Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

U.S. To Hit Debt Limit This Week; Bills Beat Dolphins; U.S. Detainee in Iran Begins Hunger Strike; Study on Excessive Alcohol. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 06:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

So, Christine, let me just begin with you.


HARLOW: What's at stake here? Because this letter that Janet Yellen sent to Speaker McCarthy warned of, in her words, quote, irreparable harm to the U.S. economy if Washington doesn't get its fiscal house in order.

ROMANS: This is about America's reputation, America's promises. We promised the rest of the world that we will pay our bills and pay our -- we run at a deficit in this country, have for years and year and years and years, and that works fine because the rest of the world buys our debt, gobbles up our debt, actually, because we are such a credit worthy nation.

So, what is the debt ceiling? It's exactly what it sounds like. This is the limit, the total amount of money the United States is - is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations. This is the credit limit.

Now, here's what happens. Congress does this over and over again. Congress, together, as a body, decides to spend money and then Congress later says, we don't want to pay the money we already spent. We don't want to pay the credit card bill. And then you get into these perennial fights over raising the debt limit.

We've done it over and over again. A hundred years ago, a century ago, Congress set a limit to try to, you know, chasten the body to, don't spend more money -

HARLOW: Thank you got.

ROMANS: Than you need to spend.

HARLOW: Yes. ROMANS: But they do it all the time anyway. And then you risk America's credibility, you risk America's financial standing in the world if you don't actually pay your bills.

HARLOW: Do you want me to go to Lauren?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, go for it.

HARLOW: Lauren - Lauren, the thing that I keep thinking about is, OK, we came to the cliff but didn't fall off the precipice in 2011. So, we won't do it again, right, or wrong? Because this Congress is very different than 2011.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and already Republicans in the House of Representatives are staking their claim, saying this is the moment to get the country's fiscal house in order. That they want and are demanding spending cuts as part of any negotiation to increase the debt ceiling. Senate Democrats are already laying out that is the nonstarter. And the White House making it clear, that is not how this negotiation is supposed to work.

But one of the major issues right now is the fact that Kevin McCarthy, as part of his effort to become the House speaker, already made a deal with conservatives that he would not bring a clean debt ceiling bill to the floor of the House, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right.

FOX: And that is really where we start this debate with just about five months to go until we really reach that maximum estimate to when this debt ceiling and these extraordinary measures can continue, Poppy.

HARLOW: Can you - can you explain the significance of why - of Janet Yellen saying, Christine, that in a few days, January 19th, we're going to hit that limit a lot sooner than we thought?

ROMANS: So, we're going to hit the limit, but then she is going to move money around to make sure that we can still pay our external bills as long as possible and then this summer is when there would be the real crisis, right? So, moving money around. What does that mean? It means not paying into civil servant retiree funds right now, which doesn't that sound like a bad thing to be doing, you know, not investing in certain accounts that you need. It shows weakness. It shows a Treasury Department that is working around the clock to sort of juggle until we get to this really more important date in the summer. And then what happens in the summer if you have some sort of showdown in Washington? Poppy and I have covered this. In 2013, when they got real close. In 2011, which was just a disaster.

LEMON: I remember covering it.

ROMANS: You lose your - yes, you lose your -

LEMON: I remember the government shutting down and, yes, like, twice, right? ROMANS: Yes, you lose your credit rating, your AAA credit rating. And the rest of the world suddenly looks at you and says, wait, if they're not going to - if they're not going to pay their bills, if they're not going to - if they're not going to honor their commitments on the world stage, then we don't want to buy their debt. And then suddenly you just unravel everything that the country is based - it's just very, very bad and dangerous.

And there are people who say -- smart people who say we shouldn't even have a debt limit, right? If Congress does this over and over again, spends the money and then says we're not going to pay for the money, why even have a credit card limit in the first place, you know?

LEMON: Well, and why get -- why go down to the wire every single time? It's just political gamesmanship that they're - they're playing here.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: Why do it?

ROMANS: It must poll well to be - to be able to pound on the table and say, we're going to get our fiscal house in order.

Now, there are Democrats who would like to get the fiscal house in order, too, don't forget, you know? But this is one of those things that Congress does over -- it's "Groundhog Day" and it's dangerous.

LEMON: Thank you, Lauren, there in the dark. We see you. Thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us.

Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

LEMON: We appreciate it.

HARLOW: Well, the Cincinnati Bengals set to face off against the Buffalo Bills again for the first time since Damar Hamlin's on-field collapse. The controversy surrounding where the next game is going to be played, though. That's ahead.

LEMON: And it appears, get this, flip phones are making a comeback. Why they're becoming the new vintage obsession for gen-z. That's straight ahead.



LEMON: So, we talk some sports this morning. The NFL playoffs are underway with a weekend full of action packed games and there's still one more on tap tonight.

Coy Wire joins us now.

Coy, it was a great weekend for wings and beer and football watching. It was really interesting.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Where are we watching tonight, Don? Where are we watching tonight, baby?

Hey, four second half come from behind wins, that's tied for the most ever in the opening round of the playoffs. Buffalo has been on an emotional roller coaster, right, Don, the last couple of weeks. Today marks two weeks since the 24-year-old safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field. He cheered his team from home yesterday as he continues to recover. Buffalo charging out to a 17-0 lead in this one, Don. Almost nobody giving Miami a chance, playing with their third string quarter. But they find a way to hang in there, taking the lead in the third.


Zach Sieler scooping up a Josh Allen fumble for a touchdown. Josh Allen had three turnovers in this game, but he makes up for it for Bills Mafia, throwing two touchdown passes over a span of just three minutes. First to Cole Beasley there. That gave them the go-ahead score in the third. And then Gabe Davis toe-tapping in the end zone for this one. It's like the Bills were riding a high last week on a Thanksgiving feast with good news of Damar Hamlin's recovery. But this week was kind of like a post-meal crash, barely hanging on, 34-31. Josh Allen says, hey, survive and advance. We'll take a win any way we can get it.


JOSH ALLEN, BUFFALO BILLS QUARTERBACK: One week seasons, man, that's it. You've got to take it one and zero. One game at a time. Thought we did some good things today. I did some bad things today, you know? Some stuff to clean up. Some things to learn from. But we'll grow from it. It's all -- all that matters is surviving and advancing. Doesn't matter how we win it, it's if we win.


WIRE: Buffalo will host the Bengals in the next round in a rematch of the canceled game in which Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest.

Cincinnati, they needed a huge play from their defense last night to advance over Baltimore. Raven's quarterback Tyler Huntley trying to reach the ball over for the go-ahead score in the fourth. The game was tied, but somehow Cincinnati's Sam Hubbard, all 6'5" 264 pounds of him running for a touchdown, 98 yards. Hubbard is born and raised in Cincinnati. So he's now the hometown hero. This was the longest fumble return in playoff history. Huntley, you'll see here, getting that ball punched out just a tad shy of the go ahead score. Cincinnati advancing. It's bye-bye to Baltimore.


SAM HUBBARD, CINCINNATI BENGALS DEFENSIVE END: I was in the right place at the right time. And was just worried about getting hugged down. I'm glad I made it to the endzone without getting checked (ph). We know that these playoff games are never pretty and by any means we just had to get it done. Great team effort by everybody. Guys stepping up left and right. That's playoff football.


WIRE: How about those New York football Giants, bursting into the playoffs for the first time in six years. Saquon Barkley, see you later, 28 yards for the score. They tie the game with the Vikings after they took the early lead. But quarterback Daniel Jones had the game of his life. First player all time with 300 yards and two touchdowns passing, along with 70 plus yards rushing in a playoff game. Giants win 31-24. They'll face the Eagles in Philadelphia next week.

You have the -- Tom Brady's buccaneers facing the Dallas Cowboys tonight, Don and Poppy. It should be on and popping. Forty-five years old, can Tom Brady do it again? We will see.

LEMON: On and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, popping.

WIRE: Don and Poppy.

HARLOW: Did you - did you wear the purple tie for me because you felt bad for the Vikings?

WIRE: I didn't want to go there. I know that's your hometown team. They fought valiantly all season, but when it mattered, oh, sorry for Mini.

HARLOW: Terrible day for us.

LEMON: You all right?

HARLOW: But I'm going to be fine.

LEMON: All right.

HARLOW: I'm going to be fine. My daughter's still rooting for the Giants. She's like, mom, I'm born in New York. You know, so she just added a little salt to the wound.

LEMON: Smart kids.

WIRE: We'll take up on that Buffalo bandwagon, Poppy.

LEMON: Let's go all the way.

HARLOW: All right, there you go, I am going to get on the Buffalo bandwagon.

Thank you, Coy.

WIRE: There we go.

LEMON: All right, Coy, see you later. Thank you.

HARLOW: OK. OK. OK, ring, ring, the '90s are calling. Seriously. Gen-z apparently has a new vintage obsession, the flip phone. Videos are popping up all over TikTok of young people unboxing them and tapping - taping, I should say, tutorials on the low-quality camera on their flip phones. The devices are being sold for as little as $20 at big box retailers like Walmart and Amazon. Even singer Camila Cabello recently tweeted, I am team flip phone revolution. Maybe I can write a theme song guys.

This is part of a growing trend of young people seeking to unplug. Psychologist say smart phones and social media becomes more universal. The rate of depression among teens has also increased. Now, many are beginning to leave their smartphones behind and take their flip phones to parties instead.

LEMON: I hope that's true. I hope it's just not a fad.

HARLOW: I do too.

LEMON: I actually hope it's true because I think people are too much on their phones all the time.

HARLOW: I totally agree. But why are they putting it on - on - what -- someone -- how are they getting it on TikTok? With a different smart phone?

LEMON: I don't know. But, I mean it's -- I'm sure they - they go out - go back to the other device to send it. They take the picture on the old phone and they send it to their new phone and they probably get it on there.

But, anyway. Whatever. I hope it's true because it would just be good if young people disconnected from social media so much.

HARLOW: I agree. You know when you --

LEMON: I still have a flip phone, by the way. A couple -

HARLOW: You do?

LEMON: Yes, somewhere.

HARLOW: So does Chuck Schumer, who was on the program Friday.

LEMON: And I have a Blackberry. I don't use it,, but I still have one in a box somewhere. This is my regular one.

HARLOW: You know how you know you're old, when you're reading the prompter and it --

LEMON: Look in the mirror.

HARLOW: When you're reading the teleprompter and it says young people. I'm like, wait, I - I was one. Yes, there's that.

LEMON: Speak for yourself. I'm still young.

HARLOW: You are, babe, at heart.

LEMON: I'm a millennial. Gen-z.

HARLOW: OK, turning the page here to a very serious story, though, next.


An American who is still, after seven years, wrongly detained in Iran, has launched a hunger strike with a message to President Biden.

LEMON: And this was really scary. A very close call between two planes at New York's JFK Airport now being investigated by the FAA.


LEMON: An American imprisoned in Iran is launching a hunger strike to mark the seven years he's been in prison since being left behind in a prisoner exchange. Siamak Namazi was arrested in 2015, interrogated for months, then charged with espionage. He's written to President Biden, urging him to do more for wrongfully detained prisoners.

Straight to CNN's Kylie Atwood now. She joins us now live from Washington, D.C.

Kylie, good morning to you.

What does he hope to accomplish with this hunger strike?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, this perilous mission is part of an effort to try and attract the attention of the person that he believes matter most when it comes to bringing him home, and that's President Biden.

Overnight, Don, we saw a Twitter account that was launched by his family and his lawyer, and they'll provide updates as to how he's doing throughout this hunger strike.



ATWOOD (voice over): Siamak Namazi, an American wrongfully detained in Iran for more than seven years, is embarking on a hunger strike today and calling on President Biden to do everything in his power to bring him home.

BABAK NAMAZI, SIAMAK NAMAZI'S BROTHER: Siamak feels desperate and reaching out publicly to the U.S. president underscores that desperation.

ATWOOD: Babak Namazi says the goal of his brother's letter to the president is to remind him of what happened seven years ago when Biden was vice president. Five Americans wrongfully detained in Iran returned home and Siamak was left behind.

NAMAZI: It was just a horrific week as to think that seven years, you know, seven whole years have gone by, which could have been avoided.

ATWOOD: In his letter, Siamak pleads for Biden's attention, saying all he wants is, quote, just a single minute of your time for each year of my life I've lost in Evin Prison and the U.S. government could have saved me but didn't. That is all.

Siamak remains in the notorious Evin Prison. There are also two other Americans wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime right now. The hardest question for him to answer is, how are you doing? He writes to Biden, quote, how do I explain the devastation my family and I are left with after so many half-hearted prisoner deals crumbled last minute, turning freedom into chimera. How do I convey the excruciating terror that comes with not knowing when or how this nightmare will end, or even what comes next.

NAMAZI: President Biden, Siamak is begging you, my family is imploring you, please, please, take what it takes to make those courageous decisions that we know you are capable of.


ATWOOD: Now, an embassy spokesperson told us that it is outrageous that Iran continues to detain Americans for political leverage, and said that the Biden administration is working tirelessly to try and bring home all three Americans, Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, who are all still wrongfully detained in Iran.


LEMON: Kylie, thank you so much.

HARLOW: OK, so a lot of people started drinking a lot more during the pandemic. How much alcohol is too much? We've got the sobering, pun intended, results ahead.



HARLOW: There is dry January and then there are those who say pour me another. Either way, we are learning it is more important than ever to mind what you drink.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here to break it down.

This is actual medical data on what is too much.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it definitely lets you know that excessive drinking really can be a problem. The CDC scientists who did the study, they took on the enormous task at looking at deaths and saying, hmm, how many of these were attributable to excess alcohol? So they looked at everything from drunk driving accidents, which obviously are all about the alcohol, to things like cancer and heart disease, where alcohol can play -- excess alcohol, I should say, can play a factor.

So, here's what they found out when they looked at deaths attributable to excess alcohol intake. What they found was for ages 20 through 49, that one in five deaths were attributable to excess alcohol, and for ages 20 through 64 it was one in eight deaths. And so you might wonder, well, if you drink a little bit is it a problem? Let's take a look at how CDC defines moderate drinking, in other words not excessive but moderate drinking.

CDC says for men it's no more than two drinks a day, for women it's no more than one drink a day. And I'll add a little P.S. to that, which is you can't kind of add them up. You can't abstain all week and then have seven drinks on a Saturday night. That's called binge drinking. That has problems all its own. This is two per day or one per day.

LEMON: Why are you looking at me?

COHEN: Poppy. Don.


LEMON: Thank you. Elizabeth, she was looking at me when you said --

HARLOW: I was trying to -- one for women?


HARLOW: More than one is excess?

LEMON: I think it has to do with muscle mass and size in general, right?

COHEN: It does. It has to do with size and it also has to do -- men and women, you know, simply sort of metabolize alcohol differently.


So, I've got to ask you about this dry January. Listen, I think we talked about this, Elizabeth, during the, you know, during the pandemic. I did dry January and ended up going the entire pandemic, 14 months, without drinking nothing, a gummy, nothing.

HARLOW: I know, I was so impressed.

And you wrote a best-selling book as a result.

LEMON: And I wrote a book. I was so clear or whatever. But - so, we're right in the middle of dry January now. Are there any benefits to being dry all year long and not just this month?

COHEN: So, first of all, that's amazing, Don. It's -- that's really great that you did that.

So, you know, someone like you who tried dry January and you found yourself thinking clearer, you found yourself feeling better, or less tired, keep doing it. Listen to your body. If your body liked not drinking, don't drink.

But the CDC doesn't say that all drinking is bad. They don't come out and say all of us need to be teetotalers. They say, look, there is such a thing as moderate drinking. And those are the amounts that we just went over.

And they also say it -- this is important to remember, if you're not drinking, don't start thinking it's going to, you know, maybe be good for your heart or whatever. If you're not drinking, that's great. Don't start.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you.

It was good, though. I do have to say, like you start - and you start feeling well -- better.

HARLOW: And you - you stop missing it after a few weeks?

LEMON: I never - listen, I - now people - people would ask me, are you going to the meetings?


I'm like, I'm not an alcoholic.


LEMON: I want wanted to be clearer. And it actually felt good. I mean I exercised better. I slept better. I looked better. I lost weight.