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White House to Unveil Biden's $6 Trillion Budget; Americans Eager to Escape Pandemic this Holiday Weekend; Six Republicans Vote Yes on January 6 Commission, Short of 10 Needed. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 28, 2021 - 11:30   ET


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over how, what happened on January 6th to be dominating this Congress, dominating discussion, heading into the 2022 midterms when they want to take back the House and want to take back the Senate.


And that is, Republicans are admitting that. But publicly and privately, the real concern is a political one that it could hurt them and they want to move on.

They do say there is another investigation that is happening in the Senate, a bipartisan one, that is looking at how, what happened on that day, January 6th, but that investigation, Kate, much narrower in scope. Just why was the Capitol not prepared on January 6th, the response that happened on January 6th, it does not look at the influencing factors which is what the Republicans say that they don't want to look at here.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Manu, if you could stick us with and keep your ear on the vote, we're going to come to it as it is going to be reporting on the vote shortly. We're going to bring Manu back in, and then we will have an answer here and we can talk about what happens now going forward. Manu is going to stick on that.

In the meantime, we are about to hear from President Biden in Virginia. And in just a few hours, the White House is set to unveil its first budget, $6 trillion, a $6 trillion budget plan. And already it is facing criticism over that price tag.

The president is proposing the most sustained spending in over half a century, which could increase the national debt and deficits to record levels, though neither party, if we're being honest, has been concerned about either of these things for years.

Let's get some perspective from the White House. Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Jared, thanks for being here.

On the budget, The New York Times put it this way. By 2024, debt, as a share of the economy, would rise to its highest level in American history eclipsing a World War II era record. Do you want that? JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Yes, I'm going to get to that in a second because I don't think that's quite the right way to look at this. I think the thing to reflect on, and, of course, our budget numbers are embargoed until later today. But I can tell you this, because I'm reflecting comments the president said yesterday.

I think the question to ask yourself, sure, we want to look at big numbers, anything that starts with a T is going to capture interest. But you have to ask yourself, what are these investments going for? And the president very correctly talked yesterday about generational investments, transformational investments, investments that have a lasting impact on not just pulling forward a robust economic recovery, which, by the way, you can see all around us right now, that's the rescue plan.

But getting to the other side of this dual health, economic crisis and building back better a resilient, robust, inclusive recovery that invests in advanced manufacturing lastingly, in infrastructure that makes us a world player, a world competer in electric vehicles and advanced battery production. That's what this budget is going to be talking about, an investment fiscally responsible, by the way -- you're just talking about the outlay side, you also have to look at the revenue side -- a fiscally responsible budget that not only gets us to the other side of this crisis but finally launches an inclusive recovery.

BOLDUAN: Look, can you talk about -- you're talking about recovery. We are hearing -- and what I'm hearing pretty much across the board from the administration is optimism, that the country is getting past, getting through and getting past the pandemic.

And if America is opening up again, there are lot of people asking, does the country still need the some of the emergency economic measures that were put in place, like additional unemployment benefits?

I want to play for you really quickly J.P. Morgan's Jamie Dimon, he was getting at this yesterday.


JAMIE DIMON, CEO, J.P. MORGAN CHASE: People actually have a lot of money in the particularly thought going back to work but --


BOLDUAN: Jared, are you open to ending the additional unemployment support since America is getting back to work?

BERNSTEIN: Let me start from where you began, which is about the ongoing recovery and the building back better investments that I just mentioned that will be represented in this budget today. By the way, I meant to mention regarding your debt point, interest rates are very low right now and they're expected to stay low. That means that these investments are far more affordable in a different interest rate climate.

What I want people to ask themselves as they evaluate both our budget and the things like Jamie Dimon was just saying, is when we get to recovery on the other side of this crisis, do you want it to look like the last one, where GDP and the stock market grows and the middle class languishes, where we are exposed to 100-year storms and floods that come every year or two, where we are susceptible to pandemics that are poorly handled, where we have a safety net that lets so many people fall through, where communities of color are persistently disinvested in.

That is not the president's vision. Getting to the other side of the crisis is but part one. What the budget is going to get into is once we get there, how are we going to have a very, very different, inclusive, equitable recovery from the perspective of families who have long been left behind because too often the benchmarks in this country are simply GDP in the stock market and how folks at the top are doing.


Now those are important. We're not dismissing the importance of GDP and we track markets all the time. But if it's not reaching the middle class, it is not a Biden -- it is not a Biden agenda.

BOLDUAN: But real quick, Jared, on that point, are you -- would you be open to ending those economic measures, like the unemployment assistance?

BERNSTEIN: The economic measures from the rescue plan of which unemployment assistance is one, are continuing to help this country reopen. What I keep hearing people saying about this is essentially you're driving in a car and you're headed for your destination. You're actually getting there faster than we thought, but you're not there yet so let's get out of the car and sell it. You

know, it just doesn't make sense.

We are not out of this hole yet. We're still digging up. We're still 8 million jobs down. Last check, the unemployment rate for African- Americans was 9.7 percent. Yes, the unemployment rolls have come down by half. That is a great accomplishment. Yes, vaccines are in the systems of over half of adults but there is more work to do yet. So we are moving quickly to our destination but we aren't going to get out and sell the car before we're there.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about what those cars drive on, a horrible transition. I just was going to attempt it. The president's infrastructure push, what do you think of the counteroffer from Republicans, $928 billion?

BERNSTEIN: I think that there is a good faith negotiation ongoing. I think many Americans are happy to see the president engaging in precisely these type of negotiations. However, there are substantial differences remaining.

And I think what we need to ask our colleagues on the other side of the aisle is about things like fixing V.A. hospitals, rail, transit, removing lead pipes. These are some very important aspects in the president's initial proposal that haven't made it into this compromise yet.

We also have to start talking about payfors. If you're talking -- this kind of gets back to the car analogy that we were both bungling a second ago. If you're talking about getting to the other side of this crisis and you want to repurpose funds, you're talking about taking those funds away from small businesses, away from restaurants, away from some rural businesses. That doesn't look right to us.

So I think we have work to do but I know we're all happy to see good faith bargaining on both sides.

BOLDUAN: All right. You're not giving up yet, yet is the word I am going to emphasize in terms of the bipartisan negotiations. Jared Bernstein, thanks for coming on, Jared.


BOLDUAN: All right. we have got a lot going on. We have breaking news. We're keeping our eye on the Senate floor. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: All right. Welcome back, everybody. We have got two live events that we are tracking right now on the right side of your screen, President Biden is about to speak in Alexandria, Virginia. On the left side of the screen, we're watching the Senate floor. Well, they are in -- because they are in the middle of a key vote on whether to form an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the riot and attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. All of that we are watching at this very moment.

In the meantime, we are turning now to the pandemic. Turning now to the pandemic and what a difference one year makes. Here is what Florida looked like last Memorial Day weekend. At the time, the U.S. was averaging 20,000 cases and 1,200 deaths. What followed was a big surge of new coronavirus cases in Florida and all over the country.

Now though the country is in a much different place, thankfully. And in Florida, officials are expecting a surge of holiday weekend visitors. So what does that mean? Is it good news? All good news or the mix of both?

Joining me now is Dan Gelber, he's the mayor of Miami Beach. It's good to see you, Mayor. Thanks for being here.

I actually looked back at our conversation from essentially one year ago. And at that time, you were keeping your beaches closed. You were extremely worried about people traveling in from other places. Surges in Florida in June of 2020 were linked back to this holiday weekend. How differently does Memorial Day feel one year later? MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-MIAMI BEACH, FL): Well, we're worried about sort of the chaos with the influx of the volume of people we're getting but it's much different look when it comes to the virus. Although I think people have to know the virus is still here. Earlier this week, we had one day in my county alone where 24 people succumbed to the virus. So, it's still here but most people in my city are vaccinated and a lot of them, of course, are people coming, but more need to be and they need to do that soon.

BOLDUAN: You are concerned about this weekend. Are you more concerned about COVID-19 or are you more concerned about people getting out of control?

GELBER: It's the out of control, I think, that is most of concern to our residence and mainly because so many people are coming here. The volume of people that have been coming here is very unprecedented and some who are coming are looking to sort of act out. Maybe they have been cooped up. They're not adhering to our ordinances or worse. And that really can't continue, which is why we're going to have an enormous saturation of police officers in my city over this holiday break.

BOLDUAN: I saw that you did want to put a curfew in place for the weekend, but other city officials had blocked it.


I mean, what do you fear is going to happen? What would that have helped?

GELBER: Well, listen, I think one of the problems this year, and it's been before, but really this year and recently has been we're one of the few places open, but we're also a very attractive destination, so, simply, too many people are coming. But among the folks that are coming are those that want to brawl or speed and worse than that. And so I thought a curfew would actually at least tamp down some of it.

We have an errand sea show where we're honoring our vets and our military personnel, those that have made a sacrifice for our freedoms, but I wanted a curfew. Our lawyers said we couldn't do it until there is a problem, which I didn't particularly like. But I'll follow the law, you know, as I'm supposed to. But we have a lot of cops out there and we're going to make sure people are abiding by our rules.

BOLDUAN: You know, many times over the past year, we've talked about kind of the struggle, the need to keep residents safe but also the need to allow tourists back in in order to try to support the economy in Miami Beach. How do you weigh that ahead of this weekend?

GELBER: Well, our economy is much broader than just my city. We're a regional, if not a state, driver. We get 10 million to 15 million people. But we recognize we have that burden. But at some point when you don't feel like people are safe, there is a lot of clarity in your decision-making. You can't say I'm going to -- you know, as the Jaws mayor said, the water is fine. You can't say that. You can't not police when you need to. So we'll police because we need to, as has been indicated by the last few months where we've seen really conduct that is unacceptable in any community, especially mine.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you very much. Good luck this weekend. I appreciate your time.

GELBER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right. We're continuing to track our breaking news on Capitol Hill. We are watching the Senate taking this key procedural vote on whether to establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate what happened at the Capitol and to make sure that deadly day does not happen again. Vote tallies are coming. We're going to take you back to Capitol Hill as this vote is about to wrap up.



BOLDUAN: We are following breaking news on the Senate floor, the vote under way right now on whether or not to establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate the riot and attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

Let me bring in Manu Raju who's been watching the vote as this has been unfolding. Manu, any sense yet on how the vote is falling?

RAJU: Well, we know that at least six Republicans actually have voted to advance this proposal. The six Republicans who have voted in the affirmative, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of -- Ben Sasse from Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and just now Rob Portman of Ohio.

Now, what have those -- five of those six have in common? They voted to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trial. Whether they're going to be anymore remains to be seen. One of the seven who voted to convict, voted to convict Donald Trump, Richard Burr, has already indicated that he would vote no on moving forward with this commission and the magic number here is ten, just open debate on this, and that is not expected to happen here.

And just moments ago, Bill Cassidy, who voted to move ahead on this, put out a statement saying that his concern is that if they don't move ahead with this, then Democrats may move ahead with their own, in his view, more partisan investigation in the House. So why not have an outside commission? That is his argument.

And the argument that the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, just made on the Senate floor, he was urging Republicans to move forward, in his view they're trying to hide the truth.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If our Republican friends vote against this, I would ask them what are you afraid of? The truth? Are you afraid that Donald Trump's big lie will be dispelled? Are you afraid that all of the misinformation that is poured out will be rebutted by a bipartisan, down the middle commission? This is about a democracy. This is about the future of our democracy.


RAJU: And one of the concerns from one of the proponents, Republican proponents of this proposal, Mitt Romney, is what Chuck Schumer is voicing there, that Republicans would be viewed as trying to hide the truth. That's what Mitt Romney told me directly.

But the Republican leadership is arguing that they'd rather this just go away, they don't think this is beneficial to them politically, they want this to be litigated on separate matters, not about January 6th, and that is the argument that a lot of Republicans are hearing here. They claim it's redundant, even though this will be much more sweeping.

It would be bipartisan because there are five commissioners who would be selected on each side but, nevertheless, the Republican senators want this essentially to go away and they're poised to make this their first legislative filibuster to defeat this in just a matter of moments here. But a moment, six Republicans have broken ranks, five of those six voted to convict Donald Trump, one of those six, Rob Portman, is open to moving ahead? But will they get ten? Seems highly unlikely right now, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I was just going to ask you, Manu, because I was missing one. So we've got Romney, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse, Bill Cassidy, and Rob Portman. Those are the six senators, correct me if I'm wrong, Manu, who are now --

RAJU: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: -- a yes on this.

RAJU: And the vote is still open too, Kate, so, potentially, we'll see if others will come forward.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

Now, let's talk about the reasons behind this.


Lisa Murkowski, her statement to reporters last -- I believe it was last night, when asked about kind of why, what she makes of McConnell and the reporting of McConnell pressuring Republicans to vote against, something that -- a bit of what she said really kind of sticks out in this moment. Is it really what this is all about? Is everything is just one election cycle after another, or are we going to acknowledge that as a country, that is based on these principles of democracy, that we hold so dear, one of those is that we have free and fair elections, and we respect the result of those elections and we allow for a peaceful transfer of power. I kind of want those things to endure beyond just one election. And that's what this comes down to.

And I have to say, wasn't it Adam Kinzinger, Manu, who said that it doesn't matter if they try to move on from this and vote against this, it's going to be an issue in the election.

RAJU: Yes, and that's exactly right. And it can either be done by this outside commission or it can be done by a democratic-led select committee in the House, which is what the Democrats in the House are considering doing. Of course, the Republicans will calculate it's better politically, they believe, that they can contend that a democratic-led House investigation is a partisan witch hunt rather than having to answer questions about an outside commission whose partisanship could be essentially unassailable because five members from each side would be picked to move ahead, five -- and they would have to agree to issue subpoenas and the like. So it's easier to cast a Democratic-led investigation in a more negative light.

So that's what a cynic would say, but also that's what Republicans would tell you as well. So they're saying, let the Democrats move ahead, we're fine, if we get rid of this, take a bad vote now, and worry about litigating this later. But the concern about Kinzinger is correct, this will still be an issue that will linger for months and months and months.

But I can also tell you, Kate, the views among the Republicans have just shifted dramatically over whether to have this outside investigation or not, including from Senator John Cornyn, who said soon after the attack that he agreed with Nancy Pelosi, there should be an outside commission. He tweeted that, and just this week, I asked him about that tweet. He said, well, Democrats have hijacked the political process here.

It's not exactly clear what he meant by that because this commission bill, which was struck by Republicans and Democrats, was negotiated after Democrats agreed to have an evenly divided commission, which was what a Republican demand was. But, ultimately, the concern here is the undercutting of the Republican messaging going forward, bringing a negative spotlight on everybody from Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, who talked to Donald Trump on January 6th, as well as any Republican who tried to vote to overturn the election results, they don't want that to be part of the discussion going forward. And it's clear what they're saying both publicly and privately.

BOLDUAN: We're going to have a final word on this very shortly. Manu is watching this very closely, a lot of breaking news happening. John King is going to pick up our coverage right after this.