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Senate Democrats Pass Climate, Tax and Health Care Bill; Biden and First Lady Head to Kentucky. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Alex Marquardt, in this week for Jim Sciutto.

Thank you so much for having me.

HARLOW: Good to have you.

MARQUARDT: Great to be back with you here on set.

HARLOW: Good to have you.

MARQUARDT: It was a major legislative win for President Joe Biden. The Senate passing a sweeping health care and climate bill on Sunday. The $750 billion budget reconciliation package includes the largest climate investment in U.S. history and grants Medicare the right to lower certain prescription drug prices.


BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We have, for decades, been debating the idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug price, but why it's so important is it will mean that millions of Americans can actually access those prescriptions they need at lower costs. We've been debating for decades and trying for decades to really address the climate crisis in the way that we need. But what that means for families is lower energy costs, lower utility bills.


MARQUARDT: This bill now heads to the House of Representatives. President Joe Biden could sign it into law as early as Friday. We will have much more on the impact of this proposed legislation in just a moment.

HARLOW: Yes, a hugely consequential weekend.

Also right now, President Biden and the first lady headed to Kentucky this morning. The two are expected to visit flood-ravaged parts of that state. They will speak with families that have just been devastated by these storms. We know at least 37 people were killed after heavy rain led to widespread flooding last week. Rescue workers continue to search for the missing.

Let's begin, though, this morning with President Biden's major legislative win.

Our CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is up on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, it is so consequential. It's - it is something that a few weeks ago was unfathomable to most in the party, and I think inside the White House. And now it has happened. Can you explain what it means for average Americans?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, you're absolutely right. This is a huge victory for Senate Democrats because just weeks ago this was not going to happen. They thought they were going to get -- may get a much more narrow version of this.

So, let's break down what is in this.

You all mentioned the billions, hundreds of billions of dollars that go towards climate initiatives. It's $369 billion for climate. That is the largest investment for climate to ever come out of the U.S. Senate. They're hoping to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. There are subsidies in there for renewable energy. It opens up drilling in some parts of the country. There's a wide range of things in the climate provision.

There's also health care provisions, which will extend the Affordable Care Act subsidies for three additional years. It's also going to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some drugs and cap insulin prices for people who are on Medicare. It won't do that for private insurance, but for people on Medicare it will. And it will cap out-of- pocket expenses for those on Medicare at $2,000.

And to pay for all of this, some tax provisions are going into place. That includes a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent on the nation's largest corporations.

Now, Senate Democrats pushed really hard. We were here for about, I don't know, 16 or 17 hours of just a vote-a-rama, but it was all throughout the weekend that the Senate was in session trying to get this done. It was using this very specific budget process that required only Democratic support. As you can imagine, Republicans have railed against this bill, saying that it does nothing to fix inflation. That it is actually only going to cause people to lose their jobs and taxes to go up. They have been very unified against this proposal.

But the fact remains that it did pass through with all 50 Democrats on board and with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking that tie.

And so what comes next is that it heads over to the House. They are currently in recess, Poppy and Alex. They're coming back on Friday to take this up. And we have heard from some key House Democrats that are really focused on some provisions about state and local taxes. They're signaling they're going to vote for this. So, it looks like this is going to go through on Friday and head to the president's desk.

HARLOW: All right.

MARQUARDT: All right, Jessica Dean, up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Now, let's discuss all of this with "Axios" congressional reporter Alayna Treene, and Washington correspondent Heidi Przybyla.

Thank you both for joining us today.

Alayna, I want to go to you first and just note the string of successes that the Biden administration has had in the recent days and recent weeks on top of this $750 billion bill. The Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the PACT Act, the Chips Act and, of course, the killing of Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul, the leader of al Qaeda.


So, there has obviously been great fear among Democrats that they could, you know, lose the House and they will have to fight tooth and nail to keep the Senate. To what extent do you think this string of victories will create some momentum that will - that will -- that may not -- that may defy these foregone conclusions?

ALAYNA TREENE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "AXIOS": Well, that's the big question, Alex. I think, you know, capping off this big Senate win this weekend, President Biden is really now one of the most consequential presidents from a legislative standpoint. This string of legislative successes over the past year and a half, many of them bipartisan, is a huge deal. And this package and getting this done, something that Democrats did not expect would even happen three weeks ago is a huge deal for them.

I think the question now, though, is, will it make a difference for the midterms? And the midterm elections are only three months away. That's not a lot of time for some of the political boosts of this package to take shape.

And it's the same thing we saw in 2010 with Obamacare. I mean they described it as a shellacking, even though they had a big legislative success with Obamacare going into the November elections and that year, it could be the same thing this time. Some of these provisions take years, at least months, but years even to take shape and really be felt by voters. And so it's unclear right now whether things will turn around.

I also think, you know, President Biden's approval ratings have remained below 40 percent.

HARLOW: Right.

TREENE: Inflation is continuing to rage in the country. Gas prices are very high. These are all things that Americans care deeply about and are expected to be really deciding factors in November. So, it's really hard to say whether three months is enough time for the, you know, legislative success within this bill to be felt by American voters.

HARLOW: It's a great point.

And, Heidi, Alayna mentions Biden's approval rating, which in CNN's poll of polls sits at 36 percent, right? It's low. But I'll tell you, it's not as low as Congress' approval rating. And I say that to frame this question in a way that I think a lot of Americans waking up this morning are thinking, is Congress actually working again, right? The reason Congress has such a low approval rating is because it could not really get anything substantial done.

But Alex just mentioned so many substantial things, many of them in a bipartisan manner, that it has gotten done, not to mention the recent gun legislation. Is something different now in Washington?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That will depend on how Democrats message this and whether they're successful in getting that through to the American public.

Look, the tide of history is very strong, and that is that the president's party typically, in modern history, has always lost seats. There was one exception to that when George W. Bush, after 9/11, that did not happen. However, every other case in modern history that has happened.

They have a trifecta of forces here in their favor. Number one is this legislative bonanza. Number two is the overturning of Roe, which we've seen is really a powerful, motivating factor for some of these younger groups, female voters. And number three is something, Poppy, that I'm told by Democrats that they're going to start to emphasize more, which is that in this package what you have here is also an attempt to rectify something that was done in the previous administration when there were these tax cuts passed by President Bush, supposedly to help the forgotten man, and yet a lot of the corporations used those for stock buybacks. This attempts to rectify that by putting some taxes on that.

But that is all going to have to be communicated because, as many panelists have pointed out, a lot of this is not going to take effect for months and for years. And so people will not feel this. In the meantime, inflation is not expected to abate any time in the near future. And, again, that tide and that pull of history is really strong.

MARQUARDT: Alayna, when would you expect President Biden to see a bounce in his poll numbers considering everything that we've just been talking about? They are, you know, Poppy just mentioned, consistently below 40. At what point do you think there will be a spike?

TREENE: Well, it's hard to predict, I think. But from my conversations with Democrats, and including those in congressional leadership, they're really worried about these numbers. And I think, you know, potentially it doesn't - again, three months until the midterm elections, it's unclear whether he'll see a boost from some of this legislation before then. And it's a huge concern for Democrats because, as we often see, the midterm elections are a referendum on the president in power.

And I think it's also interesting that I have some reporting, I've interviewed dozens of Democrats in the House and the Senate, and potential candidates as well for Congress, a lot of them dodging whether or not they will support former - or, excuse me, support President Biden in 2024.


A lot of them saying, I don't know if he's going to run. I don't think that's a smart question. It's really not a question that you typically think that people will dodge on. But we're seeing many Democrats do that because they worry that embracing Biden whole-heartedly could potentially show some negative political effects ahead of November.

So, it's really fascinating. And I think, you know, if his poll numbers don't turn around, we can really expect - I think a lot of people already expecting some -- a big Republican wave potentially in November. That's only going to continue to hurt them if he can't turn these numbers around.

HARLOW: Heidi, I'd be remiss not to ask you about some really significant new reporting that you have, and that is about Michigan's attorney general, Dana Nessel, who has -- is now requesting a special prosecutor to lead an investigation into the man that is now her political opponent for that seat, who is backed by former President Trump. He's currently an attorney, Matthew DePerno. Can you explain the significance of the investigation and this call for a special prosecutor? This all ties to really election security and voting machines.

PRZYBYLA: It really does. This is an amazing story, Poppy, with national implications for election security. We obtained documents showing that allegedly the GOP nominee for attorney general in Michigan orchestrated an illegal campaign to both obtain and tamper with numerous voting machines. To be clear, this is the man whom Donald Trump has taken an outsized interest in promoting as Michigan's next top law enforcement officer.


PRZYBYLA: It was Michigan that was a main theater for some of these baseless claims about election fraud. And if you look at the nucleus of that, it was Matthew DePerno who filed this lawsuit in Antrim County that created the basis for a lot of these baseless allegations that showed up in lawsuits all around the country. It even showed up in a draft executive order which Trump never wound up issuing, but to seize voting machines after the election.

So, this is really heightening concerns, Poppy, among Democrats, among election security experts, about what are called insider threats, right? Trump wants to put DePerno, and here he's doing fund-raisers at Mar-a-Lago, stumping for him. Why is he doing this for state level executives, for state level law enforcement officials, for secretaries of state? He really is going in surgically to a number of these states to try and elevate people who would be in positions of authority in states where he was not able to overturn the results of the last election.

So, to be specific, the charges here, which are being handed off to a special prosecutor because Dana Nessel says this is now a conflict of interest. This has unexpectedly led to my competitor in the election. But that DePerno was at the center of this. He was present in an Oakland County hotel room where these machines were taken, were tampered with. And there is also video still up on his law firm's website, which I found last night, of someone who he brought in to demonstrate to One America News Network, the conservative news network, how you could tamper with voting machines. You can actually see the red duct tape on the side of the machines.


PRZYBYLA: Now, we can't confirm those are the exact machines, but those are the charges against him.

HARLOW: Heidi, it's really important reporting. We appreciate it very much. Thank you, Alayna. Thank you both.

MARQUARDT: Now, up next, the FBI is now stepping in to help investigate a string of killings of Muslim men in New Mexico. One of the victims identified overnight had just become a U.S. citizen a month ago today.

Plus, Ukraine is accusing Russia of nuclear terror after two days of explosions near Europe's largest nuclear plant. We'll take you to Ukraine.

HARLOW: And, later, former Attorney General Bill Barr speaking out about the Justice Department's January 6th criminal probe. Really some stunning and important headlines out of this interview. We'll tell you about them, next.



HARLOW: So you're looking at live pictures there of Marine One. The president, President Biden, and the first lady are on their way to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky. They are going to, of course, visit with families devastated by the flooding, see the damage and, obviously, meet with the first responders on the ground.

MARQUARDT: And some of the victims. They're going to be taking Air Force One from Dover, in Delaware, down to Kentucky.

Now, this weekend, the president amended the emergency declaration for the area, increasing federal assistance from 75 percent to 100 percent for debris removal and other costs.

Let's bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's at the White House.

Jeremy, what are we expecting from the president and first lady's trip today to Kentucky?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president and the first lady are expected to join up with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and his wife, First Lady Britainy Beshear, and they're going to be meeting with families affected by this disastrous flooding in eastern Kentucky, as well as first responders.

President Biden is expected to get a briefing from local, state and federal first responders about the recovery and response efforts to this devastating flooding, which has already killed at least 37 people in eastern Kentucky. And he's going to meet with these families who have been devastated. Their lives completely upturned by these floods.

Now, as you mentioned, this comes after President Biden just yesterday approved this federal match of funds to go to 100 percent coverage from the 75 percent that it was before. Now, interestingly, you know, President Biden, when he visits these kinds of devastation -- scenes of devastation that are wrought by flooding, by fires, by tornadoes, all of which are made worse and worse over time by the effects of climate change, he doesn't shy away from talking about that impact.


And I would expect that he would do the same thing today.

What he's also able to bring today is now to tout this new piece of legislation that just passed the Senate, that is expected to go over to the House now, that will be the largest investment in fighting climate change in American history.

Now, obviously, that's going to be of little comfort to the families that have been devastated there, but it does point the U.S. in the direction of actually addressing some of the climate change that is making the kinds of floods that we've seen in eastern Kentucky over the last week and a half so much worse over the course of history.

Now you see the president there getting off of Marine One. He'll head over to Air Force One and then shortly be wheels up for eastern Kentucky.

Alex. Poppy.

HARLOW: And, Jeremy, as we wait to see if the president makes any remarks or speaks to reporters, I mean, he is -- this is a role for him, once again, as comforter in chief. He'll travel to Kentucky today, something he did just last in December after the deadly tornadoes there. And just yesterday, Jeremy, the president authorized more additional federal funding to aid those in Kentucky, is that right?

DIAMOND: That's right. And, you know, when he was in Kentucky in December of 2021 visiting the devastation wrought by those tornadoes, one of the points that the president made in trying to depoliticize things was saying there's no red tornadoes, there's no blue tornadoes. And I would expect that's going to be a very similar message that we're going to hear from the president today again as he - as he is likely to talk about the effects of climate change, making these types of - you know, one in thousand-year floods far more frequent than once in 1,000 years.

And it appears that the president there getting questions shouted at him but - but - and maybe he's stopping now.

Let's listen.

HARLOW: Yes, let's listen in. He's welcoming reporters over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, guys, step back, step back, step back. (INAUDIBLE).

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) today. But we're all good. All's good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To what extent do you expect the inflation bill to help Democrats during the midterm once it passes, Mr. President?

BIDEN: Do I expect it to help? Yes, I do. It's going to immediately help. For example, most seniors will have -- on Medicare will have bills of more than $2,000 for drugs, no matter what the costs are. That's a big deal. Saving people's lives. There's a whole range of things that are really game-changers for ordinary folks.

Now, some of it's not going to kick in for a little bit, but it's all good. It's really going to lower the daily -- when you sit down at that kitchen table at the end of the month, you're going to be able to pay a whole hell of a lot more bills because you're paying less for Medicare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how worried are you about the situation in Taiwan? Because China is kind of keeping a bit of a grip around the whole island now.

BIDEN: I am -- I'm not worried, but I'm concerned that they're moving as much as they are. But I don't think they're going to do anything more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think there was a line (INAUDIBLE) speaker to go to Taiwan, looking back now?

BIDEN: That was her decision.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still going to do student loans this month?

HARLOW: So, the president taking a few questions from reporters there. Just at the end there, he was asked how concerned he is about the situation vis-a-vis China and Taiwan following Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, Alex. And I thought it was interesting that he said I'm not worried but I'm concerned that they, meaning China, are making so many more moves.

MARQUARDT: Yes, he said there that he didn't think that they're going to do anything. But it has been remarkable to watch the Chinese reaction to this trip by the speaker of the House. The number of exercises that took place in the region during her visit and following her visit. This is something that clearly infuriated the Chinese. And there has been, you know, obviously great fear that this could lead to some kind of conflict.

HARLOW: Conflict, yes.

MARQUARDT: And so there you have the president saying he doesn't believe that that's going to be the case but it's clearly weighing on him.

HARLOW: Yes, watching it.

We should note, also, the first time the president, I believe, has taken questions in person, obviously, since finally testing negative from Covid. You saw him welcome reporters over there and talk about how much he thinks that this new bill that just passed over the weekend will help the average American.

Jeremy Diamond reporting for us. Jeremey, thanks very, very much.

Up next, we will take you live to New Mexico with a tragic story. We have the latest on the investigation into the murders of four Muslim men. What we're learning about these victims.

MARQUARDT: And still ahead, 2020 election deniers with radical ideas of how to handle future voting they're advancing on the ballot. A new report out of Michigan puts that possible threat into a new light.

And, we are moments away from the opening bell where U.S. stock futures are up this morning. It's a positive start to a big week of economic news.


Investors are awaiting new inflation data. That will come later this week. The Consumer Price Index slated for Wednesday is expected to show some slight improvement on inflation pressure. Markets were mixed at the close on Friday before the weekend on the heels of a blockbuster July jobs report.

We'll be right back.