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Senate Voting On Final Passage Of Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act; Interview With Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); New Mexico Governor: Killings Of Muslim Men Were Targeted. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 07, 2022 - 15:00   ET


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And unfortunately, that means when this drapes southward, Fredricka, we will have another problem in parts of Eastern Kentucky dealing with that tragedy there with a bullseye right now from Chicago points --

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Oh, no. It's got to end.

All right, thank you so much, Tom Sater, appreciate that.


All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, happening right now on Capitol Hill: Major developments as the US Senate is now poised to move forward toward a final vote on a comprehensive climate and healthcare bill. The sweeping legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act has gone through an exhaustive process that began just before midnight. The bill promises to lower prescription drug costs and take huge steps to combat carbon emissions.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the potential deciding vote, arriving on Capitol Hill a short time ago. CNN's Manu Raju has been there on Capitol Hill since the wee hours.

So what's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are now on pace to pass this bill probably within the hour. This, after a marathon voting session that started at 11:30 PM Eastern Time last night has gone all through the night into the afternoon, and after some last minute drama within their own Caucus, Democrats have resolved those issues and now are pushing ahead to final passage.

That last minute drama caused by concerns initially raised by Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, concerns about the structure of that 15 percent corporate minimum tax. She was concerned it could impact some smaller companies. This is supposed to hit companies have a billion dollars or more in income, but she had concerns about companies that were subsidiaries of those that were owned by private equity firms. She wanted to exempt those subsidiaries.

She then said -- agreed to a Republican amendment that targeted this. That narrow this corporate minimum tax, exempted those subsidiaries. But Democrats were revolting over this because of the way that that Republican amendment would be paid for.

So as a result, they moved behind the scenes. They were able to move forward with a different plan, an alternative plan the Senate has currently voted on -- being voted on. They have a different proposal to pay for this change in the corporate minimum tax. And as a result, Democrats are now on the same page.

Now, this bill will get the final passage vote sometime this hour. There will be a 50/50 vote and Kamala Harris will break the tie after more than a year of internal Democratic wrangling that started with the President's Build Back Better plan, it has been scaled back substantially, but still significant, this bill in allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate prescription drug prices, also spending hundreds of billions of dollars in dealing with energy and climate provisions and extending healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for three years.

All significant issues here that the Democrats will put forward in the face of significant and vigorous Republican opposition as this will get passed on to the Senate and soon to the House.

WHITFIELD: All right, Manu, let me just interrupt you now. Let's listen to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): ... creates millions of good paying jobs, and is the boldest climate package in US history. This bill will kick start the era of affordable clean energy in America. It's a game changer. It's a turning point and it has been a long time in coming.

To Americans who have lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you. To seniors who face the indignity of rationing medications, or skipping them all together, this bill is for you. And to the tens of millions of young Americans who spent years marching, rallying, demanding that Congress act on climate change, this bill is for you.

The time has come to pass this historic bill. I ask --

KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question is on passage of HR 5376 as amended.

SCHUMER: I ask for the yeas and nays.

HARRIS: Is there a sufficient second?

There appears to be. The clerk will call the roll.




SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): No. WHITFIELD: All right, let me bring back in Manu Raju.

Manu, give us an idea what's happening right now.

RAJU: Yes. This is the final passage vote. This is what has been what the Democrats have been waiting for really for more than a year, but certainly since the beginning of last night when this voting process began.

Amendments started at 11:30 PM Eastern Time. We are now at three past, just past 3:00 PM Eastern Time. There have been no sleep for many of these senators, or just very cat naps for a few minutes here and there, but They have been going nonstop through the night through this process to get to this point, which would achieve a significant portion of Joe Biden's domestic agenda.


RAJU: This is something that had been stalled for so long because of disagreements between liberals and moderates and because of the efforts -- the unsuccessful efforts for some time to win over those key Democratic moderates, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who had significant concerns over aspects of this bill, but after a deal was reached unexpectedly, as broad as it was, just about a little under two weeks ago, that Democrats were moving ahead to get this bill through.

Ultimately, it required another round of negotiations with Kyrsten Sinema over the last several days, changes to the tax provisions in this bill, but they got her on board, too. And now all 50 Senate Democrats are expected to support this plan that they argue will deal with the climate crisis and trying to achieve a reduction of emissions of 40 percent within the next decade; also healthcare and prescription drug prices in particular, they're going after by allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate prescription drug prices, extending Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years, imposing a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent on companies with an income of a billion dollars.

This is not as far as a lot of progressives want it to go for certain, but still significant in size and scope. Republicans argue that this will only add to the inflation problems, the economic problems, and saying that raising taxes is a wrong move to do at this time in the economy.

But nevertheless, Democrats believe that they have the right political argument, that they will make to voters ahead of the midterms, but no doubt, regardless of where either side falls down on this significant development here and the passage of this bill will occur here in just a matter of minutes.

WHITFIELD: Let me bring in Arlette Saenz. She is traveling with the President there in Delaware, as the votes will be tallied, the Democratic Caucus believes it has the 50 and of course, the Vice President there as the tiebreaker. Tell us how significant this is for the President, and perhaps, you

know, the President very confidently left the White House after being confined to the White House in isolation because of COVID, for what, 17-18 days. And he very confidently, perhaps, then embarked on his trip to Delaware.

Did he feel that no matter what, he would have all the votes today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the President expressed that confidence as he was leaving the White House telling reporters that he believed that this bill would be passing. But certainly this is a vote that both the President and his top aides are watching incredibly closely, as it would get them one step closer to achieving some of the President's signature items that he has tried to accomplish when it comes to his domestic agenda.

But of course, this has been an incredibly long process. This bill is far more -- it is very pared back compared to what the President had been promoting last year with Build Back Better, and even got a name changed to the Inflation Reduction Act.

And one thing that's been really interesting in this process is that in the past, President Biden had really been very deeply involved in the nitty-gritty of these negotiations, but with the Inflation Reduction Act, this was a deal that was really hammered out between Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Chuck Schumer, that was a strategic point for President Biden trying to give some room to the negotiations amongst these senators.

That's something we've also seen him do when it came to that gun control bill that was passed a bit earlier this year. But really, this would -- passage of this bill, though it still has to go to the House, it would give President Biden something that he can try to sell to the American people heading into those midterm elections.

The President, in the past, has acknowledged that sometimes they've had some struggle in selling their accomplishments, but this is something that they would try to take to voters heading into those midterm elections.

And as you noted, the President is here spending the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in his vacation home with his family, reunited with his family after being cooped up at the White House for 18 days due to those positive COVID-19 tests that he had been receiving.

But certainly right now, this is just one of the latest developments as the President has really seen a quite a list of accomplishments that have played out over the course of the past week while he has been with COVID.

You'll remember back on Monday, he announced the successful operation that took out al-Qaeda terrorist leader, al-Zawahiri. They've also gotten some good economic news over the course of the past few days when it comes to gas prices going down and those unemployment -- a better than expected Jobs Report that was released on Friday. But certainly, they are watching this vote very closely, and then

watching what happens in the House as they are hoping that if it passes the Senate, which Democrats are expected to stay together to do, that the House would then be able to pass it.

Of course, there could be some issues that arise there, but the President is hoping to be able to sign this piece of legislation, which is really just a sweeping healthcare and climate bill the Democrats have been working towards.

WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz there in Delaware, thanks so much. Stay with us, I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Margaret Talev and Julian Zelizer.

Good to see both of you.

So Margaret, it's not a done deal yet, but of course, the White House and many Democrats are expressing a lot of optimism there that they have all the votes that they need there in the Senate before it moves on to the House.


WHITFIELD: So how big of a moment potentially is this for the White House, even though this isn't the President's original $2 billion Build Back Better, but the President does seem to tell that this is a real sign of progress.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Fred, the impacts of this legislation will be huge in the long run. The challenge for the White House is going to be that it may take many, many years for the full effects to kind of come into full force, right, both when it comes to the impacts of the beginnings of the government's ability to negotiate drug prices and when it comes to what's going to be a long-term shift in the type of energy that America uses to power everything from our cars to our buildings. Right?

The challenge now for President Biden and for the Democrats who are actually on the ballot, is can they turn this into a winning message between now and November? And, you know, I think that's where we're going to see the work begin immediately for the Democratic Party. They may take a playbook from that abortion vote in Kansas last Tuesday. There was a lot of very strategic, specific advertising before that vote that got the abortion rights side the outcome that they wanted.

And now the trick for Democrats is going to be not just on abortion, but on these long-term issues. How much do your prescription drugs cost? Can you modernize energy? You know, can you save the planet and still power your businesses? These are going to be the nuances of messaging the Democrats are going to be working really hard between now and November.

WHITFIELD: And Julian, with the passage of this legislation, what would be the winning message that the White House would want to tout?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So they need to clearly articulate and explain to people in terms of lowering your drug prices, that's a very tangible benefit, in terms of actually -- a huge investment in the climate after many years when Congress has not done that, that's a policy that has been delivered.

And then in terms of governing, President Biden, since his campaign has always argued that he could still govern, he could still figure out how to work government in an era where so much is dysfunctional, and polarization is so intense. And once again, you can argue he is delivering. I don't know if it's going to work, it's very likely it won't necessarily deliver the immediate political benefits Democrats would hope for, but those are the two big takeaways for the administration in terms of what's happening today.

WHITFIELD: And Margaret, what about for the Democratic Party? I mean, what would this say for the Democratic Party when it was able to wrangle support, and even at this last minute juncture today, when Senator Kyrsten Sinema, apparently was very reticent about this 15 percent corporate minimum tax, but that as a party or as a caucus, it was able to compromise to bring her back on board?

TALEV: Well, I think it has always been true, like it or not, but as long as the filibuster system exists in this construct, it has always been true that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema held the cards to democratic success, and the fact that they both came on board and stayed on board shows you -- kind of shows you how that works, right?

I think now for the Democrats going forward, there are two audiences to turn the message to. For their base, this is easy. These are issues that the Democratic base has wanted for years, if not decades, but particularly on the climate side.

The second half of the group they're trying to message to are those swing voters, and I think with the swing voters, the prescription drug prices is going to be the easier message to message. You're going to start out talking about older Americans, but long term, this opens the door for all Americans who rely on expensive medicine and it is not always covered by your insurance.

It is a major, major aid long term in getting Americans to be able to afford the medicines they need.

WHITFIELD: Julian, what will be the Republican message?

ZELIZER: Too much government and too much spending. It's predictable what they will say. We've already heard elements of this. They will try to use this to present President Biden as someone who is not actually a centrist, but they will argue who has moved far left and they will say even though this is much smaller than what is originally proposed, it's too big and it will continue to exacerbate the economy.

So that's the message Democrats will have to counteract, and realistically it's only swing voters and it's not tons of them, but those are the voters who they will be aiming to appeal. They're not going to try to win hardcore Republican supporters, that is what Republicans will be arguing. WHITFIELD: And Margaret, you know, we heard the Senate Majority

Leader, Chuck Schumer saying, you know, this is a game changer. It's a turning point. He said to the seniors, this bill is for you. To the tens of millions of young people rallying about climate change, this bill is for you.

He's also speaking to this very important electorate come November. I mean, this is his way, perhaps, in large part Democrats' way of helping to inspire particularly young people to make sure they vote in November. Will this help be a catalyst for that?

TALEV: I think one of the big challenge -- the biggest challenge for the Democrats has been the sort of apathy or demoralization of a lot of their voters. You see, President Biden's approval rating stuck below 40 percent. One of his problem is in his own party.

So this may go a fair way towards that. Democrats will certainly try to make it part of that messaging, a part of that enthusiasm. I still believe that the abortion issue among women voters, suburban voters, younger voters, is also going to be a hugely important part of catalyzing that turnout.

But for Democrats, it will take any toll they can get. It has been a really lousy summer for the Democratic Party in terms of the trajectory of public opinion or voter enthusiasm, and in the last week or two, including with his major, major development that's about to happen.

They hope there may be a way to turn some of it around at least to try to save control of the Senate, if not the House.

WHITFIELD: Julian, do you see this as further spurring voter enthusiasm?

ZELIZER: I think it will, I mean, doing -- getting accomplishments through Capitol Hill excites the party and this has been, as Margaret said, a very tough, tough few weeks, so I think it can help. That said, often big legislative accomplishments don't translate into electoral victories.

Biden will remember this with Obama in 2010, and the economy is still going to be the big issue. So, it will be about also what kind of movement that we see on the economy in the coming months and how does that converge with these legislative gains?

WHITFIELD: And I wonder, Margaret, if anyone was concerned, particularly Democrats concerned about whether it could get the caucus on one uni -- on one accord, do you feel as though this now exemplifies it? They know how to work together.

TALEV: Yes, you just called it a unicorn. And I've had that feeling.

WHITFIELD: This has been a unicorn kind of moment, hasn't it?

TALEV: I don't know that this is going to be sign of other major deals to come. I'm not sure how many deals like this are in anyone's back pocket at this point. Now, President Biden has got something like three and a half trillion dollars' worth of spending just a historic -- between --

WHITFIELD: All right, let me interrupt you. I'm sorry, Margaret, let's listen to the Vice President now.


WHITFIELD: All right, the Inflation Reduction Act has passed there in the US Senate. You heard the Vice President, the tail end of the Vice President there.

Oh, let's listen to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

SCHUMER: Every Senator knows an undeniable truth. We can never do what we do without our amazing, incredible staff. They work behind the scenes. They never fall under the spotlight, but they do incredible work nonetheless.

Now that we finished passing the Inflation Reduction Act, I want to applaud all of the staffers -- we already applauded them, but that's good -- who made this possible? The hundreds of staffers who serve in Senate offices across the various committees.

I want to thank you every single one of them for their remarkable work in passing the Inflation Reduction Act. I will submit their names into the record to honor their achievement and preserve forever the role they played in bringing this bill to life.

And I asked unanimous consent to have the names of all of the Committee staff who contributed submitted into the record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without objection.

SCHUMER: To the floor staff, particularly the Parliamentarian who worked so hard under not easy conditions and especially because we had to do so much in such a short period of time, we thank you so.


SCHUMER: The clerks, the doorkeepers, the reporters, thank you.

Thank you to the pages who worked over time to help us in this historic endeavor and you'll tell your grandchildren, you were here. You were here.

Thank you to the cafeteria workers, custodial staff, and Capitol Police. The Senate can't function without all of you. And I thank the Office of Legislative Counsel, the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office.

And of course, I cannot forget my own staff, the best staff ever on Capitol Hill, and my members know it. The members know how good my staff is.

I am so dedicated to them. The best in the business. Of course, every senator thinks their staff is the best on Capitol

Hill, but in my case, it happens to be true.

To Mike Lynch, who has been with me all these years and is so strong and steadfast and steady, to his Deputy Chief and my Deputy Chief, Erin Sager Vaughn, another person who has been here for a very long time, and is just amazing. We prize her for her EQ, among other talents. She told me that.

To Martin Brennan, who another like Mike Lynch -- Mike Lynch, and Martin Brennan had been with me just about since I started being a senator, and they are just such rocks in our office. Incredible.

Probably the team of husband and wife who have done more to save the earth this year than just about anybody else, and that is Gerry Petrella and Meghan Taira, they met, got married on my staff. They have a beautiful little boy, George, and when you have two people so important, Policy Director and Legislative Director and a little child at home, it is tough, but they managed to be great parents, at the same time as being great and amazing staffers, and they're brilliant. They're just brilliant.

My executive team is world class: Emily Sweet (ph), Kelly Kearney (ph), Abby Kaluza (ph), and Reisa Shah (ph) who just left a few weeks ago. An amazing press team, Justin Goodman --

WHITFIELD: All right, that's the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they're giving thanks to a lot of people who helped make this happen with now legislation being passed, the Inflation Reduction Act. They're getting full passage there with the Vice President's tie breaking vote today in the US Senate.

Again, thanks to our Julian Zelizer and Margaret Talev who helped talk us through the voting period.

Now with this is Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons.

Senator Coons, good to see you. We know Chuck Schumer, very proud of his staff, I know you are as well, but really what most pleases you about the outcome of the vote today.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): This is a huge win for the American people. This is an enormous step forward for making prescription drugs affordable, for making healthcare sustainable, for making an enormous downpayment on tackling climate change, and for reducing the deficit.

Like Senator Schumer, I'd love to thank my staff, the folks who stayed here through so many hours. We've been voting for, oh, I think 25 or 26 hours straight now on dozens and dozens of amendments as Republicans in the Senate tried every way they could to knock us off our commitment to pass this landmark legislation.

But what I've been thinking about as we've been here all night, is the ways this will help families who don't even know that we're here working on this, but who are wondering how they're going to pay for insulin, if they're a diabetic, or for prescription medications for their parents or their children, how they're going to afford their healthcare, how they're going to make it through the next couple of months, how we're going to help deal with the crisis of climate change. We've got real relief for those families all over our country in this bill.

And while President Biden has had some big wins in recent months, the bipartisan Veterans' Health Bill, the bipartisan bill to address mental health and gun violence, this is something that is the result of the Democratic Party's agenda.

So as we move towards the fall elections, the sharp contrast that was provided today on the floor of the Senate is going to be part of how we frame our case to the American people, why they might want to support Democrats in the elections this fall.

WHITFIELD: And among the amendments that had to be addressed, your colleague, Senator Kyrsten Sinema took issue with the 15 percent corporate minimum tax, for a moment it seemed like that was significantly holding things up holding up, you know, some unanimity among your caucus there. A compromise was made.

Can you kind of give us a summation of what kind of compromise that was made?

COONS: It's a complicated tax matter, but frankly one of the big things that this bill does is it ensures that companies earning more than a billion dollars have to pay a minimum tax of 15 percent.


COON: What Senator Sinema was raising was a concern about if a holding company owns two dozen smaller companies, do your roll all of them up and count all of their revenue together to qualify for that 15 percent minimum Tax or not? It was a very late change.

Yes, you're right. It caused some real consternation, but ultimately, a different offset was paid. That was about a $34 billion last minute move in this bill.

There were some other moments in the last 25 hours, where a particular provision hung in the balance, but what matters here today is that all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris voted to put this bill forward to the House and from there on to the President's desk.

So I think, this is a great moment for Democratic unity, for responding to the calls and the protests and the marches from people young and old, all over our country who have been urging us to take action on the climate, and for the millions and millions of families who have wondered what we're going to do to make prescription drugs affordable. This tackles those big challenges and delivers a real answer.

WHITFIELD: Is it disappointing to you that you don't have bipartisan unity on this?

COON: I, of course, would have far preferred to have bipartisan support, because we could have done more. The way the rules of the Senate work, if you can get 60 votes, you can do almost anything. And so we could have done bigger and bolder action on climate, we could have done more to address healthcare costs. But I'll also remind you in recent weeks, we've passed big legislation that was bipartisan.

The President is going to be signing into law next week a bill to invest in bringing semiconductor chip manufacturing back to the United States to grow advanced manufacturing. And in the last 18 months, manufacturing jobs in America have been growing at a great clip, this will make them grow even faster, and make us more competitive with China.

So we have done some things in a big bipartisan way. The Veterans' Health Bill, the burn pit bill that we just passed recently, the bill where we are investing in mental health and tackling gun violence. But on these two issues that this bill was about today, the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and making real progress on tackling climate change, we only had Democratic votes. It was a challenge to hold our caucus together. Leader Schumer deserves a lot of credit for doing so.

And in the end, after a fair amount of work, we were able to get this done and I so look forward to President Biden signing this bill into law.

WHITFIELD: This measure is on its way to the House. Do you feel like you are more likely to get bipartisan support there?

COONS: I think, it is very unlikely that we will get bipartisan support in the House, unfortunately. As you know, I'm someone who always wants to see how we can work across the aisle, but this bill was just straight party line here in the Senate. I expect it will be as well in the House and I think Speaker Pelosi and the House Democratic Caucus will quickly pass it. They'll come back into session soon, pass it and send it to the President's desk.

WHITFIELD: And so this is being called the Inflation Reduction Act. So how specifically will this impact inflation right now?

COONS: It does several important things. It pays down the deficit by $300 billion. It reduces the energy costs that the average family pays in very specific and concrete ways. It helps with prescription drug costs, and with healthcare costs for millions and millions of people.

There are more than 60 million Americans who are Medicare beneficiaries, for whom prescription drug costs are a big part of their monthly bills. There's 14 million Americans who are on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, where this will help keep that healthcare affordable.

Overall, this will find some way to reduce the costs facing a majority of American families and that will help reduce inflation in the months and years ahead.

WHITFIELD: All right, Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much for your time. COONS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.

And again, the US Senate has passed with the Vice President being the tie breaker, the Inflation Reduction Act. More on that later.

All right, still ahead: The FBI and police are investigating the recent killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They say there is reason to believe the killings are connected.



WHITFIELD: The FBI is now helping Albuquerque Police investigate the killing of a Muslim man Friday night. Police say there is a reason to believe the murder is linked to the killings of three other Muslim men, two of whom were found dead in the last two weeks and one was killed last November.

President Biden a short time ago saying he was angered and saddened by the horrific killings. New Mexico's Governor called them targeted killings and promised more help for investigators.

CNN's Camila Bernal has been following the developments.

Camila, what are police saying about these connections they believe are present?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, well, one of the most concerning is what you mentioned, four men, all of them who were Muslim. They also say that at least two of them went to the same mosque and they say that two of them at least were killed in the same area in Southeast Albuquerque, and they say at least three of them were ambushed. They say it was without warning and they were shot dead.

Now let's go into this investigation starting with the latest victim that happened late Friday night and authorities say he was a man in his mid-20s, and then we go back two weeks, there were two killings, two different men, but authorities have linked these two a little more concretely because they say they were killed in that same area. These are the ones that went to the same mosque.


BERNAL: But they're also going back to November of 2021, and they are saying that a man, another Muslim man was killed in November, they say he was killed right outside of the business that he ran with his brother.

So what they're doing is trying to connect all of these dots and of course, trying to figure out who is responsible. Authorities have vowed to find the person responsible. It is local authorities working with Federal agencies. And as you mentioned, the FBI is involved. The Special Agent in Charge is asking for the public's help. Here is what he said.


RAUL BUJANDA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: These senseless crimes can't go on and the only way we're going to be able to make a difference is if we all work together. We need everyone to reach out, regardless how small do you think it might be, let us kind of decipher that piece.

Reach out to your local law enforcement. Reach out to APD. Reach out to the District Attorney's Office. Reach out to the FBI, 1-800-CALL- FBI.

And this goes out -- this message goes out to every single community, because someone out there might have seen something. Please let us know.


BERNAL: And Fred, to as you mentioned, the Governor saying to the Muslim community that they are New Mexicans, that they belong in New Mexico, and that she will stand with them. That is sort of the message for the entire community, who of course, is very worried about what is going on -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Camila, what more are we learning about the victims?

BERNAL: Well, look, the latest victim, he has not been identified because we're being told that his family is still being told about this incident. He was in his mid-20s from Southeast Asia, he was killed Friday night.

We do know the identity of two or three others. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, he was 27 years old from Pakistan. He worked in the City of Hispaniola, New Mexico, and we're told that he got a Law and HR management degree in Pakistan. And then he got his Master's and Bachelor's Degrees here in New Mexico.

The mayor where he worked describing him as a brilliant public servant. He said he was soft spoken and kind and quick to laugh. He was killed on the first of August and we know that happening in Southeast Albuquerque.

Another one of the victims, Aftab Hussein, he was 41. Also from Pakistan. He went to the same mosque. He was killed this last week also in Southeast Albuquerque, and then Mohammad Ahmadi, also a Muslim man from Afghanistan, and he was the one that was killed in November of 2021 -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Camila Bernal, thanks so much.

Let's talk further about all this. Edward Ahmed Mitchell joining me now. He is Deputy Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, and he's also an attorney. So good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So I know this has really shaken up a lot of people, and I'm wondering if, particularly if the Muslim community in Albuquerque, if people there are living in fear?

MITCHELL: Absolutely, I mean, this is impacting not only the Albuquerque Muslim community, but Muslims across the country. We are deeply concerned about the safety of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Albuquerque. What is happening there is almost unbelievable. The idea that four different Muslim men would could be murdered over the course of a year, and the killer is still be at large, it is incredibly disturbing. It's terrifying.

But we are reassured and happy to see that there is now a clear full Federal response, in addition to the local response, and that the local community is getting support from their neighbors. That is what has to happen until this person is caught and stopped and that must happen very, very soon. This is completely unacceptable.

WHITFIELD: And the age range is very varied, and except the case in two, there are some commonalities here, two of the killings, both were leaving the same mosque. How do you assess what's going on here?

MITCHELL: Well, when the first killing happened back in November, obviously, no one realized that there was going to be anything to come after that. It seemed like it was a single incident. But then earlier this week, when two more Muslim men, both of Southeast Asian origin were murdered, it was very clear, there is some sort of pattern here, and then the killing Friday night left, no doubt, this is a serial shooter, potentially a serial killer targeting Muslims.

These men all have something in common, they are Muslim. They are of Southeast Asian origin, and they all lived or worship in that same area. So clearly, there is a pattern here. We don't know why this is happening. We have no idea who is doing, what the motive is, but whatever they're doing, it is evil. They are systematically targeting a certain ethnic and religious group.

And again, this person or persons, they've got to be caught as soon as possible. We cannot have Americans walking out of their homes, afraid that they're going to be randomly shot and attacked. It's completely unacceptable and again, we're happy to see that there is a very strong law enforcement response to this.


WHITFIELD: Your group is trying to be very proactive. You've raised money for a reward leading to an arrest in the killings on top of what is being offered by Crimestoppers. So how important is the community's assistance in helping to solve these crimes?

MITCHELL: Absolutely. Look, oftentimes when criminals who are not known and committing acts of violence like this, when they're caught, they're caught because of a tip, someone in the community notices something, recognizes something, and it may not seem important to them initially, but they go ahead and call it in and that leads to a break. And so everyone in Albuquerque or elsewhere, who thinks they may know

anything at all about this, you absolutely, call it in. Of course, we're offering a reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction. And that is what has to happen as quickly as possible.

There have been three different men all killed over the past week and this is not only a threat to Albuquerque Muslims, whoever is doing this is a threat to everyone, to our very way of life in this country. And so we're happy to do everything we can to support the local community and that is the same of Muslim organizations across the country.

This is not just a local issue. We have a teaching as Muslims that our community is like one body; one part of the body hurts, the entire body is harmed. That's what the Prophet Muhammad -- peace be upon him -- told us to believe. And so we believe that and we are all concerned, all impacted, and everyone is trying to do something to help.

WHITFIELD: All right, we appreciate your time, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, thank you so much.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: In California, intense storms have critically damaged roads in Death Valley National Park prompting officials to temporarily close the park. The park is near the California-Nevada border and got one and a half inches of rain this week. Well, I know it doesn't sound like a whole lot, but that equates to nearly 75 percent of the rain that that area gets all year long. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported.

I want to bring in now, storm chaser and weather photographer, John Sirlin for more on this. So you witnessed all of this. I mean, it's an incredible view of what can happen with just an inch and a half of rain. But then it produces almost like a mudslide.

It's almost tantamount I think, to what happens after like lava flow and everything is just stuck and entrapped, and that is what your images help us see. Describe for me what you saw.

JOHN SIRLIN, STORM CHASER AND PHOTOGRAPHER: You know, it was really amazing to watch the progression from a heavy, steady rain that just lasted for a couple hours to suddenly within about a 15 or 30-minute period going to just these massive debris flows with all of this rock and earth and mud flowing down through those canyons. It was really, really incredible to see.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And you were in the middle of it all. I mean, you tweeted that it took six hours to get out of the park and you helped people along the way. Describe that.

SIRLIN: Yes, you know, I started out towards -- on Badwater Road near Badwater Basin, and a number of those washes had just been flowing for at least an hour with rocks and debris coming across the road, and so as I started to work my way out, you know, it's kind of a matter of just stopping at each of those washes, looking at the structural integrity of the road.

And then in a lot of cases, just moving big boulders and pieces of bushes and whatnot out of the roadway to get further and then, along the way, I encountered some other people who were back in there trying to do the same thing and get out and we kind of helped each other and slowly worked our way out of the park.

WHITFIELD: Boy, what kind of tires do you have, because we're looking at your images, you know? You're shooting while you're driving, and you're just traversing it, like it's no big thing. But we can see, I mean, the debris field --

SIRLIN: I don't even have a four wheel drive. I have a Nissan Murano, but it's just a tank of an automobile and it is amazing what that thing can get through.

WHITFIELD: What? Well, they just got a nice plug from you. So now tell me about the people that you were encountering, I mean, we know about 1000 visitors and staff were trapped inside places because of the conditions.

SIRLIN: A lot of them we're down near The Inn at Death Valley, which is one of the little resort hotels and fortunately all started between about four and seven o'clock in the morning. So, a lot of people were still in bed and asleep and weren't out exploring the park, but a lot of their cars and vehicles were in that parking lot.

And you know, once that wash overflowed its banks and just started flowing through that parking lot, it was burying cars and taking just about everything with it, including the palm trees around the resort.

You know, it is pretty incredible to watch cars moving down the wash.

WHITFIELD: Incredible to see those people who are just walking through it, like it's a day in the park in those images.

SIRLIN: Yes, some people were actually like they were having a -- fortunately everybody was being responsible. But, you know, everyone was making the best of the situation.

WHITFIELD: As far as you know, are there still people that are trapped or stuck?

SIRLIN: I don't think so. From what I understand, as of yesterday, they had gotten people out. Most of the people who were trapped were trapped due to rocks and things, just keeping their car stuck in place, but they were trying to move a lot of heavy equipment down -- down into the park to help free those vehicles and get those people out. WHITFIELD: Incredible. Well, I'm glad you're well and glad you were

able to do what you do and help people along the way. That's pretty incredible, too, John.

SIRLIN: Oh, thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, John Sirlin.

We'll be right back



WHITFIELD: All right in Delaware, President Biden is reacting to the US Senate's passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Arlette Saenz is traveling with the President.

Arlette, what's he saying?

SAENZ: Well, Fred, President Biden just moments ago released a statement praising the Senate for passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which is really -- could be fulfilling some of the President's key agenda items when it comes to his domestic policy of pursuits.

The President released a statement saying: "Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interest voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance and everyday energy costs, and reduce the deficit while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share."

The President went on to say: "The House should pass this as soon as possible, and I look forward to signing it into law."

Now, the President in the statement also noted that there were compromises that were made, but he has said that often compromise is needed in order to get important things is done. Of course, this is much smaller than what the President initially was pursuing last year, but these big ticket items like historic investments and climate initiatives, also Medicare, being able to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time, and this 15 percent corporate tax rate really represents some of those items that the President had been hoping to accomplish.


WHITFIELD: Now, one thing, this will now have to go over to the House where there could potentially be changes, but the White House is hoping that the House will pass this piece of legislation and then going forward, a challenge for the President will be selling this bill to the American people.

The President has talked about in the past how they haven't always had the easiest time selling and making American voters realize what they have been able to enact into legislation or accomplish through the Biden administration.

So one big question is what kind of impact this might have on American voters' minds heading into those midterm elections in November, but right now, the President is really hailing this latest development as the next step towards his agenda.

WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz, thank you so much in Delaware.

And thank you for joining me, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Much more of the NEWSROOM continues with Jim Acosta after this.