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Kansas First To Vote On Abortion After Roe Overturned; Senate Dems Aim To Vote On Manchin-Schumer Deal This Week; Kentucky Governor: Hundreds Missing After Unprecedented Floods Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 15:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's the top of a brand new hour on CNN NEWSROOM. It's good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

We are 99 days out from the November midterms. We're just one day away from uncovering some potential major clues about what's resonating with voters most. Voters will head to the polls for primaries in five states tomorrow: Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Washington, Arizona.

And Kansas will be the first state in the country to vote on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. On the ballot, an amendment to the state constitution that if passed would remove guaranteed protections for abortion access.

CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend joins me now. So analysts are watching this, they're saying that the vote could go either way. So lay out for us what's proposed in this potential amendment.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Victor, this constitutional amendment is so crucial, because if passed, it could allow the Republican controlled state legislature to advance new abortion restrictions or outlaw abortion altogether. And here's what voters will actually see when they look at that ballot, when they go into that voter booth.

It'll say, "Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the State of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion."

So one could argue that this is clearly skewed from an anti abortion perspective. This is called the Value Them Both Amendment. And even if this was not the number one issue for many state residents, they have just been bombarded by canvassers both for and against this amendment for the last several weeks.

BLACKWELL: Eva, how much will the outcome of this vote in Kansas? Tell us about the potency of this issue in the midterms?

MCKEND: It's a key question, Victor. Democrats are hoping this will be an issue that will galvanize their voters and illustrate Republicans have become too extreme. That is their hope. And polling suggests the issue has become sort of a boost for otherwise dispirited Democrats. They seem to be having success with how they're talking about abortion, as healthcare and in some instances as a matter of life saving care.

This is also of regional significance, because if Kansas ends the right to abortion, it will grow increasingly difficult in a cluster of states to gain access to abortion.

Also, lastly, I'll never forget when George Tiller, an OBGYN was assassinated in church in 2009 in Wichita for providing abortions. Kansas has always held an important position in the struggle over abortion rights. So no surprise that all eyes on the state this week, Victor?

BLACKWELL: Indeed, Eva McKend for us, thank you very much. Let's go to Arizona.

Former President Trump and his ex-vice president, Pence, have backed rival candidates for governor. They even held dueling same day rallies. CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is in Phoenix. So I know that is a race, of course, we're watching tomorrow, but it's not the only one.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It's not the only one. Certainly, governor as the top executive of this state is going to be critical, especially when you consider the amount of election lies that are really running through a lot of these state races that will be on the primary ballot tomorrow. We are specifically paying attention to the governor's race as well as the race for U.S. Senate.

All of this on the Republican side where we are seeing the fiercest battle. Let's start with the governor's race. Kari Lake who is the Trump endorsed candidate. And really let me pause for a second here, Victor. We're talking about really Trump endorse candidates versus non Trump endorse candidates and how they do tomorrow really tell us about the power of Trump in 2022 as we push into 2024.

So back to Kari Lake, what she has said is that she believes fully and has made the centerpiece of her campaign that Donald Trump won Arizona, he did not. She said if she was governor, she wouldn't have certified Arizona's vote even though legislatively that would probably not have meant much.

She is running against Karrin Taylor Robson. She is endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence. In there, we see a proxy war between Trump and Pence.

Turning to the U.S. Senate, Blake Masters is the Trump-endorsed candidate. He actually put out an ad saying that he believes that Trump won in 2020. Again, that helped him win the endorsement of Donald Trump. He is running in a crowded field in the U.S. Senate to challenge the sitting incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

And then going to the Secretary of State, you have Mark Finchem. He has been to QAnon conventions. He has said he wants to eliminate early voting and he has said that he wants to have everything hand counted, which election officials across the country say is absolutely preposterous that that would take days upon days upon days to get this primary vote and certainly the 2024 vote counted. [15:05:03]

Going further down ballot, you have a Trump-endorsed AG candidate and you have the battle over Rusty Bowers. He is the one who made national headlines, Victor, when he testified before the January 6 Committee and he basically blasted Donald Trump for his behavior and his allies here in Arizona after the 2020 election.

So that is what to look for, Victor, looking to see how this slate of Trump-endorsed candidates do against the rest of the Republican field. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Kyung, is there any indication of if these Trump-endorsed candidates have momentum going into the vote tomorrow?

LAH: Well, let's frame this correctly, because who you see vote in the primaries, especially on the Republican side, are the ones who are truly engaged. And so what we are seeing, the lie that Trump won in 2020, again, he did not. That is certainly resonating among people who support Donald Trump.

The big question mark, though, and state polls are a bit all over the place, Victor, on this, is whether or not there are - they are going to outnumber the other Republicans who decided to vote tomorrow and that's the big question.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll wait for the vote and the count. Kyung Lah, thank you.

This week is a critical one for President Biden's agenda ahead of November's midterms. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants a vote by Friday on the climate and health care deal that he brokered with fellow Democratic senator, Joe Manchin. But there are some big ifs regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, including whether the $740 billion bill can be debated and approved along party lines under what's known as the reconciliation process.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is here with me now. So the bill is going to hit the Senate floor sometime this week, what are we hearing from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema? Anything?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nothing so far and that's what's causing some concern among Democrats who hope she will be there at the end of the day, but simply do not know. Sinema's office has said that she is waiting for that process that is undergoing in the Senate parliamentarian to review whether or not this bill can be approved along straight party lines under the budget process, because that is significant because we don't expect any Republicans to vote for this, so Democrats are using a budget procedure to try to pass this major piece of legislation by just 50 votes. But that means they need all 50 Democrats onboard.

Now that they have Joe Manchin who cut this deal as part of this, they also need the other holdout, Kyrsten Sinema. And Sinema is simply not saying yet where she will be. Now, Manchin himself has been out defending this plan, including on

the notion that would reduce inflation. Recall that he yell out on the President's larger agenda because of his concerns over inflation. But there have been recent studies that have suggested that this new bill would do little to curb inflation.

And when I asked him about that earlier today, he defended his approach.


RAJU (off camera): So what evidence do you have that this is actually do what this legislation is promising to do, which is reduce inflation?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's pretty much common sense if you look at the common sense, but I'm used to all the analysis going on, there's been 70 Nobel laureates who said that basically inflation would be transitory. I'm just saying, everyone gets different opinions, opinions we received is going to be very helpful. There's other opinions now looking at it. and I understand that, and they're all looking at trying to find to discredit it and they can't, because there's nothing to discredit in there, because we are doing what I just said, accelerating permitting, getting products to market, producing more, paying down debt.


RAJU: So those two analyses that he's referring to was one from Moody's Analytics, another one from Penn Wharton, both of which said that this legislation would do little to curb inflation. But Democrats, instead, are saying that it - they are pointing to other economists who believe that it could have an impact on inflation and as well have other benefits for Americans in a whole wide range of issues, whether it's from health care or dealing with climate change and the like.

But nevertheless, this bill is expected to face fierce Republican opposition and it's still uncertain though, Victor, if they can actually get it on the floor this week. Get it out of the Senate this week. And if they do, what happens in the house, which we'll come back next week to try to deal with it. Still big questions as Democrats hope they can get it done in a matter of days, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Manu Raju for us there on Capitol Hill. Manu, thank you very much.

To discuss all this, let's bring in now CNN Political Commentator Scott Jennings and Associate Editor for RealClear Politics, A. B. Stoddard. Good to have both of you.

A. B. let me start with you. The President now has a few wins. He's got the chips bill. There was some gun legislation as well. How would, let's say Sinema comes on board, not a guarantee, but the passage of this legislation changed the landscape for Democrats going into November. A. B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEAR POLITICS:

Well, Victor, the administration with the help of Democrats in Congress will make the case to base voters that this is a huge accomplishment.


The most consequential action on climate likely ever and that they are going to see a big improvement in their own rising costs with a new negotiated prescription drug reform.

So that's - they're going to be able to campaign on this. There, of course, are going to be progressives in the party who were promising last year that the party needed to pass something far steeper, much broader and that they would. They were disappointed with that result. And they had been telling the party leaders ever since the base would simply not turn out. They were so dispirited and so disappointed, they would be sitting out the midterm elections.

It's going to take a united effort by all corners of the coalition on the Democratic side to paint this package as something very exciting and energizing that voters should turn out and support in November and we'll see what the result of that is. But they are hopeful, obviously, because of new polling that a combination of a bunch of bipartisan accomplishments, with the anger voters are feeling in our coalition about the Dobbs decision will chalk up to renewed energy and interest in the midterm elections as a whole.

BLACKWELL: Scott, do you think if this gets to the President's desk and he signs that it changes the chances of Republicans to take control of the chambers?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't, actually. And I actually think the Democrats have a huge branding problem on this bill, for one of the reasons A. B. said and the report said, and that is that this doesn't do anything to curb inflation. They've named a bill, the Reduce Inflation Act, and it does nothing to reduce inflation.

And so you're going to pass a bill in August promising to reduce inflation, come October, I don't expect inflation to have gone down by October, if I were running a Republican campaign, I would hammer my Democratic opponent for voting for a bill on the premise of reducing inflation and then failing.

So I think they have a pending branding issue on this legislation. And I also think it's in congruence, frankly, Victor that they've, on the one hand, past the chips bill, which you alluded to, that gives lots of money to manufacturers. And on the other hand, they're raising taxes on manufacturers. So it's an incongruous economic policy.

I don't think this is going to be a panacea for Democrats, especially if inflation remains high, which I expect it to. I still think they have better chance in the Senate than they do in the House. And I don't expect this to really change that calculus, for me anyway, as an analyst. BLACKWELL: All right. Two things: Mark Zandi was on CNN today, Chief

Economist for Moody's Analytics who says that this bill will nudge inflation in the right direction, bring inflation down. Also, the bill sets, as I understand it, a corporate minimum for taxes at 15 percent. You use the terminology, raising taxes, but that is what is in the bill.

Let me come to another element of cost for Americans, which Republicans have said, we'll be what this election in November is about, kitchen table questions. This is Sen. Rick Scott, Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This is two weeks ago about why he's so confident that Republicans will do well.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): We have every reason to believe we can win. People are fed up, just fed up with the Biden agenda. They're sick and tired of $5 gas, food prices up, all this stuff. They're sick of it. So we just got to raise our money and get our message out.


BLACKWELL: Well, gas isn't $5 anymore. It's actually come down $0.80 from the record high now at $4.21 a gallon. It's still expensive, but it's not near where it was. How's that impact the persuasiveness of Republicans' argument if you're not paying $5 a gallon and maybe, maybe by November, it's even lower, Scott?

JENNINGS: Well, look, if - and I saw Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary, put up a chart today touting that gas is still over $4 a gallon. If the White House wants to run on $4 gas, that's perfectly fine with me as a Republican. If they want to argue, that's somehow a good thing.

I just - I mean, look, I paid for almost $4.50 here in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday. I mean, gas is really expensive and I don't dispute that it's come down some, but that's way beyond what it was a year ago. Well-beyond what it was when he took office and so I think we're going to have to see a lot more price reductions before people start to feel like gas has been brought back into a normal range here.

BLACKWELL: A. B., what is - what are you looking for in Arizona? Kyung just laid out the races that, of course, are the marquee matchups, what will you be focused on?

STODDARD: Well, I mean, everyone's going to be watching the gubernatorial race, Victor, because you actually have Mike Pence and the sitting governor choosing someone that Trump is opposing. And then, of course, he's backed Kari Lake and she seems to be ahead in the polling, but this is really - this is really going to be a very pivotal battleground in 2024, and the idea of the person likely to take the secretary State nomination who is a big lie Republican just like Kari Lake really calls into question just what this state is going to look like in the next presidential election.

[15:15:09] So, Arizona is hugely important. It's also one of the questions about

whether or not this begs the question whether or not Kyrsten Sinema, the senator from Arizona is going to back that package for the Democrats and in the Senate, because it's going to be pivotal to Senator Kelly, the incumbent trying to hold on to that seat in this critical battleground. Arizona is sort of the center of the universe, at least for now. Georgia usually is, but this is - there's a lot of key races: Senate, secretary of state, governor that are really going to make a huge difference this fall and then in the next election cycle as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And if those wins and losses in Arizona have any residual impact on former President Trump, former Vice President Pence looking ahead to a potential 2024 matchup. A. B. Stoddard, Scott Jennings, thank you.

Lives are lost, homes are destroyed and the rain is still coming. We are live in Kentucky with the latest on the flooding there next.

And a new agreement in place now and the first Ukrainian grain shipment is now on its way to Lebanon in an effort to ease the global hunger crisis.



BLACKWELL: Catastrophic weather is hitting parts of this country really hard. Along the border of California and Oregon, the McKinney fire has killed two people. It's burned more than 55,000 acres and now it's California's largest wildfire this year.

In Kentucky, the mud and the misery and the fear for the missing are overwhelming the eastern part of that state. The Governor says unprecedented flooding has killed at least 35 people now. Many more are still unaccounted for.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D) KENTUCKY: There are hundreds of unaccounted for people minimum and we just don't have a firm grasp on that. I wish we did. There are a lot of reasons why it's nearly impossible, but I want to make sure that we're not giving either false hope or faulty information.


BLACKWELL: Five days since the flooding started and rescues are still happening today. You've got video here. This is from Thursday. It shows crews airlifting an 83-year-old woman and her family from their attic. CNN spoke to one mother who opened her door to this, her home was being swept away. Listen to what she says she did to make sure she stayed with her children.


and I tied them together and that wasn't long enough, so I cut the cord off the vacuum cleaner and tied us all three together. So I - because I thought I can try to save us or if we didn't make it then we can be found altogether.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in the down of Hazard. Evan, we're hearing more stories about how powerful these floodwaters are. We also know that there's this picture of these four children who were killed. Tell us about them.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you even begin to talk about these mothers with quotes like that one that you just played? I - it's incredible to see what nature can do to a family in an instant. And you mentioned that photo that now is just seared into my mind forever of those four kids, those four siblings, Madison, Nevia (ph), Ryan Noble Jr. (ph) and Chance.

Adults tried to save them. They tried to keep them from being sucked into the waters, but they couldn't do it and the kids passed away all of them together, all of them - those siblings. It's just - I can't even think about it really. Earlier today, I sent a camera over to a Baptist church nearby that's been converted into a shelter for people who have lost everything in these floods. And another mother there told the story of what it was like when these floodwaters came through and put her family at risk.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a creek in front of us and a creek beside of us, but only ankle deep like something that the kids would play in on a regular day. I had no idea how fast and how deep that would get. And he took my 11-year-old out first, they had to tie a rope around himself and to her. And they started out he lost his footing in the water and she fell and went under. But thank God, he got his footing and he got her on the safety and then he came back one at a time and got us.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: It's so hard because we're standing right now in Perry County, deeply affected County. It's a pretty day. We're waiting for rain. Unfortunately, it raised nervous about it. But it can be hard to understand what this looks like until you see it. I'm along Route 28 here in Perry County and we sent the CNN drone up earlier today to show you just along this one road, this is just one road in one county, the amount of damage along the side of the road.

All that damage that you see, all that debris that you see, those are people's families, their lives, everything that they've tried to save for and build. And we know like from stories with that picture and these mothers that we've been talking to that in some cases what you're seeing in that debris is really the end of the some people in people's families. And those are the stories that are going to keep being told here in

Kentucky for quite a while and it'll be a long time before they can move on from those to anything like recovery. Victor?


BLACKWELL: Evan McMorris-Santoro there helping us understand the scope of what is happening and still there's so much lost, because there are thousands of stories have lost their footing but came back and unfortunately too many stories of family members who are lost here. Evan, thank you.

Joining me now is Craig Fugate. He was the Administrator for FEMA; Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Obama administration. Craig, good to have you. I wonder what you think, what you feel when you see these videos of these families recounting these stories. FEMA is a - an agency that comes in to help people at their worst possible moment often and they're - I imagine - has to be this emotional connection when you see what's happening in these places.

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, it's always about the people and the families. And unfortunately, this is becoming too common. We're seeing these extreme rainfall events. We hear people, I've lived here all my life, it's never been this bad and we're seeing more of this.

So for climate deniers, you can't deny the loss of life. It's happening and it continues to happen. So FEMA's programs are coming in, the Governor's asked for assistance presents to clear disaster. Much of this will be financial, but the - as the Governor said, this is still a very active response. They are still looking for people, they're still finding people. So this is very much still an active response for search and rescue operations.

BLACKWELL: I want you to hear - to listen to Vice President Kamala Harris talking about the frequency of these major disasters now.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2021, we count 20 climate disasters that each caused over $1 billion in damage, not to mention the impact to life compared in the 1990s to six such disasters a year. So the frequency has accelerated in a relatively short period of time.


BLACKWELL: I mean, how often should we expect a thousand year storms now, because it's happening far more frequently than every thousands years and is the agency equipped for this strain, Craig?

FUGATE: Well, let's quit talking about thousand year events, let's start talking about how many feet of rain it takes to be catastrophic, because it's not every thousand years, it's almost weekly. FEMA has been set up to do recovery. But we're seeing gaps in the frequency and intensity, a big hole we have is affordable rental properties after disasters. They're getting wiped out without getting rebuilt.

And as the Vice President said, if you go back to Hurricane Andrew, we're on a 30-year anniversary. That was one of the most costly natural disasters ever in our history. It's already been exceeded by at least a half dozen hurricanes since 1992. So this is both foreshadowing the future is going to get worse. And doing what we've always done isn't going to work and we got to put more emphasis on mitigating these effects ahead of time, but also addressing a huge issue and that is affordable, available housing, post disaster so family can recover in their communities.

We already have a rental crisis nationwide. Disasters are making that so worse and it's forcing people who do survive the disaster out of their communities because they have nowhere to live.

BLACKWELL: Yes, important point there. Craig Fugate, thank you so much for your time.

And for information about how you can help the Kentucky flood victims, go to

Organizers just canceled a popular music festival in Atlanta. We'll tell you what role Georgia's gun laws may have played in that decision ahead.