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Biden Lays Out Budget Plan As Battle Looms With GOP; Biden: MAGA Republican Ideas Would "Explode The Deficit"; February Layoffs Hit Highest Mark Since 2009. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 15:00   ET


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's going to be a real fight on that, but we should be paying more than 21 percent.

Let me be clear. Under my plan - and I made this commitment when I ran, and I haven't broken it yet and I never will - no one making less than $400,000 will see a penny in federal taxes go up. Not a single penny.

Now, why are they doing $400,000? Because I doubt anybody here makes $400,000. I did it to make the case that I'm not going after anything remotely - any ordinary folks, because they're paying their share.

We're also going to save billions of dollars on going after criminals who commit fraud.

A lot of people are saying to me that they don't like the idea I'm prepared to forgive up to two - up to $20,000 if you got a Pell Grant or $10,000 for anybody who has a student loan during the recession.

Well, guess what? We paid - to the so-called PPP program - we paid significant - I think it's $900 billion - I think it - don't hold me to that number, but it's well over nine on - for anybody who had a tough time with their business during the pandemic so they could pay employees, they could do their - but guess what? You may remember, I was running for office at the time, but you all might remember that the - I had a big fight with the former president and maybe future President - bless me, Father.

ALL: Boo ...

BIDEN: Anyway. No, all kidding aside, and here's the deal, what happened was the folks who were really going after me for trying to - and, by the way, 90 percent of all the debt forgiveness for student loans will go to - under my plan, 90 percent will go to families making under $75,000 a year. Okay? Ninety percent.

But here's the deal. The PPP program forgave a lot more, and I'm not suggesting it shouldn't. But the big fight, you may remember, going on was - what happened was, our good friend, the former President, decide all the inspectors general - the guys who watch everything - I did the - a major program under Barack Obama. He asked me to deal with - dealing with the deficit reduction plan that went on. And guess what? I had all these inspectors checking every decision I made to make sure they were legit. He fired them all. I said, "You shouldn't do that." Well, guess what? Now we're finding out there's billions of dollars stolen. So my Justice Department is now going after them.

We're doubling down on prosecuting criminals who stole relief money meant to keep workers and small businesses afloat during the pandemic.

And we're going to triple our anti-fraud strike force, double the statute of limitations so we have more time to go after these guys, crack down on identity fraud and criminal syndicates who stole billions of dollars from the American people.

And the studies show, for every dollar we put into fighting fraud, taxpayers get back at $10, 10 times as much.

And let's get something else straight. My budget cuts wasteful spending by getting rid of special tax breaks for Big Oil companies, who made $200 billion in profits last year in the midst of a worldwide recession. Two hundred billion dollars.

And, folks, over the last two years, we made a lot of things - this - that - a lot of progress with Republican help, as well.

Sadly, from what I'm hearing - House of Representatives, these days, they're suggesting that cooperation may have come to an end.

That's why I talk about the MAGA Republicans. This is not your father's Republican Party, as I said before.

MAGA Republicans are threatening to default on the national debt - I keep talking about the national debt and the trillion-dollar debt. It took 200 years to accumulate that debt. It's not recent debt. This is all the debt that's been accumulating interest on the debt for over 200 years.

And, by the way, President Trump, when he was President, in four years, he increased the national debt by 25 percent just in four years. Remember that multibillion-dollar tax break? Did you get any of it? I - raise your hand if you got any of it. No, I'm serious.

So, folks, 200 years to accumulate, and was added to that administration, 25 percent - did it by themselves.

I met with the new Speaker, as I said, of the House on how we should proceed to settle our differences without jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

We have never reneged on that debt.


Now they're telling me if I don't do what they want - cut Social Security, whatever they propose - then they're going to renege on the debt.

Every single major economic institution, conservative or liberal, says that will cause a massive recession - a massive recession - and put us in the hole for a long, long time.

Well, folks, here's what I said: Instead of making threats about default, which would be catastrophic, let's take that off the table. Let's - as I said at the beginning - let's have a conversation about how to grow the economy, lower costs and reduce the deficit.

I just laid out the bulk of my budget; Republicans in Congress should do the same thing. Then we can sit down and see where we disagree.

My Republican friends say they want to reduce the deficit, but they did the math - we did the math on what they've put forward so far.

In our estimate - I'm happy to be proven wrong - they will - my plan is going to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years. Based on what we know so far about their plan, it's going explode the deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years.

If I'm wrong, show me.

I want to cut taxes - they want to cut taxes for the wealthy and large corporations, take away the power we just gave Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

Look, and that would - as I said, it would cut the deficit significantly - $160 billion - just by doing that.

And if they say they want to cut the deficit but their plans would explode the deficit, how are they going to make the math work? What are they going to cut?

As I said at the State of the Union - you may have seen the back-and- forth with the MAGA Republicans and me. Through their shouting and unruliness, they seemed to say they're not going to cut Social Security or Medicare.

Well, like I said - well, what about Medicaid? What about the Affordable Care Act? What about veterans' benefits? What about law enforcement? What about aid to rural communities? What about support for our military?

What will they make - how will they make these numbers add up?

Well, here's the deal. If MAGA Republicans in Congress try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, I'm not going to let them.

Folks, we haven't even talked about my budget for our national security or our intelligence and foreign policy communities.

My budget makes robust investments in our military and defense.

Let's see what the MAGA Republicans propose.

And let's be clear where I stand.

I will not allow the cuts - the needs of the intelligence community or our military to help keep us safe. We're the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, and I will not let the Republicans diminish our capacity to cut the benefits to our servicemen or veterans and their families.

So - I'm going on too long, and I apologize.

Let me say this one more time: If MAGA Republicans are using the threat of default for first time in history, they're risking America's health and security. It's dangerous.

So, let me close with this. My budget is about investing in America - in all of America, including places and people and folks who have been forgotten.

Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they're invisible.

Not anymore. I promise you, I see you.

We've got work to do, but we've made a lot of progress in the first two years. And families across the country are starting to breathe a little easier, but they got - we've got further to go.

And I can honestly say I have never been more optimistic about America's future than I am today. I mean that sincerely. As you can tell, I've only been around a few years. Like 400.

Folks, let me conclude by saying we just have to remember who we are. We're the United States of America. There is nothing - nothing beyond our capacity. I mean it. Nothing beyond our capacity, if we do it together.

So, God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: President Biden there in Philadelphia talking about some of the elements of his budget plan there. Top line elements here, cutting the deficit by close to $3 trillion over a decade. He mentioned some investments in innovation, affordable housing, law enforcement as well and securing and saving Medicare, Social Security, solvency for Medicare plan there for - through 2050.

Let's bring in our team here. CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona, CNN Economics and Political Commentator Catherine Rampell and we have Arlette Saenz with us who is in Philadelphia.


Arlette, let's start with you. And we talked about at the top of the last hour before the President began to speak that this would have the energy of a campaign speech. I counted at least a dozen references to MAGA Republicans, what did you hear? What stood out?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, that stood out to me as well. You repeatedly heard President Biden trying to draw a contrast between his proposals and those in - espoused by "MAGA Republicans."

Of course, the MAGA Republicans label is a way that he tries to tie the Republicans currently in Congress to former President Donald Trump. And there were also several mentions of the former president in his remarks, including one moment where the President seemed to reference the upcoming re-election battle, saying - referring to President Trump as the former president and maybe future president. The President then did the sign of the cross as he typically does when he's joking and says bless me, father.

But this certainly provided the President with a venue and an opportunity to try to draw a contrast between his proposals and those being proposed by Republicans. The President trying to argue that his budget is aimed at protecting and enhancing the security of those who have been forgotten, those who have felt invisible in this country.

He talked about the efforts to try to lower prescription drugs, also expanding money for child care, as well as re-enforcing or re- instating the Child Tax Credit. He's also talked about capping insulin for - at $35 a month for all Americans.

But, of course, this is all playing out against the backdrop of that upcoming fight over the debt ceiling. And one thing that the President did in this speech is really call out House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, pushing him and urging him to unveil his own budget proposal for Republicans.

The President saying that he is willing to meet with McCarthy at any moment once he has that budget outlined. So the President here today really trying to lay out the stakes about the policy and the political battles that will ensue in the coming year.

BLACKWELL: Melanie, we've reported and the White House acknowledges that this budget really isn't going anywhere on Capitol Hill. But this is a statement of priorities. What's been the reaction on Capitol Hill to the President's plan?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, well, you have seen Republicans already coming out swinging against this. Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted in response to the fact that the budget would reduce the deficit, but increased spending on a number of programs and said Washington doesn't have a deficit problem. It has a spending problem. It's not about these revenues. It's about how much they're spending and that is what Republicans want to target in their budget.

But as Arlette said, what President Biden did today was essentially dare Republicans to put their ideas onto paper. And that is something that Kevin McCarthy has said he plans to do. He has been having these weekly meetings with the various groups within his party. They're trying to find consensus on a budget. But it has been a really slow moving process.

I caught up with the House Budget Chairman, Jodey Arrington, yesterday. And he said they're in no rush to get this out. He initially suggested it might be as late as May when they put something forward. Then a spokesman later walked that back. But the reality is what Republicans are trying to achieve is incredibly difficult. They are trying to enact deep spending cuts without touching Social Security and Medicare and without raising taxes. And so obviously, the budgets are always - it's a political exercise, these are not binding resolutions. But it's a difficult exercise, especially with Kevin McCarthy working with his razor thin majority.

And to top it all off, the stakes are incredibly high. You have this looming debt ceiling crisis and so the clock is really on starting today now that Biden has his budget out, all eyes are on Republicans to see what they come up with Victor.

BLACKWELL: Catherine here with me, your top takeaways from what we heard.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: I think what was interesting here was that besides Biden trying to take a victory lap on the things that have already passed that he's very proud of, he is trying to portray Republicans as the fiscally irresponsible party, that Republicans always say Democrats are big spenders, big government that you can't - they can't be trusted with your dollars.

Biden is trying to flip the script a little bit and say, aha, the Republicans were the ones who don't have a budget that adds up.

And look, to be fair in Biden's own budget, he tacitly admits that most of the Trump tax cuts are things that he would support extending and he doesn't account for that cost. And when he says I'm going to reduce deficits by $3 trillion, he actually doesn't include the cost of all of that. So there are some budgetary gimmicks in there as well.

But I saw a lot of this positioning as being about we are going to portray or in Biden's view we are going to portray Democrats as the fiscally responsible ones, we're the ones who are going to raise the debt limit. We're not going to cause a global financial crisis. I agree with that. And we are the ones who are going to get the debt - the budgets to add up, finally.


BLACKWELL: One thing that Melanie mentioned is the clock starts now on what the Republican plan in - is. And if there is something that has some substantial spending cut that 218 Republicans can agree on, there are some who say that you can't touch the Pentagon. There is, of course, the majority, if not all of the Republicans in the House who say that we're not going to cut, if not all of them, most of them say that we're not going to touch Social Security or Medicare. So if you're going to make some substantial cuts, there's not a whole lot of territory left.

RAMPELL: I know, they say they want to balance the budget, but they have rolled out almost every possible mathematical path for doing so.

BLACKWELL: Yes. RAMPELL: Because not only have they ruled out or at least some members of their caucus rolled out this defense cuts, entitlement cuts, veterans' benefits, et cetera. They also have rolled out tax increases. In fact, they want to extend all of the Trump tax cuts, not - Biden wants to extend most of them, it looks like. They want to extend all of them, which costs money.

If you add all that stuff up, it basically means you have to zero out everything else, almost zero out everything else in the budget, which they also don't want to do, right? They're not actually going to zero out border security and say we're going to completely eliminate ...


RAMPELL: ... everything else we spend money on.

So even if somebody in the caucus could come up with a plan that makes sense. I don't believe they have the votes to get it through.

BLACKWELL: Again, clock starts to see that plan.

Catherine, Melanie, Arlette, thank you very much.

Joining me now two CNN Political Commentators: Alice Stewart, Republican Strategist; Maria Cardona, Democratic Strategist.

Alice, let me start with you, the President has this part of his plan, making Medicare solvent, keeping it solvent through 2050, cutting the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years, your reaction to what we know about the President's budget plan.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The first thing, Victor, that I was encouraged by what he said in his plan, he starts off the speech in a positive way talking about how he had the conversation with Speaker McCarthy weeks ago and agreed that, look, we're going to put out a budget plan. But this is a good place for us to find where we agree, where we disagree and how we move on from there. But the question now is what is going to happen when it gets back to Congress.

This bill or this proposal, as he has put out today. is dead on arrival with Republicans in Washington, not MAGA Republicans, I'm talking about Republicans, simply because of the large emphasis on taxing the job creators in this country.

And as Melanie mentioned what McCarthy has said is what we have in Washington, we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. And Republicans are going to focus very carefully on what they can do to cut expenditures, specifically with climate change and global warming policies, but cutting the spending and not working and putting a focus on taxing people.

And I've talked with many Republicans. They say there is a plan in place. But first and foremost, they want to look at Biden's proposal, see where they agree on this, but then put a very thoughtful, calculated plan out that would not only balanced the budget in 10 years, but look at cutting wasteful spending without touching Social Security and Medicare.

BLACKWELL: I want to come back to you in a moment on balancing the budget in 10 years and what that would take, part of the conversation I just had with Catherine Rampell.

But Maria to you, Catherine also said that inside this budget the kind of admission that the Trump tax cuts are not going away, did that sit well with you?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that what the focus for the President is that he wants to help working class families, middle class families, with as much - taking away the tax burden as possible, so all of that is in there.

But what you will also see and what you will also hear is that President Biden does want to focus on balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, which is why the $3 trillion of reducing the deficit is a huge priority, and is really emphasized in his speech today.

I think what is interesting, Victor and we'll see what the details are, because I do want to see what he keeps in there and what he takes away in there. But what is interesting, even putting that aside is that my friend, Alice, talks about how Republicans are focused on the problem of spending.

Well, it's interesting, because when Trump was offering all of his tax cuts and we know that they cost trillions of dollars, and he bloated the deficit and exploded spending, there was no word whatsoever from those same exact Republicans who are supposedly worried about spending in terms of what Trump was spending for tax cuts that did go mostly to wealthy corporations, and to the richest Americans.

And so that's what I want to see both the details of Biden's budget as well as the details from what the Republican budget is because right now, this is and I agree that it is probably dead on arrival. But from a messaging standpoint, President Biden in the White House and Democrats are winning because they are focused on helping middle class, working class families get ahead, focused on protecting Social Security and Medicare when you have ...



CARDONA: ... Republicans talking about cutting it and so we'll see.

BLACKWELL: Alice to you and you said that this plan that's coming from Republicans, you said that it's thoughtful and gets to a balanced budget in 10 years. So Social Security and Medicare are off the table, right? I think both parties agreed to that. We saw the President talk about it. We saw the - and Speaker McCarthy said that.

There are many Republicans who say that they're not going to be defense cuts, the Pentagon is off the table too. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget finds that to get to a balanced budget in a decade, all other federal spending would have to be cut by 78 percent. How do you get there? Is that even realistic to make this claim that you're going to get there, if that's the kind of cut you have to make?

STEWART: It's very difficult and it will take a lot of negotiating, but Republicans are committed to doing just that. And as you said, Victor, they were not going to touch ...

BLACKWELL: A 78 percent cut to everything else, including veterans affairs to Homeland Security?

STEWART: Well, they've made it quite clear they're not going to touch Homeland Security, unlike the Biden administration, even in the midst of the crisis we have at the border. But what they are going to look at is policies overall and agencies overall, that are wasteful federal expenditures, and they're going to look carefully line by line and agency by agency on where they can cut.

And look, it's no secret that Republicans are opposed to a lot of the climate change proposals that this administration has put forward, also the tax relief for student loan. So there are many programs that they're looking at very carefully that they do plan to cut. But most importantly, the focus will be on spending cuts and not taxing job creators in this country.

BLACKWELL: Maria, Alice, we got to wrap it there. Thank you so much for being with us.

And by the way, Alice Stewart and Maria Cardona have a podcast together, Hot Mics From Left To Right. Ladies, thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Victor.

CARDONA: Thank you so much, Victor.

BLACKWELL: More than 77,000 U.S. workers were laid off last month. And while that's down 24 percent from January, it's more than quadruple what we saw last February. The tech industry is seeing the worst of it, but other sectors are getting hit too.

CNN's Matt Egan is here with us now. So businesses are laying off workers like it's 2009.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Victor, and 2009, of course, was during the depths of the Great Recession. There's a couple of things going on here. One, a lot of companies, especially tech, they over hired during COVID, now they're correcting. Companies are dealing with the impact of high interest rates from the Federal Reserve and also I think some CEOs are just worried. So they're being cautious and are cutting some costs.

If you look at the numbers, almost 181,000 Jobs had been cut through the first two months of this year. So in context that is five times the same point of last year. It's almost - it's actually the most since 2009. And what is interesting, though, is when you look at the official government statistics, the jobs market looks healthy, although that could be starting to change. New numbers out today show that initial jobless claims that's a proxy for layoffs.

That jumped by the most since early October. This is a weekly number. We don't want to overreact, but it is worth keeping an eye on. And, of course, this comes ahead of tomorrow's big government jobs report.


EGAN: That is expected to show that hiring slowed to 205,000 jobs in February. That is a big slowdown from the blockbuster gain of more than half a million in January, but still a very healthy number in 3.4 percent that as is the expectation for unemployment, that would be tied for the lowest since 1969.

BLACKWELL: Wow. Let's talk about General Motors. Back in January, they said that they could save, what, $2 billion without layoffs. What are they saying now?

EGAN: Well, they are doing some belt tightening here. They just announced they're going to offer buyouts. They're encouraging their workers to look at this buyout offer. They're offering it to all U.S. salaried employees who've been there for five years or more. They're also offering buyouts to executives who've been with the company for two years. They say that this is going to cost them a billion and a half dollars, but it's going to make them more competitive.

Of course, this is coming during a time of really big uncertainty in the auto industry because not only are they worried about a potential recession, they're dealing with higher borrowing costs, and also this ambitious and expensive transition away from traditional engines to electric vehicles. And so that is forcing them to rethink their business models and rethink how they're spending money.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matt Egan, we'll look ahead to that jobs report, thanks so much.

EGAN: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Ukraine's military is on high alert for more airstrikes after Russia bombarded major cities earlier today. We'll get into the details ahead.



BLACKWELL: Well, now to a CNN exclusive, for years an Iranian-American businessman named Siamak Namazi has been wrongfully detained in Iran housed at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. His battle for freedom started in 2015 when he was first denied the right to leave the country. Well, now in a rare interview from prison, Namazi spoke to our Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour. And Christiane is here with me now.

Christiane, I was telling you before that I plan to watch this a little bit on your CNNi show of the interview, the exchange. And once I started watching it and listening to him tell his story, I couldn't turn it away.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I know. I know. Well, as a journalist, you'll realize how extraordinary it is to actually interview somebody in prison. Plus, they're under duress. You have to be very careful how far you go, not to get them to be in a position that they might get themselves into trouble. Already he's taken the risk to talk out and to speak out to us.

But as you said, he's been in for seven years, he was convicted of some nebulous charge, which he explained to us, basically, amounting to cooperating with a hostile country assuming that means the U.S. He's a U.S. American.


AMANPOUR: And he's just very out of options, and very at the End of his tether and just desperately wants to figure out what he can do to get some attention from the White House.