Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden Meets with Congressional Leaders; Georgia Sets Single-Day Record for Voter Turnout; Senate to Vote Today on Same-Sex Marriage Bill; Iran and U.S. to Face Off at World Cup. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, President Biden sitting down with congressional leaders of both parties at the White House as he's asking Congress to step in and stop a potentially devastating rail strike from happening.

Plus protesters in China say authorities are searching for them, trying to find who took part in these unprecedented demonstrations we've been watching against the government's COVID restrictions.

And it will be a match like no other for sure. The high stakes and highly politicized showdown between U.S. and Iran at the World Cup.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.

To begin with, President Biden is meeting with top congressional leaders as we speak. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy all there to discuss this lame-duck session.

This meeting comes as President Biden is also asking Congress to intervene right away to avert what would be a crippling rail strike. Biden's warning a shutdown of the system just two weeks before Christmas would devastate the economy.

Let's start with MJ Lee, live at the White House.

This meeting along with the leaders and the president still ongoing.

What are you hearing?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That meeting is still ongoing and it is clear, just from what the president said at the very top of this meeting, that the next few weeks are going to be a real cramp (ph) for congressional leaders as they try to get done as much as possible, including important things and essential things like funding the government. But right at the top of his very brief remarks, the president talking

about how important it is for Congress to pass this bill, to avert a rail strike. The White House has been very clear in the last couple of days that this needs to be avoided because otherwise it could really wreak havoc on the economy.

We don't know exactly what the timing of this is going to be. But our colleagues on the Hill have reported that it could come later this week or even next week as well. The president also talking about funding the government, wanting more money for COVID aid and more money for Ukraine aid as well.

And there are other things that he didn't mention in his brief remarks, like the same-sex marriage bill that is making its way across Capitol Hill. That is something that we know he wants to sign into law as quickly as possible.

And there is an obvious reason, Kate, that they want to try to get done as much as possible in the next couple of weeks, basically between now and the end of the year. And there is -- that is because there is real recognition that obviously things are going to be very different come January, when Republicans take control of the House.

And it is just going to be very different and much more difficult for Democrats to govern and legislate. So they want to get done as much as possible in the next couple of weeks.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, MJ. We'll be listening to see what more could come out of the meeting when they do leave.

So for the latest on the talks to step in and stop this looming rail strike before it sets in, let's go to Capitol Hill now. And Manu Raju is standing by.

Manu, what are you hearing about this?

How quickly are they likely to move here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are expected to move quickly. We expect Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, indicated last night that they would put this on the floor of the House this week.

This being the tentative agreement that was reached in September between some of the rail unions as well as the industry, put the legislation on the floor to essentially implement that tentative agreement.

We've not seen the details of the proposal so a lot of senators that I've been speaking with say they want to look at details before they commit to this. But none of them are indicating that they will support some legislation because of their concern, if they do nothing by December 9th, that it could be devastating to the United States economy.

So ultimately they have to get on board. Now Senate sources that I've spoken with since yesterday believe that ultimately they will get those 60 votes in the Senate to break any potential filibuster attempt. But it is still uncertain, the timing on the Senate side.

Once the House passes it, it has to come over for the Senate for a final vote. But any one senator could slow down legislation because they need an agreement from all 100 senators to schedule a vote.

And Bernie Sanders of Vermont is concerned. He criticized this agreement because it does not guarantee paid sick leave for rail workers. And just moments ago, I had a chance to ask him about this, whether he would object to a time agreement.

And he indicated that he would -- he wouldn't say one way or another whether he would allow that quick vote to happen before the December 9th deadline. So there is still some uncertainty about whether he will slow down the process or any others critical of this. But they do expect to get the votes. But it could be bumpy until next week.

BOLDUAN: It is good to see you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

And let's go to Georgia for a moment, where early voting continues and early voting numbers continue to break records.


BOLDUAN: More than 300,000 people cast ballots yesterday. That is an all-time high for early voting in the state. Eva McKend live in Georgia for us once again.

You're also in Greensboro, where Herschel Walker is campaigning today.

What do you see there?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Kate. I want to begin with the numbers, because what is happening in is this state is really quite remarkable.

More than 500,000 Georgians have voted so far. That is between the early in-person voting days and those absentee ballots. I was speaking to a woman in Atlanta yesterday. And she told me she couldn't believe that she had to vote again, that she essentially just voted, right, four weeks, just four weeks for this runoff election.

But, yes, Herschel Walker returned to the campaign trail this week. And he's going to be here in Greensboro. And what we're hearing from him is that he's largely revisiting familiar themes, tying Warnock to President Biden and indicating to his supporters that he would be a reliable Republican vote if elected to the United States Senate.

Meanwhile, Senator Warnock has landed on competence and character, arguing that Walker has neither and is ill-prepared for this huge job of being a United States senator. Senator Warnock campaigning today in the southern part of the state.

He is in Valdosta and Tifton, so not ceding any territory here in Georgia, making his case in rural areas as well. Kate. BOLDUAN: It is good to see you. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now is CNN chief political correspondent, co-host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash. It is good to see you.


BOLDUAN: I want to take about the lame-duck session, back to Washington and the meeting happening at the White House as we speak between Biden and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle.

What is the art of the possible in this lame-duck session, especially when -- I'm trying to sum it up in the kindest way possible -- when it comes to a bunch of legislative measures that have big names, big acronyms, involve a lot of money and priorities?

But also when it comes to some of them, like the defense authorization and such and such, a lot of people don't know a lot about.

BASH: And they are so important. Well, there is the art of the possible and then the art of the necessary. The art of the necessary is the basics. Congress is supposed to do in a very different way but they haven't for years and years, which is, I don't know, fund the government. That is the basic.

And if they don't pass a bill to continue to fund the government, it will shut down. That will happen before the end of year. So that is a necessity.

The other necessity, if you talk to most members of Congress, in both parties, is raising the debt ceiling. So they're going to figure out some way to do that. Maybe not on a bipartisan basis. Probably more on a partisan basis.

The Democrats will probably carry the load because they still have control of the House and the Senate.

Then the question is what about some big ticket priorities?

You know, Kate, in 2010, I think we were covering Congress back then but I've lost track of time and space. But back then, when Democrats --


BASH: -- when Democrats lost the majority, in the lame duck, the same period that they are in right now, they did pass some pretty big pieces of legislation. They repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." They had some 9/11 relief.

So it is possible that in the next few weeks they're going to do some very important priorities, like codifying same-sex marriage, like changing the Electoral College law to make it more clear, much more clear than the founders left it when they wrote the Constitution and left potential gaping loopholes that Donald Trump tried to walk right through. So those are possible; I would even say probable because those are


BOLDUAN: So let's talk about two of these things. Let's talk about the same-sex marriage bill. This started gaining steam over the summer, of course, when the Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade.

What does this victory show people about the Congress and the country?

BASH: That is such a good question. It shows that this is a -- maybe it is rare, let's just speak truth here, it is rare.

But at this moment, Congress seems to be reflecting the will of the country. And that is that the country has moved culturally on this issue in a big way. And the Congress is seeing the makeup of the Supreme Court, what they have done to longer standing precedent than same-sex marriage. i.e., Roe v. Wade, overturning that.


BASH: And also the fact that Clarence Thomas, when Dobbs was written, actually put a concurrent opinion on, saying that maybe same-sex marriage should be overturned as well.

So that is why Congress is doing it. But it is remarkable, Kate, to think about Rob Portman, the Republican from Ohio, who is leaving this year, he's retiring. He, not that long ago, a few years ago only, told us in an interview that he had changed his mind and he now supports same-sex marriage.

At that time he was more out there on this than a lot of Democrats. And just in a few years, the nation and then Congress along with it, has moved in a way that you had a procedural vote yesterday that was 61 votes on same-sex marriage.

BOLDUAN: And it is still --

BASH: It is no small thing.

BOLDUAN: It is no small thing. It is still short of codifying same- sex marriage, right.

BASH: Fair.

BOLDUAN: It states recognize same-sex marriages in other states.

BASH: That is clear.

BOLDUAN: I'm probably saying that in a very --

BASH: No, you're right. It is a important point. It is not a federal --

BASH: Not to diminish the moment but it is -- it is a step in that direction. It is not the whole ballgame and it is not the whole way there. But there is -- let's talk about the other big priority that has now

also landed on Congress because the president is asked them to, to try to strike a deal to avert the rail strike before it begins next week.

It was back in September when Joe Biden first took something of a victory lap when they all had reached -- and he even said at the time, Dana, it was a tentative deal, saying that the unions and management, this shows that they could work together for the benefit of everyone.

That clearly was premature in that moment.

Are they taking a victory lap this time and how this is kind of ending up, do you think?

BASH: I think no matter how this ends up, unless suddenly the unions and the railroad industry comes to some 11th hour deal that we just don't see coming, it is tough.

I was thinking about this, this morning, that Aaron Sorkin could not have written a more sort of dramatic episode for "The West Wing," we're coming up on Christmas. The economy is doing poorly and then you have a Democratic president who ran as Lunchpail Joe, who has always been the guy for the unions, telling the unions, sorry, you got to suck it up.

And you have to understand that you're not going to get a better deal like, I don't know, paid leave and paid medical leave or vacations. And it is really -- so that is a long way to answer your question, which is that it doesn't look like anybody is going to be happy with this, particularly on the Democratic side.

But it looks like Congress, the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, of course, and Joe Biden in the White House, think that this is a necessity to save the economy, particularly during the holidays.

BOLDUAN: And maybe getting us right back to where we began the conversation, not really the art of the possible but really the art of the necessity. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So 40 million Americans are under threat for severe weather today. Something a lot of people need to pay attention to, a rare November storm targeting the Midwest and the Southeast.


BOLDUAN: For Team USA, facing something of a grilling from Iranian reporters ahead of today's World Cup match, not even having to do with the game.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say you support the Iranian people. But you're pronouncing our country's name wrong. Our country is named Iran, not I-RAN.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Much more to that.

The answer?










BOLDUAN: So holiday shoppers spending big. A record amount on Cyber Monday.

So what does this say about what is really going on in this inflation ridden economy?

Some answers potentially, next.