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Sources: WH, Republicans Reach Deal In Principle On Debt Ceiling; McCarthy: Vote Expected Wednesday On Debt Limit Deal; Biden, McCarthy To Speak Tomorrow After Debt Limit Deal. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 27, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington on a very late Saturday night on Memorial Day weekend. But, we're here for a good reason. We begin with a crucial moment in the debt ceiling talks. Multiple sources tell CNN that the White House and House Republican leaders have reached an agreement in principle, we should know, in principle on raising the nation's debt ceiling.
Just 10 minutes from now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will address reporters, we are told. Then, at the bottom of the hour, Republican leaders will brief their fellow colleagues in the GOP conference on the outlines of this deal. The briefing comes after a phone call earlier this evening between McCarthy and President Biden.
And CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is at the White House for us. Priscilla -- and Manu Raju is still with us up on Capitol Hill. Late night, guys. Priscilla, what can you tell us?
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Jim, I'm hearing from a source familiar with negotiations that, yes, the President and House Speaker McCarthy have an agreement in principle and that the negotiating team is working on finalizing bill tax and a term sheet. For now, a few details here. The deal keeps non-defense spending roughly flat with current fiscal 2023 levels in 2024. Also, looking through here, work requirements, the President, it says according to the source, fought policies that would have taken away healthcare and push people into poverty. No changes to Medicaid. And we're also learning that the President protected the Inflation Reduction Act. This is something that has been critical for the White House, is protecting those legislative accomplishments by the President.
So, we're learning slowly some of the details that have been reached in this agreement, again, from a source familiar with the negotiations. And Jim, we will bring that to you as we delve a little deeper into these details. But, look, this has been the product of a lot of work, or especially over the last 24 hours. Over the course of the day, we were in touch with White House officials who were expressing optimism about the direction of these talks. Even last night, President Biden himself, on his way to Camp David, saying that they were "very close to a deal". So, we're starting to see that take shape.
Now, the timing is critical. Just yesterday, right before President Biden went to Camp David, we also learned from the Treasury Secretary that firm June 5 date when the nation would no longer be able to meet its obligations, and in other words, run out of cash. And so, this has been a really critical 24-hour timeframe for this White House, as they worked with Hill negotiators, and as the President stayed engaged from Camp David, as -- or sources have told us. So, again, learning more and more about these details, and I'm sure Manu will have more from the House Speaker as well soon.
ACOSTA: I'm sure he will. Let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Manu, the House Speaker is supposed to brief reporters at about seven minutes from now. What can you tell us from your end of things? Manu, it sounds as though and I'm just basing this on my White House reporting days, that some of what Priscilla laid out, is a bit of the talking points on the Democratic side --
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ACOSTA: -- maybe allay some of the fears and concerns of the House Democratic Caucus that too much might have been given away in this negotiating process. And I suspect Kevin McCarthy will have similar things to say from the Republican viewpoints to sort of settle things down in his conference. What more can you tell us?
RAJU: Yes, certainly putting the White House spin on this agreement. Just to walk through a little bit of it, in this fact sheet that the White House put out here, saying that they have rolled back -- agreed to roll back domestic spending levels to the prior year. So, currently, their 2024 year, they're going to go back to 2023, are in this agreement. Now, this will actually cause some concerns on the right, the other folks on the right, one go even further, going now to 2022. The White House didn't want to go to at all. They want a spending freeze, current level spending freeze. But, the White House had to concede on that point. So, that was a big concession there.
Also, they tried to make the case that they prevented work requirements from being as part of the Medicaid program, because Medicaid is the low income -- for people with low income, getting health insurance through the Medicaid entitlement program. There are no new work requirements for people who benefit from that. But, it appears that they might have agreed to new work requirements for other programs including food stamps, and the Temporary Assistance Program for needy families. It doesn't explicitly say that in this White House fact sheet that was just revealed, but it seems to suggest that. So, we're going to have to dive a little bit deeper about whether they conceded to the Republicans on that point.
They argue that they didn't agree that certain changes that Republicans pushed, such as paring back the student loan program that was part of the Republican bill to raise the debt ceiling that passed the House in April. They're saying that is not part of this bill. But, it also says that the President protected the Inflation Reduction Act. Of course, that was a signature law that was passed in the last Congress. Republicans tried to go after that. Parts of that bill law is part of their debt ceiling bill. They are arguing in this White House release that they were able to fend off that Republican effort here.
And then, one important point here, they're talking that this deal would increase the debt limit for two years. That is an important part of this, because the Republicans had hoped for just one year. That was what they proposed initially in the House bill. They wanted to fight this again in 2024. The White House absolutely did not want to fight it again in 2024. That's why they conceded on so many other grounds for the Republicans.
They didn't even want to have a negotiation, to begin with. They wanted a clean debt ceiling increase. No conditions whatsoever. The White House was forced into a negotiation, had to give a lot to the Republicans in order to get a two-year debt limit increase, getting it through the 2024 elections.
So, they don't have to worry about this again until there is either a new President or till Joe Biden is re-elected or the new Congress comes in next. So, that's going to be a big sticking point for Republicans who want to fight this again next year. So, McCarthy will come out in just a matter of minutes.
He will lay out why he believes this was the best deal that they could reach now, and he'll probably argue that he -- they were forced into this position to cut spending, which has been his red line, and also the work requirements that were able to get into this final deal. He will tell that, and he will tell that to his members. But, again, we have to see more of the details here, and then they have to sell it to the members who will actually have to vote for this if it were to become law. Jim.
ACOSTA: Right. Both sides are going to have to claim victory tonight, Manu, for this process to move forward.
Let's talk about this little bit further with David Gergen, Catherine Rampell. Priscilla Alvarez is still with us. David, I think you were onto something earlier this evening when you thought maybe perhaps because the two principals were talking that, that we're on the verge of something, and you're absolutely right. But, I suspect we're at this point, and Manu was indicating this few moments ago, where both sides are going to have to claim victory for this process to move forward, to have any hope of moving forward. Both sides have to feel like they got something out of this.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's absolutely right. But, I must tell you, just -- the first -- and the first tick coming of the box here and looking at what we know so far, I've been surprised that the Democrats are doing better than one would have expected in the Senate negotiations. Just to go over a couple of things, Jim, holding the spending flat, the domestic spending flat is not -- there are not real cuts with that. It is protecting -- you are protecting what you have. And then, the Military and Veterans will also be protected. In fact, they could get some increases. Extending this for two years is a real gift to the President, because if this agreement went on for two years, he doesn't have to worry about this politically as we -- in a run up to the elections, it's just a few months before that. We have a major crisis over this issue and how the stock market and everything else go to pieces, could be -- could really be a catastrophic loss for him.
But, again, a two-year extension, which it sounds like they have, the Republicans are -- I think are conceded something to do the Democrats I wouldn't have expected. And it does seem on these work requirements, the -- again, the President is trying to protect, very hard to protect what he has, the programs he has. And for the most part, he is doing all right. The work requirements may well go in his direction.
So, bottom line, we still don't know there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts. There is a lot we're going to learn at 9:10, hopefully, and -- but I'm just sensing this, the sense that I have over this, I'm surprised this is more to the President's liking than a lot of members were going to feel. It should be.
ACOSTA: Yes. And Catherine Rampell, I mean, to David's point, there are some other items in here that the White House is pointing to is, it looks like they're pointing to wins here, and another one being that they've protected the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a big part of President Biden's legacy, one of his biggest legislative achievements. But, to David's point about extending this out to 2025, that is -- that's a major win for the U.S. economy. Is it not to not have to go through this process, smack dab in the middle of the 2024 election cycle?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, & OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Far more than this being a win for the President, I agree this is a win for the global economy and the global financial system. Given the fact that we are toying with default today when we are far enough away from an election where in theory politicians should be prioritizing policy outcomes and not what guides the poll.
Imagine how much more irrational these kinds of debates would be in the lead up to an election. That's what really terrifies me, that if they were threatening to essentially blow up the global economy unless there were major concessions, some sort of ransom paid next year, I don't know what it would take for either side, or for that matter, both sides to claim victory, and to walk away and say, OK, we're happy with the deal that we got. So, absolutely, very good thing that the debt limit has been extended, or will -- if we knock on wood, we think will be suspended for the next couple of years. Ideally, I think we should get rid of it altogether. But, that's a separate issue.
I would mention, though, that based on some of the reporting, not all of the Inflation Reduction Act measures have been protected. Some of the reporting indicates that at least some of the funding for the IRS has been clawed back or will be clawed back. I know that in the past few days, there were reports that I had heard that something like 10 out of --
ACOSTA: Catherine, I hate to do this to you. I got to break it because Speaker McCarthy is at the microphones.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): After weeks of negotiations, we have come to an agreement in principle. We still have a lot of work to do. But, I believe this is an agreement in principle that's worthy of the American people. It has historic reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the workforce, rein in government overreach.
There are no new taxes, no new government programs. There is a lot more within the bill. We still have more work to do tonight to finish all the writing of it. I do want to take a moment, though. I do want to thank Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry for all their work on this, and for all the work that we're going to continue to do tonight.
I know you'll have a lot of questions, I'm not going to take them tonight. Out of respect, I want to brief our members about where we currently are. I expect to finish the writing of the bill, checking with the White House and speaking to the President again tomorrow afternoon, and then posting the text of it tomorrow, and then be voting on it on Wednesday. But, thank you for your time. And I think this is very worthy of the American public.
ACOSTA: And that was the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy laying out that he believes the House Republican Conference and the White House, President Biden, of course, have reached a tentative debt limit deal. And we were just talking about the details of this a few moments ago. It would extend the debt limit into 2025. So, the country doesn't have to go through all this again during a presidential election cycle.
Catherine Rampell, let me go back to you since I cut you off there. I hate doing that. But, we knew the Speaker might only speak for a few moments, and that's exactly what he did. But, as we were expecting, he was touting portions of this deal that are going to be favorable for him and getting this through his Republican Conference. What was your sense of what you just heard there?
RAMPELL: I thought it was interesting that he didn't give us many of the details. Obviously, we all want to know what's actually in this tentative agreement, because the details do matter, not only in terms of their effects on the U.S. economy, on people who depend on various forms of government services, all of that matters, if there are tighter work requirements for food stamps (SNAP). That's relevant information for the American public to know. But also, because it matters for forecasting the likelihood that this will actually get through the House.
Again, I keep coming back to the fact that there is a large contingent of the Republican Conference that has said the bill that was passed before is the floor not the ceiling on what they are demanding. And clearly, not only has Biden made some concessions but McCarthy has made significant concessions relative to that bill that was already passed. So, without knowing the meat of this agreement, it's very hard to know whether it is likely to get through the House, and if it doesn't get -- or if Republicans are not all on board, is it appealing enough to some Democrats to supply votes, and what's the downstream fallout from that?
So, he didn't say a lot. The fact that he didn't say a lot suggests to me that we have a lot to learn, and we need to figure out what's in this deal, how likely it will be to get through, and what it means for the American public.
ACOSTA: Yes. We might not be out of the woods yet. We're not out of the woods yet. And I don't know -- is Manu Raju back with us? Not yet. There he is. Manu is back with us.
Manu, one of the things that stood out to me from Speaker McCarthy's comments is that he said that they'll be voting on this on Wednesday, not Tuesday. I think there was an expectation that we might see a vote on Tuesday. Maybe that was optimistic thinking. But, I would imagine, for now, the markets are going to be fairly calm, one would think, on Tuesday. And so, perhaps they think they bought themselves a little extra time to get this done on Wednesday. What's your -- or do you just have to wait for everybody to get back from their Memorial Day activities, and schedule the vote on Wednesday? What's your (inaudible)?
RAJU: Well, this -- the Speaker promised his members, as part of his deal to become the Speaker, that he would give members 72 hours to review any legislative text that is revealed, and once it's unveiled, they can't vote within 72 hours, according the deal that he cut in order to become Speaker. That is the situation here. They're going to -- he said that they're going to release the bill text tomorrow. There have been some expectation that they could get it done today. They want the bill texts out today, which is why they had hoped that the 72 hours would expire on Tuesday, they could have a vote on Tuesday.
But, now that the bill text is not going to be out till tomorrow, that means they can't vote until Wednesday at the earliest, which will push things even closer to the default deadline. Now, the question would be, whether he'll have the votes to get it through this chamber by Wednesday? He would not say in that very brief statements whether or not he wouldn't take any questions. So, it's unclear if he has got his members on board, which is why he has -- he is briefing his members. But, that is going to be his challenge.
The other challenge will be, let's just assume they get the votes in the House. The House Republicans are expecting a majority of their conference will support it. We'll see if that actually happens. We'll see how many Democrats help defray those Republican defections and push it through the chamber. That's another question.
Other question, how long will it take to get to the United States Senate? The Senate could take up to a week to get legislation done. Any one member could slow down the process. There are ways to object. And if there are some members who are not happy with this ultimate deal, that we've already heard some griping among some conservative Senators who did not like the reports of this emerging deal, how are they going to respond when they have been essentially jammed, not shed off this process, had not had chance to really weigh in? Will they slow down the process as we are staring at the prospects of the first ever default?
Those are all huge hurdles and real questions, which is why typically something like this needs to be hammered out over a month of time and take weeks to go through the House and Senate. They're trying to do this in a matter of days, which is why this is so complicated. And every hour is so significant, but significant that they have a deal in principle. Now, they got to finish the writing of the text, and then starting to count the votes, the next two big major hurdles ahead. Jim.
ACOSTA: Manu, thanks. Thanks for all the hard work today. David Gergen, your sense of what you heard from the Speaker there. I mean, he kept it brief. I guess he had to, at this point. That's the safer way to go.
GERGEN: He kept it brief. I think he gave himself a lot of running around with his caucus. And I think he made some points. Listen, he kind of sound like you got the two-year extension into 2025, and how long this deal would last. And that's a major, major victory for the White House. It goes to two years. There is no new taxes, according to McCarthy. There is also worker protection, from Biden's point of view. He -- they're not getting rid of all -- are not imposing a whole series of new worker reduction things (inaudible) people on food stamps. It doesn't seem to be part of the pact, which also would help Biden.
But, he -- McCarthy argued, first thing he said was the bill has "historic restrictions in spending", reductions in spending, historic reductions in spending. We'll have to wait to see what that is. But, if -- if what we see coming out of this all together, is that the spending levels will be held steady. They won't -- we won't rise, they won't fall. They'll be held steady, except in the Military areas. That would be significant, frankly, who advance for the way up.
ACOSTA: And Priscilla Alvarez is over at the White House for us, and she got some of these details about the contours of this tentative agreement, and from a source familiar with these talks. You're talking to Priscilla. What about what David is saying here? There is some -- there are some details in here that the White House can point to and say, OK, House Democrats, we didn't cave on as much as you fear we would. There is some stuff here that you might like. Can you walk us through some of the details that you're getting?
ALVAREZ: Right. I mean, sources familiar with these negotiations have been underscoring that the President was trying to stay firm on his positions. But, of course, what we're trying to learn more about in the details that will come, because of course the devil is always in the details, as what the concessions were for Republicans and for the White House?
So, as you heard there, I mean, one of the big ones here is that two- year budget deal and separate two-year debt limit increase. But, what those House Democrats are really going to be honing in on is the work requirements. And on that front, what I'm learning is that the agreement, at least when it comes to SNAP, phases in and then sunsets SNAP time limits to people up to age 54. But, again, source underscoring of where the President fought on this. And then, there is also the changes to TANF (ph) that would have put cash assistance at risk for nearly one million children. This was part of the negotiations. The agreement modified the provision to ensure states can continue to support those families and their children.
So, these are sort of the broad outlines that we're learning from a source. But, again, it's going to be working through the legislative text, something that both sides are going to be doing overnight to try to iron out exactly what those details are in that section, particularly on the work requirements, is where House Democrats will be looking at. And also, from earlier, you mentioned the IRS clawbacks. That is something else that had come up over the course of negotiations. That too is going to be something that they -- House Democrats and Republicans will be looking for.
So, what we know as of tonight, which is still an important significant development, is that they reached a tentative agreement. And as we learn the contours of that agreement, we're still waiting for the nitty-gritty to really sort out where there may be fights within each conference, Republicans and Democrats, because this is only, Jim, the first step of a very long process. After those texts comes out, it's a vote on the House floor and then the Senate. So, the White House is aware of that.
And also, we should note, President Biden spoke today with Democratic leadership. He spoke with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and with House Minority Leader Jeffries. So, clearly a concerted effort here, not only in talking to Republican negotiators but already getting Democrats on board on where these negotiations were, where they were headed, knowing that there could also be a fight within the party. Jim.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. Very good points. And Catherine Rampell, this should be enough to keep the markets calm on Tuesday, correct? I mean, one thing that we've seen, I mean, I've been sort of surprised by it, is they really haven't fluctuated all that wildly based on the news of whether or not we're going to get a deal. And do you think that will be the case on Tuesday that folks will sit tight and wait until Wednesday with the expectation that this looks like it's going to get done?
RAMPELL: I think that's a reasonable assumption. There have been some market jitters. You've seen it in some select markets, but not as much panic, frankly, as I had been expecting. I think because a lot of market participants had been operating on the assumption that what's past is prologue, that they worked it out at the last minute in 2011, in 2013. Other times when it looked like there might be potential brinksmanship, they will work it out again today.
Again, my view is that we are not out of the woods yet. I very much hope that there is a real agreement and that it gets through both Houses of Congress swiftly before we hit the so called X-date and potentially become unable to pay some of our bills. But, I think we don't actually know that we are at that point yet because of all of those other steps that my colleagues have just mentioned, including the fact that whatever the deal may be, may continue to be divisive within the Republican Party as well as within the Democratic Party.
So, if you start to see, in the next couple of days, lawmakers, in either party for that matter, noting that they're going to do something to try to obstruct the smooth passage of that legislation, then, yes, I would imagine that markets would take that into consideration. You might see some greater stresses in certain markets. But, if everybody assumes that we are on a pathway to raising or suspending the debt limit, that there is a pathway that gets us there that will not exert significant stresses on the overall economy, as some of the potential plans that had been discussed might, then I think we should see some calmer market activity in the next couple of days. But, again, lots of wildcards.
ACOSTA: Yes. And Manu Raju, how are Democrats going to respond to this, especially those progressives in the Democratic Caucus? They're all going to expect it -- they're all going to be expecting a briefing from the White House, I imagine. And how is that going to go?
RAJU: Yes. Look, I've heard from a number of Democrats that, of course, they don't know anything about what this deal is. Remember, this deal was not cut by House Democrats. Hakeem Jeffries was not in this room. A lot of members griped about that. They wanted some buy-in from their own leadership. This is a White House deal that was cut, and they were plenty of warnings that Democrats made in the days running up to today that their votes were not to be taken for granted.
I heard members making that clear. There was one member, Susan Wild, Pennsylvania Democrat, who is someone who is in the frontline, vulnerable districts, something that could flip to the Republicans next year. She has said that she is concerned that the White House is essentially going to give them a bad deal that they're going to have to support, and that it will be used against them in their re-election campaigns next year, that they'll essentially be forced to take it or leave it proposition in the bill that they had nothing to do with and have a whole bunch of provisions they don't like, and ultimately back it. I've heard that up and down the line, not just from Congress, members like her, but other members who want -- wanted buy-in and don't like the direction and all the concessions the White House did have to make here.
Now, now we -- it does seem like from what we're hearing from a reporting and from the Speaker's comments that there were some level of work requirements that were included in social safety net programs like food stamps, and that was a red line for most of these Democratic members. They absolutely did not want that. They were ready to fight on this issue.
Hakeem Jeffries did not want that as part of this bill. What will he do? How will he message this? Will he fall in line with the White House? Probably, that's the expectation. He is a member of the leadership, but this is rank and file follow suit as well. That's a question that Jeffries is going to have to face. Jeffries does not know how many Democrats will vote for it.
He said one of the big questions that he has is, how many Republicans will vote for it? And if they need to figure out a way to get this through the finish line, if there are a lot of Republicans defecting, are there enough Democrats who will vote for it to offset those Republican losses?
Now, we are told that the effort to try to sell Democrats will begin tomorrow. The White House is expected to invite members over to the White House tomorrow afternoon and brief them. This according to a report from our colleague, Haley Talbot, who is hearing about a briefing that will occur at the White House tomorrow evening with members of the House Democratic Caucus and White House officials. We will see if President attends that as well. But, at least, they're trying to get some more details about this deal.
But, this is all part of the White House effort to try to corral Democrats, prevent them from revolting, get enough of them behind this deal, this very, very hard fought agreement that a lot of Democrats will not be happy about because of the number of concessions the White House had to make, after promising for months they wouldn't make any concessions and demanded a clean debt ceiling increase. Jim.
ACOSTA: Yes. And Manu, I'm looking at my calendar here. June 5 is a week from Monday. And if they're going to have the vote on Wednesday in the House, are we going to be back here next week? I don't want to put you on the spot. But, are we going to be back here next weekend wondering what --
ACOSTA: -- the Senate is doing? I really -- I don't want everybody to hear their hair out. But, it is a holiday weekend.
RAJU: We might have to -- I mean, I don't want to say cancel your next weekend plans, but maybe cancel your next weekend plans. The way that the Senate operates, if it does pass the House on Wednesday, of course, all those things need to happen, getting the votes and getting people on board, that will take time, let's say get through on Wednesday, Thursday is the beginning of that process to start to put it on the Senate calendar, get the -- go through the procedural hurdles, and going through the Senate, we could see a procedural vote, maybe that would occur on Saturday perhaps. And then, they'd have to run through the ultimate, the hours have to go after overcoming a procedural hurdle where you need 60 votes, bipartisan --
RAJU: -- support to overcome a filibuster attempt, and then you get an eventually move to a final vote after another 30 hours or so. So, that could push this into the default territory. So, that's why the timing is so complicated here. And there are other delaying mechanisms at any Senator who wants to object can drag things out, they can force a reading of a bill. They can object to anything on the floor of the Senate, because everything requires unanimous support to essentially have the Senate to operate. If not, they have to go through all these motions to overcome those delaying tactics.
So, a lot of questions about whether anyone will actually go to that length. I suspect, with default looming, that we will not get to that point if the votes aren't there to pass it. But, you never know. It's a bumpy ride to get legislation through, particularly the United States Senate, and particularly this issue this significant. Jim.
ACOSTA: Yes. Yes. Lots of bumpy rides these days. All right. David Gergen, Catherine Rampell, Priscilla Alvarez and Manu Raju, working a really long Saturday for us, guys, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Thanks for all the insights and reporting this evening, from everybody here at CNN. It's been a team effort.
A programming note, tune in tomorrow morning on State of the Union to hear from the leader of the House Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. How will House Democrats respond to this deal? It's a very important question. Tune in to State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. That is tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. right here on CNN.
Another big story we are following tonight, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been impeached. We'll have the latest on what that means, and why the statehouse adopted 20 articles of impeachment against him? And we'll have much more on the breaking news, the White House and House Republicans reaching a deal in principle to raise the debt ceiling, more on all of this in just a few moments. Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: Technically, the State of Texas has no attorney general tonight. Per state law, Ken Paxton was immediately suspended from that job after he was impeached earlier today by the GOP-led statehouse, the charges ranged from bribery to conspiracy to abuse of public trust. Although only 75 votes were needed to refer 20 articles of impeachment to the State Center for a trial, there were 121 votes in favor in the House. Paxton now becomes the first Texas official to be impeached in the House in nearly half a century, the conservative Republican calls today's proceedings an ugly spectacle that was never meant to be fair or just. Those are his words.
Earlier this evening, I spoke with Texas House Democrat, James Talarico, for his take on today's extraordinary events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES TALARICO (D-TX): I just got off the House floor where I cast perhaps the most consequential vote during my time here in the legislature. I joined a bipartisan supermajority of my colleagues to impeach our corrupt Attorney General. And now, Ken Paxton is effectively removed from office.
ACOSTA: And Paxton continues to get support from national Republican figures, people like Ted Cruz, people like the former President Donald Trump. Trump was posting on his social media site. Right after the vote, he has vowed he will fight Texas Republicans who supported the impeachment.
It sounds though -- that means -- it seems like Trump's endorsement of PACs really didn't do much down there in Texas. They weren't listening.
TALARICO: I couldn't be prouder of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Texas House. In this age of extreme partisanship and polarization, Democrats and Republicans came together to hold a corrupt public official accountable. Nobody is above the law, including our top law enforcement official in this state. That's exactly what we showed with this vote. And I hope folks recognize that corrupt public officials like Ken Paxton are the rot at the core of our broken political system, and holding him accountable is our job as elected officials, and I hope that elected officials across the country will take note of what we've done here in the Texas House.
ACOSTA: And Representative, we were hearing earlier today that Paxton himself was allegedly threatening House members with political consequences in the next election if they did not side with him. Did you pick up on any of this? I know you're a Democrat. So, maybe he knew how you were going to vote. But, were some of your colleagues mentioning, hey, this is going on? They're really trying to strong arm us here. What have you picked up on?
TALARICO: Yes. I can confirm that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, some of them were called by Ken Paxton himself while they were on the floor, right before they took this important historic vote. And that to me is just further confirmation of Ken Paxton's corruption. And I think it's even more evidence of his abuse of office. If a public official betrays the public trust, if they abuse their power, then they should face consequences, regardless of what political party they belong to.
ACOSTA: And what do you think is going to happen over in the Texas State Senate? I mean, you need a two thirds vote to remove Ken Paxton permanently from office. He is suspended right now. He is not the Attorney General, technically speaking. But, do you think that they can pull that off in the Senate, or might Ken Paxton survive this?
TALARICO: I hope that Texas Senate follows the lead of the Texas House, and hope those Senators come together on a bipartisan basis to hold Ken Paxton accountable for his corruption. But, as you mentioned, Jim, this is different than impeachment proceedings at the federal level, because now that the Texas House has voted to impeach the Attorney General, he is removed from office. He is no longer the Attorney General. And he can only be reinstated if the Texas Senate takes action. An impeachment proceeding is less about trying to punish the guilty, and it's more about trying to protect the citizens of Texas, protect our constituents, and having the top law enforcement official, the top cop on the take, is a danger to every person in the state, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. And our job is to keep our citizens safe. That's exactly what we did today in the Texas House.
ACOSTA: And Paxton faces additional trouble. He has been under an FBI investigation for years. How do you think this ends for Ken Paxton? Because if you look at other channels, he pops up on conservative media, and one would not think he is in as much political trouble as he appears to be in right now.
TALARICO: Yes. That's right. This all could have been avoided if Ken Paxton just resigned from office, right, if he just felt basic shame for what he had done. But, he doesn't feel shame. In fact, he is shameless. And he thinks that his political friends, including former President Trump, will protect him. The Texas House, on a bipartisan basis, Republicans and Democrats, just showed that that's not going to work this time, that we're going to hold him accountable for his corruption and the harm he has done to the people of this state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And our thanks to the Representative for his time.
Coming up, a massive surge in travel across the country this holiday weekend. The world's busiest airport just experienced its third busiest day ever. We will have the latest. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: The unofficial start of the summer travel season is here. Already, we're seeing record numbers, as millions of Americans go on vacation this holiday weekend. The TSA reported its third busiest day ever at Atlanta's big Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport yesterday as well as the highest number of checkpoint screenings since the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is CNN's Isabel Rosales.
ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim. We've been keeping a very close eye at this main security checkpoint right here where it's been ebbing and flowing when it comes to crowd size, all-day long moments, where it's a little bit more compact like this. Maybe it'll take 30 minutes to get through the security checkpoint. In other moment's words, pretty empty, 10 minutes or less to get through TSA. Now, the agency said that on Friday it has screened an estimated 2.7 million passengers, the highest volume so far this year. And of course, you can expect the same at the world's busiest airport here at Hartsfield- Jackson which screened nearly 98,000 passengers on Friday, making it their third busiest day ever.
I spoke with travelers who had experienced a litany of frustrations and struggles, some even before getting inside of the airport. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGAN HALLISSEY, COLUMBUS, GEORGIA RESIDENT: Just super hectic. The traffic, even on the shuttle to come here, it was even super, super hectic. I mean, we waited probably a good 20 minutes just to go, I don't know, not even a mile. So, my advice would be to plan, plan. Leave early.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROSALES: And of course, that's brought some bad flashbacks to the travel fiasco we saw in summer of 2022. A lot of experts and passengers alike keeping a close eye to this summer, specifically this Memorial Day weekend, as a sort of test on airlines, airports, and also the FAA. One of the biggest hurdles so far is their shortage of air traffic controllers. They're down about 3,000 controllers so far. The agency has warned that it will impact summer travel. Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. And it's not just busy airports, AAA says more people are hitting the road over this holiday weekend compared to last year.
Here is CNN's Mike Valerio.
MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, good evening. And we're now just standing in front of the busiest freeway across Los Angeles. This is also the busiest Interstate in America. And as we zoom in, this is all of the beach traffic that is going away from us, (inaudible), and eventually making its way toward Santa Monica, closer to the Pacific Ocean. And this gives you an idea that the Memorial Day road trip is certainly back. AAA telling us, just look at this number, they anticipate more than 37 million Americans will be taking to the roadways this Memorial Day weekend, which is just, Jim, underneath the 2019 pre-pandemic levels that we saw three years ago.
But, in terms of what advice AAA has for all of us who are taking the roads, here is what they told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG SHUPE, AAA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Definitely inspect that vehicle before you take that long road trip. Check your tire tread and inflation. Make sure your battery has a good charge. Make sure your fluid levels are topped off. During this Memorial Day weekend, AAA anticipates coming to the roadside rescue of more than 460,000 stranded drivers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIO: So, Jim, we got to talk about gas prices today, the national average $3.58. A year ago, it was all the way up to $4.68, had a record of $5 the national average, June of last year. So, one reason that AAA said we may not have crossed the threshold of pre-pandemic road trips from Memorial Day weekend is because these prices are still pretty high.
But they are coming down, especially here in California, Alaska, New York, New Jersey and Florida seeing some of the steepest declines. Also, Jim we talked to analysts from GasBuddy. They said that it is appearing less and less likely that the national average for gas will go above $4 for the summer travel season, certainly good news for anybody about to take their great American road trip. Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Mike, thanks very much.
Coming up, troops gear up for a potential counter offensive against Russia. A Ukrainian general has a pointed message for his soldiers, Russia and the world. That's next. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: Search and rescue operations are over at a medical facility in central Ukraine that was hit by Russian forces, at least two people died and dozens more left injured. Kyiv and Western allies are calling it a war crimes attack. This comes as a top Ukrainian Military official hints at a counteroffensive that could be imminent. CNN's Fred Pleitgen picks up the story.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim. Well, it certainly is a pretty remarkable video that was put forward by Ukraine's top general, Valery Zaluzhny, on one of his social media accounts, and it essentially seems to show Ukrainian soldiers getting ready for battle and saying it's time to take back what's ours. Now, you also see a lot of Western-supplied Military equipment in that video as well, including HIMARS, of course, supplied by the U.S. but also German-supplied Leopard 2 main battle tanks. It is absolutely unclear whether or not that could be an indication that that looming possible large scale counteroffensive by the Ukrainians might be inching closer.
However, one of the things that we've sort of been picking up on over the past couple of days is increasing long-distance strikes seemingly by the Ukrainians on cities in Ukraine that are under Russian control. It seems to focus on two places. One of them is Berdyansk where we've seen strikes in the past couple of days, but also Mariupol as well. And in fact, today, there were reports of three explosions happening in Mariupol, Mariupol certainly one of the main staging grounds for the Russian Military for their operations in Ukraine. So, that could be something potentially that could hurt the Russians quite badly in the rear echelon. But, all this comes as the war continues in its full brutality.
And of course, there was that massive incident that happened in the town of Dnipro where the Russians apparently struck a medical facility there. Two people were killed. A lot of people were injured as well. A lot of them are still actually in hospital. And the Ukrainians are saying one of the things that made all of that so deadly is the fact that apparently the Russians used missiles that are normally used to shoot down aircraft and fire them into an urban area. And of course, if you use those missiles in a ground-to-ground configuration, they do become extremely inaccurate, and that certainly increases the possibility of them killing civilians and causing large human carnage.
That appears to be what happened there in Dnipro, and that is something that's been heavily condemned, not just by the leadership here in Ukraine but internationally as well, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, Fred Pleitgen for the reporting, thank you as always.
Coming up, back to our breaking news, a deal in principle to raise the debt ceiling, we'll bring you the very latest on what we are learning. Stay with us. More in a few moments, we're live here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: An update on our breaking news tonight, the White House and House Republicans reaching an agreement in principle on a deal to raise the debt ceiling cap spending and avoid a catastrophic default. We're told by the White House that these are some of the main points. You can see them on your screen right there. It includes lifting the debt limit and capping spending for two years. According to a source, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he plans to speak with the President again tomorrow afternoon before the actual text of what's in the legislation is posted.
The Speaker also said he expects the House to then vote on the agreement on Wednesday, calling it worthy of the American people. A democratic aide tells CNN, House Democrats will be briefed on the tentative deal by the White House tomorrow at 5 p.m. Of course, it still has to go through the Senate before going to the President. We're not out of the woods yet, but that is the latest here tonight in Washington.
And finally tonight, a water-obsessed dog is now swimming laps in his own little private paradise. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Think of him as a poor puppy, Thor, the Boston Terrier, loves swimming so much, he got his own indoor pool.
LISA MAZUREK, THOR'S OWNER: He loves to jump. That's like his favorite thing to do, would be to, like, jump in the pool.
MOOS: Boston Terriers are not natural swimmers, but Thor started young, plunging into lakes in British Columbia, Canada, wearing a lifejacket. Soon he graduated to his own outdoor pool. Even though he hates to be out in the rain, he eats it up when he is in the pool. But, owner Lisa Mazurek says it was always sad when outdoor swimming season came to an end. So, she and her partner converted an old garage into a pool house for a pop. This was his first dip. Now, he swims at least twice a day, squeaking every time he jumps in.
MAZUREK: Ready? One, two, three.
MOOS: Always swimming in circles.
MOOS: And how many laps can he do?
MAZUREK: Roughly about, like, 300 laps when he is out there.
MOOS: Occasionally, he uses his duck Floaty (ph). He has got his own Thor Tao (ph). Why did they spoil him?
MAZUREK: Because of that face.
MOOS: Though Thor doesn't know it, he has an audience most evenings at seven.
MAZUREK: We will go live on TikTok because people for some reason, well, they love to watch him swim.
MOOS: How many dogs would make this choice?
MAZUREK: Bacon or the pool? Now, there are bacon -- or pool.
MOOS: But, this is a dog that can swim and chew bacon at the same time.
MAZUREK: Do you want the bacon and the pool?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. Level up.
ACOSTA: That reminds me, I need to check on Duke. I'll see you again tomorrow starting at 5 p.m. Eastern. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. Have a good night.