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Tentative U.S. Debt Ceiling Deal Reached; Interview With Political Analyst, "The Modern Presidency" Author And Loyola Marymount University Global Policy Institute President Michael Genovese; Fitch Ratings Placing U.S. Sovereign Credit On Rating Watch Negative; Ukraine's Elusive Counteroffensive; Saudi Team Reopening Embassy In Syria; Interview With Loyola Law School Professor Of Law And "Passing Judgement" Podcast Host Jessica Levinson; Texas Attorney General Impeached; Highest Airport Checkpoint Volume Since 2019; Severe Water Shortage Hits Uruguay; Justine Triet Wins Palme d'Or; Triet Slams Macron Government Over Retirement Age In France. Aired 00:00-1a ET

Aired May 28, 2023 - 00:00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up on "CNN Newsroom," an agreement in principle on the debt ceiling. Washington has a plan to avert a catastrophic default, but details still need to be ironed out, and then it has to get through Congress.

Also, Ukraine's top general issues a pointed message for his soldiers, Russia, and the world.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes."

HOLMES: And we do begin in Washington with a late-night agreement to try to prevent a looming debt crisis. The White House and Republicans have reached a deal in principle to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and cap government spending. It is meant to avert the first U.S. default in history, which could have disastrous consequences worldwide. Here's how U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy characterized the breakthrough.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: 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, and will lift people out of poverty into the work force, rein in government overreach. There are no new taxes, no new government programs. There's a lot more within the bill. We still have more work to do tonight to finish all the writing of it.


HOLMES: President Joe Biden praised the deal but acknowledged that it won't please everyone. He said this, "The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone will get what they want. That is the responsibility of governing." He went on, "This agreement is good news for the American people because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost."

Now, there is a long way to go and the potential for road bumps and dissent. But McCarthy says, the House is expected to vote on the agreement this Wednesday. CNN's Manu Raju has more on what the legislation will likely include and why there could be opposition from both sides.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a furious round of negotiations and staring at the prospects of the first ever that default in American history, the Speaker of House, Kevin McCarthy reached a deal late Saturday with President Biden to raise the national debt limit and do that for two years' time. And also, to include a range of other spending cuts and other policy concessions.

The Republicans had demanded, including pairing back some social safety net programs that had been central to their efforts here, but the White House conceded on that -- those accounts. They ultimately shook hands, reached an agreement in principle, and now the real challenge begins because there is pushback.

Some conservatives do not believe this bill went far enough. They believe that it is a retreat of sorts from the Republican position, demanding even deeper spending cuts. This proposal would cut spending for -- go back to 2023 levels of federal spending.

Republicans wanted to go back -- some of the conservatives wanted to go back to 2022 levels. But the White House had conceded substantially on that approach. They did not want any cuts whatsoever as part of this agreement. On the Democratic side, many did not want any sort of work requirements on social safety net programs like food stamps. Also, they had furiously opposed any spending cuts. And so, expect some opposition from Democrats.

Now, Kevin McCarthy, speaking to reporters in the immediate aftermath of this deal, said that a vote would occur on Wednesday then the bill text would be released on Sunday. That gives them some 72 hours, essentially, to begin to lockdown the votes. The question is going to be, how many Republicans will defect? We do expect several dozen Republicans, as least 35 at the moment, warning they will vote against it. That a number is expected to grow.

But how many more will vote against his plan? And Kevin -- can McCarthy keep a majority of his conference behind it? That is the hope and the expectation, at the moment, from Republican leaders, but that does not mean that's enough to pass the House. They will need to get support from Democrats, and there are number of

House Democrats who are concerned about this bill will have to be convinced to vote for it. We do know that the House Democrats are going to get briefed by White House officials on Sunday. They'll be part of the White House effort to try to get their members in line.


Can they get that coalition? Get it through the House on -- by Wednesday and then they have to worry about the United States Senate which can take time to get any legislation through several days, sometimes up to a week depending on how members respond to this bill.

So, still some major questions despite the significant agreement that was reached late after these frantic negotiations. Still uncertain whether they can get there and avoid the nation's first ever debt default by June 5th, the deadline for Congress to get the bill through both chambers and get is signed into law. Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HOLMES: Now, even before a deal was reached, lawmakers had expressed concerns about what the agreement would include and how it was negotiated. Here's how two members from opposite sides of the aisle responded to the issue.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I think the debt ceiling is -- it's just a created thing to hold us into responsible and to check. But the reality is, neither party is responsible. We've got to get back to some fiscal sanity in this country, it's just that much. We cannot keep spending at these levels. Both parties need to start holding the line. If we went back to pre-spending (ph) we would have a surplus right now if we were at that level of spending.

REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): These are really difficult times right now especially when people are using a default to push a political agenda forward. And so, people at home know the budget process is separate from this.

They're combining it because they understand that they can't get through this type of cuts through the actual normal process that Congress usually takes. And so, they've combined these two things and they're saying, hey, it's my way or the highway. And it's not right and that's not the way we're supposed to go.


HOLMES: All right. Let's discuss this now with Michael Genovese. He's a political analyst and president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Good to see you, my friend. Both sides are going to spin, but what's your read on what little we know so far?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "THE MODERN PRESIDENCY" AND PRESIDENT: Well, you hit the nail on the head, what little we know. We're getting bits and pieces that are starting to dribble out. And we don't know the full details and therein lie the rub, that's where we're going to have the problem. Because both sides want to make it look like they win. Neither side wants to make it look like they caved in, and yet both sides have had to make some concessions.

And so, the real problem is going to be when the details of the bill get exposed to the left on the Democratic Party and the right on the Republican Party, and that's where a lot of hostility we're going to -- we'll find a lot of push back.

HOLMES: And of course, the calendar is tight. I mean, even if things went smoothly, and of course they might not, I mean, they've got to have these 72 hours to consider it. They got to drop the legislation. Hopefully a House vote, I think Wednesday, and then what is a tortuous process often in the Senate, I mean, it could be a post-June 5 territory by the time it's done.

GENOVESE: That's right. And the early euphoria that you probably felt earlier in the evening is a bit premature. There are a lot of hurdles that remain. And, you know, I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but there's a long road ahead of us. Not just in the House, which will be difficult because Kevin McCarthy has to show that he can deliver it, he can sell the product. And that's not a forgone conclusion. And the same is true on the Democratic side.

And so, even when it does pass the House, and I think it will, the Senate's going to also be a problem because any one member can hold the entire institution hostage by filibustering, and that could take days longer. And so, it could very well be that we get pass that June 5th deadline.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. I mean, there are elements, of course, of the GOP who are fiercely hardline. You know, want to blow things up. How at risk is McCarthy if they're angry, given the deal he cut to get the speakership, changing the rules so it only takes one member to force a vote for the speakership. How much pressure is he under from his hard- right?

GENOVESE: This is his first big test. Can he limit defections from his own party? Can he quell the revolt on the right? And he get an -- can he get the number he needs? And you mentioned that he -- it only takes one member of the House to call for a vote, to have a new vote for who the new speaker shall be. And so, Kevin McCarthy is always walking on egg shells or one foot on a banana peel, and this is going to be the true test of both Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans in their ability to govern.

GENOVESE: You know, going forward -- I mean, there's a deal with White House concessions in areas they value. Does it just, sort of, encourage this thing going forward even if it's not until 2025, which it looks like it won't be? I mean, does this show economic hostage taking works where, you know, a party can threaten to send the country off a cliff.

[00:10:00] You know, affect the global financial system and get what it wants or at least a lot of what it wants?

GENOVESE: This kind of brinksmanship is dangerous. It's dangerous in American politics, but it also sends a terrible message to the globe, to the rest of the world. It's not the way a stable super power ought to behave. And if our word can't be our bond, and if people start to doubt us, wonder if we're a reliable partner. Wonder if we're capable of delivering on our promises. Are we steady enough to be global leaders?

What this last couple of weeks has shown us is that our democracy does not inspire confidence. And that's a terrible message because if the new normal in American politics is that chaos and confusion are baked into the process, then China is going to be very happy, and American leadership is going to be in jeopardy.

HOLMES: Yes, there are already countries out there that would like the Chinese yuan to replace the dollar, and this gives some ammunition to those. Michael, I really appreciate. Good to see you. Michael Genovese, thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: The tentative deal was reached over the U.S. Memorial Day holiday day weekend just days before the Treasury Department said the U.S. risked defaulting on what it owes. Now, a default, which has never happened, by the way, in U.S. history would have a global economic impact.

Earlier in the week, Fitch Ratings placed U.S. sovereign credit on "Ratings watch negative" ahead of a potential downgrade in the event of a default.

Catherine Rampell is a CNN economics and political commentator. She's also "Washington Post" opinion columnist. What a long day. There's still not much detail, even though the steam has already begun, but how much relief will there be in the markets, not just the U.S. but the global economy as well?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND WASHINGTON POST OPINION COLUMNIST: I think there will be quite a bit of relief in the markets that at least the outlines of a deal seem to be in place. Now, we're not out of the woods yet. Whatever this deal is, and we don't know the details of course, has to be turned into legislation and then it has it make it through both houses of Congress.

And that may, indeed, be a hurdle going forward because a number of Republican lawmakers have indicated that they might try to obstruct it. And Democrats, as well, might be unhappy with the final bill. But if, in fact, progress has been made, yes, this should be a huge relief to anyone who was concerned that the United States might soon be unable to pay its bills.

HOLMES: Yes, and almost certainly it wasn't planned, but it's probably a good thing it's on a long holiday weekend. The markets aren't open until Tuesday. Do you think though even with a deal, and as you say we don't know exactly what it is, but regardless that all of this would have caused more erosion of international trust in the U.S. with, you know, a debt ceiling system that leads to this sort of uncertainty, going close to the edge again? Does it just make the U.S. look less of a safe bet? What's the damage?

RAMPELL: I think nothing good came of this, frankly. Nothing good for a long-term fiscal picture despite what Republican lawmakers who have been holding the debt limit hostage argue, and nothing good for our international relationships. Look, if we avoid default that will unequivocally be a good thing, but in the meantime, there's been a lot of dysfunction that has been clear for the global economy.

Our friends and foes to witness that, in fact, other countries, some of our adversaries have already taken advantage of by saying, look, you know, you can't trust those -- that so-called democracy in the United States. They can't even get their act together to even pay their bills.

So, yes, it would be a good thing if we, in fact, don't cause a global financial crisis. But we did not exactly cover ourselves in glory here in the United States by coming as close as we have. And, again, it's still not totally resolved.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. For those who might want to turn away from the U.S. dollar, it's just ammunition. I guess when -- and it comes to what we do know that spending, it appears, will be kept at 2023 levels through 2024. Holding spending flat isn't a cut really, is that a win for the president? And also, the fact the debt ceiling won't come up again, it appears, until after the 2024 election. I mean, I'm trying to imagine the ransom demands in an election here. Are both of these things wins for the president?

RAMPELL: Well, I think the devil is in the details on the actual spending levels. So, if in fact, spending levels are kept flat, not adjusting for inflation, and Republicans are fighting to increase defense spending, then that would imply that there have to be cuts somewhere else to offset that increase defense spending. But I don't exactly know what the accounting is yet.


Maybe they -- again, we have very few details. Maybe they mean spending is flat for all the nondefense stuff. But in any event, yes, there could very well be some cuts to some programs that come out of this depending on the actual details of the agreement.

I think it is definitely a good thing that we are extending the -- or suspending, it sounds like, the debt limit for the next couple of years. I -- my view is we should get rid of it altogether since it causes nothing but headaches and heartburn. But at the very least, it's a good thing that this is not coming up again next year because next year obviously is an election year in the United States.

And as irrational as everyone has behaved in negotiations this year, you can just imagine how many more theatrics you would get if everybody's watching the poll numbers. If people -- if politicians are paying more attention to how they're posturing around the debt limit plays for the election as opposed to the global economy and whatever other policy goals they are trying to aim for. So, a very good thing that this is not going to be a political football next year.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, yes. You can just imagine. Now, does a deal with White House concessions in areas they value just encourage this sort of thing going forward, even if it's not until 2025? I mean, does this show, you know, the economic hostage taking works where one party can threaten to send the country off an economic cliff, and rock the global financial system, and get what it wants or at least a lot of what it wants? I mean, what does that show?

RAMPELL: That was certainly the lesson from 2011. So, viewers may recall that there was another debt limit showdown in 2011 where the United States came very close to default, ultimately at the last minute came to a deal. Biden, then-vice president now president, was in charge of some of the negotiations at that time. And one of the lessons that they learned from that episode was that if you pay a ransom, you encourage more hostage taking.

And in fact, a couple of years later in 2013 there was another attempt to hold the debt limit hostage. It didn't get quite as bad that year as it had the previous couple of years, but I think that's part -- that whole experience is part of the reason why now President Biden had been adamant. We're not going to negotiate over this. There is -- should be no question about whether the United States will pay its bills, in fact, it's in the constitution. But the public -- the validity of public debt should not be questioned. We're not going to negotiate over that.

Obviously, ultimately, he did. And I do wonder to what extent this is going to encourage more brinksmanship if not next year, in 2025, or thereafter.

HOLMES: Yes. Catherine, it's so good to have you on this and thanks for staying up. Appreciate it. Catherine Rampell.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

HOLMES: Speculation grows in Ukraine about its expected counteroffensive, but as when and where remain up in the air, guns are doing the talking on the ground. We'll have that when we come back.



HOLMES: Explosions are rattling areas on both sides of the front line in Ukraine as speculation grows about its expected counteroffensive. Officials say, Kyiv came under drone attack on Sunday morning. They say, more than 40 drones were shot down, but falling debris damaged this building and caused a fire. At least one person has died, another one wound. Ukraine also reported multiple blasts in the occupied cities of

Mariupol and Berdyansk on Saturday, while Russian missiles and artillery hit the Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions. It all happened just hours after Ukraine's top general posted a video which appears to drop a strong hint about the expected offensive. Fred Pleitgen reports.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, a pretty remarkable video that was put forward by Ukraine's top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. It seems to show Ukrainian soldiers getting ready for battle and saying, it's time to take back what is ours.

Now, in the video, you also see is them showing a lot of western supplied military equipment. It ranges from U.S. supplied Howitzers to HIMARS multiple rocket launch system, but also German supplied Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which many believe are going to be a key element once the Ukrainians start a counteroffensive that has been looming for a while.

Now, it's unclear whether or not this could be an indication that that counteroffensive could be on the horizon, could be inching closer. But one of the things that we are seeing is that there do seem to be an increased number of long-distance strikes, possibly by the Ukrainians on the rear echelon of the Russians.

Now, those are focusing, essentially, on two places. One of them is Berdyansk, on the Azov Sea, and the other is Mariupol, which of course is also a major port town on the Azov Sea as well.

In fact, there are reports of three explosions, at least, in Mariupol on Saturday. Mariupol is one of the main staging grounds for the Russian military for their operations in Ukraine, so that certainly could be a big blow to the Russians if the Ukrainians are indeed hitting that area.

The Russians, for their part, are saying that they have intercepted some Ukrainian drones and some Ukrainian missiles as well. They were also talking about intercepting two Storm Shadow missiles, which of course were supplied by the United Kingdom.

It's unclear whether or not that that is true, but it certainly does seem as though right now the Russians in that part of Ukraine seem to be under a considerable amount of pressure. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


HOLMES: The polls are set to open next hour in Turkey's presidential runoff election. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing the challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, after failing to get the 50 plus one votes he needed to out win the outright in the first round two weeks ago. Turnout was strong in that vote. Nearly 90 percent of those eligible cast a ballot. Here's what some Turkish voters had to say about the runoff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is definitely a very important election for our country, but if you ask who's going to win nobody can tell. It's a neck-to-neck election.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Quite frankly, the economy is a very important criteria for my vote. I'm a mother of three and I know how hard it is to make ends meet. There are a lot of things lacking, which is why I think it's the most deserving who should win. What's important is the people.


HOLMES: All right. For our international viewers, do be sure to watch CNN's special live coverage of the 2023 Turkey elections hosted by Becky Anderson. That's on Sunday at 8:00 in the evening in Ankara, 9:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

A team from Saudi Arabia arrived in Syria on Saturday to setup a reopening of the kingdom's embassy in Damascus. The two countries had agreed earlier to reopen diplomatic missions in both countries. It comes more than a decade after Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with the Syrian government over its brutal handling of the country's civil war and weeks after Syria was admitted -- or readmitted into the Arab league.

British border officials have fixed the nationwide technical issue that hit electronic passport gates at airports on Saturday. The fault caused major delays for passengers arriving into the U.K. who had to have their passports checked manually rather than by machine. Some people complained of having to wait in line for several hours. Many were traveling ahead of a public holiday, Monday, and school half-term break.

I'm Michael Holmes. "Living Golf" is next for our international viewers. For everyone else, I'll be back with more news after the break.



HOLMES: Just days before the U.S. government was expected to run out of cash and set off a global economic calamity, President Joe Biden and Republican House leaders say, they have a deal in principle. A source telling CNN the president and House Speaker McCarthy sealed the agreement during a phone call just a few hours ago. Negotiators are said to be working on the final text, which would go to a vote in the House of Representatives early next week, perhaps Wednesday.

It reportedly includes raising the government's borrowing authority for two years, but also reportedly freezes increases in most non- defense spending for the same period. Mr. Biden is calling the agreement a compromise, while McCarthy is calling it a, "A deal worthy of the American people." The president also stressed that because it is a compromise, "Not everyone gets what they want." CNN White House Reporter Priscilla Alvarez has the story.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House and House Republicans have reached an agreement in principle on the debt ceiling. This, the outcome of 24 hours of tireless talks between Hill negotiators and White House negotiators as they came up against that June 5th deadline when the U.S. would run out of funds and in an attempt to avert a debt default.

Now, over the course of the day, White House officials said that there was general optimism about the trajectory of these talks, some echoing what President Biden had said on Friday on his way to Camp David that a deal was, "Very close." But a pivotal moment came early Saturday -- Saturday afternoon when President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy connected over the phone. And that, we are told, is when they were able to reach an agreement in principle.

Now, of course, over the next several hours, both sides will be working on the text of this agreement. And the devil will be in the details. That is where Republicans, as well as Democrats, will learn more about what exactly this agreement looks like. And they're up against a very tight deadline. Not only was it important for both sides to reach an agreement but, then, too, it is what this legislative text will say, showing that to members of Congress, and then later a vote on the House floor, and then it has to go through the Senate.

So, a long road ahead for what amounts to a very short amount of time. But at least on Saturday, an important development as President Biden and the White House reached that agreement with House Republicans allowing them to move forward and trying to avert a debt default on June 5th. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: And I'm joined now by Jessica Levinson. She's a professor of law at Loyola Law School and also, the host of "Passing Judgment" podcast. She comes to us live from Los Angeles. Always good to see you, Professor. The spin is under way. Both sides are going to talk up what they got or didn't surrender, at least. How do you expect it to play out over the weekend? There's still a long way to go, isn't it?

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR OF LAW, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: There is still a long way to go, and it's an understatement to say that we are going to be witnessing a very fractured Washington, D.C., vote on this.

The House, I think, we're going to need significant support from Democrats in order to pass this because basically both sides of the parties, the extremes on both sides, are not happy with what they see. And in the Senate, the same thing.

So, in this case, I think what Democrats are going to say is we kept the House in order. There will not be big cuts to major -- excuse me, to major federal programs. And I think Republicans will say, we ended up implementing a freeze on spending, and that is a big deal. Now, again, we have to see what happens before June 5th because it's not a sure thing.

HOLMES: Yes, I also wanted to ask you, I mean, we talk about wins and losses. The debt ceiling won't come up again until after the 2024 election. That's got to be a big win for the president because, I mean, we can all imagine the ransom demands in an election year.

LEVINSON: I think that's exactly right. A huge win for the president, particularly because he said, I will not negotiate. And what's happening and what are we talking about? He's negotiating. He said over and over again, send me a clean bill. Send me a bill where it's just raising the debt ceiling like you did, Republicans, when there was a Republican president in the White House.


They didn't do that. They realized this was their moment that they could really negotiate for, at least, some budget cuts that they wanted. They were able to receive some of them. They were modest if this bill passes. But you can imagine if President Biden is re-elected and he has to go into this again, I mean, it's going to be 2.0 when it comes to these particular negotiations. But, again, big win for that not to happen before the next election.

HOLMES: Absolutely. You touched on this. Let's revisit. You've got, you know, the chasm between the GOP and Democrats. But, you know, both parties, as you say, they have their own divisions, the Democrat progressives. But particularly, I think, the hard line, you know, MAGA wing, if you like, of the GOP.

It just takes, you know, one of them to force a vote for the speaker's job. Kevin McCarthy knows that. So, how do you see his position if there is indeed anger and pushback from his caucus and it looks like there could be. I mean, if there's a group in his party that want to block or damage this deal, where does that leave him?

LEVINSON: Weakened, even more so than he is after, I believe, it was 15 votes to get him the job. And part of his ability to get that job was he said basically, we're going to stop spending. When the debt limit comes up, we're going to reduce federal spending and I promise you, we're going to cut big programs. None of that happened.

The House Freedom Caucus is really upset tonight. They will be really upset tomorrow, and I don't think that he will have their support. And this was one of the big questions when it came to Kevin McCarthy as speaker, which is how much power does he really have over his caucus if he barely limps across the finish line when it comes to becoming speaker?

Now, of course, Hakeem Jeffries for Democrats, also has a big lift here because there are progressive Democrats who are saying, why did we negotiate? Why did we do anything other than accept a clean bill, and we were essentially held ransom? HOLMES: You know, I keep coming back to this interim (ph) -- in conversation, particularly with guests on the international front. When it comes to the debt ceiling process itself, there's only two countries in the world that have this type of debt ceiling. The other one is Denmark and their ceiling will never be hit, it's so high. I mean, it's designed that way.

And when Donald Trump was in office, he said the debt ceiling should never be used a negotiating tactic. And then when he was challenged at the "CNN Town Hall" on why Republicans are doing it? He said, well, I'm not the president anymore. They should go for broke. What does that say in terms of the political cynicism of this whole process?

LEVINSON: Well, I think the question is the answer. It's extremely cynical. And this really isn't about what is best for the country. Frankly, this is about political wins at this point. And, yes, each party thinks that their particular ideology is the one that will lead us to a better path, but it is so cynical that this really isn't about the debt ceiling. It's about what type of compromises you can extract from the other side because you have the opportunity.

I mean, think of how different this conversation would be if about 10 votes in the House of Representatives have gone the other way. Democrats would have controlled the House, the Senate, the Oval Office. You never would have had this conversation, and that's because Republicans have really linked, and it was strategically extremely smart that they did, but have really linked the debt ceiling with what they want out of the next few budget cycles.

And again, there's a reason why trust in federal government is low because people sense that politicians are out for wins, not necessarily to avoid economic catastrophe.

HOLMES: Democrats are probably ruing they didn't do away with the debt ceiling before the mid-terms when they actually controlled both Houses, but they did not and here we are. Jessica Levinson in Los Angeles, always good to see you. Thank you, Professor.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, Texas Republican attorney general is now suspended from office after Republican lawmakers in the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. Coming up, we'll explain what Ken Paxton is accused of doing that prompted members of his own party to roundly condemn him. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Welcome back. In a stunning development, Republican lawmakers in the Texas house have voted overwhelmingly to impeach one of their own, the state's Republican attorney general. The vote against Ken Paxton was 121 to 23. As Rosa Flores reports, it comes after a legislative investigation accused him of years of corruption.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ken Paxton has been impeached by the Texas House of Representatives and under the Texas constitution, that means that he is immediately suspended and that the governor of Texas has the power to appoint a replacement. But let me start by taking you inside the Texas House for this historic vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have all numbers voted. There have been 121 ayes, and 23 nays, two present nonvoting, three absent. The resolution is adopted.

FLORES: This is a case of Republicans policing Republicans in the state of Texas. In the State of Texas, Republicans lead the house, and the chairman of the committee that investigated Ken Paxton is also a Republican. And he issued this statement after the vote saying in part, "Throughout the course of the investigation, we discovered numerous activities that constitute unethical and potentially criminal conduct.

These violations of the public trust are alarming and show a systemic pattern of behavior that every member of our committee felt needed to be addressed in a public forum."

Now, this vote is already historic because Ken Paxton is the first attorney general in the State of Texas to ever be impeached. Now, there was another bombshell during the hours-long debate leading up to this historic vote, and that was when several members said in open forum that members of the House have received calls from Ken Paxton threatening them that if they voted yes, there would be political consequences.


There was concern about there, so much so that one of the House members took to Twitter saying in part, "I will be submitting a journal statement to amend charge documents to include abuse of power, intimidation of House members, and Senate jury tampering in light of Charlie Geren's statements that A.G. Paxton called and threaten House and Senate members."

Now, I asked Paxton's office about this and I did not hear back. But Ken Paxton did take to Twitter in response to his impeachment, saying in part, "I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just."

So, what happens in the Texas House? What we know is that the lieutenant governor serves as judge, the 31 senators serve as jurors, and that a two-thirds vote of those senators who are present is required to convict. Rosa Flores, CNN, Houston.


HOLMES: Still to come on the program, air travel in the U.S. sees a significant surge going into the holiday weekend. We'll have the details after the break.



HOLMES: Air travel in the U.S. hit its highest level since the pandemic this week as millions of Americans took to the skies for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The Transportation Security Administration says, it screened more than 2.7 million travelers at airports across the country on Friday. That's the highest checkpoint volume since November 2019. The agency says, it expects to screen more than 10 million people during this holiday weekend.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has been monitoring passenger numbers at the world's busiest travel hub, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport here in Atlanta.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been keeping a very close eye on the crowd size here at this main security checkpoint all day long. And it's ebbing and flowing. Moments where the size is pretty compact, like this, and other times where it's empty. You can get in and out within 10 minutes or less.

On Friday, the TSA reported that it screened an estimated 2.7 million people nationwide here in the U.S., marking the busiest day, the highest day of volume so far this year. And then here at Hartsfield- Jackson Airport, the world's busiest airport on Friday, TSA here screening 98,000 passengers, marking the third busiest day ever for the airport. I spoke with some travelers who had all sorts of struggles and frustrations even before getting inside of the airport. Listen.

MEGAN HALLISSEY, TRAVELER: 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, I -- my advice would be to plan, plan, plan. Leave early.

ROSALES: And last summer, you might remember, was a travel fiasco with thousands of flight -- of flights disrupted. So, experts and passengers alike are keeping a close eye to this summer, and specifically this Memorial Day weekend, as a sort of a test for the airlines, the airports, and the FAA which one of the biggest hurdles right now is that it has a major shortage of air traffic controllers. An estimated 3,000 controllers down from their ideal staffing numbers. Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: The U.S. embassy in Uruguay is warning Americans of a drinking water shortage in the area caused by a long drought. Among the precautions it recommends, conserving water and using bottled water for infant formula. Another concern, the National Water Company is mixing saltwater into the freshwater to stretch supplies. Rafael Romo with more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): It's supposed to provide water for more than a million people. But these days, the Canelon Grande Reservoir in Uruguay looks more like a muddy field where residents can walk. A multi-year drought and lack of rain have combined to create a severe water crisis. The government is urging people to stop wasting water by avoiding washing their vehicles and watering gardens, as well as repairing leaks and reporting water main breaks. The drought is so severe that public works officials have resorted to a drastic alternative.

We're having to mix fresh water from the Santa Lucia River with water from ocean tides coming from the south, which is salty, this public works union official says.

On the streets people are protesting almost daily. And heated debates have exploded in the Uruguayan parliament with the opposition accusing the government of President Luis Lacalle Pou of sitting on their hands. Lacalle Pou acknowledge his country is living what he described a complex moment. Adding that he takes responsibility and stressing that his government is already taking measures to solve the crisis.

Those measures include acquiring a desalination plant and activating two facilities that can purify water by osmosis and produce bottled water. It's not just Uruguay. According to a report by carbon brief, South America has been suffering a prolonged dry spell the past three years. Water levels in the Parana River, the second-longest river in South America, have plummeted to their lowest level in theory 80 years. And Argentina is facing its worst drought in 60 years.

Uruguayans are desperately seeking alternatives, but things are not looking good. Companies that sell bottled water say they're already at a point where demand has vastly surpassed supply.

Demand has shot up when we have been unable to keep up for the last week, this distribution director says.

For now, drinking salty water and conserving as much as possible seem to be the only options for many in Uruguay. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.



HOLMES: It was a big night in Cannes for the French Film Director Justine Triet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Palme d'Or 2023 goes to Justine Triet.


HOLMES: Triet is the third woman, the -- only the third woman to get the Palme d'Or. She won for "Anatomy of a Fall." Triet directed the intense courtroom drama about a writer accused of murdering her husband. She used her acceptance speech to slam the Macron government over how it raised the retirement age in France.


JUSTINE TRIET, DIRECTOR, "ANATOMY OF A FALL" (through translator): This year, the country was gripped by a historic, extremely powerful, and unanimous protest against the pension reform. This protest has been denied and repressed in a shocking way, and this pattern of dominating power of unabashed power is bursting out across several spheres.


HOLMES: Triet joins New Zealand's Jane Campion and France's Julie Ducournau as the only woman to win the Palme d'Or. This year at Cannes, there was a record seven women competing for the top prize.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @holmescnn. I will be back with another hour of "Newsroom" in a moment.