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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Protect Abortion Rights; Today: Senate Expected To Vote On Sweden, Finland Push To Join NATO; Dangerous Heat Now Threatens Flood-Ravaged Eastern Kentucky; Today Marks 50 Straight Days Of Falling Gas Prices; OPEC Plus Agrees To Boost Oil Output Slightly By 100,000 Barrels A Day. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 09:30   ET



SCIUTTO: After lots of drama and back and forth, the Senate did finally pass a long-sought bill expanding care for millions of veterans who are exposed to toxic burn pits while deployed. President Biden says he is eager to sign it into law. You may remember he's attributed his son's death potentially to such toxic burn pits.

Now Democrats are full steam ahead on bringing the climate and health care bill to the floor. As soon as later this week, the holdout for now, listen, public Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema. She was absent from yesterday's party caucus meeting but did speak with her colleague Joe Manchin. Of course, she's been central to the negotiations earlier in the day. Her office still declining to comment in public.

I'm joined now by Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Senator, you got a lot on your plate, so I'm going to try to get through it as we go one by one. First on reconciliation. How confident are you that that Senator Sinema will get on board for this?

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Jim, let me give you my intuition, not Intel, because Senator Sinema has not told me and she's doing her due diligence. So --


KAINE: -- she has to do that. My intuition is I'm optimistic that she's going to be a supporter. And that is because while not everything in the bill is something she likes, and there's probably some things she wishes were in the bill, and I feel the same way, there are many pieces of the bill that she not only likes, but she's had a hand in crafting the prescription drug piece --


KAINE: -- and some of the climate provisions that she has been a strong supporter of. So she's going to do her own due diligence, but of the various things that are worrying me right now, worrying about her support of this bill is not top of the list.

SCIUTTO: OK. Are you worried about the Senate parliamentarian? Any update on whether the parliamentarian will conclude this fits the reconciliation rules?

KAINE: I'm confident in that as well. Now, there may be some pieces of it that the parliamentarian may kick out. As you know, each piece has to be analyzed and the parliamentarian has to rule that it's primarily budgetary, not a policy change. So you could see some adjustments, but I think the core of this bill, as announced, the deal is going to hold intact, and then we just have to go through a very long amendment process.

And maybe that's a little bit more of the worry. Are there amendments that are kind of poison pills that cause challenges that if passed might cause problems for the bill?


KAINE: That's my larger worry right now is just the amendment process.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK. Well, stay on top of it. You're working closely, not just with Senator Sinema, but across the aisle with Senators Collins and Murkowski on a -- the Reproductive Freedom for All Act in effect, codifying protections from Roe v. Wade.


SCIUTTO: You got two Republicans working with you. Can you get 10 GOP votes as necessary for this bill, do you believe?

KAINE: Jim, right now, I don't have more than just the two. But we didn't have 60 votes for gun safety legislation either 90 days ago. And then the tragedies in Buffalo and Texas led us to do something we've been unwilling to do for 10 years.

I view kind of post-Dobbs America with stories about 10 year olds being smuggled across state lines, you know, to get pregnancy terminated after a rape. There's going to be stories like this every day, states passing cruel and draconian laws. I think that may move votes toward us on a bill like the bipartisan bill that I introduced.

So we're not there today. But we do need a federal statutory guarantee. And now we have more than 50 senators on the record supporting the notion of a federal statutory guarantee, which is a good place to start from.

SCIUTTO: OK, politics, lots of primaries overnight. And as you know, Democrats were supporting some election deniers in these races, some far-right candidates, some of whom won. They won their primaries, and now we'll be going to the general election to face Democrats. Do you support that effort?

KAINE: No, I mean, look, if it were me, if I was at the DNC and I was chair like I was 10 years ago, I wouldn't have been supporting elections deniers to win races, even though it might have made it easier for us to pick up a race in November. Don't support people who are contrary to, you know, Democratic institutions and values.

But frankly, what you're seeing, Jim, is, there's a lot of these races where Democrats aren't in it at all. And yet, those people are still winning the election deniers in Maryland, the Maryland Republican gubernatorial primary to follow Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican. The Maryland Republican Party have picked not only an election denier, but their attorney general candidate is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. And so, this is who the party has become these days, this party of Lincoln, what a tragedy.

SCIUTTO: Other topic that you're working on, and you believe this vote might be coming and that is to admit Sweden, Finland to NATO. Will their membership in your view deter Russia from further military aggression in Europe or make conflict more likely?

KAINE: Jim, I think it's ultimately a deterrent. And as you know, if you pulled Sweden in Finland, the populations on becoming members of NATO a year ago, you would have been lucky to get 25 percent. But Sweden and Finland who are very capable militaries and who tend to do things together, they've seen the reality of who Vladimir Putin is. And they want to join with other likeminded democracies to protect themselves.


Putin has made some, you know, tough statements about them joining NATO, but it's going to end up being a huge value to NATO demonstrating the importance of NATO, adding capacity to NATO, and I think it's ultimately going to be a strong deterrent.

SCIUTTO: OK, two more topics before we go. Taiwan Policy Act, another thing on your plate here. Bipartisan legislation will provide more security assistance to Taiwan, but it also would classify Taiwan as, quote, a major non-NATO ally. Does that commit the U.S. to military action if China were to invade?

KAINE: Jim, you're going to see a really robust discussion about this in the Foreign Relations Committee. I'm a member later today. I think the -- many of the policies in that bill are smart. They reflect the reality of what we're doing right now. I think there is some language, there's some efforts to amend or change some of the language that could be seen as potentially two-forward leaning. And I hope we do some more work to maybe align the positions of the Senate and the administration on this bill. So, you know, I'm saying stay tuned, because I think you're going to see more work on this.

SCIUTTO: OK. Final topic here. There's open talk now about President Biden as the candidate or not as the candidate in 2024. Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York says she does not believe President Joe Biden will run again. Do you believe the President will run in 2024?

KAINE: I have no idea. I've been asked if he does, will I support him? And the answer is yes. I don't know what his intentions are. I tell you, Joe Biden with the gun bill, or with the chips bill, with the veterans' bill, which is not only on the burn pit issue, but it also involves construction of new eight VA facilities, including in Virginia, with his climate and inflation fighting bill. He's been on a roll in the last couple of months in a really positive way. So I have no idea what he's going to do. If he runs, I'm going to back him.

SCIUTTO: Senator Tim Kaine, we know you got a lot of work to do. We'll let you get back to it.

KAINE: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still had this hour, Kentucky residents who lost everything, just everything in catastrophic flooding, are doing their best to come together to help others. We're going to go live to an elementary school that was supposed to be preparing for the first day of class, instead of out of distribution center for food and water, other essentials.



SCIUTTO: Extreme heat is now threatening flood victims as well as recovery efforts in eastern Kentucky. Thousands of people, they still don't have power, some living out of their cars. While the dry weather is much needed, the high temperatures can be dangerous in this situation. No place to escape them.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is live again in Hazard, Kentucky right in the middle of it with the latest. So, you know, listen, folks have had their lives washed away, right? Sadly, heat index expected to hit 100 degrees in some places. How are they finding relief?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, that's right. This is the day that everybody has been preparing for since those floodwaters came through. The governor has been warning over and over and over again, that the heat was going to come today. And as you mentioned, people still without power, still without potable water. It's a dangerous situation.

And let me tell you what happened. In fact, it's happening here at East Perry Elementary School, you can see they've turned the school into a relief center. Just pallets and pallets of water. There's food for people, if they need it. There's cleaning supplies, if they need them. People can come by and get stuff as they need it.

This is the kind of thing the governor has been talking about needing to have in place because of this heat, and because of the potential for people to really be in trouble because of that heat. But it also talks about the impact that this whole flood has had on life here well into the future. The school system was supposed to open here in just a couple of weeks. And now that might not happen.

I have with me Superintendent Jonathan Jett of the Perry County Schools to talk more about that. Superintendent, a week ago, this time on Thursday, how many schools did you have that you could put kids into?

JONATHAN JETT, SUPERINTENDENT, PERRY COUNTY SCHOOLS: We had eight schools last Thursday that were fully functional and ready for students to arrive on August the 11th. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And today, how many do you have?

JETT: Six that we can actually physically have students and staff in.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So you've lost two full school buildings. What does that mean for the system? What does that mean for what you can do when it comes to maybe trying to reopen?

JETT: Well, the immediate goal is to delay the start time for the entire district. So I have a board meeting scheduled for 4:00 today. And I want to ask the board to delay the start of school for two weeks. That will give us time to look at options for the students that are in the two schools that were affected by the floods.

We're looking at all options right now. We just want to make sure that we get all students back in some type of educational environment as quickly as possible because the community has been devastated. You know, we have students and families right now that are in homes that have mud and water to 5, 6 feet in the house. House is completely destroyed. But -- and we want to make sure in these hot temperatures that we're doing everything we can to provide them with water and things of that nature and get the students back in school as quickly as possible.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: It speaks to how this is going to be a long-term problem. But also I wonder, are you worried about, in the short term, some of your students that might be out there trapped in these houses, trapped in places where they might not have water and air conditioning today and tomorrow with this heat?


JETT: We are and we're doing everything we can. We send supplies out to remote communities. We have great community members that take ATVs and we meet them and they take supplies out. So, yes, the heat is definitely concerning. It just seems like one thing after another keeps happening. So we're hopeful that the heat will go away fast and we can continue to support our families with their immediate needs.


Jim, so that's the story here, just stacking up problems. Floods last week, now heat, possibly rain later in the week. Everybody here is focused on that triage before they can start even focusing on rebuilding things. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, a long, long road ahead. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you.

Still ahead this hour, we will get the White House forecast as the national average for gas drops, again, the 50th day in a row are those lower prices here to stay.


[09:50:26] SCIUTTO: Today marks 50 straight days of falling gas prices. The national average per gallon today at $4.16, down 3 cents from yesterday. You see the downward graph there. Gas prices have tumbled by 86 cents since hitting a high of $5.02 on June 14th.

Joining me now to discuss the broader picture, White House Senior Adviser on Energy Security, Amos Hochstein. Amos, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: A buck less a gallon. That's a lot. People will notice that. But how long does White -- do White House forecasts show this decline will last?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, first, again, thanks for having me. And as you said, it's been 50 days. And let's review this. 50 days ago when prices were over $5, the predictions in the market were that prices were actually going on the way up, and then we're going to have fears of $7 and $8. You remember the --


HOCHSTEIN: -- lots of coverage of that. Instead, the prices have come down now for most of Americans already below $4. So it's actually over $1, from where they were just about six weeks ago. Oil prices were at about -- just about $120. And today, they're at about $95. So a $25 decline almost in oil prices.

That's quite remarkable. And it follows some of the steps that we've taken in order to try to stabilize oil markets, stabilize gasoline markets, bring those prices down. I got to tell you. Their president doesn't feel like they're down enough. So we're going to continue to blog along.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because as a European ban on Russian oil goes into effect, the overall oil market will tighten further and their concerns, as you know, about Russian retaliation, perhaps even going so far as to shutting down its supply. Should consumers brace themselves for the possibility prices go back up in the fall?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, I think you raise a really excellent point. I think part of what we're doing to reduce these prices, is on the backdrop of a war in Europe, where the invader Russia is one of the largest oil producers in the world, an important supplier of refined products, gasoline, diesel, and they're under sanctions. So what we have proposed and we're working with our G7 allies and for countries around the world, is to say, look, we can keep the Russian products and keep the Russian supply on the market.

But let's cap, let's --


HOCHSTEIN: -- limit how much revenue they get from that. That would allow for the markets to continue to operate in a stable manner, but ensure that Putin has less dollars to execute his war.

SCIUTTO: Well, then, of course, the problem is Putin is not going to like that, right? And is the White House concerned about and prepared for him retaliating in some way. I mean, listen, this is a guy who knows that rising gas prices have political implications in this country. And he's someone as you know, who has not hesitated to interfere in U.S. elections in the past.

HOCHSTEIN: Well, I think that you're right, he is well aware of that. I also know that he is very reliant on oil revenues --


HOCHSTEIN: -- for anything. The economy in Russia is collapsing beyond what all the spin around it is. The sanctions and the isolation that Russia is experiencing from the rest of the world has hit them very hard. Economic activity is reduced to basically just oil revenues. So if you take those away completely --


HOCHSTEIN: -- there will be nothing left. And, therefore, I think we can arrive at something where there is an oil price cap that he can still sell his oil, but limit the revenues that he has. These are -- this is very complicated. When Ukraine's fighting a war against an oil producer --


HOCHSTEIN: -- we have to figure out how to do that while maintaining American costs down for consumers.

SCIUTTO: Final question, OPEC has agreed to raise output slightly 100,000 barrels a day. As you know, that's a fraction of the daily output. Does that significantly impact folks while it's here at home?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, no, it doesn't. But it's a step in the right direction. Look, when the -- just before the President announces traveled to Saudi Arabia, we -- to meet with Gulf leaders and Middle East leaders, there was an announcement of any increase of more significant increase of oil production by OPEC for July and August.

We saw reports yesterday that for the month of July, Saudi Arabia increased their production quite significantly. And now this was supposed to be zero increases and we're seeing some increases, not a lot.


HOCHSTEIN: But our main focus is not about the numbers of barrels. Our main focus is on bringing prices down. That's what we're the President keeps telling us --


HOCHSTEIN: -- bring those prices down, do what you got to do and there I think that we're in decent shape and we're going to continue to work to bring it down lower.


SCIUTTO: The President just went to Saudi Arabia, a significant visit for the Saudis as he disappointed that the OPEC increase wasn't bigger?

HOCHSTEIN: I think what we're focused on is keeping those prices down. We wanted to see some increases in the production Before we announced the trip. We saw that, a significant increase in July and August. This is a smaller increase, but an increase nonetheless.

But I think we're focused much more on the bottom line. And that is reducing the price of oil in the market again by $25, since the day that the President announced his trip. And today, we see gasoline prices for American consumers for most of them below, well below $4. So we're in the right -- that's what we're really focused on. And I think that trajectory is what we want to see continue.

SCIUTTO: Amos Hochstein, thanks so much for joining the broadcast today.

HOCHSTEIN: Thank you for having me. It's been great.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, a deeply red state and voted twice for Donald Trump. Votes no on an abortion ban in that state. We're going to be live with the latest overnight election results next.