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U.S. Senate Passes Climate and Health Care Bill; Ceasefire Between Israel and Gaza Militants; Strikes on Nuclear Plant Raise Fears of Disaster; In the Trenches with Ukrainian Troops. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead --


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote the yeas are 50, the nays are 50, the Senate being equally divided the vice president votes in the affirmative and the motion to proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an historic investment in climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a win for the American people. It's the biggest investment in climate change in history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We don't want to keep going through this. Every year there are strikes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where the next phase of the war will be won or lost, in trenches like this.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster.

FOSTER: It is Monday, August 8, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 4:00 a.m. in Washington. Where new life is being breathed into President Joe Biden's domestic agenda. This after Senate Democrats finally passed their sweeping climate health care and tax plan officially known as the Inflation Reduction Act. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote after a deadlock along party lines.


HARRIS: On this vote the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the motion to proceed is agreed to. The clerk will report the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: The measure represents the largest climate investment in U.S. history with almost $370 billion to combat climate change. It also makes major changes to health policy such as giving Medicare the power to negotiate some drug prices and it imposes a 15 percent corporate tax on large companies as one of the ways to fund it all. It's a remarkable turnaround for President Joe Biden's legislative goals which seemed all but dead until recent weeks. Arlette Saenz has been traveling with the president and filed this report.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden hailed the Senate passing the Inflation Reduction Act as an important part of achieving some of the key priorities for his domestic agenda. The president spent Sunday at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware after testing negative for COVID twice over of the course of the weekend. He released a statement following that Senate vote.

Saying, quote: 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 added: 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 the Democrats had been on to try to get this type of legislation across the finish line. This bill was often pronounced dead multiple times over the course of negotiations that lasted over year, but Democrats have now moved forward a critical piece of the president's agenda though smaller than what the president had initially proposed.

But it includes historic investments in climate initiatives. Also, health care proposals including allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time. There are also additional tax measures in here to pay for the measure including a 15 percent corporate tax rate. Now this bill still needs to make its way through the House before heading toward the president's desk. But President Biden is hoping that this is something that they can tout to voters heading into those midterm elections.

Now additionally the president on Monday is set to travel making his first official trip since being diagnosed with COVID-19 to the state of Kentucky. Where he will tour the damage after those devastating floods that occurred in the eastern part of the state. The president and first lady will be meeting with the state's Governor Andy Beshear and also with families and victims who have been suffering ever since those floods occurred in the state of Kentucky just last week. This will mark the president's first official trip traveling since he received those negative COVID-19 diagnoses. The president had been cooped up at the White House for 18 days.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (END VIDEOTAPE)


FOSTER: David Gergen a CNN senior political analyst, as well as a former advisor to four U.S. presidents. He says that whilst the bill won't solve all the Democrats problems, it does provide a much needed boost ahead of the midterm elections.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Biden's had a terrible, terrible lead into this, but he's had a terrific run here in the last few weeks. Some would say one of the most important significant runs since Lyndon Johnson and swept through with so many legislative initiatives. But he's still got high inflation, in the country still want to reconcile. But the latest poll we have -- really is too early to get really good polls about responding obviously to what just happened on this bill. But we did have the last couple days a poll coming out from ABC, he was down to 37 percent approval. That's really, really low. So, he's got a lot to come back from, but for the Democratic party, this is a shot of adrenalin.


FOSTER: Well, from the way Democrats and Republicans described the economic package, you'd think that they were talking about entirely different bills. Democrats had nothing but praise for the measure.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): 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 health care costs for millions and millions of people.

SEN. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): It is a win for the American people. It's the biggest investment in climate change in history. It's going to lower the cost of medicine for senior citizens. It's going to help people with their health care premiums in the Affordable Care Act. It's a very, very big deal.


FOSTER: But not one single Republican Senator supported the legislation, they see it in a much different light.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Right now, this bill actually ought to be called the war on seniors act. I mean, this is a war on Medicare. Look at this, this is a $280 billion cut in Medicare. So, what's going to happen is Medicare is going to get cut and there's going to be seniors that don't get lifesaving drugs.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): It's not going to do much to help inflation. We're still going to have a problem. And yet at the same time they're going to be collecting about real close to $740 billion in new tax revenue over the next supposedly five to ten years, but most certainly is not going to help get us through a tight time in which we're worried about coming out of a recession.


FOSTER: We'll have to wait and see how Wall Street responds to this. They are just a few hours from the opening bell. Let's take a look at how those U.S. futures are doing. They are all up, so they're seeing it in a positive light so far, but there's also inflation and interest rates of course for them to obsess with.

Now it's just things after 11:00 a.m. in Gaza where a cease fire between Israel and Islamic jihad appears to be holding. That truce coming two days after a dramatic escalation in tensions began when Israel launched what it calls preemptive strikes on Islamic jihad targets.

Before the ceasefire was announced on Sunday, Palestinian militants launched rockets towards Jerusalem following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza overnight. Israeli officials say a leader of the Islamic jihad's operations in southern Gaza was killed in an airstrike in Rafah. He was the second militant commander killed in the Israeli operation. Palestinian officials say at least 44 militants and civilians have been killed including 15 children. U.S. President Joe Biden praised the ceasefire and thanked Egyptian and Qatari officials for helping to broker it. Journalist Elliot Gotkine joins us now from southern Israel. For those who weren't up to the developments over the weekend, how do we get to this point, Elliott?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Max, from the Israeli's perspective, they were concerned that Islamic jihad -- although they had intelligence that Islamic jihad was planning an attack in or around the Gaza Strip and the communities that are there. And as a result, launched this operation in order to restore calm and security to those communities. And from Israel's perspective, it really is job done, mission accomplished. A senior Israeli diplomatic official saying that they've set back Islamic jihad decades, in his words. Taking out the two top military commanders in the Gaza Strip from Islamic jihad and also taking out weapons manufacturing facilities, rocket launchers, tunnels and the like as well.

From Islamic jihad's perspective, I suppose what they've been able to do is demonstrate that their arsenal is growing in terms of size and sophistication. Sirens went off in my part of North Tel Aviv last night. It was the first time since this latest flareup, had to go down to the bomb shelter in the basement of my building for example. There rockets didn't quite reach Jerusalem.


But certainly, Islamic jihad will feel that, yes, although it's to senior military leaders in the Gaza Strip are not standing, but Islamic jihad is an organization lives to fight another day. And I don't think that anyone doubts that that day will do not just in

terms of the conflict between Israel and the militants of Islamic Jihad. But also, between Israel and the militants of Hamas, the much bigger militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. Never mind the even bigger threat posed by the other main Iranian proxy Hezbollah on the other side of the Lebanese border.

In terms of what's happening now, I can tell you that the ceasefire is holding. It was meant to come into effect around 11:30 p.m. last night local time. There was still a handful of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel just in the minutes before midnight. But since midnight local time -- that's about 11 hours ago -- there has been calm and also humanitarian goods and commercial goods are flowing once more between Israel and the Gaza Strip -- Max.

FOSTER: Elliott in Israel, thank you.

Ukraine is accusing Russia of nuclear terror after explosions shook Europe's largest nuclear power plant for a second day in a row. Ukraine says Russian shells damaged three radiation detectors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant just a day after an attack that prompted warnings of a nuclear disaster from the U.N.'s watchdog.

This as Ukraine's president warns that future negotiations with Moscow could be in jeopardy if officials in occupied areas hold referendums on joining Russia. Meanwhile, on Sunday, cargo ship entered a Ukrainian port for the first time since the invasion. Two ships have left Ukraine within the past few hours carrying around 60,000 tons of agricultural products.

CNN covering this story from every angle. Nic Robertson standing by for us in Kramatorsk, but first let's go to CNN's David McKenzie, he is live in Kyiv. Looking at these developments at the nuclear plant and the Ukrainians blaming the Russians but the Russians blaming the Ukrainians. What do we know?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we do know, Max, is this is a very alarm situation. Because since March Russians have occupied that vast nuclear site on the Dnipro River and there have been allegations for some weeks now that the Russians have been using that site or areas close to that site to shell across the river on to the Ukrainian positions.

What we know now is that there have been strikes on or near that site which is of course extremely alarming to this country, to its president, who says that the international community needs to make more of a fuss about what he calls nuclear terror.

Head of the IAEA over the weekend, that's the atomic watchdog, really saying that that needs to be figured out. And just a short time ago in Tokyo, these are the comments from the U.N. secretary-general.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing and I hope that those attacks will end and at the same time I hope that the IAEA will be able to have success to the plant and to exercise its competencies.


MCKENZIE: President Zelenskyy pointed out that of course if there is the unthinkable, a nuclear disaster because of this ongoing conflict, it wouldn't affect just Ukraine but the wider European sphere. There is of course disputes as to who is responsible for this -- Max.

FOSTER: David, also take us through these ideas of sham referendums that they're being called within the occupied areas.

MCKENZIE: Well, the U.S. government warned about this some weeks ago that in the territory that Russia now controls, to get some kind of veneer of credibility. They've been looking to have these referenda, getting an official who is willing cooperate with the Russians and having some kind of sham election to then annex that territory.

Of course, this is completely unacceptable to the Ukrainian side. The president of Ukraine saying if any attempt do that is made, it will push the prospect of talks to find a negotiated solution in this conflict even further backwards. He also made a very stark warning to any Ukrainian who cooperates with the Russians, basically in more words than that calling it treason. And so, it's unclear whether those referendum will take place anytime soon -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, David, thank you for joining us from Kyiv. Let's go now to Kramatorsk where we find Nic. And you're monitoring those movements on the eastern front.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and it's really, you know, a very contradictory but very dangerous situation in this area. This of course is the area where President Zelenskyy said everyone -- all the civilians should leave the area because come next winter, there wouldn't be the infrastructure to support them. There wouldn't be the gas supplies to keep them warm.


But you have sort of contrary indications here. Just as we pitched up where we are right now, a handful of city workers were out mowing the lawns in the city here. Yet we've watched as new trench systems, new heavy and expensive trench systems have been put in place around here. And that is because this town like so many others around it, is experiencing very heavy shelling. The sirens go off here with repeated regularity day and night and you can hear multiple, multiple impacts. The shelling has been heavy. Where it is heaviest as well as in the towns and villages is along the frontline. And that's where we went to see some of the soldiers who really, the very sort of sharpest and hardest end of this fight.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Deep in the woods at Ukraine's eastern front, troops dig in, trenches here are lifesavers.

OLEG, UKRAINIAN FIGHTER: Were put where fighting is fierce. We took our portion of shelling here and some of us were injured.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The faces of the troops here tell a story that words cannot. This is tough duty. Five days at the front, ten days resting here nearby. They joke about living like hobbits underground away from the shelling.

ROBERTSON: When Ukrainian officials talk about the HIMARS rocket system and the M-777 artillery helping hold their line, these are the lines they're talking about.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And these are the soldiers with the hard fight to make sure it does hold.

He says, we hold the line, it's humid, it rains, shells hit us all the time. But we hold the defense. There is no other way.

Of course, the shelling gets on your mind, Artane tells me. His buddy, Vitali, adding but you get used to it. Both set on victory they say.

To get to the very frontline, we cross fields littered with Russian rockets.

ROBERTSON: All these trees here they're telling us were taken out by shelling.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Conditions here very spartan. The Russians less than a mile away. Days here when troops can't leave their bunkers. Russia outguns them five times.

ROBERTSON: This is where the next phase of the war will be won or loss in trenches like this and stretch for hundreds of miles. Troops like this holding the line against a possible Russian advance.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): We manage, the officer says, we've can come here to stop the enemy. We just take it, sit it out and keep on fighting.

An incoming shell punctuates his thought. More weapons, more armor he says, and it could be us advancing.


ROBERTSON (on camera): You really get the sense from those soldiers that if they could move from those positions and move forward, they will. This is very much sort of an artillery fighter, a long-range rocket fight. But the way that the Russians have been taking ground quite literally is that -- as we mentioned there -- that they just have more firepower and they're raining it down only on the trenches but in the houses of towns around here and it might take them a week, it might take them a month to take some of the places around here, but they're inching forward, inching forward and incrementally getting closer to places like this which explains why I think we've seen the heavy trench systems being dug in.

FOSTER: OK, Nic Robertson, live in Kramatorsk . Thank you very much indeed. Just ahead, parts of the U.S. are under flash flood watches right now. We'll look at where the danger is, the greatest -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Max, we've got the big time flash flooding concerns and also record heat all over the place from portions of the Midwest into areas of the Northeast even in Southern California. The century mark approaching that area. We're going to talk about this in detail coming up in a few minutes.



FOSTER: Another grim discovery at Lake Mead straddling the border of Nevada and Arizona. Human remains have been discovered in the lake's receding waters for the fourth time since May. Water levels of America's largest man-made reservoir plunged to unprecedented lows amidst drought conditions and searing heat. And while the different sets of remains have generated theories of mob involvement, officials say is mere speculation at this point.

U.S. President Joe Biden and the first lady will make their way to Kentucky in the coming hours. They'll meet with families affected by the historic flooding that devastated the eastern part of the state last week. The president says the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs for certain emergency services for the region. Damage from the flooding is extensive, at least 37 people have been killed and two women remain missing.

Severe storms and staffing problems are causing more headaches for air travelers across the U.S. According to Flight Aware, more than 900 flights were canceled on Sunday and almost 6,400 were delayed. The Department of Transportation has proposed making it easier for passengers to get refunds if their flight is canceled after a flurry of complaints.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins me now. Can they expect more disruption -- Pedram?

JAVAHERI: You know, we do have some storms across areas of the Southwest and also in portions of the Midwestern U.S. so certainly, some disruptions are going to be possible into the afternoon hours and even into these early morning hours seeing some strong storms. No disruptions at air travel right now but mainly because of course travel numbers dropped quite a bit when it comes to flights at these hours.

But we'll take a look, showers and thunderstorms are expected to pop up again as we go into the afternoon and evening hours.


Very beneficial in recent weeks across parts of Southwest where nearly the entirety of the states have been underneath drought conditions and still quite a bit of states underneath drought but now less than the 99, 98 percent numbers that we've seen in recent weeks. And we do expect additional rainfall here over the coming several days and even into next week.

Notice the Western half of the U.S. stays above average potential there for rainfall, but eastern half of the U.S. where so much rain has come down finally seeing a bit of a break long term again. But as of right now, still watching a few thunderstorms around Green Bay over the next couple hours. Certainly, from Milwaukee some flood alerts have been prompted, a lot of rainfall here in the last few days, as much as 5 to 6 inches has come down in the span of 24 hours. So, areas across say Sioux Falls, South Dakota seeing significant flooding with this particular band of rainfall we've seen in the last day or so.

That energy shifts a little farther toward the east, Cleveland, Cincinnati, work your way toward Nashville. We will expect some storms. So, these are some of these cities where disruptions are going to be possible into the afternoon hours. And notice the flood risk there remains on the slight to marginal over the next couple of days. Generally, the regions that were very hard hit into Missouri and Kentucky certainly could be on alert here with some rainfall in the next several days.

Heat also the big story around the Northeastern U.S., heat indices as high as 105 degrees including areas around Philly, New York and Boston where heat remains in place there and records have been falling by the wayside. Parts of Kansas, Boston climbed up to 98 degrees tying the record now from the 1920s. So, big time heat in store across areas of the Northeast.

FOSTER: Really high temperatures. Thank you, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

FOSTER: Still to come, Taiwan's foreign minister speaks to CNN. What he makes of the threat posed by China's military as it launches war games near Taiwan.

Plus, migrants who crossed the southern U.S. border arrived in New York City over the weekend fueling a political fight between the city's mayor and the Texas governor. The story straight ahead.