
And after violence along the border, the governor of Texas wants the Feds to deploy unmanned drones high above the border. We're going to show you what they can do.
And stunning signs of life deep below the Antarctic ice. We'll show you what scientists spotted there.
MALVEAUX: One week from today, tune in at 7:00 Eastern for the debut of the ultimate show for political junkies. "JOHN KING, USA." It's a combination of high-tech gadgets, behind-the-scenes contacts to bring you politics really like you've never covered it or seen it before. Well today, John is poking into the Democrats' internal tug- of-war over health care reform.
JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "JOHN KING, USA": Yes, I have to get back to work. I'm ready.
MALVEAUX: You've got to get, you know, on TV. We're anxiously awaiting this new show here.
KING: I'm ready. I wish -- we have a few more kinks to work out. But I wish we could go tonight.
MALVEAUX: There are 20 minutes left in the show, and I can just chitchat for a while.
KING: Here we go.
MALVEAUX: Health care. Obviously...
KING: This is fascinating. I mean, this is why you wish you had a show tonight, and you've been exploring it today in THE SITUATION ROOM. You have this amazing tug-of-war within the Democratic Party. Never mind all the incoming from the Republicans who say the president is wrong, that he's going to turn the American people against him by pushing for this reform, and that Democrats will suffer in November.
That's a great political drama, but the better drama at the moment is within the Democratic Party. You see the president going to a big key state today -- Ohio. There are several Democratic House members there who are on the fence when it comes to this big vote. He personally lobbied -- one of them Dennis Kucinich.
So they have liberals who don't like the bill because it doesn't include a public option. They don't like the way the Senate bill would pay for health care reform. You have the more conservative Democrats still upset about the abortion language.
And the president's trying to referee all this. And if that's not a big enough of a problem, you still have some of the left in the party who think there's one last chance to revive the public option. They're mad at the president and they're also running ads against Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Let's have a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm quite sad that a public option isn't in there. It isn't in there because they don't have the votes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have 41 Democrats who have said they'll vote for it.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Obviously, I want the public option.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Those who want to make sure we have no public option, I don't think that's going to happen.
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: The way I look at public option, if it's part of the reconciliation total bill and I like it, I'll vote for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So as if the speaker's problems aren't hard enough trying to rally the votes for the bill, she's being attacked by her friends on the left of the Democratic Party. I talked to leadership sources in both the House and the Senate, and they say in the past they've tried to get these friendly groups to back off, but it hasn't worked. So they're not even bothering now.
And Suzanne, if you talk to Democratic sources out there -- I talked to one Democratic House member who is on the fence, he thinks that the leadership's in denial, that the seeds have already been planted with independent voters, more conservative Democrats, some labor union voters, that this bill simply will not sell with them. It will hurt the Democrats in November.
And I just finished a conversation with a Democratic consultant who does a lot of work in the labor community, and he says he believes this is very much parallel to 1994 where a good number of the more conservative Democrats and labor members who tend sometimes do swing over and vote Republican are gone on this one. They think they're making a miscalculation. You know, the president and his aides think they're wrong and they can turn this.
MALVEAUX: John, we heard the president really personalized the whole argument. He talked about this woman, Natoma, who has leukemia who sent this letter to him. He talks about -- and he says I'm out there for my mother, who died of cancer. Obviously, a populist message. He's really trying to make it much more palatable for Democrats to sign on to this.
But a million dollars in advertising a day. How does -- how does he do that? How does he actually counter what we're seeing and what you just -- what you just saw in those ads?
KING: That's the short-term versus the long-term goal. And all that money being spent. So for a politician, it's about survival. In your district, can you survive? If you're running statewide in a Senate race, can you survive?
But the president is trying to do is say, number one, populism is a key word. The Democratic base is a bit demoralized right now. The intensity is all on the right. The president is trying to turn it to a more populist tone, trying to generate Democratic intensity.
And number two, he's trying to say to those lawmakers, I will be out there for you, I'll be with you this week when you have this big vote and I'll be with you through November, and I will take my operation and come out and try to help you.
The big question is, Suzanne, is he as welcome? Is the president as big a political asset across the country as he was when he was running for election? That's a huge question mark within some portions of the country within his own party.
MALVEAUX: So tell us about your new show. Is it "JOHN KING, USA" or JK? Can we say "JK USA"?
KING: You can say both. We'll start with "JOHN KING, USA."
MALVEAUX: Give us a little preview. What are we going to expect?
KING: We're going to -- we're going to try to have a lot of fun. We're going to cover breaking news like you do in THE SITUATION ROOM that Wolf does when he's here. If there's breaking news in Washington and politics in America, we'll be all over it.
When there's a little time to reflect, we're going to try to connect the dots between Washington and go outside of the country. We'll rely on the best political team on television, but we're also going to introduce some new faces, people who are involved in the politics, involved in the left, involved in the right, involved in the emerging center -- the dissatisfied parts of America who aren't always in Washington and don't speak and breathe Washington. So, we can have a conversation about the country, not just about the capital.
MALVEAUX: All right. We are looking forward to it, John.
KING: I am, too.
MALVEAUX: A week from today, right?
KING: We'll be here.
MALVEAUX: This hour.
KING: Hope you're watching.
MALVEAUX: I hope to be on. Thank you very much, John.
KING: All right.
MALVEAUX: Again, mark your calendars. Set your DVRs for the premiere of "JOHN KING, USA," next Monday, March 22nd, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And if you just can't wait, we're going to post a special sneak preview this Friday at noon on CNN.com.
Well, a priest is suspended in yet another sex scandal to shake the Catholic Church. This one has raised eyebrows in particular because it's in Germany in a former diocese governed by the man who is now the pope.
And in Nigeria, the war over oil takes an especially dangerous turn.
MALVEAUX: The Vatican is wrestling with yet another sex abuse scandal, this one originates in Germany. And it has a link to Pope Benedict XVI, and dates back to almost a quarter century. Our CNN's Morgan Neil is in Rome with those details.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF AND CORRESPONDENT: The German archdiocese once headed by the man who is now Pope Benedict has suspended a priest who had formerly been convicted of sexually abusing minors. Now, this case of particular interest because this man's move in the 1980s from Essen to Munich was approved by Joseph Ratzinger when he was then cardinal. But the archdiocese and the Vatican point out that the man who is now Pope Benedict did not know the particular details of this case and, most importantly, did not know the man had been returned to pastoral duties.
That after an interview was published in a "Catholic Daily" over the weekend in which the man in charge of internal investigations at the Vatican says that of the roughly 3,000 priests accused of sexual abuse over the last decade, more than half never were tried by the Vatican.
Monsignor Scicluna said there had been no trial in 60 percent of those cases. Mostly he said, because the accused were of advanced age. But he insists those priest were subject to administrative and disciplinary provisions, including being told not to celebrate mass or to give confession.
Now, to be clear, we are talking about Vatican trials, not civil trials, but there are still some questions that remain to be answered. In particular, in those cases where the accused were not put on trial by the Vatican, did any return to pastoral duties? And perhaps most importantly, if a similar accusation were to come today, would the Vatican act any differently?
Morgan Neill, CNN, Rome.
MALVEAUX: And Mary Snow is monitoring some of the other story that are coming into "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.
Hey, Mary, what are you working on?
SNOW: Hi, Suzanne. Nigerian militants are promising more attacks in the country's oil producing region. They set off two car bombs today near a government building. Two people were injured. Militant groups attacked pipelines and fought government troops for four years. They're demanding the government spread more of the oil industry funds across the country.
SNOW: Back here in the U.S., the Coast Guard says high water levels on the Potomac River are to blame for a barge colliding with Washington's 14th Street Bridge. A Coast Guard spokesman said an initial assessment shows no structural damage to the bridge or the barge. The bridge is open to traffic and the barge is tied to the bridge until the barge owners decide where to move it.
The U.N.'s wildlife agency said the world has failed miserably at protecting tigers. A top U.N. official says the animal is on the verge of extinction. Twenty years ago, there were 100,000 tiger in Asia, but now only 3200 remain in the wild. The agency recall on country's to cooperate to end pouching and illegal trade in Tiger products.
And it was a startling discovery for scientists. A NASA team lowered a video camera below the huge Antarctic ice sheet and saw a shrimp-like creature swim by as well as a tentacle they think came from a jellyfish. Experts didn't think complex creatures could live in such harsh conditions.
MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Mary.
MALVEAUX: Well, it is almost time for "The Cafferty File." This hour's question, are we as concerned about our privacy as we used to be? Jack is going to be here in a couple of minutes to read your e- mail.
And an eruption of deadly drug-related violence in Mexico prompts an appeal from the Texas governor for help from a high-tech military weapons.
MALVEAUX: Jack joins us again with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Have you had a nice time here today, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: I have, Jack.
MALVEAUX: I had a lot of fun. It move very quickly.
CAFFERTY: Good. Good to have you with us.
The question this hour, "Are we as concerned about our privacy as we used to be?"
Liz in Los Angeles, "Seems to me that we're not nearly as concerned as we should be. The potential for bad things to happen only increases as people share themselves with the world. Call me a faddy daddy, but there's no way I'm going to friend or tweet or do anything else that compromises the privacy I had fought hard to maintain."
Donald in California, "Privacy is a thing of the past. A person with no education can get your information and buy a house with it.
"D" in Atlanta writes, "It's just like those, who if asked, would find it horribly invasive if the government wanted to know where they were all the time. But asked those same people if they want free satellite systems like ONSTAR and they think they're getting a deal. They are just not smart enough to connect the GPS and the satellite system, and the fact that anyone who has access to that system knows exactly where their vehicle and probably the owner is at any given moment all the time."
Austin writes, "I work for a non-profit soup kitchen. Facebook has been a vital tool to our donation progress. Just because you're stuck in a different era should not mean that the rest of us cannot utilize new technology to benefit the less fortunate."
Hey, Austin, knock yourself out, partner.
David in Alexandria, Virginia, "I mean why bother? Our cell phones know where we are. Our ATM machines take pictures of us and everyone else walking by. Our credit card companies track our every purchase. My computer tracks my clicks and can photograph me without my knowledge, our easy passes note our every traverse and our credit verification companies know more than I do about my own personal life. That's all before the government spooks get serious about invading my privacy if they do."
And Guy in Hawaii writes, "That's none of your business. However, computers, texting, dating Web sites, Facebook, Google searches, et cetera, have changed all of this forever. I'm concerned but then I have nothing to hide. If someone somewhere is watching what's going on in my private life or in my bedroom, for that matter, I hope they're enjoying it as much as I am."
If you want to read more on privacy, go to my Web site, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
MALVEAUX: See, we can read your blog. You're not so private after all, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, you can read the blog, yes, but that's it.
MALVEAUX: OK. I'll get to the blog.
MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Jack.
Well, the weapons of war tested in the battle to protect America's border. Why U.S. military drones may be needed more than ever in the southwest.
MALVEAUX: Campbell Brown is getting ready for her show at the top of the hour.
Hey, Campbell, what are you working on?
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Suzanne.
Coming up, President Obama's education secretary on the administration's overhaul of "no child left behind." Some teachers say it will make them into scapegoats for failing schools and we're going to give Arne Duncan a chance to answer his critics.
And also, Suzanne, there have been some rumors that a Supreme Court justice may be retiring soon. And with everything else on his plate, is President Obama facing a political battle over his next nominee to the nation's highest court? We'll talk about that and a new piece by Jeff Toobin as well. We'll see you in a bit.
MALVEAUX: All right. Great. Thank you, Campbell.
Well, the FBI is helping investigate the drive-by shootings which killed three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico.
Now, Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling on federal authorities to deploy predator drones which can patrol the border from above. Those aircraft are already in the skies over Arizona as CNN's Ed Lavandera shows us.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona. We're about to give you an up close and personal look at how unmanned aircrafts are patrolling the southern border.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Inside this small trailer, a team of three Customs and Border Protection agents are steering a Predator 2 unmanned aircraft along the Mexico-Arizona border. Jerry Kersey is at the helm and it's already busy.
(on camera): Jerry, what is the situation we got here?
JERRY KERSEY, 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 miles away. They have no idea they are being watched from 19,000 feet in the sky.
KERSEY: Border Patrol agents should be responding.
LAVANDERA: But then a surprise pops up on the screen.
KERSEY: We have got another group. We have got -- how many? Start counting them.
LAVANDERA: There are now 31 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 is the reason some want to expand Predator patrols all along the southern border.
(on camera): And do you think sending more Predator aircraft across the border would help?
KERSEY: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is much more cost-effective to do that.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): We will return to that scene in the mountains in a moment. Earlier in day, the Predator focused its camera on me to give you a simultaneous aerial and ground view.
(on camera): I am told it is 5.5 miles in that direction. I can't see it. But we are going to put it to the test, walk around this park and see what I look like in the eyes of the unmanned aircraft.
KERSEY: The suspects are now running across the field. He has gone under some bushes in a covered area, so we will keep our camera focused in that area. If he tries to pop out either side of that, any angle on that, we will know which way he goes.
LAVANDERA: I am going to keep moving and see if I can find another place to try to hide. I find a place to sit under a tall pine tree.
KERSEY: You see him moving around trying to hide, the suspect entering what appears to be a playground area. He can run, but he can't hide.
LAVANDERA: It makes you feel like you are 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: One you start seeing our vehicles, you can just guide us in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The group, let's see here. They are starting to run across the road now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop. Stop. Group is to your right. You are less than 30 yards from them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Group is running. Group is running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Jesus Christ, just what we need. We have got to get away from those clouds.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And those clouds come at the worst time possible. KERSEY: Exactly. Exactly. So, you have got elements out there that you don't control, but tomorrow is another day. We will be right back at it, trying to get more.
LAVANDERA: It is 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 have caught three, but everyone here will have to wait to see how it all plays out.
MALVEAUX: Hours after the Predator mission ended, Border Patrol agents called to say they've captured 18 of the 31 illegal immigrants in that group. Others got away. We don't know where they are now.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Up next, Campbell Brown.