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At This Hour

Biden Tells House Democrats Congressional Majorities and Presidency on the Line; Biden Speaks as Democrats Grapple with Pared- Down Economic Agenda. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 28, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: And we are following breaking news. We are standing by to hear from President Biden any minute now to lay out his new proposal, framework, unveiled today before House Democrats of a $1.75 trillion social safety net package. This is the new framework the White House has laid out. He went to Capitol Hill to pitch it to House Democrats. We're waiting to hear from the president himself as we speak, a major moment in his presidency.

As we wait, let bring in first Manu Raju. Manu, there's a lot at stake. He laid that out very clearly to members of his party this morning for the Congress, for his presidency. But can you lay out what is in this framework as we know it right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. $1.75 trillion would substantially expand the social safety net, dealing with issues of climate change, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into efforts to combat global warming, also expanding Medicare to deal with the issue of hearing, but not stopping short on what liberals want on vision as well as dental, which is what some of the people wanted a more expansive component version of that program.

This proposal also dealing with the Affordable Care Act, expanding universal pre-K for children and a whole wide range of issues to help close that so-called Medicaid coverage gap. A number of states not covering individuals who have -- who would have been subjected to the expanded version of that program, this proposal would deal with that.

But it does leave out some key provisions that liberals have been pushing, particularly paid leave. That is something that Joe Manchin in particular had raised concerns about. That was left out. There's not going to be a requirement for companies to give workers after they have a child to take some time off of work or if they are sick to take time off of work.

So, the challenge for the president here is to sell the larger proposal that has been after months of negotiations, detail, what is in that $1.75 trillion package, convince his party that this is the right way to go but also convince his party to get behind that separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. That deals with roads. That deals with bridges. That deals with waterways and broadband.

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has said she will put that bill on the floor this afternoon and would leave the vote open, I'm told, until she gets enough votes, a majority of the House, to push this through. But the challenge for her is that progressives are balking. They are saying they will not support that larger plan because they believe they don't have enough insurances from the moderate Democratic senators that they will ultimately vote for that separate social safety net package.

Joe Biden will have to convince his colleagues that it's time to go for this because they have reached a crucial point in his presidency. And that is the message he delivered behind closed doors saying, that their majorities potentially are at stake in the House, in the Senate if they do not act within the next week, particularly today, on this infrastructure vote.

Now, talking to progressives, they are not ready to volt vote for this at the moment, this infrastructure plan. Bernie Sanders, the key voice, is supporting the position of the House progressives. Just moments ago, he told reporters that it doesn't make sense to vote for that infrastructure bill until all 50 senators have signed off on that larger social safety net package. And all 50 senators have not yet signed off on that larger social safety net package.

Manchin just told reporters that he would not say if he's in favor of that, saying that they're engaging in good faith negotiations. Kyrsten Sinema, that other key senator, also would not say, although she did was positive about what she has seen so far. So, a lot of questions, Kate, so much at stake for this president. Can he convince his party to go along? Can he convince them this is the right deal? That's still a question at this moment for Joe Biden. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Everybody, stand by, please. Joining me is one of the lawmakers who was in the room this morning when the speaker was there and the president of the United States was there in the House Democratic Caucus meeting, Congressman Pete Aguilar. He's from California. He's the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Congressman, thank you for being here.

What was your takeaway from the meeting with the president?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Well, the president detailed exactly what was in the bill, which Manu just highlighted as well, but the president also highlighted the importance of his presidency and how these pieces of legislation play such an important role in his presidency and what he wants to achieve, investments in climate, investments in child care, all of these things combined are so important. But today, we're going to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan.

BOLDUAN: You are confident, you guarantee the infrastructure bill is going to be brought to the floor today?

[11:35:03] AGUILAR: I'm not going to make guarantees, but what I can tell you is that we have a whip notice that has been sent out by Jim Clyburn's office. Leader Hoyer has said, we have time on the floor for the infrastructure bill. We are whipping this. We are talking about this. The president asked us for this vote. That's what we plan to do. That's what we plan to give them.

BOLDUAN: Even if -- so, does that mean, at this moment, are you confident you have enough progressives to push this over the finish line?

AGUILAR: At this moment, we're talking about the importance of this bill, what it means to the economy, creating millions of jobs, investments in broadband, investments in our highway infrastructure, reducing emissions by allowing more throughput. All of those things are so important in this infrastructure bill.

What we're trying to highlight to our colleagues is this is the first step, this the next step. We will have other bills as well that will come up. We will build upon this framework. But right now, we need to do this bill.

BOLDUAN: But, Congressman, candidly, that is where you all have been for a really long time, saying this is a first step, there is a next step, and there's more work to be done. So, are you calling the progressives' bluff?

AGUILAR: The difference here is that the president came. Again, he came to the House Democratic Caucus and he asked us for this vote. That's the difference. So, before we were dealing with timelines, dealing with discussions and frameworks, the president came here, he delayed his flight to Europe to come here to ask the House Democratic Caucus to trust him, to trust his leadership and to deliver this vote. That's what we plan to do.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to read you some reporting coming in from my colleagues on the Hill, as my colleague, Manu Raju and Ted Barrett and Lauren Fox are doing some amazing reporting, that Manchin says right now, the way he put it is, it's all in the -- Joe Manchin's reaction, right, for today, is that it's all in the hands of the House. I've been dealing in good faith and will continue to deal in good faith. Lauren fox is reporting that pressed, if that means he supports this package, this new framework, and he tells CNN's Ted Barrett, you've got two ears, listen. What do you think that means?

AGUILAR: Well, I'm not going to be a Senate whisperer today, but what I can tell you is what the House is planning and what the House is doing. And so I'm less concerned --

BOLDUAN: But, Congressman, it matters. That matters with Joe Manchin will get on board.

AGUILAR: What matters today -- what matters today -- what matters today is that we address this bill, is that the president came to the House Democratic Caucus. He asked for the support. He asked us to join with him in creating millions of good-paying jobs, in reducing emissions, in tackling the climate crisis and addressing broadband issues that are contained within the infrastructure bill. What matters today is that we get this bill off of the House floor. That's what we plan to do, that's what the president asked us to do and that's what House leadership is aiming toward.

BOLDUAN: And if it doesn't pass, because this is the choice that you have now, if it doesn't pass, if progressives are not on board, then what do you do?

AGUILAR: Well, we'll cross that bridge hopefully when we don't get there. But what we plan to do is to get this done.

So, you know, we're not going to deal with the hypotheticals yet. We're going to plan to hold this vote. We're having those conversations. The whip notice is out. That's our plan. That's our focus, is to deliver this bipartisan agenda.

BOLDUAN: Did the president say to you in this meeting that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week?

AGUILAR: Yes. The president framed it that the importance on his agenda, on his presidency by our actions in these legislative chambers. We're no strangers to that responsibility. We have the weight and the responsibility of legislating, of governing. That's what being a majority is about. And sometimes I understand it doesn't look as pretty as some people would like it to.

At the end of the day, it's about delivering improvements that benefit people's lives. The investments in infrastructure, investments in child care in the next package, those are the things people back home in San Bernardino care about and that's what we plan to deliver. But the president did frame this and tell us very clearly that his presidency, that the agenda and his leadership is on the line and he wants our support.

BOLDUAN: One thing that progressives have been clear about from the very beginning is that they are not -- is that they don't trust the process as it's been playing out. They don't trust moderates in this. And they don't trust Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema. If they did, they would be going along with it, they would have voted on infrastructure a long time ago.

I don't see what's changed in the last 24 hours to make them trust the process anymore, because what they've said is they need to see legislative language before they can vote on anything and they still don't have it.


How is that an unreasonable position if they've had it all along when they say they want to see legislative language before they vote?

AGUILAR: Well, you'd have to ask them that question themselves. But what I can tell you from the House Democratic Caucus' perspective is the speaker stood in front of us. She told us that we were going to have this vote. The president came. So what's changed, your question was what's changed in the last 24 hours, that's what's changed. We have an agenda to put this on the floor. The speaker asked us to consider this item. She right now is having those conversations with members still, and the president came before our caucus and asked us to support this vote.

He's going to get on a plane, he's going to land in Europe, and we don't want him to do that empty-handed. We want to deliver a victory for our president.

BOLDUAN: Do you need to hear from -- do you think it would be helpful to House Democrats on this vote on infrastructure and any of this process going forward to hear a clear statement from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema? Neither of them in their statements after this meeting so far and in reaction to the framework, neither of them are making any clear statement about their support.

AGUILAR: Sure. I mean, I would love for them to discuss the framework and to talk about their importance. We need to know that there are 50 supporters behind that framework. We're dealing with those. We're putting language behind that framework, you know, as we speak. But the more we can hear from those two senators specifically, the better.

But we're operating in good faith and we're engaging in productive conversations with those folks on our House chamber. That's what we can control on our side. I would love for them to comment and support of the framework a little bit more. But I don't give them advice. What we handle here in our own House chamber is our agenda, focused on our communities, focused on giving back, focused on child care, on climate. Those are the important priorities that we're --

BOLDUAN: Sorry, Congressman, because we are probably close to hearing from the president, as I saw them put remarks on the podium.

Really quick, to confirm, you are whipping this infrastructure bill now. You are putting -- this vote is going to happen today, and it will stay open for how long?

AGUILAR: With Jim Clyburn, he's sending the notice out. We are asking members to support this piece of legislation. The majority leader, Steny Hoyer, has indicated that we will have the vote today. We will leave the vote open and we plan to win this vote. That's what we plan to do. The infrastructure improvements are needed, are necessary, and are the first step to addressing climate and unlocking the benefits that we will see in the next package that we address.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you for coming on, Congressman. I really appreciate your time.

AGUILAR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right. We're waiting for the president any second now. Let me go over to David Chalian on this.

David, what did you think of what we just heard from Pete Aguilar? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, basically, you just heard the congressman put this in the hands of the House progressives. Are you going to give your president a black eye publicly over his major agenda items in which he says his presidency rests? That's now the question that House progressives need to answer.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Thank you, David, for handing that back to me.

Here we go. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today, I'm pleased to announce after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have a historic -- I know we have a historic economic framework. It's framework that will create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, put us on a path not only to compete but to win the economic competition for the 21st century against China and every other major country in the world. It's fiscally responsible, it's fully paid for.

17 Nobel Prize winners in economics have said it will lower the inflationary pressures on the economy. And over the next ten years, it will not add to the deficit at all. It will actually reduce the deficit, according to the economists.

I want to thank my colleagues in the Congress for their leadership. We spent hours and hours over months and months working on this. No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that's what compromise is. That's consensus. And that's what I ran on.

I've long said compromise and consensus are the only way to get big things done in a democracy, important things done for country. I know it's hard. I know how deeply people feel about the things that they fight for. But this framework includes historic investments in our nation and in our people.


Any single element of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America. Taken together, they're truly consequential.

I'll have more to say after I return from the critical meetings in Europe this week, but for now, let me lay out a few points. First, we face -- and I apologize for saying this again -- we face an inflection point as a nation. For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in our people, not only in our roads and our highways and our bridges, but in our people, in our families. We didn't just build an interstate highway system. We built a highway to the sky. We invested to win the space race and we won.

We're also among the first to provide access to free education for all Americans beginning back in the late 1800s. That decision alone to invest our children and their families was a major part of why we were able to lead the world for much of the 20th century. But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves, investing in our people. America is still the largest economy in the world. We still own the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world. What we risk losing our edge as a nation. Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th in the world. We used to lead the world in educational achievement. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks America 35th out of 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education and care. We know how our children start impacts significantly on how they'll finish.

We can't be competitive in the 21st century global economy if we continue to slide. That's why I've said all along, we need to build America up from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down, with the trickle-down economics that's always failed us. I can't think of a single time when the middle class has done well that the wealthy haven't done very well. I can think of many times, including now, when the wealthy, the super wealthy do very well and the middle class don't do well.

That's why I proposed the investments Congress is now considering in two critical pieces of legislation, positions I ran on as president, positions announced when I laid out in a joint session of Congress what my economic agenda was.

These are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything else that pits Americans against one another. This is about competitiveness versus complacency, competitiveness versus complacency. It's about expanding opportunity, not opportunity to deny. It's about leading the world. We're letting the world pass us by.

Today, with my Democratic colleagues, we have a framework for my build back better initiative. And here's how it will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for better. Millions of you are in a so-called sandwich generation, who feel financially squeezed by raising a child and caring for an aging parent. About 820,000 seniors in America and people with disabilities, have applied for Medicaid and they're on a waiting list right now to get home care. They need some help. They don't have to be kicked out of their homes, but they need a little help getting around, having their meals made occasionally for them. They don't want to put them in nursing homes not because of the cost but because it's a matter of dignity. They want to stay in their homes. But it's hard. They're just looking for an answer so your parents can keep living independently with dignity.

For millions of families in America, this issue is the most important issue they're facing. It's personal. So, here's what we're going to do. We're going to expand services for seniors so families can get help from well-trained, well-paid professionals to help them take care of their parents at home, to cook a meal for them, get their groceries for them, to help them get around, to help them live in their own home with the dignity they deserve to be afforded.

Quite frankly, what we found is that this is more popular or as popular as anything else we're proposing because the American people understand the need. It's a matter of dignity and pride for our parents.

30 years ago, we ranked seventh among the advanced economies in the world as a share of women working.


You know where we are today? We rank 23rd, 23rd, 7 to 23. Once again, our competitors are investing and we're standing still. Today, there are nearly 2 million women in America not working today simply because they can't afford child care. A typical family spends about $11,000 a year in child care. Some states, it's $14,500 a year per child.

We're going to make sure nearly all families earning less than $300,000 a year will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care. And for a family making $100,000 a year, that will save them more than $5,000 in child care.

This is a fundamental game-changer for families and for our economy as more parents, especially women, can get back to work and work in the workforce. I'm looking at a lot of significant press people in front of me. A lot of them are working, working mothers. They know what it cost.

I remember when I got to the Senate, I lost my wife and daughter in an accident, my two boys. I started commuting 250 miles a day because I had my mom and my dad and my brother and my sister to help me take care of my kids because I couldn't afford child care, and I was getting a serious salary, $42,000 a year.

We've also extended historic middle class tax cuts. That's what I call them. Middle class tax cuts for parents. That is the expanded child tax credit we passed through the American rescue plan. What that means is for folks at home, they are getting $300 a month for every child under the age of six, $250 a month for every child under the age of 18. We're extending that for another year. The money is already a life-changer for so many working families. This will help cut child poverty in half this year, according to the experts.

That's not all it does. It changes the whole dynamic for working parents. In the past, if you paid taxes and had a good income, you could deduct under the tax code $2,000 per child from the taxes you owed. But how many families do you know, a cashier, waiters, health care workers, who never got the benefit of the full tax credit because they didn't have that much to deduct, and it wasn't refundable? So it either came off your tax bill or you didn't get full credit.

Why should somebody making $500,000 a year or $150,000 a year or $200,000 a year get to write it off their taxes? And the people who need the help even more, they don't have that much tax to pay. They don't get the benefit, and they have the same cost of raising their children. 80 percent of those left out were working parents who just didn't make enough money.

That's why in the American rescue plan, we didn't just expand the amount of the middle class tax cut, we also made it refundable. This framework will make it permanently refundable, making sure the families who need it get a full credit for it in addition to those who are already getting full credit. They are going to make sure that every three and four-year-old child in America will go to high quality pre-school. That's part of the legislation I just brought up to the Congress.

Studies show that when we put three and four-year-olds in school, not day care, school, we increase by up to 47 percent the chance that that child, no matter what their background, will be able to earn a college degree. If my wife, Jill, was in the back here, who always says, any country that outeducates us is going to outcompete us. We can finally take us from 12 years to 14 years of universal education in America.

We also make investments in higher education by increasing Pell grants to help students from lower income families attend community colleges and four-year schools. And we invest in historically black universities, colleges and universities, HBCUs, minority serving institutions and tribal colleges to make sure every young student has a shot at a good-paying job in the future.

This framework extends tax credits to lower premiums for folks on who are in the Affordable Care Act for another three years. For 4 million -- for 4 million folks in the 12 states have an expanded Medicaid, all the rest have, this framework will enable you to get affordable coverage. And Medicare will now cover the cost of hearing aids and hearing checkups.


This framework also makes the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis ever, ever happened, beyond any other advanced nation in the world. Over a billion metric tons of emission reductions, at least ten times bigger on climate than any bill that has ever passed before and enough to position us for a 50 percent to 52 percent emission reduction by the year 2030. And we'll do it in ways that grow the domestic industries, create good-paying union jobs, address longstanding environmental injustices as well, tax credits to help people do things like weatherize their homes so they use less energy, install solar panels and develop clean energy products and help business produce more clean energy.

And when paired with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we'll truly transform this nation, historic investments in passenger rail. I know everybody says, Biden is a rail guy. That's true. But passenger rail and freight rail and public transit, it's going to make hundreds of thousands -- take hundreds of thousands of vehicles off the road, saving millions of barrels of oil. Everybody knows, all the studies show if you can get from point A to point B on electric rail, you won't drive your car. You'll take the rail service.

We also learned that in most major cities in America, minority populations, the jobs they used to have in town, they are now out of town. Roughly 60 percent of the folks, they don't have vehicles so they need to have the means to get out of town to their jobs, to be on time. That's -- this will do that, like it did for Detroit. 95 percent of the 840,000 school buses in America run on diesel. Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air on the way to and from school from the diesel exhaust. We're going to replace thousands of these with electric school busses that have big batteries underneath and that are good for the climate. I went down to one of the manufacturing facilities, saw them, got in one, drive them, they do not expend any -- they do not expend any pollution into the air.

We'll build out the first ever national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations all across the country, so when you buy an electric vehicle and you get credit for buying it, you buy an electric vehicle, you go all the way across America on a single tank of gas, figuratively speaking. It's not gas. You plug it in, 500,000 of them, these stations along the way. We're going to get off the sidelines on manufacturing solar panels and wind farms and electric vehicles with targeted manufacturing credits. In manufacturing, you get a credit for doing it.

These will help grow the supply chains in communities too often left behind, and we're going to reward countries for paying good wages -- companies, I should say, for good wages and for sourcing the materials from here in the United States. That means tens of millions of panels and turbines, doubling the number of electric vehicles we have on the road within just three years. We'll be able to sell and export these products and technologies to the rest of the world and creating thousands more jobs because we are once again going tonight innovators.

We'll also make historic investments in environmental cleanup and remediation. That means putting people to work in good-paying jobs at prevailing wage, capping hundreds of thousands -- hundreds of thousands abandoned wells and gas wells, oil and gas wells that need to be capped because they are leaking things that hurt the air. Putting a stop to the methane leaks and in the pipelines, protecting the health of the our communities. It's a big deal. And we'll build up our resilience for the next super storm, drought, wildfires and hurricanes that represent a blinking code red for America and the world.

Last year alone, these types of extreme weather events you've all been covering and you've all witnessed and some of you have been caught in the middle of have caused $99 billion in damage to the United States in the last several years, $99 billion. We're not spending any money to deal with this? It's costing us significantly.

I met -- in Pittsburgh I met an IBEW electrical worker who climbs up on those power lines in the middle of a storms to try to put transformers to keep the lights on when the storm has hit.


He calls himself a 100 percent union guy. His job is dangerous.