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CNN Speaks To Family Member Of Hamas Hostages Held In Gaza; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Discusses Senate Rules-Change Meeting To Break Tuberville Block; McCarthy Repeatedly Denies Accusation He Elbowed Burchett In The Kidney. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 14, 2023 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It's been 39 agonizing days since Hamas terrorists killed and captured innocent Israeli families.

I'm joined by Omri Almog. He sister, Chen, and three of their children, Agam, Gal and Tal, are among the nearly 240 that the IDF believes are still being held by Hamas. His brother-in-law and their eldest child were killed their home on October 7th.

Omri, thank you for being with us. We can't imagine what you and your family are dealing with right now.

Can you talk to us -- as we're listening to President Biden say that there is a hostage deal that is going to happen and, obviously, all of this is tenuous.

What do you want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do to get your family members back? What are you asking of the Israeli government?

OMRI ALMOG, FAMILY KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: The Israeli government, there's a huge disbelief between the city and the government. The main thing, the main effort from the government through the army is to bring back the hostages, the broken family.

I have a broken family. My sister's family is broke. They need to bring them back.

Now there's all kinds of talking about deals, but you have to remember we are dealing here not with a state. We are dealing with a difficult organization, torture, crude.

Everything will be done when my family and all the hostages will be in Israel.

KEILAR: We know what you're dealing with. We saw it happen on October 7th.

In light of that, this difficult negotiation, what concessions by Israel are accepting to you to secure t release of your family?

ALMOG: Everything. Everything we can offer is fine with me. There are many people working on it. I just finished a meeting with people from the government. There's not

much they can say, but they promise this is the main thing. It's going to take time. We're waiting already for days. But it needs to happen.

There's no other way, there's no way to keep going through the day, through this war without bringing back the hostages, everybody.

So --


KEILAR: You say everything. Obviously, Hamas wants a ceasefire. They want as many days as they can get to give up as few hostages as they can release. They want Palestinians, who are in Israeli custody, including convicted for murder, to be released.

When you look at those demands specifically, what should Israel be prepared to meet?

ALMOG: There's no price for a family and kids. There's kids with pajamas. Since then, we don't know where are they. So there is a price for it. There is a sequel to anything. But they don't think like us. They don't behave like us.

This organization we need to take off this planet. We will do this. We will finish it.

But first to bring the hostages, everything Palestinians and murder and Jewish people before, OK? We're going to find them later and we kill them. What is the issue?

This issue and the main thing is to bring everybody back. All the talking around can be anything. Israel know what to offer. Israel know what they can do. And Israel, we do it. This is the main issue. This is the main goal.

KEILAR: Omri --


KEILAR: Omri, what do you want your sister and your niece and your nephew to know? What is your message to them?

ALMOG: I'm doing everything that I can. I put all my efforts, day and night, to bring them back. I put it on the table everywhere I can. All day, all time.

And there's two families here. They are waiting for their grand kids to come back. This beautiful family. And this is what we do. This is what we think. This is what we live for in this moment.


And I just can support them and tell them, don't give up, hope dies last. And we work on it. It will happen.

KEILAR: Omri, thank you so much for taking time with us today. We are thinking and praying for your family. Thank you so much.

ALMOG: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: We'll be right back.



KEILAR: A critical meeting on Capitol Hill just minutes away. Democratic Senators hoping to break through Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville's nine-month blockade on all senior military nominations.

The Defense Department says the blockade has now prevented the promotions of 452 general and flag officers, many of them in key positions, as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional war and we have already seen more than 50 attacks on U.S. personnel in the region.

Essential leadership positions, like the commander and deputy commander of the Fifth Fleet are all unfilled. So is the role of defense attache to Israel.

Here, in the next hour, Senators hope to push through a rules change that would allow them to bypass Tuberville, who says he's been blocking nominations to protest the Pentagon's abortion travel policy.

Democrats are hoping to get support from some Senate Republicans who are came out last week in opposition to Tuberville.


SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): This is doing great damage to our military. I don't say that lightly.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: We are going to look back at this episode and just be stunned at what a national security suicide mission this became.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): We're going to see repercussions from this for probably the next decade to come.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): You want to do this, go after the people making the policy, not the people who have nothing to do with it and are simply there trying to do their jobs and keep our country safe.


KEILAR: Joining me now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who is the chair of the Rules Committee.

Senator, thanks for being with us.

You need --

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: -- nine Republican Senators to make this change. Do you have those votes?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): First of all, they are not on the Rules Committee, those nine.

KEILAR: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: And the people you have seen just spoke up, they just happen to be not on the Rules Committee. But we do have both Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer on this committee.

It's the only one they serve on, so what could go wrong? But a lot of things can go right.

And that is that we will finally advance this proposal to simply take the 350 people he has already held up and say, we're going to vote on them together with just a few exceptions. We're going to vote on all of them at once.

Many of their families are going to be there with us in the hearing room.

We know that this is, as you pointed out, holding up national security. The head of CYBERCOM, the head of the air command in the Pacific, right when Kim Jong-Un went and met with Vladimir Putin.

You have a viewpoint of the fleet in the Mideast, the commander there held up. This is absolutely ridiculous and enough is enough.

So we're going to say to Tuberville today, with or without Republican votes on the committee, that we are taking up this rules change. We're going to bring it to the floor.

KEILAR: Normally, the way this goes is it's pretty perfunctory. There's these batches of general and flag officers and then unanimously Senators just approve them.

By withholding his support, Senator Tuberville has done this blockade, and he said, OK, just do them one by one, which, obviously, you can't do with Senate time constraints.

What would the threshold be on the Senate floor for a vote under this rule?

KLOBUCHAR: So this is a very temporary focus rule. I would change our rules to restaffing a full-time employment agency and get on with the business of the country.

However, for this purpose, because we want to bring in Republicans on the floor, and you just heard some of them speak out on your show, this will just be about the 350.

And then in the future, other military appointments just for this Congress. So we can bulk them together. And by the way, this isn't unique, Brianna. There have been all kinds of exceptions, temporary and long-term, to these rules.

Including exceptions to allow people to be confirmed in groups. That's what this is about. And we have literally bulked together votes before. And voted yes or no.

No one is forcing Tommy Tuberville to vote yes on these valiant military appointments. I don't know why he would vote no. He is playing politics with them. No one is forcing him to vote yes.

We just want to vote. Because we know, when we have a vote on all these together, we're going to be able to get them through.

KEILAR: There are 27 Republican Senators who just sent this letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, urging him to rescind the Pentagon abortion travel policy, which is the heart of Tuberville's objection.

This is a much more normal way to voice an objection, going to civilian leadership in the military, kind of what was Thune was getting at there, instead of holding these officers up, who don't make policy.

Are those votes that you cannot rely on, or do you think folks on that letter might support your effort?


KLOBUCHAR: I don't -- I don't think we should assume anything. First of all, we know there are some Republican Senators, like Susan Collins, who are with us on reproductive freedom.

That aside, the point is, this is not even about paying for abortions. This is actually just military policy. If you're in a state that you can't get a certain medical procedure, it allows these women servicemembers to go to a state that does allow for it and pay for their transit.

That's what they do for any other medical procedure. And they are not going to exempt this one per Defense Department policy, as General Austin has stated. That's all this is about.

So Tuberville is way, way out there. When you think about how people have been voting, for instance, in state states like Kentucky for Governor Beshear or the vote we just saw in Ohio, a straight-up vote in a red state when it came to abortion, we know he's off on that.

But this is actually so about our military. It is about our chain of command and him holding them hostage for his own political beliefs.

And I believe Republicans, who may not be with the public on this issue, still believe in our chain of command and eventually will release the military promotions and these fine military servicemembers that are just literally in limbo.

They have their families waiting to move. They have spouses who have left their jobs, waiting for that are promotion because no one has had the gall to do something like this and hold up 350 military members. And by the way, if we voted on each one individually, there would be

115 business days. We would have a government shutdown. We wouldn't be able to do all the work.

So with all the drama you're covering, and rightfully so, over in the House today, the Senate has to act together on passing our appropriations bills, you are going to -- and I appreciate you spending time on this because this is its own set of drama and involves one guy.

What we are saying today, at least the Democrats on the committee, enough is enough. We're headed to the floor.

KEILAR: His opposition to this policy, though, he's not alone in that. There's a lot of Republicans who are against it.

I was sort of surprised. I have spoken with some veterans and those in the military community.

I'm talking about moderates, not conservatives, people who are in favor of abortion rights, women included, who say why not just change this policy? There are not that many people using it. It's creating a huge divide.

What do you say to that?

KLOBUCHAR: I just completely disagree with treating our women servicemembers like this and not giving them the same kind of benefits that male servicemembers have. So I'll start with that.

But the second thing is that no one has ever done this before, Brianna. So if we set this precedent, anyone could hold up hundreds of military promotions over something that they don't like.

If you don't like a certain war policy, you're going to hold them all up.

And we have learned, especially from things like Vietnam, you can have disagreements about war, but you don't take it out on the warriors on the front line, which is what Tuberville is doing with his disagreements over this policy.

So our position today goes beyond even the issue of reproductive freedom, way beyond.

This is about our very military chain of command and the ability of the Senate to allow our military to do its job, when you have China saber rattling, when you have what's going on in the Mideast, when you have Russia in an all-out invasion of Ukraine.

And our duty is to stand with not just Ukraine but our NATO allies. That's what's at stake here. The security and credibility of the United States of America on the world stage.

KEILAR: Look, there's bipartisan agreement on that coming from Congress right now. Even as this issue of this abortion travel policy is creating divisions in the military, in the civilian world, and there up on Capitol Hill.

Senator Klobuchar, thank you for being with us.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: And when we come back, a new report showing the survival rate for lung cancer patients is rising in the U.S. But it's still the leading cause of cancer deaths. We'll have more on that just ahead.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Moments ago, former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy spoke and addressed the accusations from Congressman Burchett that he elbowed him in the back.

Let's listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I would not hit him in the kidney. It's not a very big hallway. So I'm walking out, talking to Bruce. I called him after you guys talked to him and said, did I hit somebody? Bruce Westerly and I were walking out.

I guess a reporter was interviewing Burchett or something. I guess our shoulders hit. Because Burchett -- I didn't know what he was talking about. I did not run and hit the guy. I did not kidney punch him. I did not --(INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You didn't shove him?

MCCARTHY: No! We were walking through. You guys line up along the way there. It was -- Bruce Westerly and I were walking out, and I didn't know it was him. And I guess our elbows hit as I walked by. I didn't punch him.


MCCARTHY: Well, he -- I guess it happened, because when I was walking back further, someone was interviewing him and talking to him, and he comes running up, like, why did you hit me or something like that? I said, I don't know what you're talking about. I didn't even know something transpired.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But reporters and witnesses said it looked like there was plenty of room for you to walk and you did it intentionally.

MCCARTHY: First, show me a reporter who saw that. Ask Bruce Westerly.


MCCARTHY: No. (INAUDIBLE). If I would hit somebody, they would know I hit them.


RAJU: He said he was in pain that you hit him so hard.

MCCARTHY: Oh, come on now!

RAJU: That's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He said you pushed him twice while he was in chamber.

MCCARTHY: When have I pushed him?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He said he was on the back railing once and you elbowed him and pushed him --


MCCARTHY: Who is he?


MCCARTHY: No. I don't know about Kensinger.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Congressman Gaetz is filing a complaint to the Ethics Committee --

MCCARTHY: Oh, good.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- over this. Do you have any response to Congressman Gaetz?

MCCARTHY: No, I think ethics is a good place for Gaetz to be.


RAJU: He said that, "You're the kind of guy" -- his words - "as a kid, would throw a rock and go hide under his mom's skirt." That's his exact words. What is your response?



BROWN: You heard Kevin McCarthy denying the accusation that he elbowed Congressman Burchett today in the kidney. Oh course, Burchett has a very different accounting of what happened. He spoke to our Manu Raju earlier today.

Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll be right back.