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At This Hour

Biden Delivers Remarks on Economy, Hails Deficit Reduction Second Year in a Row; Kremlin Says It Won't Declare War on Ukraine on Monday. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Kate Bolduan.

We begin with breaking news. We're moments away from hearing from President Biden, expected to address his administration's efforts to shore up the U.S. economy.

This is just hours after the Federal Reserve is expected to announce a half point interest rate hike. That's something the central bank has not done in more than two decades. All of this, of course, aimed at fighting soaring inflation. CNN's John Harwood live at the White House.

What exactly can we expect to hear from the president?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We expect, Bianna, for the president to talk about the fall in the deficit this year, $ 1.5 trillion reduction in the deficit.

It's going to try to attribute that to the economic growth that's occurred in this administration. A bit of a misleading statistic because the principle reason why the deficit is coming down, we're no longer handing out big checks to individuals as was done in the American Rescue Plan.

Nevertheless, he'll talk about that and make a pitch for the economic agenda that is stalled in Congress to reduce prescription drug prices, for example. It could reduce the deficit if they raised taxes by a sufficient amount to exceed the spending. That's part of the argument he's making to Joe Manchin, who made inflation and deficit reduction a huge talking point.

So some of these remarks seem a little bit tailored to Joe Manchin. But he's going to try to tout the good parts of the economy. He's taken a beating politically for the bad parts, which, of course, are the inflation. The inflation is related, as you know, Bianna, to the good parts. The

hotter you run the economy, the more growth you have, the more revenues the government has, the lower the unemployment rate gets.

But it's also, if you stimulate demand that exceeds the supply, you're going to have inflation. That's exactly what we've got and it's why the Federal Reserve this afternoon is expected to do a substantial interest rate cut -- increase, rather -- to try to get the inflation rate under control.

That's a tricky balance because they are trying to do that without throwing the economy into a recession. But for that part, President Biden's a bystander because that's the --


GOLODRYGA: All right, John. Let's listen in. The president's about to speak.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- let me tell you, I'll be around to answer questions on a lot of things. But I got 600 (INAUDIBLE) right now waiting out there for me.

Keep me too long, they'll rush the place. And all kidding aside, I -- this week the Biden administration released new information that contains that we're on track to cut the federal deficit by another $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year, the biggest decline in a single year ever in American history.

And the biggest decline on top of us having a $350 billion drop in the deficit last year, my first year as president.

We also learned that for the first time since 2016, the Treasury Department is planning to pay down the national debt issued to the public this quarter. And for all the talk the Republicans make about deficits, it didn't happen a single quarter under my predecessor, not once.

The bottom line is the deficit went up every year under my predecessor before the pandemic and during the pandemic. And it has gone down both years since I've been here, Period. That's -- they're the facts.

Why is it important?

Because bringing down the deficit is one way to ease inflationary pressures in an economy where a consequence of a war and gas prices and oil and all, food and it all -- it is a different world right at this moment because of Ukraine and Russia.

We reduced federal barring and we helped combat inflation. This process is a great deal, it's good news but it didn't happen by itself. The previous administration increased the deficit every year it was in office, in part because of its reckless $2 trillion tax cut.

I know you're tired of hearing me say it but a $2 trillion tax cut that was not paid for, was not paid for. And a tax cut that largely benefited the biggest corporations, 55 of which earned $40 billion in profits and paid not a single penny in income tax in 2020.

And the wealthiest Americans, like the billionaires, who, on average, pay just 8 percent in federal taxes. The previous administration not only ballooned the deficit, it undermined the watchdogs, the inspector generals (sic) whose job it was to keep the pandemic relief funds from being wasted.

Remember at the time I kept saying they're going to fire this and the inspector generals (sic). Well, they fired the inspector general and the Biden administration, those watchdogs are back. The Justice Department has a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud who's going to go after the criminals who stole billions and billions of relief money meant for small businesses and American families.


BIDEN: But it never got to them, it got in the pockets of criminals. When I came to office, we took a different approach across the board. With the American Rescue Plan and other actions, we started to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

Rescue checks and tax cuts for working families gave them just a little bit of breathing room and put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Remember the first year, all those long lines of automobiles, lined up, going through a parking lot, just to get a box of food in their trunk?

All that we put back. We got vaccination shots in arms to help us go from 2 million Americans vaccinated to more than 220 million Americans fully vaccinated. We made it easy for millions of Americans to sign up for coverage on the Affordable Care Act, saving them an average of $2,400 a year.

As a result of these and other economic recovery plans, we recovered faster than projected. The record 6.7 million jobs created last year, most in the first year of any president in American history and the fastest economic growth in any year, in nearly four decades.

And looking ahead, I have a plan to reduce the deficit even more, which will help reduce inflationary pressures and lower everyone's costs for families. Look, it's a plan that lets Medicare negotiate prices of prescription drugs as they do with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

We can cap the price of insulin at $35 instead of hundreds of dollars, even $1,000 a month for some families. And my plan provides tax credits to utility companies to generate clean energy.

And those companies are required to pass those savings on to families. I met with about a dozen of those utility CEOs here in the White House and they confirmed this plan will lower energy bills for families immediately.

My plan includes tax credits for consumers to purchase electric or fuel cell vehicles, new or used, which will save the typical driver about $80 a month not having to pay for gas at the pump. Tax credits for folks to buy solar panels and heat pumps and more

efficient windows and doors for their homes, estimated savings $500 per year on average. We can do these things by making sure that no one earning less than $400,000 a year will pay a single penny more in federal taxes.

All we're asking is that the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations begin to pay their fair share, at least part of their fair share. You've heard me say it before. I'm a capitalist. I believe you should be able to make as much money as you legally can.

But just pay your fair share. There's no reason why a billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a teacher or a firefighter. That's in sharp contrast to what today's Republican Party is offering.

And if they hadn't put this in print, you'd think I was making it up. Senator Rick Scott of Florida, United States senator, who's leading the Republican national senatorial campaign committee released what he calls the ultra MAGA agenda.

It's a MAGA agenda all right. Let me tell you about this ultra MAGA agenda. It's extreme, as most MAGA things are. It will actually raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year.

Among the hardest hit?

Working families, kids with folks. Imagine if you're a family of four and you don't make enough money to have federal taxes, because you don't make enough money to pay them. You pay all your taxes but you just don't make enough.

And under this new plan, this tax plan, the ultra MAGA agenda, while big corporations and billionaires are going to pay nothing more, the working class folks are going to pay a hell of a lot more. And it goes further than that.

This extreme Republican agenda calls for Congress -- look, this is -- I'm not making this up, either. You've got to really think about this -- it requires a vote, if it were to pass.

Every five years, the Congress would have to vote to reinstate or eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Social Security, something seniors have paid in for their whole life and it has to be reauthorized, has to be reauthorized every five years?

Look, again, it's hard to make this up but, then again, it's a MAGA agenda. You know, meanwhile, millionaires and billionaires and corporations skate by. Imagine that. Just imagine that. I think it is truly outrageous.

I've offered a different plan, a plan rooted in American values of fairness and decency. Wealthy folks and corporations will pay a little more. Billionaires will have to pay a minimum tax.

[11:10:00] BIDEN: And again, most importantly, no one making less than $400,000 will pay a penny more in federal taxes. We're going to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, not put it on the block every five years.

Let me remind you again. I reduced the federal deficit. All the talk about the deficit from our Republican friends, I love it. I reduced it $350 billion in my first year in office. We're on track to reduce it by the end of September by another $1,500,000,000, the largest drop ever.

I don't want to hear Republicans talk about deficits and their ultra MAGA agenda. I want to hear about fairness, I want to hear about decency, I want to hear about helping ordinary people.

The bottom line is that, for decades, the trickle down economics has failed as income and equity grew to historic levels under the Republicans, the mega Republicans -- the MAGA Republicans.

Sorry, I don't want to mispronounce it, the MAGA Republicans. This -- it's time to grow the economy but from the bottom up and the middle out.

Because here's the deal. When the poor have a ladder up and the middle class grows, the wealthy always do very well. They do very well. That's what this is about. That's what this is about, everybody doing better.

And so I want you to understand, again, first year, $350 billion reduction deficit. This year, $ 1.5 trillion. It's going to bring some relief. Thank you. I'll take a few questions.


QUESTION: -- a question about sanctions. The E.U. --

BIDEN: About what?

QUESTION: -- about sanctions against or about further sanctions in Europe. The European Union today announced new sanctions against oil against Russia. What's the next round for the U.S.?

And also, on a separate issue, what's the next step on abortion once this case gets settled?

BIDEN: You don't want to ask me about deficits, huh?


BIDEN: (INAUDIBLE) make sure this thing gets covered. OK, here we go. I'm going to answer those two questions and then I'm going to talk about the Olympians (ph).

With regard to the additional sanctions, we're always open to additional sanctions. And I've been in consultation. I'll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we're going to do or not do, number one.

Number two, what was the second one?

Look --


QUESTION: -- on abortion.

BIDEN: As I said when I -- when this hit, as I was getting on the plane to go down to Alabama, this is about a lot more than abortion. I hadn't read the whole opinion at that time.

But this reminds me of the debate with Robert Bork. Bork believed the only reason you had any inherent rights is because the government gave them to you. If you go back and look at the opening comments, of Bork- Biden, when I was questioning him as chairman, I said I believe I have the rights that I have, not because the government gave them to me, which you believe, but because I'm just a child of God. I exist.

I delegated by joining this union here to delegate some obligation, some rights I have to the government for social good.

So the idea that somehow there is an inherent right, that there is no right of privacy, that there is no right -- and remember the debate -- you don't remember it but we had a debate about Griswold versus Connecticut.

There had been a law saying a married couple could not purchase birth control in the privacy of their own bedroom and use it. Well, that got struck down. Griswold was thought to be a bad decision by Bork. And my guess is the guys on the Supreme Court now.

What happens if you have a state to change the law, saying that children who are LGBTQ can't be in classrooms with other children?

Is that legit under the way that the decision is written?

What are the next things that are going to be attacked?

Because this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that's existed in American history, in recent American history.


GOLODRYGA: There we just heard the president, giving, really a progress report to the nation on the state of the economy, focusing extensively on bringing down the U.S. deficit, down $1.5 trillion is the estimate for this year; $350 billion last year.

He also took some questions on E.U. sanctions with regard to Russia's war against Ukraine and the news yesterday of that leaked draft out of the Supreme Court, that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

I want to bring in CNN's John Harwood back in with me. It was interesting because you hear the president really focus on

bringing down, his administration's effort on bringing down the deficit. He's saying the audience there were extreme MAGA Republicans.


GOLODRYGA: We know there was one Democrat, at least, he was hoping was watching as well. And that is Joe Manchin, as the president is really trying to revive his legislative agenda before Congress goes to recess.

What else stood out about his comments from both the economy and what he said quickly about the threat of Roe being overturned?

HARWOOD: Just, again, putting in perspective the comments about the deficit reduction, yes, the deficit is coming down.

But is it because spending was cut in terms of programs that exist or taxes were raised?

No. It's coming down because we're not spending on COVID relief. So that is a little bit of a misleading statistic.

He made the argument, though, that other elements of his economic agenda that have not passed the Congress, including the revised version of Build Back Better, would bring down the deficit, which is what Joe Manchin has insisted on.

He wants tax increases that exceed the amount of new spending. So he made a strong pitch for that argument, contrasted it with trickle down and, really, the subtheme of his remarks, both with respect to Roe and the economy, was to try to draw that sharp contrast with Republicans, that Democrats think the way that they can have a chance in the midterm elections.

Midterms have looked very gloomy for the Democrats. They're likely to lose control of the House and perhaps the Senate. The way they can try to combat that and be more competitive is by drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans.

So he did that on the economy. So therefore trickle down economics, helping the rich and helping big corporations. And in terms of Roe v. Wade, he talked about the radicalism of a step to outlaw abortion and said, what can come next?

What rights can be taken away next?

That is an argument, both parts of which are things that we can expect to hear very consistently over the next several months until Election Day.

And on sanctions, he didn't really say much new. He acknowledged that European allies are moving ahead to try to curtail the purchases of Russian oil. The big question is going to be Russian gas. And that's a very sensitive issue, both for global markets and for the economies of our European allies. It would, of course, hurt Russia. But there are multi-sides to that

equation and that's something that is an ongoing conversation.

But the longer that war goes on and the more brutal the Russian attacks are in Ukraine, the more the allies are willing to accept some economic pain themselves in return for trying to curb the sources of Russian income.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, he also left the door open to additional sanctions from the United States as well as this war progresses. John Harwood, thank you so much.

And coming up, major fighting underway at the Mariupol steel plant, as countless Ukrainians are inside, just hoping to get out. We'll have the latest on the war in Ukraine. Up next.





GOLODRYGA: Now to the latest on the war in Ukraine. Heavy fighting underway at Mariupol's steel plant, according to the city's mayor. Countless civilians, including at least 30 children are hiding out there. The mayor says they have now lost contact with the last defenders.

The convoy of buses was able to leave Mariupol earlier today with some civilians on board. Now it comes as Russian forces are stepping up their attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure.

And this morning, the European Union is proposing a total ban on Russian oil imports. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Scott McLean, live in Lviv, where the latest missile attacks hit yesterday.

Scott, what is the latest on the situation in Mariupol right now?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fighting there is intense, according to the city's mayor. So intense, he says, they're hitting it with tanks, with artillery from the air and also they moved a ship close to the plant to fire on the plant as well.

And new pictures we see from above show that steel plant is smothered in very thick smoke. The mayor said that the fighting has been so intense that, as you mentioned, they have lost all contact with the fighters who are actually there.

And he gave a reminder that there are still civilians trapped amongst those fighters, including, he says, 30 children as well. The Russian defense ministry had previously said that that plant is surrounded completely. There is no way for soldiers to get in. There's no way for them to get out, either. But the Kremlin says that that plant is not being stormed on the

ground. Instead, they say that they are merely suppressing militant attempts to take up new firing positions. All of this does not look good for the attempts to actually get the civilians out from under the steel plant.

You mentioned the attacks on the infrastructure as well. There were a series of strikes across the country. The mayor of Lviv said there were 18 or 19 missiles fired at this country. Many of them were shot down, including in Kyiv and Vinnytsia.

But strikes in Dnipro and three in Lviv took out power stations. We know many of these strikes were related to training infrastructure as well. The Pentagon says they're trying, the Russians are trying to cut off the flow of weapons toward the front line.

And one of the things that really surprised me was the strike on an area on the very western and southern edge of Ukraine, that has not seen any kind of missile strikes or fighting since the war began until yesterday.

GOLODRYGA: Closer to Hungary there with the strike yesterday. And listen, this is as those weapons are trying to make their way cross country over to the east. Scott McLean, thank you.

Well, we turn now to Russia. The Kremlin denying that Putin might declare war on Ukraine on May 9th, which is Russia's victory day. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with more.


GOLODRYGA: We do want to remind viewers that Russia has strict laws regarding how the conflict in Ukraine is described and has prohibited the broadcast of information it regards as false.

So with that having been said, Matthew, a Kremlin spokesperson says that reports that Putin could declare war on May 9th are, quote, nonsense.

What else is he saying about what may happen that day?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, of course, there's been a lot of speculation about what will happen on May the 9th. It's traditionally a very important day, as you well know, in Russia, when the country commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

But the context of it this year is immensely significant. Of course, there is this conflict underway in neighboring Ukraine, what Russia calls its special military operation.

And so the regular annual display of military power that we've all gotten used to, through the streets of the Russian capital, across Red Square, every May 9th, that's going to have additional significance this year as well as the regular sort of grandstanding of Russia's nuclear weapons. Of course, they often drive their intercontinental ballistic missiles

through the center of the Russian capital as well. That's particularly potent and worrisome as well, given there's been so many warnings about the fact that Russia has these nuclear weapons and indications or hints that it may, at some point, if provoked, be prepared to use them.

We've been hearing those warnings quite a lot. But there's also a lot of anticipation about what Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, may say. He makes remarks every year.

Normally, in my experience, they're limited to sort of general congratulations and commemorations about the achievements of the Russian military. But on this occasion, the speculation could involve an announcement about the conflict in Ukraine, possibly a formal declaration of war.

That's come to us from U.S. and other Western officials as well possibly as a way of sort of mobilizing the country, putting it on more of a war footing and getting more troops into that conflict zone.

The Kremlin, as you mentioned, has ruled that out. They've called it nonsense. That's categorically not going to happen, is the message we've had from the Kremlin. But you know, I think we've got the strong message over the past couple of months that we should sort of judge Russia on its actions rather than its words.

They may say one thing but we'll have to wait and see what they actually do at the time.

GOLODRYGA: As all eyes are going to focus on what's happening on May 9th, how is the Kremlin responding to news that the E.U. might ban all Russian oil imports by the end of the year?

CHANCE: Obviously, it's very worrying indeed for the Kremlin. This is a major source of revenue for Russia and for the European Union as well. Last year, it bought something like 25 percent of its oil supplies from Russian sources.

And so this would be a massive hit, make no mistake, to the Russian economy. And the fact that the European Union has now said it is going to try to phase out Russian oil imports within the next six months, with a couple of exceptions, is, of course, extremely acute as a crisis potentially for the already struggling Russian economy.

The Kremlin have played it down, saying they're monitoring it closely, it's a double edged sword and it would hurt the Europeans as much as it hurts the Russians and that European people will feel the cost of living increases as a result. But it does seem the European determination is, at the moment, very strong.

GOLODRYGA: Worth noting that the E.U. has to have unanimous consent among 27 members. Not sure if they have everyone on board with that; at least Hungary is still questionable at this point. Matthew Chance, thank you. Well, the European Union announcing today that it is considering ways

to ramp up its military support for Moldova. This follows several recent attacks in the pro Russian region of Transnistria. Randi Kaye spoke with a U.S. ambassador and joins us now.

Randi, what did the ambassador say about the U.S. assessment on the current situation in Moldova?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, we spoke with ambassador Kent Lawson. We talked about, a variety of topics including the chance of Moldova being drawn into this war with Ukraine. Certainly a lot of concerns about that, which you can understand, you're from here, you were here recently.

Certainly it would be in proximity to Ukraine, right across the border and in proximity to Transnistria, where 1,500 Russian troops are still standing by. Certainly, a concern.

But as we spoke to him, we talked about the concerns and he said that there is no immediate threat based on U.S. intelligence, based on his speaking with others in this region. There's no immediate threat to the country of Moldova right now.

But still, many people here are very concerned. We spoke with people in the villages closest to the Transnistria border.