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Democrat Governor Jay Inslee Jumps into 2020 Race; Biden Responds to Backlash for Calling Pence a "Decent Guy"; Pelosi Tells Moderate Democrats to Stop Voting with GOP; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Sends Stern Warning to Moderate Democrats; TSA Employees Still Haven't Received Back Pay a Month After Shutdown; Another Potential Budget Fight as Debt Ceiling Approaches. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me now for perspective on this is CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich.

It's great to see you, Jackie.


BOLDUAN: What do you think? Is it a gamble to run on a single issue in the Democratic primary?

KUCINICH: Certainly it is particularly on something like climate change. While it is important to Democratic voters no doubt about that, it still ranks behind things like the economy, health care, for example.

BOLDUAN: He is going to try to link -- take issues like economy and health care and link it all back to climate change.

KUCINICH: But on the other hand, he is the first governor to throw his hat in the ring. With that comes the executive experience that voters tend to like. He has a record of executive achievements, things like passing a family leave bill in Washington, bump stocks, banning bump stocks. He did a huge transportation funding bill. Those are important things to Democrats and voters nationwide. So if he is going to focus solely on climate change, it will be interesting to see how that resonates beyond the progressive base and as a reporter said, this is a crowded field. There are other candidates with records on supporting tough climate change measures.

BOLDUAN: And you point out, as you are talking about him being governor and the executive experience, it's long forever the governor's mansion was seen as the stepping stone, training ground, jumping off for many presidential candidates. You got a list of them from George W. Bush. I don't know if it is surprising. It is surprising to me that he is the only governor in the race.

KUCINICH: You hear whispers about former Governor Hickenlooper. Usually governors are the ones who step up and say, I have led this state, now let me lead the country.


KUCINICH: But as we have seen, Senators, most of the Senate it feels like has raised their hands.

BOLDUAN: And if you look what the pedigree or the resume of a president has been changed. It's completely blown up in the last cycle. I am hearing more and more people talk about the need for executive experience on the Democratic side.

KUCINICH: Could that end up being a running mate rather than the top of the ticket? We'll have to see.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting.


BOLDUAN: Someone who is not a governor, Joe Biden, is in an interesting spot. Let me play what he said and ask you about it. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This followed on by the guy, is a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, I'm here on behalf of President Trump. And there was dead silence.


BOLDUAN: "Decent guy" is what got him in trouble. Almost immediately, he received backlash. And within an hour, Biden's team was on Twitter cleaning it up explaining it and trying to offer context. I have a million questions that that brings. I think centrally, if he gets into the race, the question would be, he said he can work across the aisle. That is how he positions himself. Is that not OK now?

KUCINICH: Biden is really old school. He is from that era where Senators worked across the aisle. You didn't demonize your opponent based on their politics. We have seen kernels of that still happening but it certainly doesn't extend to someone so polarizing on the left like Mike Pence because of his record on things like gay rights, because of his filiation with President Trump. He has become radioactive on the left. It is sad that politics are so polarized on both sides that you can't even say --


BOLDUAN: You are not a decent girl. We are done here.

Great to see you.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thank you so much. [11:34:25] Coming up for us, fall in line or face consequences. That is the message from Democratic newcomer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to any moderate members of her party who are thinking of voting with Republicans. What's this new list emerging? What does it mean for the party now?


BOLDUAN: Next week, we reveal our first CNN Hero" of 2019. But before we do, an update on last year's Hero of the Year. Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong, of Lima, Peru, was recognized for his work helping sick children and their families who made the difficult journey from the farthest regions of Peru to access his medical care. His nonprofit provided them with a home and services so they could comfortably stay and receive their treatment. He's a quick update.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 "CNN Hero" of the year is -- Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong.


[11:39:54] COOPER (voice-over): An incredible night. And when he returned to Peru


COOPER: -- crowds gathered to greet him at the airport. He has been hailed a national hero.


COOPER: Ricardo plans to use the CNN prize money and viewer donations to build a new shelter.

This way.

DR. RICARDO PUN-CHONG, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: These kids inspire me every day. Really, they are heroes.


BOLDUAN: Nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero" right now at

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Divisions within the new Democratic House majority are well known and nothing new for the party in power. Look no further than the Republican majority from way back in 2018 when the caucus was fractured between the Freedom Caucus and everyone else. The new reports overnight are laying out just how dramatically the Democratic divisions are coming to a head. Multiple reports say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashed out at moderates for voting with Republicans on a key gun measure. He's a quote from the "Washington Post," "We are either a team or we are not and we have to make that decision."

On top of that, freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatened to put her Democratic colleagues on a list to be primaried, something her spokesperson confirmed.

Joining me now is CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

What is going on here, Chris?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's what you said. Too much of a good thing isn't always wonderful. This is true of both parties. Democrats won the House on the backs of lots of members running in swing districts, freshmen members running in districts that some voted for Donald Trump. Those members want to come back in two years and so they are doing things like this was a provision about whether ICE need to report when undocumented immigrants applied for a gun. They added that into the larger bill. They want to be for some of those things because they believe it reflects the constituents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents a hugely Democratic district in the Bronx. Nancy Pelosi represents a huge district in California. So those difference of opinion there, that is not new, but is also not going to go away.

BOLDUAN: Nancy Pelosi knows this. As you said, the reason in large part the Democrats have a majority is because a lot of Democrats beat Republicans in moderate districts, in some cases, Republicans held the seats for a very long time. What are the moderates supposed to do?

CILLIZZA: Well, I think it's tough because what's interesting about this one is normally what we have seen is Nancy Pelosi on one side, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other. So Green New Deal, for example. Nancy Pelosi was like the green bargain or whatever, I have heard of it. Couldn't be more dismissive of it. In this case you have them both on the same team. I think what Pelosi is more about, she understands from a political perspective beyond the shadow of a doubt that members have to vote their districts. She has always helped recruit candidates but I think she does not like losing on procedural measures in the House. She wants party unity on those sorts of things so that on the bigger votes she can give 10, 15, a dozen Democrats leave to vote more their district. I think this is more just about sort of trying to get everyone basically in line. She gets why they would vote for or against these things.

[11:45:05] BOLDUAN: Is there any indication if message was received from the moderate lane?

CILLIZZA: I mean, I'm sure they have heard it. I would tell you Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying, I would put you on a list and give the list to people who want to primary you guys, that would go over like a lead balloon among moderate members. That is her brand, M.O., unapologetic, we need to embrace being liberals. I don't think it will change behavior because we are talking about people many of whom beat Republican incumbents and won in districts Donald Trump carried and Donald Trump will be on the ballot in 20 and will presumably drive out all of his supporters.


BOLDUAN: I don't have an answer to this --


BOLDUAN: -- so I'm going to put you on the spot. Divisions within parties that get power is not new. Ask John Boehner how fun that is. Is this a growing pain or is this something different to you?

CILLIZZA: I think it is reflective of sort of a fight that has been brewing in the Democratic Party for a while that was sort of put on hold with Hillary Clinton in 2016. We saw elements of the fight in 2016. Clinton sort of the establishment and Sanders not that. But no one thought Sanders could win so it wasn't a fair fight. It wasn't on the one hand 50/50. It was 95/5. It wound up being 60/40. This fight will be mirrored in the Democratic fight for the nomination. You will have the Joe Bidens, Amy Klobuchars on one half of the divide. And then Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and a lot of others on the much more unapologetic liberal side. This fight in Congress is part of the broader fight. This is what does the party look like post Barack Obama?

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's see it play out in a very big way.

Good to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.


[11:50:31] BOLDUAN: First on CNN, more than a month after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history came to an end, more than a thousand Transportation Security Administration employees, more than a thousand TSA employees, still have not received all of the back pay that they are owed.

CNN's Rene Marsh has these details for us.

Rene, what is going on here?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, many of the employees we talked about during the shutdown live paycheck to paycheck. They depended on food banks. Some got eviction notices. So it was really unbelievable that CNN learned more than a month after the shutdown ended, more than a thousand employees are still owed back pay. The delay stems in part from an unusual move during the shutdown to pay a partial paycheck to workers in order to help keep them on the job. Remember, hundreds of workers were calling out from work during the shutdown. We do know from our reporting that this current problem with the back pay and the delay was a subject of a money call that TSA headquarters held with their field offices across the country on Wednesday. According to this partial transcript of the call obtained by CNN, the agency said their partial payment to employees, it coincided with the end of the shutdown when the funding got restored. And I'm quoting from the call now that says, "Our timing could not have been poorer in terms of when we executed the partial pay."

So really, Kate, what happened here is a mess. Now the agency is working to make corrections in its system to reflect that some employees had already received a partial payment so that the balance that they are owed are accurate. In talking to one TSA official, you know, he's pretty frustrated with all of this. He says, look, the agency, first of all, cheated the purpose of the shutdown because shutdowns are not supposed to be comfortable. People don't get paid because it's a way to ensure that the shutdown does not go on for too long. Because they did this, now you have this administrative mess that they're trying to clean up.

BOLDUAN: Total mess. Despite all of our heads exploding at how ridiculous it is, do they have an answer as to when they'll be paid?

MARSH: We asked that question, even on this call. There's still no clear timeline of when all of these employees will get their complete back pay, which is disturbing, because we know many of these employees were in a financial crunch because they hadn't received paychecks. So that part is unclear.

We did reach out to the agency and they told us in a statement, of TSA's 60,000 employees, approximately 1,000 throughout the country require some sort of pay correction. And the agency says they're still working through all of this. So the short answer is we don't know when everyone will get all the back pay they're owed -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I hope they're not saying it's not that bad because it's only a thousand people. If it's one person, it's ridiculous, but regardless, thank god you're bringing the reporting.

Great to see you, Rene. Thank you.

MARSH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We're also watching this, U.S. debt is now over $22 trillion. And come tomorrow, the nation is hitting the debt ceiling, and that's legally how much Congress has legally allowed the government to borrow to pay its bills. No small thing. No surprise for any of us who have lived through the debt ceiling fight of 2011, this is setting up another potential fight, a new potential fight on Capitol Hill.

CNN's Alison Kosik is here with details on this.

Why are we doing this again? What's happening?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: When we bump up against the debt ceiling tomorrow, the government's deadline to borrow money basically expires, but it's going to be another few months that the government runs out of money. So the Congressional Budget Office is saying the Treasury Department could keep the country running another six of months, to the end of September. By hitting the debt limit, what this means is the government cannot borrow any more money without getting permission from Congress. In the meantime, to pay the bills, the Treasury Department will have to use wiggle room to buy another six months to raise the debt level to avoid a budget default.

Here's the reality about this. This is one of America's manufactured crises. The U.S. total debt is sitting at $22 trillion. That's up $ trillion since President Trump took office. Kate, Congressional members knew within a year that we would hit this debt limit tomorrow, so it's more about kicking the can down the road.

[11:55:12] BOLDUAN: Absolutely. When the money runs out, is that when the real fight is going to be? Or is the fight now? I have not heard much about it.

KOSIK: If you thought the shutdown fight in January was bitter, get ready for early fall because that's when the clock starts ticking. I talked to one analyst who said there's at least three dozen Republicans in the House who don't plan to vote to raise the debt ceiling. If President Trump is looking to have that debt ceiling raised, he's not going to have enough votes in the House. So guess where he's going to have to go? He's going to have to go across the aisle to Nancy Pelosi and say, give me some votes, and there will be a bargaining chip and that could be the border wall, so we could see a real impasse here.

BOLDUAN: Deja vu all over again.

KOSIK: Yes, exactly.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Alison. Good to see you.

We'll be right back.