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Biden Lays Out Budget Plan As Battle With GOP Looms; McConnell Being Treated For Concussion After Fall At DC Hotel; Norfolk Southern Train Derails In Calhoun County, Alabama. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 14:00   ET





Any minute now, we'll see President Biden in Philadelphia. He'll deliver a speech about his budget plan for 2024. And the White House says he'll outland his plans to reduce the deficit and vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare.

CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz joins us now. So, Arlette, the president has not announced that he's running for reelection but there's some expectation that this speech is going to have the tone of a campaign speech.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, just take a look at where President Biden decided to unveil his budget, and that is here in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, which would be critical to the upcoming presidential election. But look. The president and his advisors are aware that the budget as it is proposed is unlikely to go anywhere up on Capitol Hill. But it does offer the president an opportunity to really lay out what's at stake for both the policy and the political battles ahead, especially when you think of the fight -- the looming fight over the debt ceiling that is expected to play out over the coming months.

Now, the OMB director, Shalonda Young, called this budget, a healthy start to a conversation. And ultimately, she said shows that -- it lays out what exactly President Biden values. Now, take a look -- taking a look at what this budget entails. The president is calling for three trillion dollars in deficit reductions over the next ten years. In order to pay for that, he plans on increasing taxes on some of the wealthiest Americans, including a billionaires' tax as well as increasing the corporate tax rates on large corporations.

So, some of the items that are highlighted in this budget are things that the president has been talking about for years. And that includes trying to shore up Social Security and Medicare at a time where he's trying to draw some battle lines with Republicans on those programs. He has also called for billions of dollars in investments in child care along with enhancing the child tax credit. And he's also calling for a $35. cap on payments for insulin for all Americans. So much of this is a major part of the Democratic wish list that the president is really trying to outline in this budget.

But then there are those fights expected to come with Republicans up on Capitol Hill as Republicans now have control of the House when it comes to government funding and also the debt ceiling. Of course, Republicans have said that they do not want to see any increases to the debt ceiling without cuts to spending. And one thing that the president is doing with the unveiling of his budget is trying to put Republicans on the spot, trying to get them to lay out for Americans how exactly they expect -- plan to reduce the deficits. So -- but so much of this budget for the president is about trying to draw that contrast between what his White House is doing and what Republicans are eyeing, especially as he could be heading towards a 2024 reelection bid in the coming months.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Statement of priorities here. Arlette Saenz, thank you. We're expecting to hear from the president in just a few minutes. We'll take you back to Philly as soon as that starts.

Let's go to Capitol Hill now. We've just received an update on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He was taken to a hospital last night after he fell at an event in Washington. Now, McConnell is 81 years old. And his staff says that he's being treated for a concussion.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is with us now. Manu, what more do you know?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Well, he is being treated for a concussion and is expected to be in this DC area hospital for over the next few days. It's unclear exactly when he'll be discharged or the exact circumstances about what happened last night. But according to a statement that just came out from McConnell's spokesperson says Leader McConnell tripped at a dinner event Wednesday evening and has been admitted to the hospital and is being treated for a concussion. He's expected to remain in the hospital for a few days of observation and treatment.

Now, McConnell was at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel last night for an event for his super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, a big-money event. He often goes to those events as many other Senators and House members do when they're in town in Washington, those kinds of big fundraiser events. He's having a private dinner and around the time of his private dinner when he tripped and then he fell.

Now, other than -- other than that, there really aren't that many other details other than the fact that emergency dispatchers were sent to that hospital about 9:00 p.m. last night. Now, there were senators who were at this event but none of the senators who I have spoken to actually witnessed that fall. They did -- we'll hear his remarks before McConnell fell. They said that it was a normal type of remarks that he gives at any kind of event.

And just moments ago, that senators were briefed at and behind closed doors by McConnell's top aide about all of this. They also didn't learn more about the circumstances about his fall, exactly what happened here and they said they pretty much have the same information that we do now.


Now, McConnell has fallen before in the past in 2019. He tripped -- fell at his home in Kentucky. He had a fracture in his Shoulder. He also has polio as a child so sometimes can have difficulty walking. When he walks upstairs, sometimes he walks one step at a time walking very carefully. So, this has always been an issue for the 81-year-old Republican senator.

But Republicans believe that he will be come back. Mitt Romney, one of them told me that he expects him to be back next week, and he expects him to make a recovery here. And Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, just told me that he has not spoken yet to Mitch McConnell but he said "he's a little banged up," but he said he'll be OK, guys.

BLACKWELL: Manu Raju for us there on Capitol Hill, of course, we'll wait to learn more and wish him a quick recovery.

A new Fallout for Fox host Tucker Carlson today after he aired new footage of the January 6 insurrection. A lawyer representing one of the Proud Boys on trial has now asked a federal judge to throw the case out. Now, that attorney claims that the government prosecutors hid what they call plainly exculpatory Capitol security footage.

Katelyn Polantz is CNN's senior crime and justice correspondent. Katelyn, first, what does this attorney claim about this footage is plainly exculpatory.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this attorney for the Proud Boys watching this footage that was aired publicly on Fox News. He's in trial, he's watching it and he's now saying that it's exculpatory because he believes it was peaceful that the video that Fox News airs showed that the Senate chamber of the U.S. Capitol was not violently breached on January sixth and the Capitol Police were ushering people in.

That is just not the facts of what happened that day. There was violence. There was a push to get into the Senate chamber. There were Capitol police officers trying to stop many, many rioters but they were overwhelmed. But he is trying to bring this up in court so that the judge will take a look at it, and that the Justice Department will have to respond.

BLACKWELL: Katelyn, is his client in the video that was aired?

POLANTZ: I don't believe so. So, this video is about Jacob Chansley. So, Jacob Chansley is not in this case. He's not a member of the Proud Boys. He's the person that wears horns on the Capitol grounds, called himself the QAnon Shaman. And actually, he previously pleaded guilty and admitted to what he did that day.

His attorney has argued repeatedly in his case, that he was being peaceful and that he was being ushered in by Capitol Police. But when he ultimately was under oath, he spoke to the judge admitted and confessed his guilt to using a bullhorn to rile up the crowd, screaming obscenities in the Senate gallery as other rioters were flooding in, and then also he admitted to leaving a threatening note on the table where Mike Pence, the Vice president, had been sitting minutes before saying on that note, it's only a matter of time, justice is coming. So, that's the facts in the case that we've seen in court related to Chansley who is in that video.

BLACKWELL: All right, Katelyn, thank you for the reporting. Let's bring in Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Dave, this claim that the case should be thrown out because the government, again as this attorney claims, hid plainly exculpatory Capitol security footage. Is this different fit -- defense attorney grasping here or is there something credible?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Victor, in law school they say when you've got the facts on your side, you pound the facts. When you've got the law on your side, you pound the law. And when you've got neither, you pound the table. That's what these guys are doing. They're pounding the table.

They were given just about every bit of footage, like 730 terabytes. So, slightly, they had this already. And even if they didn't have this, this doesn't show their client that shows the QAnon shaman walking peacefully during an Off period when he wasn't acting crazy. So, it doesn't show anything that in my mind would convince a jury to acquit their clients. So, in the law, we say it's not material and they will not get a mistrial. They will not get a dismissal. This is just a defense lawyer tactic.

BLACKWELL: How was the DOJ respond to this, Katelyn?

POLANTZ: The department did release a statement related to this Chansley allegation, Jacob Chansley saying he was peaceful. His attorney trying to claim he's peaceful. And they say that they have confidence in the procedures that were created and followed from the outside of this unprecedented case. This is a statement we just got from them.

They're also saying they took numerous steps to assist defense teams in defending hundreds of people who have pleaded guilty so that they could identify the information that they've gotten. The evidence that they've gotten that's relative -- relevant to their clients that could potentially help their clients in these cases. And there's a total possibility here, Victor, that these defense lawyers that are seizing upon this Tucker Carlson video at this time have already seen this video or at least have had access to it.


The Justice Department in their statement says there is 17 terabytes of evidence including Capitol Police CCTV footage inside the Capitol that's been turned over to these defense teams. That's nearly double the amount of information in the Library of Congress if it were printed out. So, it's totally possible they already have it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So, I had no idea that's what 17 terabytes were. But on the 41 -- 42,000 hours of Capitol security video that speaker McCarthy gave access to Tucker Carlson -- his team access to, Dave, you say that this defendant's attorney is just pounding the table. But could this video that Tucker Carlson has, have a significant impact on any of these pending cases?

ARONBERG: I don't think so. Even in the case of the QAnon Shaman, he pled guilty. He expressed remorse of the court. So, it wouldn't affect his case. So, I don't see how it affects other cases unless you want us to believe there's no violence on that day. There was violence.

And you know, violence takes a lot of energy and there's downtime. So, these people who went inside the Capitol illegally, yes, there's going to be a video of them just walking around without committing violence. It doesn't mean there wasn't violence the rest of the time. This short cherry-pick video is not like fairy dust where it undoes all the violence of that day.

And besides, Victor, when it comes to the Proud Boys, they're being accused of seditious conspiracy. It's an agreement between two or more people to commit violence to shut down a function of the government. You don't even have to have the violence. You just have to have the agreement to commit violence and then have one what's called an overt act. So, this video proves nothing. It is just a way for the defense to try something -- throwing something into the wind but it's going to fail.

BLACKWELL: Yes, maybe we'll see more of that. Dave Aronberg, Katelyn Polantz, thank you both.

Norfolk Southern CEO faces lawmakers today. He apologized to the communities hurt by the toxic train derailment. Next. We'll speak with one of the lawmakers who questioned him directly.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. Christiane Amanpour speaks with an American citizen detained in an Iranian prison. Hear his impassioned plea to the Biden administration. That's coming up.



BLACKWELL: Norfolk Southern is dealing with another one of its trains derailing. This one is in Calhoun County, Alabama. Emergency responders said that no one was injured reported in this crash. Officials said there is no danger to the public, no hazardous materials have been released, but certainly some questions for the company.

Meantime, a bipartisan group of senators grilled the company's CEO today over his handling of last month's toxic train derailment in Ohio. Alan Shaw started his testimony with an apology and a commitment to help the community rebuild.


ALAN SHAW, NORFOLK SOUTHERN CEO: I am determined to make this right. Norfolk Southern will clean the site safely, thoroughly, and with urgency. You have my personal commitment. Norfolk Southern will get the job done. We will be in the community for as long as it takes.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which held this morning's hearing. Senator, good to have you. Let me start where Senator Carper started today with a few yes or no questions that he put to Alan Shaw. I'm going to play two of them and I'm going to get your reaction to his answers.


SEN. TOM CARPER, (D-DE): Will you commit to Norfolk Southern will compensate the people in these communities for possible long-term medical costs and economic damages resulting from this disaster? Will you commit to paying for long-term medical testing for people in the impacted communities to ensure that anyone was known or suspected of exposure to dangerous chemicals due to this disaster is monitored for adverse health effects?


BLACKWELL: And those are the questions that the people who live in East Palestine are most concerned with at least two of them. Alan Shaw said that the company is going to do what's right. And, of course, that's subjective. Are you satisfied with what you heard, the commitment that you heard from Alan Shaw today?

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D-MD): No, I'm not satisfied at all. This was a completely preventable incident. And the North Southern needs to be held fully responsible for all damages that have been caused, both to the community and to our environment. So, I think Senator Carper was absolutely right to ask those questions.

We want to make it clear that they're going to be held totally responsible for the damages that were committed. We also want to understand why the safety issues were not dealt with. We want to make sure moving forward, we have the proper safety protections to make sure this doesn't happen in the future. And quite frankly, we want to make sure that we have that complete cleanup of the environment, including monitoring the circumstances to make sure that all of the toxins have been removed.

BLACKWELL: And what's your degree of confidence in the environmental plan that you just mentioned? We just heard, while I've watched the hearing today, some of the initiatives that Alan Shaw said have already begun to make sure that the environment, as he says, recovers and thrives. Are you confident that they will keep that commitment?

CARDIN: North Southern is going to be held accountable, cost-wise, for the cleanup. But it's going to be governmental agencies that are going to be monitoring to make sure that it is safe for the community and that all cleanup is done. So, it's our responsibility, the government, to make sure the monitoring takes place. We're not going to rely on Norfolk Southern for that. They're responsible for the cost. BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you about this bipartisan rail safety bill, co-sponsored by the senators from Ohio, Vance, and Brown. Republican Senator John Thune, at this point, doesn't seem to be on board with it. He says he's -- he told The Hill that he's uncomfortable with ending what he calls much more power over to the Department of Transportation to figure out some of the specifics.

Who should be making these rules moving forward? Should that be the job of Congress? Should it be the Department of Transportation? Should it be the industry? They put forward their plan on what they should change.


CARDIN: Well, it certainly needs to be a governmental entity that --

BLACKWELL: Senator Cardin, I apologize for having to do this as soon as you start your answer. We're going to go to Philadelphia now. President Biden is speaking about his budget plan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some decency and honor to the system. And two, to rebuild the backbone of the country, the middle class. When the middle class does well, the poor have a way up and the wealthy still do very well. And the third one is to unite the country. I didn't think we could do that. But as we've seen, all the talk about we never getting any cooperation from the other team last two years, we passed some pretty big things with bipartisan support.

You know, I ran to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up and not the top down. And I know, when I grew up, my dad's kitchen table, not a whole lot trickled down on trickle-down economics into my kitchen table for my dad. That's why I wanted to come here today and lay out the next part of my economic plan, my budget - my budget, I'm sending it to Congress today.

And if I could hold for just a second, I want to be clear and I'll be clear to the press as well. The fact is that the Speaker of the House has been -- he's a very conservative guy, and he has the more conservative group with him. But he and I met early on and he said, what we're going to do about the budget? And I said, well, let's make a deal. Let's meet.

I said I'm going to introduce my budget on the ninth of March. You introduce yours, and we'll sit down, we'll go line by line and we'll go through it. Let's see, what we can agree on or what we disagree on, and then fight it out in the Congress.

So, I want to make it clear. I'm ready to meet with Speaker anytime tomorrow if he has his budget. Lay it down. Tell me what you want to do. I'll show you what I want to do. See what we can agree on. And if we don't agree on it, let's see what we voted on.

Now, I'm not going to lay out the entire budget. That would take the rest of the day. But it still is a detailed budget. But I want to give you the contours of what we're for and how it was -- how it's in stark contrast, or what appears to be what the other team is for.

My dad had an expression. He -- someone come up to my dad and say, let me tell you what I valued, Joe. And he said -- my dad would say no, no. Show me your budget. I'll tell you what your value is.

No, I'm serious. My -- especially my dad, would you show me your budget, I will tell you what you value. Well, folks, let me tell you what I value with the budget I'm releasing today. I value everyone having an even shot, not just labor but small business owners, farmers, and so many other people hold the country together who've been basically invisible for a long time.

So, at the end of the month after working like the devil, they just have a little bit more breathing room with my dad I would say. After you pay all your bills, you're sitting at a kitchen table right now for the last bill, do you have just a little bit of breathing room left? So, my budget reflects what we can do to lift the burden on hardworking Americans.

And there's more than one way to do that. And that's -- we bring us to down to everyday cost. How much do the things cost? It's not just whether inflation -- we brought down inflation in seven months in a row. We're going to whip it.

But in the meantime, there's other ways to take what is inflation in your budget. I just met -- I won't embarrass them by pointing out, I don't want -- I don't have permission. But I just met a woman who has health care costs that are 600 -- $600,000 a year, $7,000 a month. Well, guess what? How can you possibly deal with that? Well, we just dealt with it, by the way. We just dealt with it.

For example, prescription drugs. We pay more for prescription drugs in America than in any other advanced nation on earth. Let me say it again. In the United States of America, for every -- whatever prescription drug you're buying, you're paying more than any other nation on Earth as an advanced nation. We're finally beginning to change that. I've been fighting that for over 30 years. Because of the law that I worked on for decades, and that I just signed last year, we took big pharma on and we won. For the first time, we won.

The other team didn't think that's a good idea. None of them voted for it. They think Big Pharma should be able to make your store ordinary profits, exorbitant profits at the expense of the American people. That's not hyperbole, that's a fact.

Medicare finally has the power now to negotiate for lower drug prices. And by the way, you know, they've been able to do that for -- at the VA. At the VA, they're able to say we're only going to pay X amount of dollars for this particular drug that, in fact, the veterans need. The only face it was exempt was Medicare.


They couldn't do it for Medicare but now they can. And it's going to lower prices for seniors and -- but here's the deal. Not only, for example, the woman I just mentioned, by the beginning of 2025, she will not have to pay more than $2,000 a year total amount for drugs. Two thousand.

But, folks -- but folks, it's not just going to save people's lives and save people money, so they don't have to go bankrupt to try to stay alive. It's going to save the government. It's going to reduce the deficit to $160 billion.

These guys keep saying, how you're going to cut the deficit? Well, guess what? If your tax dollars don't have to go up paying all that exorbitant price for Medicare to drug companies, and as rational, is going to save $160 billion in tax dollars.

Many of these Americans have diabetes. They need insulin, literally to stay alive. How many people know somebody who needs insulin for the diabetes? Raise your hand. Well, they're paying somewhere between four and $700 a month now or were until last month.

Well, guess what? That insulin was invented one hundred years ago. I mean, what -- yes, literally one hundred years ago, OK? Do you know how much it cost to make that insulin? Ten dollars. Do you know how much it cost to make it and package it? $13.50. And charging the kind of money they charge, well, guess what - guess what? Now, we've lowered -- we've lowered the cost of insulin to a maximum of $35 a month.

I was at a town meeting in Northern Virginia last year. And a woman stood up and she said -- was -- I was -- she was a little embarrassed to speak. She said I have two daughters with diabetes and I can't afford the insulin. And I -- and she talked like that, she said, and we have to split it sometimes.

Can you imagine looking at your son or daughter and knowing you don't have the money to pay for the insulin to keep them alive and healthy? Not a joke. Talk about being deprived of your dignity. Well, not anymore. Seniors on Medicare don't have to pay more than 35 bucks a month.

And guess what? We not only cut the -- I thought we should cut it for everybody to 35 bucks a month. But the friends -- but my friends in another team knocked it out. I didn't have the votes. I lost by a couple of votes.

Well, guess what? We're capping the cost for everybody at $35 a month, especially those 200,000 children with type one diabetes. Well, here's what happened. Eli Lilly, one of the world's biggest drug companies just announced it's capping the cost of insulin at 35 bucks.

Now, how are the rest of these folks going to charge more than that when you can go to Eli Lilly and buy it for 35 bucks a month? So, folks, it's going to save a lot of lives. But also, it's going to give parents back the dignity that's been deprived because they can't take care of their kid for something that's so basic and so important.

But again, the MAGA Republicans want to take away the law. They -- one of the things they've announced they wanted to do away with the Inflation Reduction Act. OK. Well, we have a different set of budget ideas, man -- more than budget ideas, all right. And by the way, how many people maybe even some of you, you know, people who stared at the ceiling last night wondering, God forbid, if I get pancreatic cancer, my wife gets breast cancer, something happens, what's going to happen? How are we going to pay the bills? I can tell a story and my dad would probably be mad about my telling over him alive.

We lived in a three-bedroom split-level home. Nice -- I mean it was a nice home. We were a middle class family with four kids and a Grandpop. And the bed -- my headboard was against in the room with my myself and my two brothers. It was against the wall of my dad's room. My dad was really restless. He could hear -- one night he could hear the bed.

And I asked my mom the next morning what's wrong with that. She said he just -- his company said no more health insurance. They weren't going to pay for it.

Well, guess what? A lot of people were lying in bed at night, wondering what they're going to do. Do they go to have to sell the house? What do they have to do if one of them gets really sick?