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House Passes Landmark $1.9 Trillion Build Back Better Act; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA )Speaks After House Passes $1.9 Trillion Build Back Better Act. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 19, 2021 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Pass the president's Build Back Better bill?


We expect to hear from Speaker Nancy Pelosi any moment. We will bring you her comments live.

Wow, the landmark legislation takes a half step forward, President Biden, he is at Walter Reed getting the first routine physical exam of his presidency.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: And across the nation, we're also keeping a close eye on two major trials this hour. We've just learned prosecutors in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial rejecting a last-minute plea deal offer from one of the three defendants.

Meantime, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, verdict watch continues for Kyle Rittenhouse, jurors returning right now to begin day four of deliberations.

Let's begin though with the breaking news in Washington. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at a White House. Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill for us.

So, Melanie, let's start with you. Look, they're going to try to enjoy this moment for as long as they can, Democrats, but the reality is that enjoyment period may be short lived as they now have to move forward to the Senate.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Absolutely. I mean, this is a huge step forward for Democrats in advancing Joe Biden's economic agenda. At some point, it didn't look like this was going to happen. They can only afford to lose three votes. In the end, just one Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, a moderate, ended up voting against the bill, and Democrats are ecstatic right now. I can tell you, they were chanting in the chamber, Build Back Better.

I just saw Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal walking through the hall hugging one of her aides. She's the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and had huge hand in these negotiations. He aide was congratulating her. So Democrats are very happy right now.

But as you mentioned, Erica, this is just the first step. Now it heads to the Senate where it faces a far more uncertain path. And over there, Democrats can't afford to lose any Democrats in the vote. And, of course, Joe Manchin, the centrist from West Virginia, is a big question mark in all of this. He has issues with specific provisions in the bill that the House passed. They knew that over here. Democrats added paid family leave, for example, knowing that Joe Manchin has a problem with it, so that could be stripped out. And he has general concerns with inflation and the impacts that this could have on inflation.

And so Democrats still have a lot of work to do. They're working with a very tight schedule. Of course, they're trying to wrap it up at least before the end of this year. But they have a lot of other things on their plate as well, including funding a government and a debt ceiling deadline that's coming up in mid-December. So, still a long road ahead but no doubt this is a victory today for Democrats.

SCIUTTO: So,Kaitlan, does the White House, does the Biden administration have a plan to get it through the Senate? Do they have a compromise that they're proposing to get the Sanders and the Manchins of the world on board?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think at the beginning, you'll see them letting Congress negotiate this within themselves, and, of course, that means the Senate Democrats negotiate this amongst themselves. You saw President Biden get involved at the tail end of the infrastructure negotiations. And I'm not sure that's always where the White House wants the president to seem like he is right in the middle of that.

But, of course, often it is the president who gets people on board at the end of the day. He is the one who is very close with Senator Manchin and often speaks with him and meets with him and talks with him about his concerns about the size and scope of this bill.

And so we do know today that President Biden has called Speaker Pelosi, according to the press secretary, Jen Psaki, to congratulate her on the passage of this bill. Of course, this was a vote that the White House was expecting about 12 hours ago, but because of that speech by Kevin McCarthy that lasted 8.5 /2 hours overnight, it's a passage of this bill that they are now getting from the House in broad daylight.

And so it does come as President Biden is at Walter Reed getting that annual physical, that routine physical. We'll likely hear from him on this later today when he is expected to make remarks at the White House this afternoon.

But I do think right now the White House will focus on -- they are thrilled that they've gotten this step achieved because, as Melanie was noting it didn't always look clear-cut and there were some concerns at times when it came to these divisions within the president's own party. They weren't sure how they would end up.

And so this is a big step forward, but those challenges do remain ahead. And so they know that there is a lot of negotiating to happen within the Senate when it comes to getting this bill passed. A big question I think is around the timeline here, because you've heard Democratic leaders say they'd like to get this done by Christmas. It doesn't seem completely guaranteed, of course, far from guaranteed, actually, that that is going to happen. But that is something -- it remains to be seen. We'll have to follow the timing and follow these negotiations and see where they go. But it will be a celebratory day for President Biden once he gets back from that physical.

HILL: Kaitlan Collins, Melanie Zanona, I appreciate it.

Also with us, Charlie Dent, CNN Political Commentator, former Republican Congresswoman, Kirsten Powers, CNN Senior Political Analyst and Columnist for USA Today, and our CNN Political Director David Chalian.

David, I want to start with you on this. As we pause in this moment, there is a lot of work ahead as we know. But just put it in perspective for us how significant, how important is this moment for Democrats right now and for Joe Biden?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a pretty big deal. And put it in context, Erica, of the week that was. Remember, this week started with President Biden signing into law that bipartisan infrastructure deal so the other piece of his big domestic agenda, and then the week ends with this months' long battle of Democratic infighting, if you will, coming to an end in the House, at least.


You were right to note that is going to go on with negotiations in the Senate and it's going to have to come back to the House, and whatever comes back to the House from the Senate will have to be acceptable to the House.

But this moment didn't look assured at all at certain points. And I would say if you go back from May until just a couple weeks ago, the story of this bill that the country was getting was all about Democrats arguing over numbers. Now, the House of Representatives, the Democratic House of Representatives, has passed something and can go to their constituents and say, we passed a bill that has X, Y, Z, all these popular items for you, the constituents. That's a big difference and it caps off a pretty big week for the Biden White House.

SCIUTTO: Kirsten Powers, as David notes there, the parts of this legislation are broadly popular, universal pre-K, help for prescription drug prices, et cetera. Folks don't seem to know these are the elements of this bill. Is it possible that over time this helps Democrats, right? I mean, they're way behind in the generic ballot in 2022 behind Republicans, but the fact is there are some salable things in here. You know, can it help them?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, yes, there are things in here that people overwhelmingly support, and if they see the Biden administration or if they see Democrats delivering these things to them, I think that, yes, absolutely that could help them. And it obviously would have helped a lot if this had happened sooner.

But, you know, you have basically right now really one person standing in the way, and that's Joe Manchin. And paid leave, which is one of the things he has an issue with, is something that is, first of all, very popular. It's also just very humane. It's something that almost 200 countries provide to people, countries that have far less money than we have.

So, you know, it's hard to understand why he would hold this up over that, and then this inflation charge, which is this is a paid-for bill mostly, it's a very minor amount of money that would be added to the deficit, certainly pales in comparison to so many other things. And you can't compare that to unpaid for aid that was given out during COVID, right? That's different. That's going to have an inflationary pressure.

So, it's just -- all this is in the hands of this one man, and it remains to be seen whether Joe Biden is going to be able to move him to where he needs to be, and also that he's not going to make changes -- that they're not going to make changes that then they're going to send it back to the House and then the House is going to say, no, we're not going to go for this.

HILL: Right. There are a lot of ifs at play, and there are a lot of things moving on the table at this point.

Charlie Dent, as you look at this, it's interesting. If we stay on paid leave for a moment, and part of the messaging has been all about maternity leave. The reality is those discussions were not about just women who have had just had babies, right? This was about family leave. If you need to care for someone who's ill in your family, which is really important as well, the fact that we're learning of, you know, talks that are continuing in the Senate, that Senator Gillibrand is leading these talks, that she is meeting with Republicans, specifically a lot of female Republican senators, that could be another area for bipartisanship potentially if it is stripped out.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, sure. Look, certainly, individual components of this, including paid family leave, are probably popular, but I don't think we should delude ourselves for one second. They are not voting on this bill in a vacuum. After $6 trillion of COVID spending, most of which was necessary, inflationary pressure, shortages, an Afghanistan fiasco, mayhem at the borders, I think this is very tone deaf what they're doing. I do not think this is going to be a very popular piece of legislation. They just expanded the salt deduction for state and local taxes to $80,000, breaking their pledge. They weren't going to give a tax break to anybody over $400,000. Well, you know what, they just did.

It is merciful that they're not having a rose garden celebration right now, unlike the Republicans who did that a few years ago on health care, which was foolish, but I think there are a lot of problems here. This thing is going to the Senate. I would be shocked if this thing were passed by Christmas in some form. It will be significantly scaled down. And I think the Democrats are really misreading it on this one. Even though broad parts of this are certainly popular, they're looking at -- voters are looking at other issues that's driving problems, and, again, on top of $6 trillion in COVID spending, I think people want to pump the brakes. They're looking for some restraint right now.

SCIUTTO: Charlie, Kristen -- sorry.

POWERS: This is Apples to Oranges, though. We have to say that. I mean, you can't compare the COVID relief, which was not paid for.


I mean, it was just money going out. There's a supply and demand issue that was created. I mean, it's a much longer conversation versus a bill that is mostly paid for. So, you know -- and I don't see how any --

DENT: Yes, but there are a lot of gimmicks here though.

POWERS: -- Republican actually can oppose this anyway based on what has been added to the deficit in the past. But this is mostly paid for.

So, I don't -- it's not -- the idea that this is going to be causing inflation, we have inflation right now and we don't have this bill. This is not the cause of inflation.

DENT: Charlie, Kirsten, David, do stand by because we have sound in just now from the Progressive Caucus chair, Pramila Jayapal responding to the vote. Let's have a listen.

REPORTER: Are you at all concerned that Senator Manchin or Sinema might make any significant changes to strip down the bill in the Senate?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Look, most of this bill is preconferenced. That's what we spent the last six weeks really making sure we were holding out for to get the negotiations started, to make sure that we had the framework agreed to, to make sure we had the text agreed to, to then get the vote on the rule, and then today to get an almost unanimous vote from Democrats, a very strong vote, to send over to the Senate.

So, there are one or two things that are not agreed to yet that aren't preconference, but the vast majority --

SCIUTTO: Stand by. Speaker Pelosi is speaking now. This is live. Let's listen in.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good morning, everyone, and a good morning it is. Today, we had the honor of participating in passing legislation for the people to Build Back Better, as I always say, with women, for the children.

This occasion would not have been possible without the vision of our great president, President Biden. He has said that the infrastructure bill was very, very important and we agree. But it was not the sum total of his vision for how we do build. And building back better meant building back with many more people participating, with environmental justice, with home health care, the list goes on and on.

One thing I'm particularly excited about is family medical leave, and that is a fight that we are -- have always been engaged in for a long time. Steny and I and Clyburn, we were here when family medical leave passed unfunded, and now we have it funded.

So, for these and other reasons, as Mr. Hoyer said at the beginning of his remarks, we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we were here this day. You're reminding me of St. Crispin's Day (ph) speech when you were saying that and our distinguished whip, Mr. Clyburn, talked about the three legs of the stool, the rescue package, the BIF, and now this bill being the infrastructure of our future. And, of course, our distinguished chair of the Ways and Means Committee who held down the fort for such a long time, for a long time, but including last night, Mr. Neal quoting Daniel Webster and our responsibility to act. So, for us, it's about -- not just about legislation, it's about values and the values that this legislation represents for the people.

With that, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished majority leader, Mr. Hoyer.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): Thank you very much.

First of all, congratulations, Madam Speaker. This is a historic piece of legislation. You were its leader with, as you say, the vision of the president of the United States. This bill will speak for itself to millions and millions and millions and millions of Americans whose lives will be made more secure, more richer in terms of quality of life, whose educational opportunities will be greater, and whose job opportunities will be greatly enhanced. And America's competitiveness in the world will be heightened for the 21st century.

As the president said, this is a transformational piece of legislation. It's big win for the people. For the average working men and women of America, for those who struggle every day and hope that somebody is on their side, somebody is listening to their pain and their struggle and their challenge. This bill is an answer. This bill will make a difference in their lives. That's why this bill is so historic, not for next year or the year after, but for decades to come. It will make America a better land, a land of greater opportunity, a land of the free, a land of the brave.


I now yield to my distinguished colleague from South Carolina, who counted the votes precisely, precisely. Thank you, Jim Clyburn, from South Carolina.

REP. JAMES CYLBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, Madam Speaker, and this great leadership team. Let me thank all of you for a great job well done.

Last night, when I spoke on this bill, I called it the third leg of a three-legged stool, needed to balance not just the stool but balance people's lives. What are we doing for the people that we serve? What are we doing for their families? And what are we doing for the communities that we live in?

So, when you looked at the rescue act and the infrastructure bill and this one, I think you can see that we have now proposed comprehensive approaches from the federal government to rescue these lives, save these communities, and do what is needed to be done for the future.

I also talked last night about the fact that COVID-19 exposed some significant faults in our system that needed to be addressed, faults in our health care system that need to be addressed. How do you get telehealth and telemedicine to the rural communities all over the state? That's what the infrastructure bill is all about. A health care system that in 12 states that did not expand Medicaid, we decided that the people living in those states are part of this great nation as well, and we addressed their plight with this legislation.

I always talk about this being a great country, but the fact that we have not allowed this greatness to be accessible and affordable for all of our citizens, these three pieces of legislation accomplish that in a big way. With that, I'd like to yield to our assistant speaker, Ms. Katherine Clark.

REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Clyburn.

What an incredible morning. What an incredible vote. What an incredible time for the American people to be seen and heard. As we head into Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for the leadership that is standing here with me, especially Mr. Clyburn, Steny Hoyer, and, of course, our historic and iconic speaker, her vision with President Biden, a focusing and building on conversations with the American people, putting children and women first to make sure that we breathe life into those ideals that we talked about, liberty and justice for all.

And with this bill, we are saying to the American family, we see you, we understand those issues around your kitchen table, and we are going to send help to you. Whether it's through expanded child care, universal pre-K, that we have haven't been able to pass since the Nixon administration, saying that we are going to build a million new affordable housing units, we are going to be the custodians of this planet. And while we clean the water and air, we are also going to create millions of good jobs.

This is the promise of the Build Back Better agenda. And with this momentous step, we say to the American people, we are meeting your historic challenge with historic progress. I am so grateful to this caucus and to President Biden for making this possible.

PELOSI: Thank you very much. Let me just say that -- you've heard me say it again and again, all of this would not be possible without the great work of our committee, members of the committee, and staffs of the committee and our distinguished chairs. Three of them are with us in terms of the substance of the legislation, Mr. Neal of Ways and Means, Mr. Pallone of Energy and Commerce and Mr. Scott of -- I should say, chairman, chairman, chairman of Education and Labor. But the person who facilitated this for us again and again is the chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern. Thank you, Mr. McGovern, for bringing us to the floor again and again and yesterday in record time, however, good thing that that happened.


And then I'm honored to be here also with our leadership.

This is legislation that creates millions of good-paying job, gives tax cuts to the middle class, lowers cost, especially health care costs and child care costs for middle class, and is paid for 100 percent. And, again, we're very excited about what it does for the children, for the families. And it's -- again, if you're a mom, a dad, a family caregiver, the rest of this bill is for you.

If you care about the planet and how we pass it on to our children, this bill is for you, whether it's right now the health and well- being, whether it's good-paying jobs for the family and green technology, good union jobs, the security of our country by preventing and hoping to mitigate for conflicts that come from conflict over resources and habitat, it's a national security issue, and, of course, a moral issue to pass the planet on in good shape to future generations.

So, with that, I'm honored to be here with them and with members of our leadership. Mr. Aguilar, I know that distinguished Chairman Mr. Jeffries at a plane (ph). Thank you, Mr. Aguilar. How many hours were you in the chair last night? Too many, but very well. And then distinguished chair of the DCCC, Mr. Maloney, and here we are.

So, I know our distinguished chairs will want to take all of your difficult policy questions, but why don't we begin. Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: Madam speaker, I want to ask you -- after this week, obviously, this is a momentous moment for the Democratic Party, you also had to deal with censure vote this week. You had to deal last night with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's 8.5 -hour speech. What do you feel like the tone and tenor of the House of Representatives is at this moment? And what can be done to try to bridge some of those gaps in trust?

PELOSI: Well, let me say I don't specifically agree with your first sentence saying a great day for the Democratic Party. Maybe it is, but it's great day for our country, and that's why we are so thrilled about it. It's for the people. It should be bipartisan. It should be bipartisan. The fact that they would rather give tax cuts to the richest people at 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent without any pay-for is a stark difference between what we do in this legislation.

And I didn't pay attention to the speech. I don't listen to most of the speeches on the other side because they're not fraught with meaning or fact. So I don't have my computer get bothered with that. But the fact is, is that the censure, they could improve their behavior. They don't have to threat on to kill members of congress or threaten the life of the president of the United States. So, you say what can we do to bring people together? But we can encourage everyone to honor the rule 23 of the House, which is that you must bring credit to the House of Representatives.

But with that I'm going to yield to my colleagues for any questions -- answers they may have on the subject of your question. Mr. Neal?

REP. RICHAR NEAL (D-MA): I never thought quoting Daniel Webster would have received such a reaction from the Republican leader last night. That seemed to be the theme he repeatedly came back to. But if I can just emphasize just quickly paid family leave, middle class tax cuts, the child credit, ACA premium credits with lower health care costs, negotiated drug prices and we expand ACA, and with that signing, the president's signature on the infrastructure bill, this is quite a week for the American family.

REPORTER: Madam Speaker, how do you respond to Republicans today that, say, Democrats lied to the American public when they said this plan costs zero dollars when the CBO says it at least adds $160 billion to the debt?

PELOSI: Let's just not present what the Republicans say as any fact that you're predicating a question on. I mean, understand what's happening around here, okay?

NEAL: So they hung their hats on the issue of the IRS. We believe, according to the IRS commissioner, a Republican appointed by the former president, who said, by the way, that there could be up to a trillion dollars that's hanging out there. He said that. We didn't say it. We subscribed to the $400 billion mark, which not only that commissioner but the former commissioners have all subscribed to as well in investment in software, for better modeling at the IRS, an investment in allowing auditors to upgrade their own skills.


Your chances of being audited over the EITC are now greater than your chances of being audited if you're paid in dividends and capital gains.

The last point, and this is really important, if you are a working American, because of withholding taxes, we have north of 95 percent compliance in America. We should be proud of that. That means that people who get paid week to week with wages, they pay their share. The problem is in the upper echelons of the American economy now. Republican IRS commissioners and Democratic IRS commissioners, they all agree on that principle.

PELOSI: In the legislation, they charge for the investment in training the IRS and hiring more people. But they don't weigh in the upside of what you get from that in terms of increased collection of taxes. And also it's a deterrent because people will know that now there are more people looking at the tax returns at that high end with their high-priced lawyers. As the chairman said very clearly, you're more likely to be investigated about an EITC but the earned income tax credit. These are low-income people in our country, don't have high-priced lawyers or phalanxes of them, and they get more audit than the wealthiest.

Next question.

REPORTER: Madam speaker, this is a huge vote but it won't be the last vote. Are you confident you can keep the momentum going to actually get the final version of this bill to the president's desk?

PELOSI: Yes, but I'm going to yield to some of my colleagues on that and I'll close with that as well, because this is -- it is -- 90-some percent of the bill was written together, House, Senate, and White House. There were some differences at the end and we'll deal with those as we go forward.

What will happen is the -- we have different committee system in the House than they do in the Senate, so this bill will now be reshaped to their committees. And at that point, we'll see where we need to, shall we say, reconcile our differences. But at the end of the day, we will have a great bill.

Mr. Pallone, would you like to speak for that?

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D-NJ): Yes. I mean, look, the fact of the matter is that over the last few months, and particularly in the last few weeks, we have been working with the senators, not only Manchin and Sinema, but also with the chairs of the committees in the Senate.

So, you know, I'll use two examples. One is on the drug pricing, right? I mean, we've been basically drilling down and getting Sinema's input, getting Schumer's input. And so I do believe that the drug pricing provision that you see is it. I mean, I don't know. I guess there could be some changes, but I don't think they're significant.

And the fact that we have negotiated pricings and we have savings, as the CBO showed, means that this is a provision that saves money and at the same time does a lot in terms of affordability for seniors and others.

The same would be true for methane, right? Nancy and I and the group went to Glasgow for the climate conference, and they were touting international action on methane. So, we have this very important provision with regard to methane emissions that was worked on with the senators and was also worked on with House members over the last few weeks.

So, I believe, you know, just using those two as an example, that this is pretty much it. I mean, there may be some additional changes, but in terms of paying for it, you know, and in terms of the actual substantive authorizing language, I think we're pretty solid at this point and there's no reason why this will pretty much come back from the Senate with minor changes, nothing major, in my opinion.

REP. ROBERT SCOTT (D-VA): Thank you. And the educational and labor parts, we have pretty much agreed with our counterparts in the Senate, child care, which will allow parents to go to work if you're in a low to moderate income situation. You really can't afford child care, so you can't afford to go to work. Pre-k, which is so valuable for future education, universal, the job training, the fact is that we don't have enough skilled workforce out there to do the work that's already there.

The president signed a major infrastructure bill. And so if we expect that work to get done, we're going to have to have an upgraded workforce, major investments in workforce development, and higher education.


And we worked with the agriculture committee, as the speaker has indicated, they don't necessarily line up. School lunches, the agriculture.