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At This Hour

Biden Agenda Faces Critical Week Ahead of Senate Recess; Soon: Biden Meets with Financial Regulators Amid Inflation Concerns; American Airlines Cancels Hundreds of Flights Through Mid-July; Supreme Court Backs Payments to Student Athletes in NCAA Case; 10 People, including 9 Children, Killed in Fiery Alabama Crash; Final Hours of Campaigning in NYC's Tumultuous Mayoral Primary. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we are watching AT THIS HOUR:

A make or break week for President Biden's agenda. Is there a deal to be made in the Senate on any or all of the president's priorities?

Changing the game. A historic ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that could pave the way for student athletes to receive some payments for the first time ever.

Canceled. American Airlines cancelling hundreds of flights as demand surges to near pre-pandemic levels. How staffing shortages could be impacting your travel plans this summer.

Thanks for being here, everybody.

We begin with President Biden's priorities facing a critical week. As the clock ticks down on the Senate, lawmakers with an eye to the long Fourth of July break coming at the end of this week.

One priority we need to focus on, voting rights. Chuck Schumer is vowing to hold a test vote tomorrow on the House-passed bill on this issue, even though the measure has slammed up against another wall of Republican opposition.

Another priority, infrastructure. Negotiations over the president's infrastructure package stand at a crossroads with two different proposals being debated right now. So essentially think of it this way, the Senate is racing for the exits, yet these major debates with potentially huge ripple effects, are stalled at a log jam or appear generally at an impasse.

CNN's Lauren Fox is standing by in Capitol Hill with more on this.

Lauren, what's the latest update on the voting rights bill? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the key

question tomorrow is going to be whether or not Joe Manchin, that moderate Democrat from the state of West Virginia, is going to join with his Democratic colleagues on this procedural vote.

Look, we never expected ten Republican senators to actually advance this bill. Instead, what we are going to see is whether or not Democrats can get unity amongst themselves.

Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, laid out exactly what tomorrow's vote means.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: It is a simple vote. Just means to proceed to debate it. It is hard to believe that Republicans won't even proceed to debate it. As I said, we're working very well with Joe Manchin on trying to come up with every other Democrat as a cosponsor.


FOX: And Schumer says that their leadership is still trying to negotiate with Manchin as to whether or not they could include some of the changes he's suggested last week in the measure they want to vote on tomorrow.

So, again, tomorrow is a procedural vote. But it is a big test of Democratic unity -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And then what about infrastructure then?

FOX: Well, I think that is the big ticket item up here. Obviously, something that the White House is continuing to try to give some room for these negotiations. That's because they are really happening on two tracks, Kate. You have this bipartisan group that is still trying to come together around one proposal that includes pay-fors that the White House will accept. Of course, they were looking at trying to, you know, increase the gas tax or at least tie to inflation over the next several years. That's a no-go for the White House.

So, they are stil working on the pay for piece. Meanwhile, Democrats are working to try to come together on some kind of budget resolution. You had Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the budget committee, saying he wants a $6 trillion budget package. That's a massive infrastructure bill, Kate, and likely something that a lot of moderate Democrats are not going to be willing to support.

So, a lot of work to do on both tracks, but they are both moving forward. Expect more action in July up here on Capitol Hill.

BOLDUAN: More action, yet it still feels like inaction. But welcome to Capitol Hill.

It's good to see you, Laura. Thank you very much. So, in just hours, President Biden is going to be meeting with

regulators for an update on the health of the country's financial system. This coming as the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates in the face of these growing concerns over accelerating inflation. Those concerns driving down the Dow to its worst week since Last October.

CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House. He's joining me now.

John, what are you hearing about this meeting today? What does the president want out of it?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Kate. It is a counter-point to the inaction you were talking about on the Hill. Two huge priorities for the Biden administration are action on climate change and action to reduce economic inequality. Both of those priorities are embodied in their legislative agenda, the COVID relief bill, the infrastructure bill a lot of climate spending there. The American families plan, a lot of attempts to close racial gaps in wealth, and education, and income as well.

But it's slow-going. As a regulator, the administration can take some action here.


And so, one of the things they're going to be talking about are ways in which you can make companies disclose climate risks associated with their activities.

That is a way to both make companies more conscience of those risks and also make investors more conscious of it. The same with inclusion, access to credit, ways for financial institutions to be affirmative in trying to make the financial system fairer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of course, is part of this meeting, so is Jay Powell with the Federal Reserve.

So, this underscores one realm in which Joe Biden can proceed without Congress. It is not as impactful, perhaps, but nevertheless it's significant.

BOLDUAN: The stock market, as you have been tracking it, John. I mean, we've talked about this for a while. It has been on a roller coaster for a long while now. But what doers this volatility mean just, you know, of recent for the Biden economy at this critical point.

HARWOOD: Well, the economy itself, Kate, is very volatile in come back from the pandemic. This is a unique situation. It's a one in a century pandemic. The economy shut down very rapidly, now, it's reopening. Some things are changing.

There's mismatch between supply and demand both with workers and with goods and materials. And that what creates is price spikes, wage spikes in certain areas, but then sometimes if those mismatches get resolved, as we've seen in lumber the last couple of weeks, the prices then come down again. The stock market up and down with these changes, they're not sure how seriously to take the inflation threat.

And when the Fed indicated last week that it was considering earlier interest hikes that they had previously talked about, the financial markets did not like that. Markets opened up today, because people are realizing, of course, that those interest rate increases are some ways off. Jay Powell is not talking about doing that this year or even in 2022.

So, a lot of unpredictability to this economy and the markets are going to ride that up and it's going to ride it down.

BOLDUAN: It sure is. It's good to see you, John. Thank you very much.

HARWOOD: You bet.

BOLDUAN: So, even as the economy continues to recover, there are more signs today that companies across the country are struggling, and in one area especially, struggling to find workers.

American Airlines is cancelling hundreds of flights through mid-July as demand surges to near pre-pandemic levels right now.

CNN's Pete Muntean is live in Washington with more on this.

Pete, what's the latest?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pete, you know, passengers are really going to be caught kind of off guard by this, because airlines have been caught off guard by the sheer volume of people coming back to commercial air travel. The TSA just screened 2.1 million people at airports across the country just yesterday. That is the highest number we have seen since March 7th, 2020, the fifth time we have seen a number higher than 2 million this month alone. And that's significant because that 2 million number is about 75 percent of where we were back in 2019, pre-pandemic.

But now, American Airlines says it is struggling to keep up with all of these people coming back to flying. It's had maintenance problems. It's had staffing issues. The weather has been bad during a lot of June. So it's had to cancel about 6 percent of its flights on Sunday, 180 flights in total.

And now, the airline says it's going to take a targeted approach alleviating its problems, cancelling about 1 percent of all of its flights into the middle of July, about 50 to 80 flights each day. The airline says it will be able to catch its breath, get things back to normal, make it so that people are less inconvenienced.

You know, you could be put on an earlier or later flight because of this, but remember, if your flight is different by more than four hours, you could be entitled to a refund here.

You know, a lot of growing pains as airlines struggled to get back to normal after the pandemic. They got a lot smaller because of the pandemic and a lot of people are flying again.

BOLDUAN: That's for sure. Thanks for the update, Pete. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the breaking news out of the Supreme Court. A unanimous decision that could have major implicates for student athletes across the country. The breaking details, that's next.



BOLDUAN: Breaking news from the Supreme Court, the justice just handing down a unanimous decision in a case that could dramatically change the way college athletes see compensation.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the breaking news. She's joining us right now.

Jessica, what are the justices saying?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, court -- sorry, Kate, this is a unanimous decision from the justices, all nine saying that the NCAA cannot limit education-related payments to student athletes. And really, this amounts to a tremendous breakthrough in this long-running fight to get student athletes paid. It is important to note here though this does not open up the door to cash payments or allow students really to profit off of their student athlete status.

Instead, this gives the option for colleges to give money to athletes for school-related expenses, including things like computers, paid internships, scholarships for postgraduate study, other products or services that are specifically related to academics.

But what's especially interesting here is that in this broad opinion, there is a concurrence written by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And he talks about the fact that, really, the fight is far from over here. He said there are serious questions about other restrictions the NCAA places on students making money.

So here's a line from his concurrence. He says, nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.

And what Justice Kavanaugh is referring to there is that the NCAA had argued that by providing any additional compensation to student athletes, it would erode their amateur status.


But Justice Kavanaugh, in that quote and this whole concurrence, he really seems to encourage this broader fight down the road. And what's interesting to note is that several states have passed laws allowing for students to profit in some sense. There is a Florida said to take effect July 1st. That would allow college athletes, Kate, to profit off their name,

image, and likeness. California has passed a law signed into law by governor. That's set to take effect in 2023, allows athletes to sign endorsement deals.

So, really, Justice Kavanaugh in particular pushing back on this idea of tradition and history hampering the right of students to at least get some compensation. He talks about the NCAA and colleges coaches making millions of dollars every year -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Jessica, thank you so much.

Joining me for more on this is CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, what's your reaction to this ruling?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I couldn't help but thinking about Nick Saban, who is the coach of the very successful University of Alabama football who makes $9 million a year from the university. The players who play for him, who put their lives on the line, are not allowed to get even the minimum wage from the University of Alabama. The absurdity of that situation is really becoming apparent to more and more people.

You know, the university -- college sports is not a multimillion dollar business. It is a multibillion dollar business.

And the athletes, the people we all want to see, the people who make these sports are not allowed even to get a living wage out of it while lots of people are making a great deal of money, the coaches, the administrators, the conferences. And here you have what is often a politically polarized Supreme Court unanimous in saying this situation is really out of control and has to stop.

BOLDUAN: This -- as Jessica lays out, though, this is narrow, I mean as the Supreme Court does, right? This decision is narrow. It's pretty modest in what could be paid out in terms of these education-related expenses and payments.

Do you think this changes the game, though? Does it is open the door to this bigger debate, which, you know, we have all had with their friends every time we watch -- every time we match an NCAA football game? I mean --

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Like Jessica, I was struck by Justice Kavanaugh's concurring opinion where he said, in effect, the whole system is rotten, and it's not just that educational expenses should be able to be paid, as they now can, you know, laptops and summer jobs and things like that, but outright payments should be legal. That was the strong implicates of what Justice Kavanaugh was saying.

And Justice Kavanaugh is a good signal of where the center of this court is now. And it's just the idea that all of these billions of dollars are sloshing around in college sports and the athletes can't make -- can't receive any of it, it is just very hard to justify. And the NCAA's justification, you know, as Kavanaugh pointed out, people want to watch amateur athletes, people like the fact that the athletes aren't being paid. Who says? That argument is just -- it's just what lawyers like to call a make way argument.

The idea that the appeal of college sports is that the athletes are one busted knee away from losing their scholarships, losing their livelihoods, that is not something that I think a lot of sports fans are attracted to. And that's where the states are starting to move. You know, this all started with a really heroic former UCLA basketball player named Ed O'Bannon who saw himself on a video game and said why is someone putting me in a video game and I am not being paid?

That was the first lawsuit that really started to break down this system. This next case is a -- is the next step. But we are far from done on this issue.

BOLDUAN: Real quick on this case, a lawyer for the NCAA argued in court that why they were -- you know, why they didn't want the court to step in here, was that this would allow, if these education-related payments -- this would allow some schools a leg up. To use -- I don't know if I will use air quotes, educated spending to give them an advantage over other schools. We'll give you that coined of a paid internship whereas you can't get that kind of a paid internship at another school.

Why do you think that did not land with the justices?

TOOBIN: Because the schools already have vast differences in resources.


You know, the University of Alabama, which, you know, has probably the most successful football team in the country, has, you know, dozens of coaches and employees, and resources and private planes and other Division I schools don't have that. But the idea that that should be somehow of justification for not compensating the athletes at all -- I mean, it's a cure that has nothing to do with the disease. Yes, it's true that rich schools are richer than poor schools. But that is not a reason to starve all the athletes from getting a laptop for, you know, to help with their school work.

Thanks to this decision, they will be able to get lap tops. But the bigger question of cash money is still unresolved.

BOLDUAN: Super interesting. Thanks, Jeffrey.

Coming up for us a horrific chain reaction crash. Ten people are dead, nine of them children. The pictures and the story behind what has happened, and what lives were lost is -- it's tragic. Details on this ahead.


[11:26:08] BOLDUAN: The NTSB is now joining Alabama officials investigating a fiery multicar crash that killed ten people, nine of them children. A 9 month old baby was among them. The pileup happened in Butler County, which is south of Montgomery this weekend as the now Tropical Storm Claudette tore through the region.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Alabama. He's been tracking the details here.

Martin, the more you learn, it's just heart breaking.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPNDENT: It truly is, Kate. We are at the ranch, the Girls Ranch from which many of the victims were from.

It was Saturday afternoon. We want to show you the images because the images will show you immediately why this is such a horrific crash, 2:30 in the afternoon, north bound on I-65. A lot of people, traffic coming back from the beach on that particular day, Gulf Shore. So, it was congested.

You add into it the tropical system that passed through. There were torrential rains and heavy storms at times. The combination, of course, proved deadly. The investigators don't know for certain that it was weather, but they do speculate that it could be possibly be an incident of hydroplaning of one vehicle.

That starts and the worst thing about a chain reaction like this is another vehicle hits, another vehicle. There were at least two semis that were also involved. And then there was the horrific fire.

Eight people died in the van that was from this particular ranch. There was one survivor that was pulled from the van. That's the driver of the van. She's the ranch director. But tragically, she lost two of her own children in that crash.

And then in another vehicle, a young father and his 9-month-old daughter, they, too, were killed in this crash. So the question is, how did it happen? Authorities are appealing to people, if they took videos, if they had dash cam, they could perhaps be key to helping understand. The survivors and those who were part of that crash actually turned into rescuers for many others, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Martin, thank you so much for that. I appreciate your reporting.


BOLDUAN: Turning now to New York City. It is the final 24 hours of campaigning in a fiercely contested and unpredictable Democratic primary for mayor, a race that may turn on the issue of crime that is hitting so many other cities in America right now.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining me with the very latest on this race.

Athena, what are you learning?


Well, really, we are down to the wire here. Election Day is tomorrow. There is no voting going on today. Early voting ended on Sunday, we know from the board of elections, they sent out a tweet saying that just under 200,000 voters took advantage of the early voting period.

But this is a big deal. In some ways, it's a very open and fluid and kind of hard to measure race. You've got 13 candidates running for the Democratic nomination, of course, in this very blue city. Whoever wins the nomination is heavily favored to win the general election in November and to be mayor of New York.

Of these 13 candidates, eight of them have been taking part in most of the debates. And so, those are sort of the leading candidates and there's even smaller group if you look at the scant polling that's been done that are in the very top tier.

But the bottom line is, we are now going to be experiencing rank- choice voting in New York for the first time. This is the largest jurisdiction in the country to do this in this way, this new way of voting where voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. So, first choice, second choice, third choice, down the line. This allows for instant runoffs in the instance where no one candidate wins the majority plus of the votes.

And what's so many people in this field, that's exactly what is expected to happen tomorrow night. And so, instead with the rank choice voting, the lowest vote getter of each round is eliminated. Their second choice votes reallocated and you go through several rounds.