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At This Hour

Senate Dems Brace for Defeat on Voting Rights Legislation; NYC Voters Head to Polls in Bruising Mayoral Primary. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Doomed. Today, Senate Democrats are holding a vote. They know it isn't going anywhere as Senate Republicans are set to block the most expansive voting rights bill in generations. The reality check now facing Congress, what are they going to do?

Election Day. Voters in New York City head to the polls in the Democratic primary for mayor. What this race in America's biggest city means for the Democratic Party fight playing out all over the country.

And making history. Carl Nassib's powerful message to the NFL and the world.


BOLDUAN: Thanks so much for being here AT THIS HOUR.

Senate Democrats are bracing for defeat on what they say is one of their top priorities. The voting rights bill that passed the House but will go nowhere in the Senate today.

The Republicans are expected to block the bill in a key test vote this evening. It clear comes at a critical time in the country, for democracy in this country. More than a dozen states already this year led by Republican major legislatures have enacted laws imposing stricter limits on voting access.

So, now, back to the Senate. If Democrats know this bill is going to fail, why are they taking this vote?

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now right now on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there is still a question about whether or not one Democratic senator will vote for this. And that's Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The rest of it we know. We know they're not getting the 60 votes to over come a Republican filibuster for debate. That will not happen. In fact, there probably won't be any Republicans who will break ranks. But there are 49 Senate Democrats who do support this measure.

One, Joe Manchin does not. He has raised concerns about he believe is a partisan effort and proposed some alternatives to pair back the Democrats more expensive bill to include things like making it a federal holiday and expanding early access to voting and to create a requirement for voter ID that is gotten some support among Democrats but not among Republicans who still plan to resist this measure even if Manchin is able to cut a deal with Senate Democrats and they're still trying to finalize that agreement between Manchin and Democrats at this hour. So, we'll see if he has anything to say.

But if they do not get the 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, it is time to change the Senate rules and allow a simple majority, blow up the Senate filibuster. But there is a problem. Democrats don't have the support to do that.

It is not only just Joe Manchin but also from Kyrsten Sinema. She is a Democratic senator and she herself has -- came out very strongly against changing the Senate filibuster rules, saying in an op-ed last night: It's no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold. My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy. The filibuster compels moderation. It helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy polls.

Now I tried to ask Sinema about this just moments ago. She would not take questions about this, would not express why she made this statement now. And she could be open to changing her mind.

But Democrats who I talk to this morning believe that they should -- she should change her mind including Dick Blumenthal who told me this just moments ago.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Other of my colleagues have changed their minds. And I think that Republican extremism, stopping Americans from voting, is so destructive to our democracy. And we can't put arms behind backs and twist arms and physical force anybody to change her or his mind. But I think every one of my colleagues for last ten years except for a few, has come to the conclusion that the filibuster --


REPORTER: It is going to be the vote on --

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, no, no, it's not. I've got to make sure that we're going to move to a -- to a better compromise, okay? For me to have the vote.

RAJU: They haven't --


MANCHIN: We're moving. Everyone is moving. I haven't seen it, OK?

RAJU: They haven't made the changes to your liking yet?

MANCHIN: I understand they're working -- everyone is working in it real good. You've have President Obama come out. You've had basically Stacey Abrams. We're looking at a much more -- I think a much fairer, a much better approach to take.


And we're waiting on that right now. We'll see the final --

RAJU: The vote is in five hours.


REPORTER: What was Biden's message about this yesterday?

MANCHIN: What's that?

REPORTER: You spoke with President Biden about this bill yesterday. What was his message to you about it?

MANCHIN: No, we had a good conversation. He and I had a very good conversation.

RAJU: Did he urge you to support it?

MANCHIN: We had a very good conversation. It's a very respectful conversation.

REPORTER: Does this mean an end to this critical legislation on voting rights getting passed?

MANCHIN: What now?

REPORTER: Is this an end to this critical legislation getting passed? What happens next?

MANCHIN: We've just got to keep working. That's what we're here for.

REPORTER: What does look like, Senator? Are you going out to try and find Republican votes?

MANCHIN: I always try to. I need help. I need Democrats and Republicans --

REPORTER: What was President Biden's message to you? What was President Biden's message to you in that meeting?

REPORTER: Just to be clear your undecided?

MANCHIN: We had a nice conversation. REPORTER: Let me ask you, because I know you guys were talking about

-- you guys are talking also about infrastructure. Did he urge you to support a party line approach to passing infrastructure?

MANCHIN: No, no, no. He understands exactly. We had a very long conversation about that and looking it away. We have a lot of needs in our country.

We have a good bipartisan bill, we're working on it.

I have to keep going.

We have a bipartisan bill that we're working on together. So he understands that and he likes to -- the movement that is going on there and he encourages basically a very good process that we're going to have on the --


REPORTER: Do you need more assurances that it is your compromise before you're going to vote --

MANCHIN: We'll make a decision.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to move the cart of the hallway. That cart is going to go down there or over here --

RAJU: I'm not if you caught that, Kate.


BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

RAJU: Okay. But he made it very clear there that he did not make a final decision yet on how to vote on the legislation today. He said they're still trying to make, they're making changes among the Democrats and things that he likes that he's proposed and he thinks that they've gotten some positive reception from Barack Obama, from Stacey Abrams and the like, but they still have to make changes.

But, of course, it's not going to change the outcome. They're not going to get enough votes to overcome this. But we also have a chance, you heard that, to talk what has been a conversation with Joe Biden last night and what Biden talked to him about was not just infrastructure but also voting rights package, voting rights package, but he would not say whether or not Joe Biden, he indicated that Biden did not press him to support a infrastructure package along straight party lines here.

So it's -- it was a revealing moment here because Joe Manchin still not making a key decision on how he's going to vote tonight, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Just two things that Manchin just told you, Manu. We need a better compromise, is what he said. And he also said he's looking at a much fairer approach to take. That is what he's looking for. And you asked an important question that he did not answer which is what does that mean, the vote is in just hours.

There's no way this is going to get postponed because they're going to talk in the test vote. I mean, I'm unclear what fairer approach is going to happen because Manchin was the one that I thought proposed fairer approach.

RAJU: Yeah, there have been haggling over the legislative language for days over the weekend and into today and what is also uncertain here is that this vote today is just a procedural vote.


RAJU: It is just to open debate. It is not even to amend the package or to vote on the changes in which he has proposed. But he also he wants to get some sort of commitment or agreement or on the exactly what the proposal looks like here and clearly this agreement is just not there yet.

And maybe they could reach one in the next coming hours here. But at the moment, which is surprising because they had been talking all night and all weekend into this morning and he's still not there yet. So we'll see where he ends up. Democrats hope he's a yes but he says he's undecided.

BOLDUAN: As always, right place and right time, Manu Raju. Thanks, Manu. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now for much more on this, CNN contributor Evan Osnos. He's a staff writer for "The New Yorker".

Also, CNN political analyst Toluse Olorunnipa, national politics reporter at "The Washington Post".

Toluse, I seem -- I feel like I'm more confused now as to where things are headed than I was before I heard Manu and others catch Manchin in the hallway.

Where do you see this going from here?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you're right. This is incredibly confusing. You have Democrats pushing for a vote no matter what on the most progressive ideals possible when it comes to voting rights. You have folks like Manchin saying we need to compromise with Republicans and get more Republicans on board to make this bipartisan.

You have Senator Sinema who wrote her op-ed yesterday saying that she does not want to get rid of the filibuster.

So, it does seem like Democrats wanted to entre today row all in the same direction saying we could unify around expanding voter rights but it doesn't appear they have Senator Manchin on board yet or any support or any increasing support for getting rid of the filibuster.

[11:10:03] And in fact, they instead have more people going out on the record against getting rid of the filibuster.

So it doesn't appear that this voting rights legislation will move forward even if they're able to patch together the 50 votes that they have in the Democratic Caucus, they are so far from having any kind of bipartisan support or having any support for getting rid of the filibuster that it doesn't appear that this voting rights legislation is going to move forward at all.

BOLDUAN: Two things that I would argue, have come into clarity though in -- with what we just saw with Joe Manchin is one, Evan, voting rights, this issue is not going away. It is desperately a priority. It is critical for democracy to be a focus as we see what is happening in state states around the country. But it will remain a focus on Capitol Hill, could you tell.

And two, that Joe Manchin is at the center of this again. He's not stopping to talk to other reporters and Manu and others are not staking out his office unless he's at the center of this again. You did an interesting profile of Manchin, not only with the detail on his house boat and his politics.

And I will read a section as you said, in his office, I told him that much of Washington was asking a version of the same question, what does Joe Manchin really want? He flashed an irritated smile at you and said, can you believe that? It's like I came here to hold people hostage and he goes on.

I will only ask you slightly facetiously, Evan, what does Joe Manchin want? Did you get an answer?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think that is the million dollar question in Washington now. And in the end, part of incredible frustration that a lot of Democrats feel with him is that they feel as if every time he gives an answer, that it kind of crumbles through their fingers. They cannot figure out what it is they want.

You know, an adviser to Bernie Sanders said to me for this piece on Joe Manchin, saying, look, we'll offer you all kinds of things. You could be putting Joe Manchin highways all over West Virginia, a state that ranks 50th in infrastructure.

We could get broadband on the ground. We could improve schools. We could do all kinds of things. Tell us what we need for your vote and his response is consistently, that's not what I'm looking for. What I'm looking for is Republican support.

And this is where it's a catch-22. He's created in effect a situation in which in order to get his vote, he has to get something which by all reasonable accounting appears to be impossible. Mitch McConnell has said he's 100 percent focused on preventing this administration from passing his priorities. I had one conversation with Senator Harry Reid, who after was the Democratic leader in the -- Democratic Party leader in the Senate, senator from Nevada for three decades and he said that he thinks that Manchin underestimates just how far things really have changed, how obstructionist Republicans have become.

As Reid said to me, when Lyndon Johnson was the Senate majority leader, for six years, he faced two filibusters. In Reid's case, he faced over 100 filibusters in the time that he was majority leader. Things have fundamentally changed.

BOLDUAN: It's really a fascinating read. We are in a fascinating moment in history. Let's keep your eyes on Capitol Hill. Let's see what Joe Manchin said about the vote later today and even though we know what the -- at least initial outcome is going to be.

Toluse, great to see you. Evan, thank you.

Coming up for us, voters heading to the polls in the largest city in America. What the race there says about the larger fight going on within the Democratic Party.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Polls are open at this hour in New York City's most consequential mayoral race in years. Thirteen candidates are vying to lead America's most populous city through a pandemic recovery, and a startling rise in violent crime. The top four Democratic contenders are battling it out in these final hours of this race. And in this Democratic City, today's primary winner is all but certain to be the next leader.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining me now live with more.

Athena, not only is this a pivotal moment for leadership in New York, but New Yorkers are using a new way of voting this time around.


That's exactly right. Ranked choice voting, this is something that New York voters, about three quarters of them decided to approve in a referendum back in 2019. This is the first time we're seeing it used on such a large scale. New York City, the largest jurisdiction in the entire country to use this ranked choice -- ranked vote -- choice voting method.

We spoke to some voters about their strategy going into this election. Take a listen to what they had to say.


BECKY CURTIS, NYC VOTER: I did rank five candidates for mayor. Was it confusing? Well, I don't think it was confusing. I did have to read and understand what it was all about. Do I like it? I'm not sure if I like it or I don't like it but it did give me a chance to vote for a lot of women.

ANNE, NCY VOTER: You had to come prepared knowing what rank you had or you would be there all day.


ANNE: But once you have a list with you, it's not hard.


JONES: And so the voters we're talking to saying, look, they're excited about ranked choice voting. They didn't find it confusing but you do have to study to rank all five candidates.

You mentioned the four front-runners in this race of 13 Democrats vying for this Democratic nomination. And those are actually the names we've been hearing the most in our informal survey of voters up here on the upper west side. Kathryn Garcia, Eric Adams, Andrew Yang and Maya Wiley are the names we're hearing the most ranked one and two. But we'll have to see possibly weeks before we know a winner in this election -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That is also something folks are going to have to get used to.


It's good to see you, Athena. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now for more on this is Christine Quinn. She's a former of the New York City Council and she also ran for mayor in 2013.

It's good to see you again, Christine.

I mean, this is a super crowded field in America's biggest city, hardest hit by the pandemic and as Athena said, we're not going to know the results likely for weeks. What do you think it going to happen here?

CHRISTINA QUINN, FORMER NYC CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: Well, first of all, I think it is absurd that it's going to take weeks for our board of elections to count these new ballots. That is just unacceptable and they have to fix that moving forward because it is not just the mayor, there are a lot of other positions. I think this is going to be very close between Yang, Garcia, Adams and Wiley, and in the rounds of counting as they call it, I think we could see the front-runner change a number of times and I think it is possible that whoever comes out of tonight with the most number one votes may not be the winner in the end.

BOLDUAN: With the crime rate becoming increasingly a concern here in New York and of course in other cities, but just as we're focused here. Do you think crime and what these candidates are going to do about it, is this what this race is coming down to?

QUINN: I think the race is come down to the issue of crime and what people are going to do about it, but also how the police behave when they are fighting crime. So we see both issues front and center, police abuse also a national issue and crime on the rise which, as you said, is a national issue.

I think the third issue is the economy and the post pandemic comeback and is the comeback going to be more inclusive of people of color and women than the economy in New York was prior to the pandemic.

BOLDUAN: This race also speaks to, you've pointed on a couple of issues, but a larger struggle in the Democratic party right now, the more moderate Democrats versus the progressive wing. How is this playing out here?

QUINN: I mean, we've definitely see that play out with Maya Wiley seen as the most progressive in the race and Garcia, Adams and Yang being seen as more moderate. Some folks are saying the results of the race may set the tone for the Democratic Party going into 2022.

And that issue is played out a lot, Kate, around the police and criminal justice issues. Should the police be defunded or given more money or should cops be more police officers hired, should there be less cops or less specialized units so it is very interconnected with the issues the voters are concerned about.

BOLDUAN: You have also talking -- speaking out about another bigger issue playing out here in this race -- which is women fighting to get top jobs and you wrote about this in a "New York Times" op-ed and you reflect on your campaign. You wrote, in mayoral campaign, I thought I had to act a certain way so voters would like me. I twisted myself in knots trying to be less assertive, less of a lesbian and ultimately less of myself. It is haunting mistake to lose a race when you are true to yourself in a choice that I hope no woman running for office in the future is forced to make.

Is that same problem playing out today?

QUINN: I don't think so. And I was so gratified because I heard from both Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia saying they took the advice to heart and met with each of them and given them each advice. And I think Maya and Kathryn have been genuine to who they are. Kathryn Garcia starting off with yoga in Times Square as an example.

So I'm happy they have not made the mistake that I made. That said it is very hard for women to win executive positions. We've had 109 mayors, they have all been men, 108 of them have been white men. A hundred and ten is the year we should get a woman mayor.

But often voters, women and men, say to pollsters that their voting for a woman and then don't do it in the ballot box. Don't want to be seen as sexist on the phone or online with the pollster so you have be wary of the polls but we have to continue running, most women ever running and continue to be authentic.

BOLDUAN: And continue speaking out. Good to see you, Christine. Thank you.

QUIINN: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, for the first time we're seeing videos

that tie the January 6 insurrection to a major conspiracy case. It involves a far right group that was among Donald Trump's staunchest supporters.



BOLDUAN: For the first time since the January 6 insurrection, the Justice Department is releasing video evidence from a major conspiracy case in the Capitol riot investigation. It involves the far right group Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol that day.

CNN's Paula Reid is live in Washington and she has all the details about this new video coming.