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Senate Passes Sweeping Climate, Tax And Health Care Bill Along Party Lines; Interview With White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy About The Passage Of The Inflation Reduction Act; Murders Of Four Muslim Men In Albuquerque May Be Connected; LAPD Investigating Car Crash Involving Actress Anne Heche; Secret Service Gives Agents' Cell Numbers To Investigators; Florida Hiring Military Vets To Fill Vacant Teaching Posts. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 07, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Remarkable and that people should be, you know, I should say we should praise political figures when they do right.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Right.
KAYYEM: In terms of not just the outreach to the community. But they're surging resources to the Islamic community there. Fear is real and people are responding because they feel targeted.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. All right, Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much. I know you'll stick around for our continuing coverage.
That's the news for me for now. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM and our continuing coverage of the situation in Albuquerque. And we'll be right back in just a few moments.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: New tonight, the Senate passing the Democrats' sweeping bill that includes the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president votes in the affirmative, and the bill as amended is passed.
BROWN: Albuquerque on edge as police reveal the murders of four Muslim men could be linked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand strong with our Muslim community. Be vigilant also for them and report anything you see. Evil will not prevail.
BROWN: A fourth set of human remains have now been found in Lake Mead's receding waters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to identify the victim, and that's what we're trying to do at this point.
BROWN: And actor Anne Heche now said to be in stable condition after her car crashes into an L.A. house, narrowly missing a person inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was in the house at the time, and the car stopped like two feet away from where she was sitting. So she was pretty lucky.
BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Lower prescription costs and a historic national fight against climate change. Senate Democrats finally pass the landmark legislation that they have chased for more than a year. It took months of negotiations and an exhaustive all-nighter of whirlwind votes to reach a 50-50 split along party lines. Vice President Kamala Harris then cast the deciding vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the bill as amended is passed.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: CNN's Arlette Seinz is in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill.
So, Melanie, starting with you here. The bill heads to the house later this coming week. Does it face any obstacles there?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Well, you know, Pam, there are no real signs that there are any hurdles in the house. In fact, in the last hour, we have actually heard from two key House Democrats, Mikie Sherrill and Josh Gottheimer, that they're going to support this bill even though it does not include some of the tax changes that they previously were demanding.
And so this is a pretty clear sign that this bill is almost certain to pass the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a statement today saying they will move swiftly on Friday to get this bill to President Joe Biden's desk. And Chuck Schumer has said that he thinks the strong passage in the Senate is only going to make it easier for the House. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): All of the 50 Democrats in the Senate vote for the bill, including the progressive wing of, you know, Bernie and Elizabeth and Eddie Markey and people like that, and the conservative wing, the more conservative wing, I think it's going to set a tableau for the House that will make it much easier for the House to pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So Democrats are on the verge of a major victory here with less than 100 days before the midterms. And I think it's worth remembering that at multiple points throughout these nearly 19 months of negotiations, it looked like this bill was going to fall apart. And here they are with less than 100 days, like I said, before the midterms with a big victory in their hands -- Pam.
BROWN: And, Arlette, big victory for Democrats. Huge win for President Biden and his agenda. I mean this is coming on the heels of many other White House-backed legislative achievements recently. So what is President Biden saying tonight?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, President Biden is hailing the Senate passage of this bill as an important step in achieving some of his key priorities for his domestic agenda. The president spending the day here today in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, released a statement after the vote where he said today Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, 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, "It required many compromises, doing important things almost always does. The House should pass this as soon as possible, and I look forward to signing it into law." Now the president's reference there to compromises acknowledges the long and winding process that this went through in those negotiations.
But now the president hoping that the House will pass this, and it will be something that they can tout to voters heading into those November midterm elections.
BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Arlette, Melanie. Really appreciate it.
Now let's take a closer look at what is in the bill and what it could mean to you. How it's going to impact your life. Well, for the first time, Medicare will have the power to negotiate some drug prices. It caps Medicare out of pocket costs at $2,000. It also extends Affordable Care Act subsidies and imposes a 15 percent minimum corporate tax on the largest U.S. companies. Now critics say the extra amount some companies will have to pay because of that tax, that will almost surely be passed along to the consumer.
The bill includes $369 billion to fight climate change, some of it aimed directly at helping consumers. The goal, bringing down the cost of electric vehicles, heat pumps, water heaters and rooftop solar panels. The nonprofit Rewiring America recently estimated a U.S. household would save $1800 a year on energy costs by installing home heat pumps and solar panels and replacing a gas car with an electric vehicle. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer says all Americans will benefit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: 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's been a long time incoming. To Americans who've 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 altogether, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And joining us is White House National Climate adviser Gina McCarthy to talk about this historic legislation.
Thank you so much for joining us this evening. So, first of all, what are the benefits? How is this going to help save the planet? Can you hear me?
I think we're having some technical issues. She cannot hear me, unfortunately, but we're going to hopefully reconnect with Gina McCarthy, the National Climate adviser to the White House coming up later in the show.
But up next, in the meantime, we have more important news to share with you. Police in New Mexico have new information on the spate of Muslim men who have been murdered and whether their deaths are linked.
Also, actress Anne Heche now said to be in stable condition after her car plowed into an L.A. home. What she was talking about on a podcast just hours before the crash.
And the moment an oil tank exploded into a massive fireball at a storage facility outside Havana. Firefighters still trying to bring that blaze under control. We'll be right back.
BROWN: All right. Back with us now is White House National Climate adviser Gina McCarthy to talk about this historic legislation on climate and healthcare.
Hopefully you could hear me now. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. As I asked you before, what are the benefits of this bill? How is it going to help save the planet?
GINA MCCARTHY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISER: Well, Pamela, there are so many benefits of this bill. I know they say that good things take time. This took time. This is an absolute historic investment in climate change, in clean energy, in growing jobs, in saving communities money and consumers money. It's just filled with investments that will also help disadvantaged communities get a leg up again.
This is $369 billion of investments in today and our energy security and building our economy. I just couldn't be more excited, and frankly it's exactly the kind of vision that the president and I talked about before I took this position. He talked about turning climate into the biggest opportunity we have for people in this country, and this is exactly what this bill does.
BROWN: This bill is meant to cut carbon emissions by up to 40 percent by the end of the decade. That has been put out there. But how much of a dent will it make for the planet if China isn't fully on board since it's the world's worst polluter and, as you know, is suspending climate cooperation right now because of Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, it says?
MCCARTHY: Yes, I know that, and I have trust in Ambassador Kerry and Secretary Kerry, if you will, and I also know that the president is going to work on these issues. Honestly, this is the biggest signal that the U.S. can send to the international community that the time is now to act on climate. We have the solutions. We can do it in a way that helps people save money, build families and have an opportunity to have a good future and a great today.
That's what this is about. And we're going to be able to, when we move this bill forward in the House, go to the international community is say the United States is leading. President Biden said and has been saying for a long time that we can tackle this climate crisis, and he's showing the path forward.
It is not going to just be 40 percent, Pamela. I'm quite sure that we can continue to push forward and get to that 50 percent reduction by the end of this decade and show the world that this planet can be safe. But we're going to do it in a way that really benefits families today and builds that future for the children of tomorrow.
BROWN: I want to talk a little bit more about what is in the bill and some of the compromises.
Let's talk about drilling leases. Do you think the trade-off of reducing fossil fuel demand while also encouraging its production, that that is a worthwhile compromise?
MCCARTHY: Well, I think this deal is terrific, Pamela, and if you look at it, the analysis shows us for every one fossil fuel greenhouse gas emission ton that we get, we're going to be reducing 24. And so we have to keep our eye on this prize. Not everything is going to be everybody's favorite thing to do. But on the whole, this is going to be the biggest leap forward we can ever make to actually move forward with climate and clean energy.
We're actually bringing the labor community along. We're bringing investments in manufacturing. We're giving families an opportunity for efficient appliances so they can save money. We're looking at efficient, clean car technologies that they can now be able to afford. This is just a remarkable plethora of good news for our communities.
BROWN: But on the drilling leases in particular, as you well know, some climate activists were not happy about this compromise. But is this a case of not letting perfect stand in the way of good?
MCCARTHY: Yes, it really is, Pamela. I mean, we know that we were never going to be able to just turn off fossil fuels on a dime. This is going to take a while to fix. We're looking at opportunities right now to keep pushing forward to make sure that we're continuing to invest in all of the strategies we have to get to that 50 percent goal. We're excited about what we have. This is the biggest moment in time for our climate constituencies and especially for our environmental justice communities.
This is $60 billion in investments for those communities on top of the $60 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure law. So we have to be pleased and excited. Is it going to get us all the way to the end? No. Are there things in it that not everybody like? Sure. But let's celebrate the biggest deal that we've ever delivered that's at a scale that no one ever would have anticipated.
BROWN: This bill is branded by Democrats at the Inflation Reduction bill, but economists are mixed on whether it would actually bring down inflation. Republicans say it is a tax and spend plan and inflation- wary Americans will foot the bill. Listen to what Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): American families are crying out for relief. The Democrats have decided to spend hundreds of billions of dollars of the people's money on a bill that laughs at the people's priorities. New tax hikes on American natural gas and crude oil, higher fees for producing energy on federal land, leaving Americans with higher electric bills, higher utility bills, higher gas prices, and more dependence on foreign countries that don't like us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: That is the Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell. So ahead of the midterms, does this give Republicans a weaponized argument that Democrats haven't been focused enough on inflation that is impacting everyday Americans?
MCCARTHY: Well, it's called the Inflation Reduction Act for a reason, Pamela. It's actually going to lower the deficit. There are plenty of high-quality economists, including Nobel Prize winners, that have addressed this issue. But at its heart, this is about how we move forward to save people money. This is how we move forward to make sure we have a good and secure and reliable energy system.
This is about doing family business. This is about this president knowing that climate change is a people issue, and he's going to deliver for the people in this country. That's what this bill does. That's why he's in office. That's why he fought so hard. That's why the young people out there are excited. That's why the environmental justice communities are going to get the investments they so deserve. So we should be celebrating today.
BROWN: I want to talk about what we are seeing from climate change in this country right now. Out west, you are seeing just remarkable drought conditions. What is the administration doing to help those states right now?
MCCARTHY: Well, I want to make it clear that this bill doesn't just address cities. It actually addresses rural communities. It's going to be an opportunity for farmers to look at their agricultural practices and update them so they're adapting to climate. We're putting huge investments in wildfires and how we better manage our forests so that we can make sure that we're keeping people safe.
But you're absolutely right. We can see the impacts of climate change already. So we are looking for those investments that will allow us to actually rebuild our coastal resilience, to look at opportunities to actually keep people safe, and tackle that problem with adaptation and resilient strategies. Drought as well.
You know, it's all connected, Pamela. We have to recognize we're living in a different world. This bill allows us to live in that world safe and secure and healthy.
BROWN: OK. Very quickly, I want to ask you by home state of Kentucky because just in the last year, you're seeing a historic tornado that caused so much damage in the west, historic flooding in the east. Is this the new norm? I mean, you have a bill that was passed today which is great for the climate as has been laid out. But, I mean, is this what we're just going to have to get used to?
MCCARTHY: Well, we're going to have to figure out how we all work together to look at the changes in our climate that have already occurred because climate isn't one of those things that you can turn off or on. We have to work hard together. And that's what this bill really is all about. It does provide resources to keep our communities safe, to advance ourselves and keep us safe in this excess heat, and to move forward with the greenhouse gas reductions that won't allow this climate to get worse over time.
That's the goal. That's what we have to work together. But very clearly, people are getting it. They know we have to make these investments because they can see it in their own neighborhoods, the changes that we're seeing.
BROWN: Yes, and it impacts their lives not just when it happens but months, years down the road.
Gina McCarthy, thank you for coming on the show to talk about this.
MCCARTHY: Thanks, Pamela.
BROWN: Well, tonight, Albuquerque people and the FBI are giving an update on their investigation into the murders of four Muslim men in the area. The most recent occurred last Monday. Officials say there's reason to believe these killings are related. President Biden is reacting to these reports, saying these hateful attacks have no place in America.
CNN's Camila Bernal has been following the developments. So, Camila, what new information have we learned?
CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pamela. Authorities now have a very strong lead. They're looking for a specific car. They say they believe it is a Volkswagen. They say it could be a Jetta or Passat. But what they're saying is it's a dark silver sedan, four doors, tinted windows. And they're asking people to look at that picture and try to identify this car.
They say they don't want to give us any more details because that may jeopardize their investigation, but they're asking for the public's help in finding that car because they believe that car may be involved in at least one of these killings. And so what they're saying is that they now have air support. They're doing everything they can to find this car from above and asking people on the ground to help them look for this car because they believe that this is really the most important piece of evidence at the moment.
What they're also saying, though, is that this has been a traumatic experience for the community. The mayor of Albuquerque just explaining how afraid members of this community are. He says there are some people who are scared, terrified to take their children to school. Others who say they won't even go to the grocery store or go by a meal because of how afraid they are. So the city is offering meals and offering counseling essentially help in terms of mental health because they say this is just so traumatic for members of this community.
And they're even providing additional officers that will be at the mosques just during the times that there are prayers just so that people feel a little bit more comfortable if they want to go to a mosque. So overall, just a community that is scared and worried about this entire case because we have four different incidents that they believe are connected, four men who they say are Muslim, and have other connections because we know at least two of them went to the same mosque.
At least two of them were killed in the same area in southeast Albuquerque. And then they also say that at least three of them were shot dead and also just it was unpredictable, that it was just a random situation. So just members of this community very worried about who is behind these killings, and authorities saying they will do everything they can to find the person responsible -- Pam.
BROWN: And the most recent victim, Muhammad Hussain, worked for the city government in Espanola, New Mexico. The mayor calling him a brilliant public servant. What else do we know about these men?
BERNAL: Well, look, the latest victim is one that has not been identified yet. That was the one that was killed on Friday night.
[18:25:01] He is a Muslim man believed to be in his 20s from South Asia, and then there are two other cases that police believe are very tightly connected because these are the two that went to the same mosque. They got killed in the same area. So you have Muhammed Afzaal Hussein and Aftab Hussein. They were killed, one of them on July 26th, the other one August 1st. And then finally there is that victim from last November. He is a 41-year-old Muslim man from Pakistan -- or from Afghanistan, I'm sorry -- Pam.
BROWN: Yes. Very, very sad for their families as well. Camila Bernal, thank you.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday. Coming up for you tonight, an update on actress Anne Heche after a wild car crash that set fire to a home. The reaction now coming in from Hollywood.
BROWN: New details tonight about the fiery car crash involving actress Anne Heche. A source close to her says she is lucky to be alive after what happened on Friday. L.A. police say her car was traveling at high speed when it ran off the road and crashed into a house. Apparently no one inside was hurt, but the source says Heche suffered severe burns and faces a long road to recovery.
CNN's Chloe Melas joins me now. So, Chloe, what more do we know about Heche's condition tonight?
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Pamela. A representative for Anne tells CNN that she is in stable condition. They're asking for prayers. They're also asking for privacy during this time. She is still hospitalized, and as far as we know, authorities have not been able, Pamela, to interview her yet about what led up to this crash other than these high speeds and why because of her condition.
So, so many questions left unanswered right now in the 48 hours since this crash occurred. And such a scary situation. We know it took over 50 firefighters to extract her not only from the car but put the flames out in the home. There was an owner or a person in the home when it happened. A neighbor of hers spoke to one of our affiliates saying that Anne's car was just a few feet away from this individual when the car went through the home. And we also know that it took over 30 minutes to get Anne Heche out of the car.
BROWN: Wow. And CNN has obtained audio of Heche joking about drinking in an episode of her podcast that was posted the same day of the crash. Now, we don't know when it was -- happened, right, like when they recorded that. But what can you tell us about what she said during this podcast?
MELAS: Yes. We have a clip of that, Pamela. Just a few hours before the fiery crash, like you said, an episode of Anne's "Better Together" podcast released. In it she talks about having a really bad day, and she also jokes about drinking vodka and wine. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE HECHE, ACTRESS: Today has been a very unique day. I don't know what happened. Sometimes days just suck, and I don't know if you ever have them, but, you know, some days, mama says are (INAUDIBLE) just going to be like this. Some days are those no good very bad days. I drove Alice to tennis today, and I'm a little bit shaken. Whatever that means. It's not a very exciting story. It just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me up, so I'm drinking some vodka and wine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELAS: OK. So that episode of the podcast has been removed from its Apple landing page. I've reached out to Anne Heche's representatives for further comment to find out why was it removed because it was up there as of yesterday, and was that actually recorded on Friday, or is that just when they released it.
BROWN: Chloe Melas, thank you for that update. We appreciate it.
And coming up for you on this Sunday, the Secret Service takes an unusual step amid scrutiny about deleted text messages related to January 6th. What they're now handing over to investigators.
BROWN: The U.S. Secret Service has taken the unusual step of providing the personal cell phone numbers of agents to authorities looking into the January 6th attack. The Secret Service was thrust into the spotlight after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that on the day of the insurrection, Trump got into a heated confrontation with agents when they wouldn't take him up to the Capitol to join the mob.
Now, since then, a criminal investigation has been launched into how text messages sent by agents on and before January 6th were erased. And we have seen quite a pattern when it comes to the handling of records from around the time of the Capitol attack. Aside from the deleted Secret Service messages, the Pentagon says texts were wiped from the phones of key Trump administration officials there at the Pentagon.
Homeland Security can't find texts of the then acting security secretary and his top deputy. And then there is a seven-hour gap in the White House call logs as well as gaps in the White House diary on January 6th. Reports of documents being burned by the White House chief of staff. Flushed documents found clogging the Trump White House toilet and papers torn up so that they had to be taped back together.
Joining me now is CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen. He served as former counsel to House Democrats during Trump's first impeachment trial.
Norm, a lot of missing records there. What do you make of this overall pattern that has emerged?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Pam, it's a very troubling pattern. You know, if you see one or two instances of records missing around a critical set of events, you say, well, maybe it's a coincidence. But when it's the Secret Service, the top leadership of DHS, the Pentagon, the White House, and it doesn't stop there, Pam, because these same agents who may have failed to preserve their documents are also the ones who are alleged to have been part of a whispering campaign after Cassidy Hutchinson testified. Possible witness intimidation. So to me, I think there's a pattern of obstruction of justice possible that DOJ has to look into.
BROWN: What do you make of the Secret Service handing over the personal cell phone numbers of some of its agents to investigators?
EISEN: Pam, I worked a lot with the Secret Service when I was in the White House, and I have never heard of a case where investigators got the personal cell phone numbers this way.
But I think it's merited here because if texts or other information have vanished from the official cell phones, then you have to look for alternative sources. Of course, there's also ways to reconstruct the official bodies of information, so all of that has to be looked at.
BROWN: It's also so interesting to me, though, because the Secret Service is also tasked with investigating cybercrimes, so forth and so on, criminal investigations. Like, can they not go back and retrieve these deleted text messages? I mean, if you're in charge of those types of investigations in other cases, what about when it comes to your own people? It's beyond my technical expertise, but just something to think about.
I also want to note, CNN exclusively reported this week that lawyers for former President Trump are talking directly with the Justice Department, specifically on the issue of executive privilege and whether he can shield conversations that he had as president from federal investigators. What do you think?
EISEN: Well, I don't think the former president is going to be ultimately successful in using executive privilege to shield conversations or other materials. He's already tried to do that with the Trump v. Thompson case, was rejected by the courts including the Supreme Court in the congressional investigation. And, you know, Pam, the rules are that executive privilege must yield ever since the Supreme Court decided this in U.S. v. Nixon. Executive privilege must yield to other exigencies, and nothing is more urgent than a criminal investigation.
There's a bunch of other flaws in the argument as well, so I think large amounts of this information are going to get to the grand jury, and that may not be very good news for the former president.
BROWN: Let's talk about the grand jury a little bit more because I have reporting through sources with my colleague Katelyn Polantz that not only Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel to former President Trump, but also his deputy, Pat Philbin. They have both been subpoenaed. I am told by sources that they are working out what this is going to look like when they do testify, but that they do plan to cooperate.
They were there for some of the most fraught moments in the White House around January 6th. How significant is this?
EISEN: Well, I think it's huge. You know, we've seen the accelerating indications that DOJ is looking at the former president, but this is one of the most dramatic signs yet if you bring in the two Pats. I dealt with them a lot during the first impeachment, including in negotiating privilege issues. So I think I have a feeling of what the texture of that is going to be like. They are deal makers, so they are going to work out a way to come in and testify.
And that's ominous for President Trump because we know that Pat Cipollone led the way, supported by Philbin. Pat Cipollone led the way in pushing back on some of the instances that appeared to create the greatest criminal risk, the former president knowing that he lost that election. The two Pats can testify about that, knowing that he had no legal basis to challenge it. They can testify about that.
And then of course the run-up to the violence and the former president's alleged involvement in that, knowing the mob was armed and wanting to go to the Capitol with them. And then agreeing with the sentiments, the murderous sentiments toward Mike Pence. So they are very important witnesses.
BROWN: Norm Eisen, that sums it up. Thank you so much.
EISEN: Thanks, Pam.
BROWN: And coming up for you on this Sunday night, a teacher shortage is hitting crisis levels across the United States. What's behind it and how schools are scrambling to make sure students have someone to educate them come this fall.
BROWN: As students go back to school across the country, the nation's teacher shortage is reaching a crisis point. In states like Florida and Arizona, they're opening up teaching positions to people with no experience. Other states like Nevada, Illinois, and Wisconsin are still scrambling to fill hundreds, even thousands of openings. And in some cases, districts have to get creative. Rural counties in Texas are even shifting to a four-day school week to help ease the burden of their teaching shortage.
Andrew Spar joins us now. He is president of the Florida Education Association.
Hi, Andrew. So your organization estimates that there are at least 8,000 teaching vacancies statewide. Why so many? ANDREW SPAR, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Yes. Thanks for
having me, Pam. Yes. First of all, what we do is we, last Sunday actually, went and looked at every school district's Web site in the state of Florida, and almost all of them report the number of vacancies have. A couple of them have vacancies but they're not reporting the number, and it added up to over 8,000 teacher vacancies in the state of Florida with a week and a half left to start the school year at that time.
We also had over 6,000 support staff vacancies, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, the para-professionals who work side by side with teachers. So we are at a crisis level here in the state of Florida. And as some people say, it's not so much that there's not enough people who are certified to be teachers. It's that there are teachers walking away from the profession because they will no longer work in the conditions and under the guise of what's being done here in Florida in education.
BROWN: Let's talk a little bit more about the conditions and why teachers aren't returning to the classroom. And it's not just in Florida, again, it's across the country we're seeing it. So if you would, help us better understand the why behind this.
SPAR: Well, we know that the number one driver right now is pay. Here in Florida, there has been for the last 12 years policies that have gotten in the way with paying teachers appropriately. In fact, in 2010 in the state of Florida, there was one law that governed teacher pay, and that was our right to collectively bargain our pay. There are now over 20 laws in Florida that govern teacher pay and they add up to what we call the experience penalty.
In other words, the more experience a teacher has, the smaller their pay increases are, and we've seen a situation where beginning teachers and teachers with 20 years' experience all making the same amount of money. And so that's driving people out. A second factor quite honestly is we have a governor here in the state of Florida who almost every day goes out and maligns teachers. He says horrible things about teachers, that teachers are doing horrible things, accusing teachers of doing thing that just simply aren't true. And I think teachers are fed up with being villainized by our governor.
BROWN: I want to ask you another important issue that is impacting schools. Of course, school safety. Houston School District superintendent announced this week that the school district isn't prepared for an active shooter. This is, of course, in the same state where we saw the Uvalde massacre claimed 21 lives. How do we make sure teachers and students feel comfortable in their own classrooms?
SPAR: You know, I think we've got a couple of issues going on with the school safety, right? I mean there's definitely in Florida, the legislature has passed laws. We've implemented protocols in our schools in a way to help increase security. But let's keep in mind we now do active shooter drills with kindergarten students. You know, this idea that someone might come shoot them at school, that's not something I, as I parent, am fond of, right? I mean obviously we want our kids to be safe, but when we've gotten to
a point where we have to do active shooter drills in school, we've got a bigger problem, and we need to talk about this as a community and as a society and figure out how we're going to solve that.
BROWN: All right, Andrew Spar, thank you for joining the show tonight.
And coming up for you on this Sunday, a brand-new CNN Special Report takes a closer look at how misinformation spread after 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School. Watch the "AC 360" Special Report "What Really Happened in Uvalde?" That's tonight at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up for you tonight, battle of the blockbusters. The eye-popping box office numbers as the "Top Gun" sequel leaves "Titanic" in its rearview mirror.
BROWN: We have new video that captures the moment an oil storage tank exploded into a massive fireball outside Havana, Cuba. A lightning strike triggered the first explosion on Friday, and the fire then spread to a second tank, setting off multiple explosions. At least one firefighter was killed. Several are missing, and more than 100 people have been injured. Crews from Mexico and Venezuela are on the scene trying to help Cuban firefighters get this fire under control.
Well, tonight CNN ventures deep into the woodlands of Patagonia to discover extraordinary creatures, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. Here's a preview.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through text translation): Twice old man tree. Old lady tree. Nuts are going to be gathered from you for food hoping there will be more next year, father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patagonia's forests are magical places. Here, age- old relationships between animals, people, and trees still survive. These bonds are needed like never before as these ancient forests face unprecedented threats.
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BROWN: Be sure to tune in. "PATAGONIA: LIFE ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD" airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
Well, "Top Gun: Maverick" has officially sunk the Titanic. The Tom Cruise blockbuster now claims the number seven spot in highest box office sales domestically with a whopping $662 million. That beats out the James Cameron epic by a good $3 million.
But it would take a lot of jet fuel to pass the number one film on that list, "Star Wars, Episode 7: The Force Awakens" made more than $900 million domestically.
I still have got to see that movie. I can't believe I have not seen this new "Top Gun."
The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
BROWN: New tonight, the Senate passing the Democrats' sweeping bill.