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Voting Underway for House Speaker; Democrats to Introduce New Legislation; Fight over Wall Funding; Trump Criticized Democrats over Holiday. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 3, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: What's happening on the House floor. It is the formal vote for speaker of the House for the 116th Congress. And you saw, and you'll continue to see, that the members are in their seats, which you almost never see, to show you the gravity and the importance of this moment.
Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.
Brianna Keilar picks up right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Dana.
I'm Brianna Keilar.
And we begin with the political winds of change blowing across Washington right now. Democrat Nancy Pelosi prepares to take the speaker's gavel again as her party retakes control of the House. Pelosi will be addressing lawmakers after she is elected speaker.
And along with the pomp and pageantry comes a shift in power and major changes for President Trump. Democrats promise rigorous oversight of the president and his activities. That means more hearings, more subpoenas, more scrutiny.
And the Congress itself is changing. There are a record number of women, African-Americans, and Hispanics being sworn in.
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill for us.
This is a very busy day. What are we watching?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, a very historic day and a very barrier-breaking day.
What you're watching right now on the House floor is the roll call vote. Every member that's present, 431 in total today, will be casting a vote for speaker. The magic number you're looking for, if everybody votes, is 216. Again, as you noted, Nancy Pelosi is expected to easily have the votes and soon to be the next speaker.
But it's also not just about the leadership, it's about the new freshman class. The freshman class that came in, in a Democratic wave, and a freshman class that is more diverse, frankly looks more like the country than any freshman class in history.
Brianna, when you break down the statistics, this new class has 40 new women members, 20 new veterans that are coming to Congress, 10 new Latinos members, nine new black members, five new LGBTQ members. It's something that, frankly, this institution has never seen before.
In total, when you look at the makeup of this Congress, obviously even veteran members will tell you there's still more work to do to make it reflect the country perfectly. But there's a record number of women serving in this Congress. There are a record number of black members serving in this Congress, and a record number of Latino members serving in this Congress as well.
So what you saw with the new class that's coming in and with the election in November in total is a shift in Congress. It's younger. It's more diverse. We'll see what that means for policy. We'll see what that means for politics going forward. But it's certainly something everyone here is taking note of, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Phil, stay close for us.
Now once these formalities are concluded, lawmakers plan to get down to business. Democrats in the House are ready to introduce a number of bills to kick off this latest chapter in a divided government.
And we have congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill following that.
What legislation will they be introducing today, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, certainly this is a new world order up here on Capitol Hill. Democrats, of course, newly empowered in the House. And we will see them move very quickly on a few key things.
First and foremost, later tonight, they will have a symbolic vote to end the government shutdown, the partial government shutdown. Now we know that even if it gets out of the House, this bill is a non-starter over here in the Senate. Leadership have said that they will not take it up. But this just shows how House leadership very quickly wants to show that they're trying to move towards things, making progress, even though the impasse over the shutdown is very real.
But then look at all these other things that starting today Democrats have said that they will start moving on. Today the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said he plans to introduce legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We also have Democrats moving to try to make President Trump and other presidential nominees their tax returns required to be public. And even one member, Brad Sherman from California, he plans to reintroduce articles of impeachment against President Trump. That is, of course, not something in line with leadership. But it gives you an indication about how quickly, how the air up here changes, how the power up here changes, how Democrats will move very quickly.
And just one more thing, these five faces that I'm going to show you, these are the key Democratic leaders of the key committees. They have said that they intend to bring a high level of scrutiny, be very aggressive in their oversight against President Trump and the Trump administration. So remember their names.
KEILAR: We certainly will, Sunlen. We'll be hearing a lot about them from you. Thank you so much.
Now, as this power shift is playing out there on Capitol Hill, the stalemate over the partial government shutdown is stretching into day 13 now. This political debacle leaves 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay. Democrats are not backing down. And the key supporter is warning President Trump not to budge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he gives in now, that's the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. That's probably the end of his presidency. Donald Trump has made a promise to the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to come up and give him some of this money for the wall?
[13:05:02] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because apparently that's the sticking point.
PELOSI: No. No, nothing. We're talking about border security. The --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing for the wall, but that means it's a non- starter.
PELOSI: Well, we can go through this all -- back and forth, no. How many more times can we say no. Nothing for the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right, let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Everyone is dug in here. Where are things headed?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Nowhere right now, Brianna, essentially, and that's what both sides will tell you. And those two clips, back to back, they are perfectly indicate where we are in Washington right now, and that's a deadlock.
Those talks at the White House yesterday with the president and congressional leaders from both the House and the Senate went absolutely nowhere, essentially just went in circles for about an hour in the White House Situation Room and they ended with an invitation for them to come back to the White House tomorrow, but it's not even clear if the Democrats are going to come back to that meeting. So both sides are essentially dug in and the president doesn't want to
lose face with is base by seeming like he's giving up on his signature campaign promise of the wall. And as you can tell from Democrats, they are reveling in this newfound power that they have and they are vowing not to give up any ground or a single dollar for the president's wall, at least in public.
Of course, Brianna, the reality of this is, each side is going to have to give up something. They're going to have to come to some kind of a compromise. And the White House knows that. Democrats know that. The question is, how long is this going to stretch out?
You heard Lindsey Graham say there that if he -- the president gives up on this, that he's essentially toast in 2019 and that a Republican is not going to become president. But that is essentially the thinking inside the White House is that no one inside the president's inner circle is telling him he needs to reopen the government and that's why he's more than happy to be dug in on this fight over the border wall.
KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.
I want to bring in CNN political commentator and anchor of "Smerconish" here on CNN, Michael Smerconish with us.
Michael, it's so good to see you.
And, you know, we keep hearing this described as a stare down, a showdown, a contest to see who's going to blink. But it's also just so shameful when you think about all of the people whose livelihoods are at stake here and the lawmakers left for their holiday, many of them going on vacation.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I agree with that assessment. I also think that what it most lacks is public pressure to bring about resolution. I'm not minimizing, Brianna, the 800,000 federal employees who are inconvenienced, not receiving pay or having their pay being furloughed. But I think there's been a very small modicum of pain to the American public generally. And so folks who were able to enjoy their own holiday now largely go back to work without having experienced any inconvenience because of this partial shutdown and candidly we've come to expect it because they seem to be growing in frequency.
The problem in this case, as you've been making reference, is that now each side is trying to placate its base. The president feels like he owes this to those who put him in office. And on the Democratic side of the aisle, that wall is now so identified with the president that even in areas where there might be a case for building it, they don't want to give it to him. So it's intractable at this moment but somebody's going to have to give.
KEILAR: And this -- the newly -- well, the incoming House, of course, Democratic now, is passing legislation. It's trying really just to kind of show that it's doing something because this is $1.3 billion in border security. The Senate's not going to take it up, even though we know the Senate has supported it, because Mitch McConnell says he's not bringing anything to a vote that the president won't sign.
But Congress could override him if they wanted to. So why wouldn't they?
SMERCONISH: Yes, well, theoretically they could, but I think that for their -- for the reason that I explained as to how each party is trying to placate its base, and so the priorities in the Senate are not the priorities of the now Democratically controlled House of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi, I think, has a tough job. In fact, I think she has probably a more difficult job as the leader of her caucus than Kevin McCarthy does on the Republican side of the aisle because she has such a disparate set of interests and trying to keep them all on the same page is going to be a challenge for her, not only on this issue, but also on the larger picture of how heavy do they go in terms of investigating the president, using the subpoena power that comes with the committee chairmanship? Do they sit back and just wait for Mueller to conclude his probe or do they get as aggressive with the president as the base of the Democratic Party would like them to be? I think that's really the interesting background dynamic that will impact how they handle a whole facet of issues, including immigration.
KEILAR: Do you have any guess as to who will capitulate here?
SMERCONISH: I don't because I think the calling out of the president, like you've just identified with Graham saying it will be the end of the presidency, is going to make him have to dig in his heels. And if you're Nancy Pelosi and you've just now taken the reins of power and you're trying to please the base of your own party, you don't want to be the one to give in otherwise. So very difficult to see who's going to blink.
[13:10:15] KEILAR: So while we're sitting here, the national debt is ticking up. There's no budget. The Treasury Department just announced that its increased $2 trillion since Trump took office, the deficit. That's the exact opposite of what he promised, as you know, when he was on the campaign trail. This was back in March of 2016. Here's what he said, quote, we've got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt. Reporter Bob Woodward responded to him, how long would that take. And Trump said, I think I could do it fairly quickly because of the fact the numbers. Woodward, what's fairly quickly? And Trump said, well, I would say over a period of eight years.
That is not the direction we have seen things go, Michael.
SMERCONISH: No. And, you know, this used to be an issue that Republicans would thump their chests and campaign on. But, Brianna, when was the last time you heard these two words, Simpson-Bowles. No one wants to have the conversation about fiscal responsibility because it's so dependent on entitlements, and that is the third rail. That tax cut that was passed by the Republicans and put into office, put into law by the president has not paid for itself thus far. The laugher (ph) curve supply side economics at least through this stage have not materialized to pay for the cut that was given and the expense that it cost the federal government. But, you know, that no longer is the talking point on the right side of the aisle.
KEILAR: It certainly is not. It has been years now since I heard that Simpson-Bowles or the -- around the time of the grand bargain, I think it was.
Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
KEILAR: So, a reminder, that you can catch Michael on his show, "Smerconish," every Saturday, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Well, as she gets ready to become speaker, Nancy Pelosi becoming the highest ranking official to float a possible indictment against President Trump. I'll be speaking with a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Plus, Senator Bernie Sanders is now responding to allegations of sexual harassment and violence on his 2016 presidential campaign, but is what he has said adequate?
And the bizarre moment when the president rewrote history in front of his cabinet. A U.S. president defending the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We'll talk about that.
[13:16:48] KEILAR: A big part of your government, the one that you pay for with your tax dollars, is closed for business for the 13th day. In that almost two weeks, Democrats and Republicans took a holiday break. Now, let's acknowledge the few who spent Christmas overseas with the troops, but most lawmakers were on vacation, even as hundreds of thousands of federal workers and an unknown number of federal contractors entered the new year wondered how they're going to pay their rent or their mortgage or their medical bills.
Lawmakers are now back in D.C. And while the House is prepping for votes today on measures similar to those passed in the Senate last year, no one thinks that President Trump will sign them and negotiations are at a total standstill. Democrats are holding firm, committing to border security but no wall money. And the president, according to a source, told lawmakers he'd look foolish if he accepted the Democrat's offer. And we're told this could go on for weeks.
Right now you've got federal workers doing financial triage because they're not expecting their next paycheck seven days from now. There's a lot of reporting about the tough decisions that they are making out there. They're not picking up their insulin this month. They're incurring interest on car payments they can't meet. They are considering lapsing on their life insurance policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBECCA MACLEAN, FURLOUGHED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: I'm worried every day about, you know, how much food I have in my house and whether or not I can make next month's bills if this drags on for a while. And I really would just hope that they would stop using the livelihoods of federal employees as a bargaining chip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And lawmakers and the president are not even meeting again until tomorrow.
So you know that the museums and the zoo are closed here in D.C., but it's so much bigger than that. And it will likely affect you, or someone you know, or something you care about. For instance, yes, the National Parks left most of the gates open, but they're largely unstaffed. And you may have seen the videos of overflowing trash and human waste in these jewels of our nation, or maybe pictures of the guy who broke his leg at Big Bend. No first responder could come, so he was rescued by strangers.
Now, if this is the year, if you wanted to start a small business, the agency that handles loans for that isn't processing loan applications right now. If you're a farmer waiting on further assistance because you've been dinged by those retaliatory tariffs from the president's trade war with China, you may have to wait until after the shutdown to get aid.
Maybe you're planning for a major life event, like getting married. Well, congratulations, but you may have to wait because here in D.C. the court that handles marriage licenses is closed. And in just a few more days, all federal courts could be impacted because they're projected to run out of money on January 11th.
Also, Smokey the Bear says only you can prevent forest fires, and he really means it, because the U.S. Forest Service, the work they do to prevent forest fires, has stopped, as well as staffing at ranger stations.
As far as other government agencies, the IRS is impacted as well. Most workers there are off the job. Hooray, you might think to yourself, unless that refund that you're banking on gets processed later than usual because of it. Some environmental and food and drug inspections have ground to a halt. And while the Coast Guard got paid through the end of September, the president made sure of that, it's now harder for them to enforce fishing laws and perform boating checks, like the kind that catch drug smugglers.
[13:20:04] There are a lot of Americans out there who are making compromises they do not want to, to get through this shutdown, which is more than we can say for the president and Congress.
There are two major events that we're watching. Live pictures from Capitol Hill now where a vote is being held right now for the next speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi poised to reclaim the gavel that she first held 12 years ago. Vice President Pence swearing in freshmen senators. Stand by for that.
[13:25:14] KEILAR: Welcome back. You are looking at some live pictures that we have here coming to us
from Capitol Hill where a lot is going on. There's the House, which is voting for the next speaker right now. And then, in the Senate, they're holding ceremonial swear-ins for senators. The vice president there to officiate over that.
And while it's the first day of the 116th Congress, it's also day 13 of the partial government shutdown. But it's a big chunk of the government. And the blame game over why there isn't a shutdown solution yet is in full force.
The president criticized Democrats for vacationing over the holidays while he was sitting in the White House during this shutdown, not doing much in the way of negotiating or dealmaking we should point out, though. And, today, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shot back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I observed the Christmas holiday for a few days in Hawaii, cut, in fact, cut in half the time I would have had with my family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that a cheap shot?
PELOSI: But, in fact -- oh, it's not -- it's not important. It's totally unimportant. But the fact is, we all stood ready and we told our members we'll have 24-hour notice for all of us to be where we need to be. And the president may not know this, but Hawaii is part of the United States of America. Maybe he doesn't realize that. I don't know where the president observed the religious holiday of Christmas, do you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And I'm joined now by former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.
What did you think of Pelosi's response there where she's sort of taking a shot at the president's intelligence?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it wouldn't be the first time someone's done that, let's be honest. But --
KEILAR: But what does this tell us for -- how this is about to go down for the next two years?
DENT: Well, this is going to be a stormy relationship. I just can't imagine things are going to go particularly well. You know, this is probably not the way that she wanted -- that Speaker Pelosi wanted to start her time as speaker in a shutdown. I can't imagine anybody would. This is a very -- these are very tense and difficult times if you're a member of Congress. And they need to reopen the government. And there are plenty of ways to do this right now. It's not very hard.
KEILAR: Oh, they certainly do. I want to bring in A.B. Stoddard and David Chalian to talk about this.
And, A.B., we just detailed in the last block all of the very real ways that this is affecting Americans. You've got 800,000 federal workers. There are contract worker who depend on money from the government because they do work for the government. And there are a lot of things that I think people maybe don't even realize that they care about or that might affect their neighbor or might affect them. These are real things that are going to be happening and yet there seems like there's no urgency. Why is that? Just no will?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, I think, for one, President Trump has not been through this before and doesn't understand how -- what a political loser shutdowns are. And he doesn't yet appreciate the political pain Republicans in the Senate are -- I suspect will be making it known to him in the weeks to come.
But the Democrats are saying this is the Trump shutdown. And he said on camera he wanted a shutdown. He's shutting the government down. He's enjoying it. You know, "The New York Times" reporting he's enjoying the fight. He thinks it's great. He wants only to shore up his base and doesn't care about the rest.
I think after you get to that next pay period, January 11th, as you pointed out, Brianna, contract workers who are not working directly, they're not furloughed employees. They don't work directly for the government. They won't be repaid, ever. We're going to really start hearing some very tough stories and it's going to become much more difficult, I think, for members -- the congressman and I were talking about yesterday, of the Senate, who are up in 2020, some in states Hillary Clinton won, they're going to want to reopen the government. Cory Gardner from Colorado was running away from reporters at the Capitol a few days ago to avoid answering any questions. I think if Nancy Pelosi keeps passing bills to open the government and McConnell keeps saying, I just can't put it on the floor, it becomes very untenable soon for some Republicans on that side.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I can't put it on the floor. And, by the way, it's a bill I've already passed on the floor.
CHALIAN: But now I can't put it on the floor because the president flip flopped on it.
CHALIAN: I mean that's also -- he has put McConnell and the Republican in such a trickier position because of how he managed this and just changed course after he got all that pressure from the right. And I think you are spot on that the path here is going to be those 2020 Republican senators, up for re-election in those tough states, going to Mitch McConnell. And that is when McConnell is going to have to go to the White House and just say, this is our way out of this.
KEILAR: What do you think, congressman, that the president and the new Congress should be doing?
DENT: Well, actually, I think Nancy Pelosi has given Republicans a gift here. I said before Christmas what she should do is pass these six negotiated appropriations bills, as is, through September 30th, and do a continuing resolution on the Homeland Security appropriations bill. That's exactly what she's doing. So you can confine the fight now for the Homeland Security appropriation --
KEILAR: The controversial part.
DENT: Yes. And I'll tell you what, and there's -- there are plenty of ways to cut a deal on the Homeland bill. For $5 billion, the Democrats could get dreamers, they could get the TBS (ph), they could get --
[13:29:56] KEILAR: Well, we -- that's -- this is the thing, we see the way, but no one's walking the way. No one's on this road that we talk about. It's so obvious. There it is. There's the path. Very simple. No one's doing it. Why?