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Joe Manchin Saga Continues on Filibuster Reform for Voting Rights; 146 U.S. Mayors Send Letter to Senate Regarding Voting Reform; Mental Health Implications for Children During COVID Pandemic; 13 Dead after Philadelphia Apartment Fire Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the latest in the Manchin saga. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is now hinting he might be open to some modest changes in the Senate's filibuster rules, but he made it clear he is not in favor of making changes along party lines, which puts the Democrats' renewed push to pass voting rights by a simple majority in doubt.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let me just say that to being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option, it's very, very difficult. That's what I'm saying be left (ph).


SCIUTTO: CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. You've been following this for some time. That was a bit of the ins and outs of Senator Joe Manchin and this saga here. The changes he is saying he might be open to really is about attendance, is it not, in terms of how many senators are in attendance rather than just saying you need 50 votes?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is a - it is a very modest change that he is open to. One of which would be because right now it requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, so he's saying, OK, how about we do two-thirds - we do two-thirds of those who are actually present or so to say and so if there are 90 senators who are actually there voting that it would not be a 60 vote threshold. It would be essentially 60 percent of that. So the question will be if that's going to be enough to actually change anything. Most certainly not.

There's also he's open to the idea ending the filibuster to open debate. Now opening debate is as one aspect of here because you can also filibuster to end debate. Now he's not open to changing the idea of ending the debate, and he's also opposed to the idea of changing the vote along straight party lines because in order to change the rules there are multiple ways to do it. You can either get bipartisan support to do it that requires 67 senators to do it. That is simply not going to happen.

Or they can go the so-called nuclear option which would require 51 votes in the Senate to do that, but if one senator breaks ranks like Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema, that is enough to break the effort to try to change the rules and ultimately pass a voting rights bill.

So Manchin says he's open to continue talking, continue some modest reforms, but getting to the point where they could pass a voting rights bill, which is opposed by Republicans right now for a variety of reasons, mainly because they believe there'd be - amount to a federal takeover of elections, is, as he says, a very heavy lift because they don't have the votes to do it under the current order.

They don't have the votes to change the rules, so that's leaving the Democrats at a position here that they are simply talking about what is possible. And if they can't find anything they can get Manchin on board. A vote will happen before January 17 Chuck Schumer says to try to change the rules, but Jim, given the vote, given the numbers, nothing's going to change here, and that means Democrats will be left to taking this to the voters in November.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, they might have to take a lot to the voters. Thanks very much.

Well, this week, 146 mayors - and we should note both Democrats and Republicans - sent a letter to the Senate urging swift action on voting rights legislation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states have passed more than 30 laws that make it harder for you to cast a ballot. This all happened just in the last year.

One of the mayors who signed that letter is my next guest, Elizabeth Kautz, the Republican Mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota. She's also the former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayor, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

MAYOR ELIZABETH KAUTZ (R), BURNSVILLE, MINNESOTA: Thank you so much, Jim, and thank you for the invitation to speak on your show.

SCIUTTO: So this is a unique moment here because people tend to think of voting rights, at least in the current context, as being a Democratic issue with universal republic opposition. This letter shows that's not true. 146 mayors, Republicans and Democrats, and you sent them to both Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell. What's been the response so far to this letter?

KAUTZ: Well it's been very positive. For mayors we look at what happens on - in our community, and our constituents are both Republicans and Democrats. And we want to make sure that our constituents have the right through our Constitution to exercise their civic duty to vote on Election Day.


And so, for us it is about common sense. It is about assessing that ability to be a good citizen of the United States. SCIUTTO: And it used to be a bipartisan issue. These voting rights legislations laws used to get passed with large bipartisan majorities. Not today. As you know, Senator Manchin told reporters he's open to some modest changes to the Senate's filibuster rules, possibly not enough to move this kind of legislation. Do you have hope of any path forward or do you think that this is basically dead in the water right now?

KAUTZ: Well I think when I listened to him he talks about a preference, so there is hope. My hope is that in 2022 we turn the page and we look at being kind and compassionate and to understand that we need to have these rights that are given to us through our Constitution available to all American citizens. And we know because it's in our city halls where elections take place.

And all of the lawsuits for the 2020 election were dismissed, so what does that tell you? That tells you that it is working, and if there are things that we can do better, of course we can do better. So let's turn the page. Let's look at how we can do this in a compassionate, caring way that really allows all of our citizens the right to vote.

SCIUTTO: You're Republican. There is a view among Republicans that this - some Republicans this is a Democratic power grab. That's why - the way it's been described by folks as high up as Mitch McConnell, right? Explain why you think the GOP and GOP voters should be in favor of legislation like this.

KAUTZ: This legislation is for everybody. It is about getting everyone the right to vote. So if any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who is running for office, make your case before the people and let the people then vote whether you are eligible to represent them or not.

So it's not a partisan issue. It's a constitutional issue, the right of every American citizen to exercise their civic duty. This is about our democracy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. 19 states, as you know, have passed some 35 laws who, according to the Brennan Center and just an obvious reading of those laws, they don't make it easier to vote. They make it harder to vote.


SCIUTTO: Has that damaged the right to vote in the last year?

KAUTZ: Well you know, in 2020 we saw a turnout, but people, our citizens have the courage and they're not fearful about getting out and voting. That's what's really wonderful about what's happening in our society and in our country because people are exercising their civic duty. That's what we want them to do. We want them to have the right to vote. We want them to say, you know, I'm an American and I have a voice. And this is where their voices are heard. It's during an election.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well should be a bipartisan issue, has been in the past, and we see in this letter a bipartisan effort. Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

KAUTZ: Yes. Thank you, Jim, and have a great day.

SCIUTTO: You, too.

From virtual learning to returning to the classroom, kids have dealt with a whole lot of change over the last couple of years. I'm sure you know as you're watching this. How it's impacting their mental health and what signs to watch out for.



SCIUTTO: Right now children in Chicago are out of school after a teachers union voted to move to remote or virtual learning amid the big spike in new COVID infections. We should note research shows that being out of the classroom has had a negative impact on the mental health of students.

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Like other families, the Kitley's in Chicago were thrilled when last fall their four children could finally go back to school, but halfway through the school year there have been bumps in the road leaving home going back to school.

KELLEY KITLEY, MOTHER AND THERAPIST: That transition back to school has been difficult mostly for my youngest child who felt the sense of safety and security from the age of 7 until 8.5 and then needing to go back to school.

COHEN: So it sounds like your daughter got used to have the comfort of having mom and dad around all the time.

KITLEY: Absolutely, and then is expected to just go back to school from 0 to 100. There wasn't a gradual transition.

COHEN: Kitley, a therapist herself, sees the tension in her patients.

KITLEY: They are feeling increased anxiety around just how to be and communicate with people and build friendships and being able to feel comfortable in their environment.


COHEN: Have you seen children hit crisis points?

KITLEY: Low self esteem and low confidence and feeling depressed and as a coping mechanism turning to eating disorder behavior or cutting behavior and really not being able to manage the intensity of being back in a school environment. COHEN: Last month the U.S. Surgeon General issued this 53-page advisory outlining how the pandemic has had an unprecedented, negative impact on the mental health of children. One global study finding symptoms of youth depression and anxiety doubled.

DR. VIVEK MUTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: I am so concerned about our children because there is an epidemic, if you will, of mental health challenges that they have been facing.

COHEN: Kitley says and empowerment group for girls that she started has helped.


COHEN: Atlanta area counselor, Teshia Stovall Dula, says when children feel overwhelmed by the transition back to school she offers them a safe place.

DULA: They'll often come to my office just to get a break from the noise, and I was very surprised by that, that they needed to come and get a break from the noise.

COHEN: Her advice to parents, remember that if your children seem immature for their age there's a region. They missed out on more than a year of development with their peers.

DULA: I mean, my 12-year-old, they still are so young. They are more like elementary school kids.

COHEN: Missing a year to a year and a half of social interaction for a middle school student, that's a lot.

DULA: It was a lot.

COHEN: And be patient with your child as they transition from one way of life to another.

DULA: Their world was turned upside down. As adults we are able to bounce back quicker usually, faster, but for them, you know, it's going to take a little more time.


COHEN: So another reason to be patient as your children transition back to school is Omicron. Older children, of course, have heard of it. It's yet another thing that could be making them more anxious. Jim -

SCIUTTO: No question. A lot of conversations necessary. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much. Well right now the Philadelphia Fire Department is holding a news conference, this about a deadly fire there that killed some 13 people. We're going to bring you what we know from that news conference coming up, but first here is a look at some of the other events that we're watching today.


SCIUTTO: We want to get back to the breaking news in Philadelphia, and this is a tough one. The fire department holding a news conference now about a fire in a residential building, multiple apartments that's killed 13 people, some of them children. CNN's Brynn Gingras is monitoring us this morning, and we're hearing this described as one of the biggest tragedies in the city's history. What do we know?

BRYN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. The fire official speaking currently is actually having a hard time to even speak. He's getting choked up at moments saying of those 13 people confirmed dead right now preliminary information is that seven of them are children.

The Mayor of Philadelphia actually spoke first and made the comment losing so many kids. Now obviously this is a gut punch as they described it themselves to the entire city of Philadelphia.

Now we know that the fire marshal there is on the scene along with the ATF. We're still getting more details about that particular home. What we've learned is that it is a multiple-story building that was broken up into two separate apartments. We've learned that the first floor had 8 people inside, again, all preliminary information from the fire department as they're still investigating. And then the second and third floor, which was a separate apartment, might have had as many as 18 people living inside.

We know in addition to those 13 people that were killed, 8 people self evacuated and some people were transported to the hospital, too. One of them was a child. And we also know a little bit about the smoke detector situation. The fire official saying that there were four smoke detectors found in that building. None of them were working.

This is a public housing building in the city of Philadelphia, and according to the records with the public housing smoke detectors were installed both in 2019 and in 2020. So again, this is all preliminary information that we're getting from fire officials and the mayor himself, but as you said this is just so tragic to have seen here in Philadelphia. I want you to hear from the fire official himself in his own words how he described it.


CRAIG MURPHY, 1ST DEPUTY FIRE COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPT.: The fire was extinguished and it was a terrible - it was terrible.


Most - I've been around for 30 - 35 years now, and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to.


GINGRAS: You can see the emotion coming from him as he's trying to just give these updates. We've also learned that they believe the fire started in the kitchen on the second floor of this building. Again, ATF is one the scene, the fire marshal. Everyone is still there trying to investigate what happened. We'll, of course, stay on this for you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thanks, Brynn Gingras. Just a heartbreaking story. Well thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. So much news today. I'm Jim Sciutto. My colleague, Bianna Golodryga, picks it up right after a short break.