Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Joe Biden to Visit Saudi Arabia; Biden Addresses Union Convention. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2022 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Erica Hill in for Kate Bolduan today. President Biden speaks as economic anxiety and inflation fears grip the U.S.

The January 6th committee detailing how president Trump's Big Lie turned into a big scam.

And catastrophic flooding shuts down one of America's most popular national parks. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

We begin this hour with President Biden, who is about to address the economy at a union convention in Philadelphia. The White House says the president will make it clear that fighting inflation is his top priority.

This, of course, as fears of a recession grow. New this morning, the White House confirming President Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month, where he will meet with its controversial crown prince. This, of course, despite his promise to make Saudi, quote, a "pariah state."

All this as the Federal Reserve is expected to announce its biggest interest rate hike in decades. John Harwood is live in Philadelphia.

John, there is a lot at stake for the president.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot at stake, Erica, for the president. A lot at stake for the country. As we've seen underscored by the January 6th committee hearings.

The president's biggest political problem is negative public sentiment about high inflation. As you indicated, he is going to say that this is his top priority. Mostly a job for the Federal Reserve but he's also going to do what he can to try to make a difference on the margins.

That's why he is going to swallow his statements about making Saudi Arabia a pariah and meet with the crown prince, MBS, on a visit in a few weeks. That's in hopes of expanding Saudi oil production and getting gas prices down a little bit. He's also here before this friendly audience to talk about the

positive aspects of his economic record, which is job creation, very low unemployment rate and try to draw a sharp contrast with the Republicans that Democrats face in this fall's midterm elections, making the case that they are hostile to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security that benefit the middle class, make the case they favor the wealthy over the interests of the middle and working class, maybe even raising taxes on people who don't make much money.

That's a reference to the plan by senator Rick Scott, the head of the Senate Republican campaign committee. Rick Scott has withdrawn that particular element of his own personal plan. But President Biden is not going to stop talking about it-- Erica.

HILL: We will be watching for all of that, John. Thank you.

The White House also announcing this morning President Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month. The administration is facing criticism, given that Biden once vowed to make the kingdom a pariah.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The president will and he said this before, he will meet with leaders across the world if it is in the best interest of the American people, if it is in our national security interest.

And he believes this trip, in its entirety, all the discussions he's going to be having over the course of the three days, absolutely fit that bill.


HILL: Natasha Bertrand joining us now. There's pushback there.

What do we know about the decision?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is. It comes as Biden's senior national security officials tell us the world has changed dramatically since Russia invaded Ukraine and the U.S. needs as many allies as it can get, including Saudi Arabia, which, of course, has yet to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is the number one oil producer in the world, given the number of countries that are now cutting off Russian oil imports.

The need to compensate and get oil elsewhere is really, really high on the president's agenda here. So that's really what is driving this. It is a key driver of this meeting, the need to get the Saudis to increase --


HILL: I apologize; I have to interrupt you there. The president is getting ready to speak in Philadelphia. Let's listen in. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to be home.

As they say, y'all bring me to the dance. Thank you. Please have a seat if there is one.


BIDEN: You're a gigantic reason why I'm standing here. I'm standing here today as your president. I really mean it, I owe you.

From the very beginning of my running for office, back when I was a kid, it was labor, unions made a difference. At the time, we were a right to work state and we've changed that, too. I've never forgotten not only what you've done for me but how importantly it meant to me and to the country, to our country, what you've done for the country.


BIDEN: And I want to thank Liz for being such a good friend for so long, the first woman to lead the AFL-CIO, born of a union household. Started out as an organizer and she never stopped.

Congratulations, Liz. Congratulations.

And congratulations to Fred Redmond, Secretary-Treasurer as well. I hope your daughter-in-law knows she's marrying into a union family.


BIDEN: Anyway, look, I know this is bittersweet for all of us. This is the first convention without Rich Trumka. He was not only a legendary labor leader, he literally was a close friend to me and to so many of you, a true friend, particularly there when things weren't going well. He was always there.

Above all, he was an American worker. No matter how high he rose through the ranks, he never forgot where he came from. We use that phrase all the time, never forget where you came from. He never forgot where he came from or what this work is all about. You know, before Rich passed, he gave me --


BIDEN: -- he gave me the highest complement that I've ever gotten in my life. I mean it sincerely. He called me, which your president just did, the most pro-union president in history. I promised you I would be.

And I commit to you, as long as I have this job, I will remain that. Folks --


BIDEN: --- thank you. I've got to tell you, nothing made me prouder than that. That's why I made sure we put a former union president in as Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. Marty, he's going to learn how to speak English but he's real. I kid him all the time. I'm joking. He knows what he's doing.

Marty was here yesterday and he's doing a hell of a job. He fights like hell for us all. And just yesterday -- just yesterday I had a conversation, a Zoom conversation with our next senator from this state, John Fetterman.

You know -- if you're in a foxhole, you want John with you, man. I know he can't wait to get back on the trail. Looking good. There's no bigger, stronger voice for working people in this state than John, certainly no bigger one for that matter.

Look, we're also joined here today by three great members of Congress, who flew up with me on Air Force One: Brendan Boyle, labor, labor; Donald Norcross and (INAUDIBLE) Mary Kay Scanlon, as well.

All -- by the way, they've been there when the votes were tough, when it was tough to stay with you, they were there. They're great champions of unions.

Stacey Abrams is here, as well, by the way. I'll ask you all a favor, help her in Georgia. Help Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Three things I learned about early on. One, she's loyal. Two, she's capable. Three, she's smarter than you, me. She knows what he's doing. So folks, please help her out.

And folks, thanks to all of you for coming along. And we've come a long way in a short time. If you remember when our economy was like -- what it looked like before we took office, 3,000 Americans were dying every day from COVID-19; 20 million Americans had lost their jobs from the last guy.

In fact, so many Americans lost their jobs that my predecessor became just the second president in history to leave office with fewer jobs in America than when he took office.

But you stepped up. The other, by the way, was Herbert Hoover.

Just remember, remember those long lines of cars stretching miles back, waiting for just a box of food to be put back in the trunk?

Wasn't just poor folk, it was working class folks, it was middle class folks. A lot of pretty nice cars in those lines. While it was going on, America created more than -- than more billionaires during that crisis in 2020 than any year in history. Talk about a contrast. Ordinary people waiting in line for an hour for a box of food.


BIDEN: And the policies in the past created more billionaires than ever in American history. It's hard to believe but it's true. That's what we inherited. Then with your help, we went to work with an economic vision that looks out from Scranton, Pennsylvania, hardworking towns like it all across America, not down from Wall Street.

Wall Street didn't build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.


BIDEN: I'm not joking. Without unions, there would be no middle class. That's a fact. By the way, there's a reason you're the best trained workers in the world. That's not hyperbole. When you do well, everybody does well.

You know, if investment bankers in America -- they're not all bad guys, they're not bad -- but guess what, if they went on strike, not a whole hell of a lot would happen.

But guess what?


BIDEN: Guess what?

I tell this to my buddies, when IBW went on strike, everything shuts down. All of you go down the road. I'm serious. No, you guys don't understand, I don't think you appreciate how critically important you are. I'm not trying to be nice to you, it's just a fact.

Folks, we need an economy built from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down because I know when the middle class does well, everybody does. The wealthy do very well. They're never hurt.

But I also know, too often, we've had an economy where the wealthy do better and better while the middle class gets left behind. So we went to work to change that and it started with the American Rescue Plan.

Well, it helped 41 million people put food on the table. Remember, there was trouble putting food on their table. It put money in the pockets of hard working Americans who were in trouble, being thrown out on the street because they couldn't pay the rent through no fault of their own.

It gave them what my dad used to call just a little bit of breathing room. The next step was the bipartisan infrastructure law. And now not only is it infrastructure week, we've arrived at infrastructure decade.


BIDEN: And people are going to see a lot of it. We have to remind them where it's coming from. We announced nearly $3 billion this year to improve more than 3,000 airports across 50 states. This year, we announced $5 billion so union workers can get to work on building a national network of electric vehicles and charging stations.

We announced the largest investment in public transit in American history, more than the entire Amtrak system when it started, $20.5 billion.

(APPLAUSE) BIDEN: And the people we come from, like when the president, President Obama used to always give me the good assignments. I remember one day, walked in, not a joke, said, "Joe, fix Detroit."

I said, "OK, no problem."


BIDEN: No, you think I'm kidding. You think I'm kidding. Well, I didn't realize that I didn't know a lot about the cities. I went out to Detroit, the vast majority of the people living in the city, their jobs were out of town because they're not doing manufacturing in towns anymore.

Out of town. So we got a rail system for them. We got a freight system, bus system. It changed it. It's growing. It's going to create more good jobs using products that are made in America.

And folks, it's also going to reduce pollution while it is making it safer and safer for folks to go to work and get to work every day.

What all this means for all of you is a simple proposition. And I remember us having this discussion, ol' buddy. When I think global warming, I think jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Good paying union jobs. Jobs you can raise a family on. Jobs you can't have outsourced.

Look, the infrastructure laws are about more than rebuilding our infrastructure. It's about rebuilding the middle class. That's why we made sure that the infrastructure law included significant labor protections.

For example, I insisted the overwhelming majority of the funds included in the law are subject to Davis-Baker requirements (ph), the union made best to do it. It's not just that I want to help unions.


BIDEN: You're the best in the world. If we're building infrastructure, we should have -- you know, what I always find we don't talk enough about and I'm not going to take the time today but you know what, you don't decide just you want to be a pipe fitter or electrician or whatever you pick. It takes four, five years of hard work. It's like going to college.

Fortunately, you get these union paid -- you get paid to do some of it. But my point is, people don't realize -- and you've heard it in the chambers of Congress, the best trained workers in the world.

So folks, rebuilding our country will earn a prevailing wage. It should. Another thing the law does, it's helped expand registered apprenticeships.

Remember when the businesses said, we'll take care of the apprenticeships?

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. Come on, man. (LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Come on. Union partnerships allow workers to earn while they learn. It matters because laying a strong foundation for the future of this country is about more than having strong roads and bridges. It's about making sure that, here in America, folks who work hard can live their lives with dignity and respect.

That's why I continue to call on Congress to finally pass the Pro Act.


BIDEN: Make it easier for workers to organize.


BIDEN: You know, when Franklin Roosevelt passed NLRB, it didn't say you can't have unions. It said we should encourage unions. It's a big difference. Look, I'm not just saying that to be pro union. I'm saying it because I'm pro American.

Folks --


BIDEN: -- that's the approach I've taken to build this economy.

What has to be done, well, we brought down COVID deaths by 90 percent. We opened schools and businesses that were shuttered. All in all it created the greatest job recovery in American history. People don't want to talk about it these days but it's true.

Since I've become president, we've created 8.7 million new jobs in 16 months, an all-time record.


BIDEN: And even last month, 390,000 jobs and 600,000 new manufacturing jobs. They said manufacturing is dead in America. Look, folks, our unemployment rate is near historic lows, 3.7 percent.

And millions of Americans are -- I love these guys talking about, my, these guys left my employment and went to another job.

Because he got paid more.


BIDEN: Isn't that awful?

Isn't that a shame that they got to compete for labor?


BIDEN: Better paying jobs for better jobs for them and their families. It's been a long time since that's happened in this country but it is happening now. And it is working.

Since I took office, with your help, families are carrying less debt nationwide. They have more savings nationwide. More Americans applied for new small businesses last year than ever before in American history, 5.4 million new small business applications.

Jobs and companies are coming home again. We're making Buy American a reality, not just a slogan. I award no contracts from the federal government unless they can prove they've bought it in America.

By the way, Republicans like to portray me as some kind of big spender. I spend a lot of money. But let's compare the facts. Under my predecessor, the deficit exploded, rising every single year, and all the benefit going to the top 1 percent basically. Under my plan, last year, we cut the deficit by $350 billion doing all this.


BIDEN: They talk about Biden wants to spend more on schools, all this.

Guess what?

He is going to create a deficit.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year, by the end of the fiscal year, we will have cut the federal deficit by another $1.6 trillion in one year, one year. So when they come to you and talk about big spenders, let them know, almost $2 trillion in deficit reduction.

I don't want to hear anymore of these lies about reckless spending. We're changing people's lives.


BIDEN: And because of the fact, this year, we're delivering the biggest drop in deficit in the history of the United States of America.


BIDEN: Look, the point is this: under my plan for the economy, we made extraordinary progress. We put America in a position to tackle a worldwide problem that's worse everywhere but here, inflation. It's sapping the strength of a lot of families.

I grew up in a household not far from here in Claymont and Wilmington, where the price of a gallon of gasoline going up was a conversation at the dinner table. It mattered. It mattered to my working family. It mattered the price of food went up.

The problem is, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families. That's why my plan is not finished and why the results aren't finished, either.

Jobs are back but prices are still too high. COVID is down but gas prices are up. Our work isn't done. But here's the deal, America still has a choice to make, a choice between a government by the few, for the few or government for all of us.

Democracy for all of us, an economy where all of us have a fair shot and a chance to earn our place in the economy. My plan is simple.

First, I'm doing everything in my power to blunt Putin's gas price hike. Just since he invaded Ukraine, it's gone up $1.74 a gallon because of nothing else but that. So I have a plan to bring down the cost of gas and food.

It's going to take time but let the world coordinate the largest release of oil from the global fund in history, a million barrels a day, 240 million barrels to boost global supply by convincing other nations to join us, to keep prices from rising even more.

I'm working closely with our European partners to get 20 million tons of grain, locked in Ukraine, out onto the market to help bring down food prices. Folks, look --


BIDEN: -- what Putin's war has done has not only tried to wipe out the culture of Ukrainians, decimate people and commit innumerable war crimes but he's also prevented the grain, thousands of tons in grain that are locked up in those silos, ready to be exported.

But they can't get out through the Black Sea because they'll get blown out of the water. So we're working on a plan to get it out through other countries by rail.

But guess what?

Ukraine has a system like Russia has, a rail gauge that's different from the gauge of the rest of the tracks in Europe. So we're going to build silos, temporary silos, in the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland, so we can transfer it from those cars into the silos, into cars in Europe and get it out to the ocean and get it across the world.


BIDEN: And it's taken time.

Second, we're going to work to bring down gas and food prices. We can save families' money and other items. You can change the dynamic on middle class families. Look, give them a little breathing room, my dad said. You heard me say that before.

But imagine, what most middle class and working class families do, is they look at the monthly bill they have on everything, the rent or the mortgage, the cost of maintaining the car, the food, everything.


BIDEN: So if portions of that go up, one of the ways to deal with inflation for families is bring the other costs down. For example, 200,000 people, type I diabetes, they're paying up to $1,000 a month for insulin. We can make sure they pay no more than $35 a month.


BIDEN: By the way, drug companies will still do very well. It costs them 10 bucks to develop that insulin. So they're making 3.5 times their cost. My plan gives Medicare the power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, just like the Veterans Administration does.

Bring down the average cost of prescription drugs is a gigantic way -- it really does, it affects the total amount of money you have to write out in that checkbook.

So gas is up and food is up, which we're going to get down, come hell or high water but there's other things we can do beyond getting the price of insulin down to $35 a month. Imagine the difference it can could make. Imagine the difference it could make if, in fact, you had other things I've been proposing.

Imagine if you were in a situation, where you'll be able to be in a position where you can pay for preschool for kids that are 3 and 4 years old, increasing exponentially their possibility of going on, no matter what kind of family they come from in terms of educational standing, to raise the standard for people.

Imagine what we could do if we -- for child care in a city like Philadelphia, New York, the big cities, Chicago. Costs you $12,000 to $14,000 a month for child care. Well, they shouldn't have to pay more than 7 percent of your income for that. We could easily afford to do it.

Look, we can do the same thing --


BIDEN: -- but I can only think how that'd change the families that you represent. Think how it'd change the circumstances for working class people. By the way, it can do the same thing with utility bills.

Congress would ease the cost to families today by passing the clean energy investments I proposed, things like tax credit for business to produce cleaner energy, tax cuts for families that make their homes more energy efficient, which is the way it would mean a lot more jobs, by the way, for some folks in this room.

I met with nearly a dozen CEOs of the largest 12 utility companies in America. They said, if you pass that tax cut, that tax credit for modernizing the homes, winterizing, et cetera, we'll guarantee we will immediately lower the average energy cost $500 a year for the average family.

That'd help a lot. In the long run, it'd help finally make America truly energy independent. So in the future, American families no longer subjected to whims of dictators halfway around the world. We laid out concrete plans for families to save money, not only

prescription drugs and utility bills but on rent and mortgage costs, high-speed internet.

You guys out there are going to be putting in high speed. And we've already got the money for it, billions of dollars.

Guess what?

When you get it done, it'll lower the cost of high-speed internet for every family in America by 30 bucks a month. That's a lot of money.


BIDEN: And it's a lot of jobs. Look, we can do all this. I'm asking -- all I'm asking is for the largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans to begin to pay their fair share in taxes.


BIDEN: I'm deadly earnest.

Anybody out there think the tax system is fair, raise your hand.

Look, under my plan, I made this commitment from the beginning and nothing has changed. No one making less than $400,000 a year will pay a single solitary penny more in federal taxes, nobody.

We'll no longer have a situation where 55 of the largest Fortune 500 companies made $40 billion each year the last two years and paid zero, zero, zero in federal income tax on that profit, $40 billion.

In fact -- nom it's a fact. I know it sounds like I'm making -- I give you my word, it's a fact. The fact is, we've got about roughly 790 or so billionaires in America.

You know what their average tax rate is for billionaires?

I'm serious now.