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Pelosi Doesn't Commit To Tax Hikes On Corporations And High Earners In Bill After Sinema Pushback; Five Veterans Advising Sen. Sinema Resign, Calling Her One Of The "Principal Obstacles To Progress"; Biden Ramps Up Agenda Sales Pitch As Democrats Race To Finalize Deal; Now: Debate Before Full House Vote On Bannon Criminal Contempt Charge. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 14:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Another wrench in the works for Democrats in negotiating the deal on President Biden's social spending plan.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema reportedly opposes tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy, which leaves the White House and the other Democrats scrambling for how to pay for this deal.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: But today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the door open to possibly financing the package another way, without those tax increases.

And she says that they are on track to meet their self-imposed October 31st deadline.

CNN congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox, is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

So, this getting higher earners to pay their fair share, as Democrats have said it, has been a priority of the party for years. They say they need it to pay for this.

Just talk us through how big of a concession this would be.


And I just spoke with a progressive representative, Pramila Jayapal, outside the chamber.

She told me it would be outrageous if Democrats did not include raises in the corporate tax rate or on the individual side of things on wealthy Americans.

Because she said, look, this is a popular provision. This is what we have campaigned on since Republicans passed their tax overhaul in 2017. So it would be a massive concession.

And yet, the House speaker noted today at her press conference that there are potentially other opportunities to pay for this bill. Here's what she said.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, that's one of the options. That's for sure.

The last couple of days -- just to answer your question, the last couple of days we've come to narrowing what the possibilities are as we see what we need to cover because the bill will be paid for.


FOX: And behind the scenes, Senator Sinema has been making it clear that she had issues with increasing the corporate tax rate.

But there had been a feeling among some Senate Democrat leaders as well as the White House officials that perhaps she would change her view as these negotiations have continued.

And yet, here we are with Democrats trying to get a framework by the end of the week, and she is standing firm in this position.

It is leading a lot of concern up here on Capitol Hill.

Given the fact that they need these tax increases to pay for this bill, they're going to try to find another way to do it. But the numbers just aren't adding up right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And time is running out toward that deadline.

Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

Let's bring in now the CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, good to see you.


BLACKWELL: Kyrsten Sinema is being framed almost as a pariah of the party.

We've got five members of her advisory board now who are quitting today because they're unhappy with what they call her stubbornness on paying for the bill.

Here's what they wrote, part of it:

"You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your people. We shouldn't have to buy representation from you. And your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming."

That's before you get to what some of the House Democrats are saying about her.

What do you make of all this?

CHALIAN: These are volunteer folks, veterans who advise her on veterans issues. It's not good when members of your own team like that are abandoning you over a principled stance here.

Listen, Kyrsten Sinema has curved out this space of being opposed to certain things that Democrats, overall, as a party, have been running on for years now.

And one of the issues being those taxes, that you just talked about with Lauren. So that inevitably opens up Sinema to potential incoming from the left and from Democrats in her party.

We know she's not up for re-election, of course, until 2024, so there can be time for her to deal with her politics on this back home.

But nonetheless, clearly, by being sort of a thorn in the side to the party in this process, she's clearly ruffling feathers.

CAMEROTA: David, that leads us to tonight. It's a big, important night for the president. He's going to take questions from the town hall audience, voters. This will be hosted by Anderson.

And the president spoke today. This was at the tenth anniversary of the celebration of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington.

And today, he talked about his agenda and what a pivotal moment it is. So here is what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's up to us, together, to choose who we want to be and what we want to be.

I know -- I know the progress does not come fast enough. It never has. And the process of governing is frustrating and sometimes dispiriting.

But I also know what's possible. If we keep the pressure up, if we never give up, if we keep the faith -- we're at an inflection point.

I know I've maybe overused that phrase but it is an inflection point in American history in delivering on economic justice.


CAMEROTA: So, how much of tonight do you think he's going to spend trying to sell his agenda?


CHALIAN: Yes, well, I think that was a little bit of a preview of what we may hear tonight.

I do think he will be sort of the salesman in chief this evening. We know from polling across the board that Americans are not very

dialed into exactly what is inside this package, whatever may emerge as the package.

So I would imagine that the president's going to use this unique opportunity in a town hall setting, primetime television audience, to detail what he sees as the real priority items in here.

And the things that he thinks can really transform America for the better and improve the lives of Americans that he thinks will be ultimately in this package.

So, I think that's one thing to watch for tonight, Alisyn.

The other thing I would watch for is, how does he handle the pieces that it looks like are going to be concessions on his part?

Again, you were just chatting with Lauren about one potential key concession on how to get this all paid for.

But we know that we've read reports of the concession on his desire to have two years of tuition-free community college already out of the bill.

So I would be listening for that too, how does he deal with what he's willing to get --

CAMEROTA: David, excuse us.

CHALIAN: -- to get a deal done.

CAMEROTA: Sorry to interrupt.

We have live events happening, as you know, right now, because this is the vote on -- well, first, let me tell you that we have a town hall tonight, as you know, with President Biden and Anderson Cooper.

But this is happening live right now, Victor.

BLACKWELL: This is the chairman of the 1/6 committee, Bennie Thompson. Let's listen.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I'm a grandfather, and when I talk to my grandkids about that horrific attack on our democracy on January 6th, my mind jumps ahead to the future in store for them.

Questions about whether American democracy, as we know it now, will remain strong, whether it will withstand future tests.

That's got to be the legacy of this committee's work, to be sure, we're going to answer questions about what happened on that day. But we also need to draw a road map for making sure our democracy remains strong tomorrow.

We'll work backward at what happened and try to explain how and why the insurrection came about. But we'll also look forward and generate recommendations for

legislative policy and process changes that will help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

And when we get to the end of this process and look back, we're going to ask ourselves, did we do everything in our power to uncover every fact?

Did we use the tools at our disposal to get a full accounting, or did we let someone stand in our way without facing consequences?

Did we learn what we needed to know for Congress to forge legislation to help ensure we never experience another January 6th again?

That's why we are taking up this resolution today, citing Steve Bannon with criminal contempt and referring him for prosecution by the Justice Department.

We didn't choose to be here. This isn't about punishing Steve Bannon. The Select Committee would prefer and, frankly, expect all witnesses to fully cooperate.

But Steve Bannon has led us down this path by refusing to cooperate in any way with our investigation.

We believe Mr. Bannon has information valuable to our probe. He was deeply involved in the so-called "Stop the Steal" campaign.

He was reportedly in a "War Room" meeting the day before the riot and had been pressuring the former president to try to stop the counting of the Electoral College ballots.

He himself warned that, "All hell would break loose" on January 6th.

We believe he can help inform our inquiry as to how the riot came together and what it was intended to achieve. He's clearly an important witness.

So, we subpoenaed him. And unlike other witnesses, who have engaged and worked with our team to find a way to cooperate, Mr. Bannon told us he wouldn't comply because the former president told him not to.

He hid behind vague and baseless claims of privilege. That's just not acceptable.

The Select Committee told Mr. Bannon, several times, that he would face the consequences if he didn't change course. Well, he didn't change course, and his actions have brought us to this point.

Madam Speaker, we need to make it clear that no person is above the law. We need to make -- take a stand for the integrity of the Select Committee's investigation and for the integrity of this body.


What sort of precedent would it set for the House of Representatives if we allow a witness to ignore us flat-out without facing any kind of consequences?

What message would it send to other witnesses in our investigation? I'm not willing to find out.

I'm not willing to get to the end of the Select Committee's work and look back wishing we had done more to uncover all the facts.

Not when we know what's on the line. When we know that our democracy isn't yet out of danger. When we know that the forces that tried to overturn the election persist in their assault on the rule of law.

Our investigation is going forward. We're hearing from witnesses, reviewing documents, analyzing data.

Mr. Bannon stands alone in his defiance. And we will not stand for it.

We will not allow anyone to derail our work, because our work is too important. Helping ensure that the future of American democracy is strong and secure.

I reserve the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentlelady from Wyoming.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Madam Speaker, a year ago today, the election was still a couple of weeks off. We knew it would be a tight race.

But most of us did not anticipate that President Trump, or any president, frankly, would ever simply reject the outcome of the vote.

President Trump had the right to challenge the outcome in our state and federal courts, which have an appropriate and constitutional role in resolving election claims.

But what he did thereafter has no precedent in our history. He rejected the court's rulings in dozens of cases, including the rulings of judges President Trump himself appointed.

He rejected what his own Department of Justice officials told him, over and over again, that they found no evidence of widespread fraud sufficient to overcome the election.

He rejected the conclusions of both the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community, that the Dominion voting machines had not secretly changed the election outcome.

President Trump had no factual or constitutional basis for his claims.

And the lawyers he found who would carry his false claims forward have paid the consequences. Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law has been suspended. And Sidney Powell has been sanctioned by a federal judge.

But Donald Trump persisted, attempting, through every manner he could imagine, to try to overturn the outcome of the election. And we all saw what happened. The people who attacked this building have told us, on video, on

social media, and now before the federal courts exactly what motivated them.

They believed what Donald Trump told them. That the election was stolen and that they needed to take action.

Today, Madam Speaker, we are here to address one witness, Mr. Steve Bannon.

I urge all Americans to watch what Mr. Bannon said on his podcast on January 5th and 6th. It is shocking and indefensible.

He said, "All hell is going to break loose." He said, "We are coming in right over the target. This is the point of attack we have always wanted."

Madam Speaker, there are people in this chamber right now who were evacuated with me and with the rest of us on that day during that attack.

People who now seem to have forgotten the danger of the moment, the assault on the Constitution, the assault on our Congress.

People who you will hear argue that there's simply no legislative purpose for this committee, for this investigation, or for this subpoena.

In fact, there's no doubt that Mr. Bannon knows far more than what he said on the video. There's no doubt that all hell did break loose.

Just ask the scores of brave police officers who were injured that day, protecting all of us.

The American people deserve to hear his testimony.

Let me give you just four examples of the legislative purpose of this investigation.

First, the plot we are investigating involving Mr. Eastman, Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Bannon, President Trump, and many others. Their plot attempted to halt or delay our count of electoral votes and reverse the outcome of the 2020 election.


The 1887 Electoral Count Act is directly at issue. And our investigation will lead to recommendations to amend or reform that act.

Second, while the attack was under way, President Trump knew it was happening. Indeed, he may have been watching it all unfold on television.

And yet, he took no immediate action to stop it. This appears to be a supreme dereliction of duty by President Trump. And we are evaluating whether our criminal laws should be enhanced to

supply additional and more severe consequences for this type of behavior.

Third, we know from our investigation to date that President Trump was pressuring the Department of Justice in late December 2020 to support his false claims that the election was stolen.

Several brave and honorable Trump appointees at the department flatly refused to go along with this fraud and threatened to resign.

We are evaluating what, if any, additional laws may be required to prevent a future president from succeeding in such effort.

Fourth, we know that President Trump made efforts to persuade state election officials to, quote, "find votes," to change the election outcome in his favor.

We are evaluating whether this -- the criminal laws of the United States should be enhanced to make the penalty for this type of behavior even more severe. And if so, in what manner.

Mr. Bannon's own public statements make clear he knew what was going to happen before it did.

And thus, he must have been aware of and may well have been involved in the planning of everything that played out on that day.

The American people deserve to know what he knew and what he did.

I reserve the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: Gentleman from Indiana.

REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN): I yield myself as much time as it may consume.

The gentleman is recognized.

BANKS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Three months ago, for the first time in the history of Congress, Speaker Pelosi vetoed Jim Jordan and I from serving on the Select Committee to investigate January 6th.

Not all firsts are worth celebrating. It was a shameful and divisive decision with real consequences.

Today, because of that decision, there's no committee conducting a legitimate investigation into January 6th.

Congress is prohibited from conducting criminal investigations, period. But that's exactly what the Select Committee is doing, conducting an illicit criminal investigation into American citizens.

Steve Bannon was a private citizen before, after, and during January 6th. So, why is the Select Committee interested in Steve Bannon? It's

simple. He is a Democrat party boogeyman.

The Select Committee despises Steve Bannon's politics, so they're abusing their power to put him in jail.

The committee explained it's seeking documents from Mr. Bannon because he helped, quote, "construct and participated in the permitted and legal 'Stop the Steal' rally."

To date, the Select Committee has subpoenaed 11 other private citizens for organizing the "Stop the Steal" rally.

Here, in the land of the free, 12 American citizens are under congressional investigation for the sole crime of planning a legal political protest.

Never in the history of Congress has a committee or a political party stooped so low.

Congress has no authority to conduct criminal investigations. Congress can only issue subpoenas that serve a legislative purpose.

The question that the committee must answer is, why are they seeking information about a permitted political rally? What legislative purpose does that serve?

Is the committee considering laws to limit Americans' right to political protest?

It's clear that the Select Committee doesn't give a lick about Congress's subpoena authority.

Does the committee share the same disdain for the First Amendment? I wouldn't put it past them.

As we all know, the DOJ has a highly active criminal investigation into the January 6th attack. They've made something like 600 arrests.

As I said, very active, even hyperactive compared to the Biden DOJ's typical reaction to political violence.


But the Department of Justice's investigation isn't comprehensive. There are still questions that only Congress can answer. Congress still has a role to play.

But the Select Committee has completely abandoned that role.

Why else does the Select Committee want to hear from Mr. Bannon? Because on January 5th, Mr. Bannon warned that, quote, "All hell was going to break loose tomorrow."

So according to the Select Committee, no person could have predicted that violence might occur that day. According to the committee, that Mr. Bannon warned of violence on the

5th is proof that Mr. Bannon had, quote, "foreknowledge" of the attack on the 6th.

Never mind that the FBI found that the attack wasn't coordinated.

Never mind that the Capitol Police received actionable intelligence about a potential violence occurring weeks before the 6th.

Never mind that every member of Congress, every single D.C. resident, every American with Internet access, knew that violence was a possibility on January 6th.

The question the committee should be asking is this: How did the United States Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police and the FBI all have no clue that, quote, "all hell was going to break loose?"

Steve Bannon, a private citizen, knew.

So why didn't the Capitol Police have enough riot shields? Why did it take multiple hours to deploy the National Guard?

These are worthwhile questions and Congress has a duty to answer them. Because January 6th was an enormous intelligence failure.

There was a breakdown in security. A breakdown that was repeated on Good Friday when Officer Billy Evans was brutally murdered.

The issues that plagued the Capitol Police on January 6th have not been fixed.

In fact, according to a Capitol Police whistleblower, the officers most responsible for the intelligence failure on the 6th were promoted by Speaker Pelosi's team.

To be clear, the Select Committee is engaged in an unconstitutional, political investigation, a sham investigation, conducted by a sham committee that refuses to answer real questions about what happened on January 6th.

The capitol was attacked. Instead of figuring out what went wrong, the committee launched its own attack on Congress' norms.

The Select Committee's politicization of January 6th cuts both ways. The committee's inaction has made the capitol less secure. And the committee's actions have further separated Congress from its constitutional roles.

The American people and the United States Capitol Police deserve a real investigation into the 6th, and the Select Committee has abandoned them.

I urge all of my colleagues to make the moral vote, do the right thing. I urge you to vote for the rule of law, for the institution of Congress, and against the Select Committee's dangerous abuse of Congress' oversight authority. I reserve the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentleman from Mississippi.

THOMPSON: Madam Speaker, I heard the speaker opposing this amendment.

We're not seeking, actually, information from Mr. Bannon because of his opinions. We issued the subpoena because we believe he has knowledge of relevant facts that we need to discover.

We're not violating anything and certainly not Mr. Bannon's amendment rights.

The only violation we can talk about is a violation of this building on January 6th. And Mr. Bannon's claim that the election was stolen helped foment that attack.

Investigating that is also part of our charter.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentlelady from Wyoming.

CHENEY: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, I just wanted to correct the record.

The gentleman from Indiana asserted that the FBI found there was no coordination. That's just simply not true.

The gentleman also said that he is not on the committee. He noted that the speaker had determined that he wouldn't be on the committee.

So I would like to introduce for the record a number of letters the gentleman from Indiana has been sending to federal agencies.


Dated September 16, 2021, for example, signing his name as the ranking member of the committee that he has just informed the House that he is not on. And, in fact, he is not on.

I would like to introduce those for the record.

Now, Madam Speaker, I would like to yield to Representative Lofgren.


CHENEY: I would like to yield three minutes, Madam Chair.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentlelady is recognized for three minutes.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I would note that the gentleman from Indiana is incorrect. We are not performing a law enforcement investigation. Only the DOJ can do that.

What we are doing is taking the steps that are provided for under the congressional contempt statute that has existed for many decades.

Because the Select Committee's charge is to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th.

Who planned it, who paid for it, and what was the intent? And what legislative steps can we recommend to remove future threats to our Constitution?

To do that, we need information, both documents and testimony. And to get that, we issue subpoenas.

What is a subpoena? Is it just a suggestion, a mere request, an encouragement to testify? Nope.

A subpoena is a writ issued by a government agency, in this case, the Congress, to compel testimony or production of evidence.

When you get a subpoena, the law requires you to comply.

If you think there may be some valid reason that excuses you from telling the truth under oath, you have to come in and make your case to the committee.

Steve Bannon is the only person who has outright refused to engage with the committee. He thinks, if he simply obstructs Congress by not showing up, he'll escape the consequences.

But as Theodore Roosevelt said, "No man is above the law and no man is below the law."

If you get a subpoena, you can't hide behind vague and immaterial claims of privilege.

The cases make it clear. Judicial Watch, Nixon versus GSA, the McGann case, "executive privilege is limited to immediate White House advisors on government policy."

Bannon is a private citizen. His extravagant claims can't shield his conversations in plotting with other private citizens.

His status, according to the cases, doesn't get executive privilege protection. He has no absolute immunity.

America, what would happen if you received a subpoena from Congress or a court? Do you think you could get away with just saying, go fly a kite? You would be held accountable.

And so should Mr. Bannon be held to account for defying the law regarding this subpoena.

To defend the rule of law, we must vote yes on this resolution.

And I yield back the balance of my time to the gentlelady. UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentleman from Indiana.

BANKS: Madam Speaker, no one has said that the Select Committee does not have a legislative purpose. Let's be very clear.

There's important work that, frankly, we wish they were doing, like answering why this campus was left unprotected and what we are doing to keep it from happening again. That hasn't happened yet.

What we are saying is that the subpoenas that have so far been issued do not ask for information that would meet any legitimate legislative purpose.

With that, Madam Speaker, I yield to my colleague from the great state of Illinois, Mr. Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: For what amount of time, please?

BANKS: As much time as he may consume.

UNIDENTIFIED CHAIRWOMAN: The gentleman is recognized.

REP. RODNEY: DAVIS (R-IL): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Thank you to my colleague from Indiana, Mr. Banks.

I can tell you, when I got elected to serve on this body almost nine years ago, I didn't expect to be standing here today to talk about such an important issue.

I spent 16 years as a congressional staffer, working for a member of Congress, who I looked up to and who respected this institution for what it was and what it meant to our country.

When I came to Congress to serve with him, I had the utmost respect for this institution at the same time.

That's why I wanted to be part of the House Administration Committee. Because I wanted to make this Congress and this House work better, act in a much more bipartisan manner, make sure that we protect those who are on this campus.

But also, at the same time, protect those who protect us.

Madam Speaker, we are now months and months in, months and months post January 6th. My many conversations with U.S. Capitol Police officers and those who work on this campus, they have the same concerns I have.


The question they ask is, why were we so unprotected on January 6th? And what has changed since then?

Getting to the bottom of those questions should be the top priority for all of us in this House.