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At This Hour

House Democrats Pass the $3.5T Budget Resolution; What The Taliban Are Telling Afghan Women Today; Israeli PM Naftali Bennett in Washington Today. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 12:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: An update just in to CNN; Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, is postponing his remarks on the mission to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan. His remarks previously expected this hour. Now expected at 2:30 eastern and we will bring that to you the moment that it begins.

Let's turn now to President Biden's ambitious domestic agenda which is getting a major boost today. House Democrats pass the $3.5 trillion budget resolution and also agree to set a vote for next month on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. And this, of course, was after intense in-fighting and negotiating amongst Democrats. So after what was a procedural head spin, is the path ahead now all clear?

CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining me live on Capitol Hill for much more on this. A lot of it didn't make sense though it kind of all made sense. I don't even know how to say it, Ryan. But it was a major step forward yesterday. What's next?

RYAN NOBELS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, you spent a lot of time here on Capitol Hill so you know how confusing and often difficult these budget negotiations can be. And this is prime example of that. And when you say all clear, I think anybody thinks that the path forward on this is all clear by any stretch of the imagination. Essentially what Democrats did was they punted these big choices they have to make about the bipartisan infrastructure and that big $3.5 trillion budget plan for later down the road.

The real negotiations now begin. Now that the budget resolution is in place they can begin the conversations about how they're going to spend that money.


But at the same time there are still real concerns about how that money is spent by Progressives on one side who think it's not enough and Moderates in the middle who think it's way too much.

Now the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, today said that she's got a way to keep her caucus all together and the way they got through this stage of the process is an example of that.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We would have had to pass infrastructure bill by October 1st anyway - by September 30 anyway because the authorizations expire and for highway and some of the some of the things in the bill. And so we're talking about a couple days earlier. But, again, their participation was constructive, I welcome it.


NOBLES: So that's Pelosi saying she's glad the Moderates raised those concerns because now they can talk about it. So said that her caucus is diverse but at the same time they're unified, Kate, that is a pretty rosy picture of the road ahead. But there is still a lot of work to be done before this bill makes it to President Biden's desk. Kate.

BOLDAUN: And she can paint a rosy picture now because she pulled it off. She was able to hold them all together in the end. It's good to see you, Ryan, thank you very much, appreciate your time.

Coming up for us, stay home, that is what the Taliban are telling Afghan women today. More on that and what full Taliban control could mean for women and girls now across that war torn country.




BOLDUAN: Turning back to Afghanistan and the threat to women now under the country's new regime. The Taliban are now saying women should stay home from work. They say until security is put in place to protect them from being disrespected or hurt by untrained soldiers. Yes, that was a message from a Taliban spokesperson. It's an ominous warning for anyone familiar with the Taliban's brutal history.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the Taliban says working women, professional females should not go to their jobs and they should stay home. They described this as a temporary policy and the Taliban says it's setting up safety procedures, security protocols to ensure the safety of working women. But men will be allowed to go to work. That of course begs the question, why is it safe for men but not safe for women to go to work? Yet another worrying sign.

After the Taliban took over Kabul they announced they would form an inclusive government based on Sharia Law. But what is Sharia Law? Well it is human interpretation of what Muslims consider to be divine documents and that in interpretation, Kate, it varies widely across the Muslim world.


ABDELAZIZ: After take over the Taliban vowed to govern Afghanistan by Sharia. When asked how that would differ from the group's rule two decades ago, this was the answer.

UNKNOWN MALE: (Translated) If this question is based on thoughts, ideology, beliefs then there is no difference. We have the same beliefs. The group's spokesman said.

ABDELAZIZ: The Taliban says it's forming an inclusive government that will ensure women's rights within an Islamic framework. But because Sharia is not a codified system of laws what that means is entirely up the Taliban themselves says Professor Hisham Hellyer.

H.A. HELLYER, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE CENTER FOR ISLAMIC STUDIES: When we talk about Sharia in a public context then again interpretations for how that is applied as Islamic law they differ tremendously across the board.

ABDELAZIZ: The groups record is bleak. The Taliban's draconian regime from 1996 to 2001 was widely criticized by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In modern (ph) and legislative applications of Sharia by other Muslim majority states provide little comfort. Take, for example, Iran. A country ruled by a strict Shi'a interpretation of the Islam. There the morality police subject woman and girls to daily harassment and violent attacks says Amnesty International.

In Qatar, women are denied the right to make key decisions about their lives from marriage to work without a male relative, "Human Rights Watch" reports. And under Saudi's male guardianship system, women must obtain permission for some of their most basic rights. Men can even file cases for disobedience rights groups say.

But there has been a recent shift in the kingdom. A driving ban was reversed and travel restrictions on females eased in recent years.

HELLYER: There are certain interpretations that are help up and then there are other interpretations that are equally valid in Islamic law that are not. Why? That's a public policy decision.

ABDELAZIZ: And that's exactly where the Taliban say they are changing. They want to engage on a global stage.

HELLYER: They also have to take into account relationships that they have with powerful actors outside of the country.

ABDELAZIZ: That leaves the U.S. and its allies with one key piece of leverage, international recognition and legitimacy. Hanging in the balance the 20-years of gains and rights and liberties for the women and girls of Afghanistan.


BOLDUAN: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you very much for that report.

[12:45:00] Coming up - coming up for us, if I hadn't been vaccinated I may not even be here. That is the message from one Texas lawmaker about his families fight with COVID-19. He is our guest.


BOLDUAN: You don't want to mess with this. That is the message from Texas State Senator, Jose Menendez, after he and four family members including his young granddaughter were hit by COVID. Menendez is vaccinated and credits the vaccine for essentially saving his life.



SEN. JOSE MENENDEZ (D-TX): Had I not been vaccinated I'd probably be either in an ICU or I may not even be here. The point of this is that we need to protect everyone who can't protect themselves.


BOLDUAN: And joining me - joining me right now is Texas State Senator, Jose Menendez. Thank you for being here. I mean - so this started, as I understand it, with your 14-month old granddaughter and then it just blew through your family. You hit the hardest, State Senator. And I after - when I was listening to your story I was thinking we've all learned so much about COVID but did it surprise you what it was like when it actually hit you?

MENENDEZ: Well, Kate, first of all, thank you for brining attention to this issue. And yes, I was quite surprised especially because, just as I was telling a friend yesterday, I have been an athlete my whole life, I've always worked out. I really initially - I had never really felt a fear because of everything we had heard about COVID and how it worked.

But on Thursday morning, my first exposure well (ph) to my daughter - my granddaughter was Friday, August 6. I was told, don't even go get tested for three to four days. On Thursday morning my chest felt like there was a 900-pound gorilla sitting on it and it was hard to breathe and the congestion. I mean I've never had so much congestion where you just can't seem to blow your nose enough. And the one thing I knew is I did not want to put anymore strain on the healthcare system. I did not want to go to the hospital.

But I wanted to get this done so I called the doctor and that's when they asked me to go into the emergency room for an infusion. And the combination of the vaccination and the infusion I'm pretty sure saved my life. And the reason I have more than anecdotal evidence is I - unfortunately my family, I have an aunt who passed away COVID. And she had had one of the vaccines.

BOLDUAN: Oh, I am so sorry, I didn't even know that. My god, what your family has gone through. And we were just showing pictures of you truly adorable granddaughter. How is she doing? MENENDEZ: She's wonderful. You know, Friday night high fevers, lots of congestion. Saturday got worse, Sunday. But by Monday it was almost as if she was back to her self, back to normal. Tuesday you couldn't even tell she had anything. I mean it was amazing. It was so gratifying to see her. And I - and I mean quite honestly I think part of why don't pay attention to your own symptoms is because you're so worried. And, you know, I'm sitting there worried about her, worried about her dad who my son - our son -


MENENDEZ: -- and worried about my wife getting it. It was -


BOLDUAN: What do (ph) -

MENENDEZ:-- quite a stressful experience.

BOLDUAN: What do - what is the message from this because so many kids are ending up much worse than your granddaughter, ending up in ICUs now?



BOLDUAN: People still aren't getting the message especially in Texas. You got a big problem.

MENENDEZ: We do. And I'll tell you that there - it was an interesting experiment that didn't happen because we expected it to be that way. But we have a 19 and 14 year old - we have 19 and 14 year old children and my 19-year old is getting ready to go off to college and so she was out of the house, the 14-year old was with her. When he came back home he kept his mask on. He's never taken his mask off. And he said I'm going to stay upstairs, wore his mask when he came downstairs to get food. He never tested positive, neither did my 19-year old but she wasn't in the home.

And so my 14-year old proved that keeping his mask on helped him avoid it. And so, you know, the message is simple. Masks work, vaccines work. Because with these variants, whether the vaccine doesn't keep you from getting it, it's like the flu, when you take the flu shot sometimes you may still get the flu but it's not as bad.

I would rather not play Russian Roulette with my life or the life of anyone. And, so, please, if you have not been vaccinated you don't have an excuse now. The FDA has approved it, please get vaccinated. And if you have, wear your mask. I still wear my mask. We were in the grocery store a little earlier before being here.


BOLDUAN: Well and -

MEMENDEZ: I don't care that I just got over COVID. I'm going to keep it on.

BOLDUAN: Well and your story proves - I mean anecdotal and scientific, masks work, vaccines work. And it helped save your life and your family. Thank you, State Senator, for coming on.


MENENDEZ: Kate, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Just ahead for us, a visit from a key U.S. ally in the midst of the crisis in Afghanistan. The Israeli Prime Minister's first visit to Washington since taking power.




BOLDUAN: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is in Washington today where he is set to meet with Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, and Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin today before meeting with President Biden tomorrow.

Hadas Gold is traveling with the Prime Minister and joins me now from Washington. Hadas, this is the first White - this is his first White House visit, what are you expecting?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, Israeli officials tell me that there are two main objectives to this quick but very high stakes trip for this new Israeli Prime Minister. The first is simple start the relationship, build the relationship with President Joe Biden. Joe Biden and Naftali Bennett have never actually met in-person before although the two have spoken by phone.

And for the Israeli leader after 12-years of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after four years of what you could call the political bromance between Netanyahu and former President Trump is very important for Naftali Bennett to show that this is a new government both in Israel and the United States. A new relationship but it will still be a strong one.

And the second probably most important objective is of this trip is to really push the United States on Iran. Naftali Bennett, similar to his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, very much opposes a return to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and they do have a concern that the Americans and Europeans don't necessarily have a plan B if there is a failure to return to 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Naftali Bennett plans to present to Joe Biden what they call a holistic strategy on Iran that will address its nuclear ambitions (ph) as well as their aggressions in the region in places like Syria and Lebanon. The question will be of course how will Joe Biden, how will the Americans receive these suggestions and how will this relationship really start off. Kate. BOLDUAN: Hadas, great to see you. Thanks so much for that reporting, really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for joining us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan, Erica Hill picks up our coverage with CNN NEWSROOM right now.