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Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) is Interviewed about Biden and McCarthy's Meeting; Dave Zirin is Interviewed about Tom Brady's Retirement, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is Interviewed about the Debt Limit; Questions After Whale Dies on Beach. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 01, 2023 - 08:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, just moments from now, House Republicans are going to meet to talk about the debt ceiling ahead of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's sit-down with President Biden this afternoon. It is shaping up to be quite a tense meeting given the White House has said it will not negotiate. They want McCarthy to commit to not letting the U.S. default on its financial obligations. On the other hand, McCarthy has accused the president of being irresponsible for saying he is refusing to negotiate.

Republican Congressman Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota is joining us now.

Good morning, Congressman.

I guess the first big question is, what is Kevin McCarthy going in there expecting to happen during this meeting with President Biden today?

REP. TOM EMMER (R-MN): Well, it's great to be with you, Kaitlan.

I think, first off, you correctly set where the parties were probably a week ago with the president saying there would be no negotiations and McCarthy saying, look, we've got to be able to talk about reasonable stuff, sensible stuff, responsible stuff when it comes to what we're going to do with the debt ceiling.

I think today is a great sign. I think today shows you when the president is inviting Kevin McCarthy down, that the negotiations are beginning. And that's a good thing.

COLLINS: But they're not going to reach any kind of agreement today, you think?

EMMER: Oh, this is - this is going to be a process. And - and I'm sorry I gave it the -- no. I doubt there's going to be any agreement. This is a get to know you, I would say, meeting where they're going to sit down and talk about their mutual goals, their concerns. I think Kevin McCarthy will reassure the president there will be no default. He will reassure the president that Social Security and Medicare are off the table. That's not going to be discussed.

But certainly, as he - I expect he will tell the president, as he's told others over the last few weeks, you can't tell the American people there is no waste in our spending, government spending, that we shouldn't be looking at.

So, I think it will be a good first meeting, Kaitlan, where the two - the two leaders will sit down and have a good conversation, which, hopefully, as we proceed, will lead to some type of resolution that's in the best interest of the American people.

COLLINS: If Social Security and Medicare are off the table, as you just said, where do Republicans want to cut spending?

EMMER: That's going to be part of the dance. The - it's - it's -- you talk about cut spending. How about spending reforms? I think people are going to have to look at how this budget is built over the next ten-year period and talk about where those efficiencies are, where the waste is. The things that can be done from a legislative standpoint and with the White House to make sure that the budget that we're doing going forward is responsible, it's reasonable, and it's sensible for the American people so that we're not mortgaging our children and grandchildren's future.

COLLINS: Congressman, you've said Republicans will not impact defense spending. You said, we aren't cutting defense. We assured appropriators and asked our House Armed Services Committee that's not what we're doing. Are you saying there will be no cuts to defense spending?

EMMER: Actually, I think this has been a discussion amongst all of our members. The White House tried to come out and say that's what was going to happen. Again, everybody is going to be looking at efficiencies. Everybody is going to look at bringing these different budgets into the 21st century, Kaitlan. Everything's on the table in terms of scrutinizing what we're spending on, why we're spending it. Can we spend better? Can we spend more efficiently? I think that's the discussion that's going to start today, and it's going to take some time with both sides having negotiations as to where we go to make sure, at the end of the day, this isn't a Republican or Democrat issue, this is what's good for this country and future generations of Americans.

COLLINS: Well, it sounds like defense spending is on the table then. Even if there is an agreement that is reached down the road between Kevin McCarthy and President Biden, you're the whip. Are you confident that you can get your divided group of Republicans to vote for that deal?

EMMER: First off, I want to make it very clear, from the Republican side we are going to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the equipment, the tools that are necessary for them to accomplish their mission here at home and around the globe.


That is the primary goal of what Republicans will do with our counterparts in the White House and on the other side of the aisle.

As far as Republicans in the House, we have 222 members, Kaitlan. The great thing about that is every voice matters. And, yes, I'm very confident that as a team we will work together to make sure that not only are our members representing the people who elected them, because that's first, that's the primary thing that they have to do, but, second, that they're able to advance the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected a new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives last November.

COLLINS: Yesterday we saw Congressman George Santos step down from his committees. He says it's temporary. I wonder, given you are the NRCC chair and given what we have found out about what he said that wasn't true and what was a lie, do you regret backing him?

EMMER: Well, nobody knew any of this. I find it very interesting that our counterparts at the DCCC didn't do opposition research. This wasn't his first election. It was his second. I find it very interesting that our friends at "The New York Times" didn't do the work that they typically do when they scrutinize candidates like this.

At the end of the day, George Santos, I expect him to do what's right for the people who elected him, and that will play itself out as we go forward.

COLLINS: But do you regret backing him? I'm talking about you specifically?

EMMER: Personally, when it comes to candidates that are out there, there's a whole host of candidates. George Santos was elected by the people of that district to represent their interests. Now he's going to have to answer to those people, not to me.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, he was elected on a resume of lies, I'll note.

But also today there is a question about whether or not Republicans are going to vote to remove Ilhan Omar, block her from getting on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Do Republicans have the vote today to do that?

EMMER: Yes, I believe that's going to happen. I mean I - Ms. Omar has proven that she's not - she should not be on this committee. And the important thing to note, Kaitlan, is there is a process in place where Ms. Omar will be able to present her case to the Rules Committee first in a very public forum. Keep in mind her own -- members of her own party have criticized her anti-Semitic remarks and said that she is not worthy of serving on this committee because of these past statements and because of her bias.

It's much like a judge, for instance, Kaitlan. When a judge gets a case, if he or she has a preconceived bias or interest, it is the rule that they need to recuse themselves. She is not willing to do that. So, the process will be, she will present in front of the Rules Committee. If they agree with her, then it's over. If they don't agree with her, it will come to the House floor. She will be able to debate to the entire assembly of members her case and then there will be a vote. And if she loses that vote, she will be prevented from being seated on the Foreign Affairs Committee. She'll be able to be on any other committee in Congress, but she won't be able to be on that one.

And just so everybody's clear, if that happens, she still has an appeals process after that where she can appeal the decision to the House Ethics Committee.

COLLINS: Right. Well, I do want to note, based on - since you referenced her past comments, she has clarified those. She has apologized for those.

When this was a topic of conversation, she actually invoked your name on Twitter the other day, saying, whip Tom Emmer once said Jewish donors essentially bought control of Congress. That you never apologized. She's referencing a letter you sent as the chair of the NRCC when you referenced billionaires George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg. You said, quote, these left-wing radicals essentially bought control of Congress.

I don't have to tell you, sir, that, obviously, Gorge Soros is Jewish, Michael Bloomberg is Jewish, Tom Steyer's father is Jewish. What's your response to that?

EMMER: Well, Ilhan -- I will put my reputation and credibility up against Ms. Omar's any day of the week. You say that she's apologized. In fact, she has said very publicly that she does not apologize for making her anti-Semitic remarks.

And as for what she's pointing out, this is exactly what they do when they do not have the facts or the law on their side. All they do is try to distract with things that are completely unrelated and not accurate. So, that would be my response.

COLLINS: But given that you named those three individuals, do you feel like that's a sign that every lawmaker should be careful about their language and their insinuations?

EMMER: Again, the issue today before the House is going to be about a member who, since she has been in Congress, has attacked American allies, has attacked America. She has made statements that the United States has committed terrorist acts. That's what the issue is before the House today.

COLLINS: I understand, Congressman.

EMMER: Ms. Omar has to explain to her fellow colleagues why it is that she would make those comments and how she is then qualified to actually make decisions when it comes to foreign affairs and our relationships with countries around the globe. That will be the issue today.

COLLINS: I understand that, Congressman, and that -- those are definitely questions that we have asked of Ilhan Omar previously, our reporters on Capitol Hill, anchors here in Washington.

[08:40:04] But I'm asking about your comments specifically.

EMMER: Yes, I'm - I -- I always watch what I'm saying. I always respect everybody around me. But there's nothing wrong with Ms. Omar's free speech again. We don't have to like what she's saying. She can say whatever she wants. The key here is that when it comes to sitting on this committee, Kaitlan, those remarks and her behavior in the past, her actions, quite frankly, disqualify her from serving on that committee, which is completely different than what you're asking me.

COLLINS: All right, Congressman Emmer, you say that Republicans have the votes to make sure she's not on that committee. We'll wait for that vote today.

Thank you for joining us this morning ahead of these important talks happening at the White House.

EMMER: Thank you, Kaitlan.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: More on the breaking news this morning. Tom Brady is retiring. This time he says it's for good.

And Ozzy Osbourne making a major announcement about his future. We'll tell you what it is.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we have more now on our breaking news. Tom Brady retiring for good.

Dave Zarin, sports editor at "The Nation" joins us now.


Good morning to you, sir.

Huge, right?

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION": Beyond huge. We're talking about the greatest of all time in the most popular sport in all the land, right before the Super Bowl, on the one-year anniversary of his last retirement. So, this could not be bigger news in the sports world.

I mean I cannot think of anybody else really, other than maybe LeBron James, on the present sports landscape who, if they said they retired, the entire sports world would just stop on a dime because that's what's happened this morning.

LEMON: Yes. So, I say - and to have CNN covering it, right, as breaking news.


LEMON: Just real quickly, is this a surprise to you? Did this come as a surprise at this moment? ZIRIN: It honestly does because it looked like there were some places

being set up for Tom to play this fall. A lot of rumors going around looking at schools for his kids in Miami. The Dolphins looked like a possible destination. Any team would have rolled out the red carpet for the guy.

I mean just - I've got to say, we've lost the last athlete of my generation, too. I think so people are a little bit sad that somebody who's 45 years old, with the greatest career in the history of North American sports, is saying good-bye.

LEMON: Yes. He says so, but we'll see if this one sticks, Dave.

Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Be well.

ZIRIN: Thank you.

HARLOW: President Biden and the White House set to speak with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just a few hours from now. And the most pressing issue, of course, is going to be if they're going to raise the debt ceiling. The White House is sticking to its message that they have been sending all month.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is the duty, the basic duty of Congress, to get that done. And so we're not going to - we're just not going to negotiate about that.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: So, the president is not going to negotiate over Congress' constitutional responsibility.


HARLOW: That was the White House just yesterday.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He's the Democratic whip and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Good morning, sir.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Good morning.

HARLOW: So, on top of that, yesterday Speaker McCarthy said he thinks Biden will, quote, sit down and negotiate, closed quote, today. Do you think President Biden should negotiate on the debt ceiling?

DURBIN: Absolutely not. The debt ceiling is a critical vote for our economy, for jobs, for the fate of businesses, and the reputation of the United States to pay its bills. That should not be negotiated.

Now, if Speaker McCarthy wants to negotiate on the budget, that's another item. That's another issue. It will come up a little later. And I would suggest to him some of the things that are coming forward from MAGA Republicans, attacks on Social Security and Medicare, which Senator Scott of Florida had suggested - or has suggested, as well as the notion of a 30 percent national sales tax, which is floating in the House of Representatives, are non-starters.

HARLOW: OK, I will note that McCarthy said on CBS on Sunday that Social Security and Medicare are off the table.

But let me ask you this, because we'll remember - you'll remember well that it was then Vice President Biden in 2011 in the White House leading the negotiations with then Speaker Boehner. But this is a very different time. And this is a very different Congress with different rules now with McCarthy in.

Do you think it is more likely that we'll see a default than it was when we came to the brink in 2011?

DURBIN: God forbid that Speaker McCarthy would want that on his record. For the first time in the history of the United States we're going to default on our debt? Watch what happens to interest rates if he has his way. This default would be disastrous in terms of new home purchases, the value of homes, businesses and jobs. We're going to find ourselves in a spin into a recession if McCarthy follows through.

HARLOW: Yes. I -- it sounds to me like, tell me if I'm wrong, you are more worried about a default than you were then. Are you?

DURBIN: Well, look, 15 roll calls later, I wonder if the House of Representatives is in a position to do the responsible thing. Three times during the Trump presidency we had bipartisan votes to extend the debt ceiling. There was no game playing here. At a time when President Trump was increasing the national debt accumulated over 230 years by 25 percent.


DURBIN: So the debt was going up. We were asked to extend the debt ceiling. We did the responsible thing. We should do it again.

HARLOW: I understand the debt did go up $8 trillion under Trump.

I just want to note for our viewers, a lot of that was because of Covid stimulus.

And people misunderstand, I think, what you rightly point out, which is that a budget is about future spending and the debt ceiling is about promises already made.

But on future spending, I think you'd agree that there is some waste in government. What cuts do you think Democrats should consider?

DURBIN: Listen, we should always consider eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. But let's not make a mistake under the Biden administration. We've been reducing the national debt. When we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which gave the $35 a month insulin, for example, and addressed a lot of issues, the cost of health care for seniors, we reduced the deficit with that as well.


So, we've been doing responsible things. The conversation should continue.


DURBIN: But don't hold the economy and reputation of the United States hostage by saying the debt ceiling is somehow involved in this.

HARLOW: A lot of that direct impact we've seen in terms of decrease in spending has been because some of that stimulus for Covid has ended. But you didn't name any specific thing that you think Democrats should consider cutting. Can you give me some specifics?

DURBIN: Listen, I've been - I've been in the House - and let me just add, you failed to mention, and I'm not holding it against you, that under the Trump administration was also the $2 trillion tax break for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

HARLOW: Of course, the 2017 tax cuts.

DURBIN: Please include that in the Trump record as well.

In terms of going forward, that's another point I want to make. When we're talking about revenue that we can bring in to reduce the deficit by asking the wealthiest among us and corporations that are escaping tax responsibility to do their fair share, that has to be part of the conversation as well. This notion that we're just going to have no alternative but to cut basic programs for veterans or for people in low-income situations, that, to me, is a false choice.

HARLOW: One final question before we move on to police reform, which I know is a personal priority for you, Senator, you introduced last year the Debt Ceiling Reform Act, and that would essentially kick this responsibility from Congress to the Treasury secretary, so essentially to one un-elected individual.

Why should that be taken out of the hands of Congress? Noting that Congress has taken us to the brink before and it can be disastrous for the economy. I mean isn't that why you guys are elected, to do this hard stuff?

DURBIN: Well, of course that's true. But the fact is, there's been political gamesmanship when it comes to our debt ceiling over the last 20 or so years and we've got to bring this to an end. We shouldn't put the economy of the United States in peril because we're in the midst of preparing for a presidential campaign.

And my belief, and others share it, is that saying to Congress, you can disagree with the president on extending the debt ceiling, but you have to do it with an extraordinary vote, I think that's -- let's us come out on the record on this issue without jeopardizing the economy.

HARLOW: So, Senator, let's move to police reform because you have said recently that your colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senators Cory Booker, Tim Scott, are ready to work on this again after the death of Tyre Nichols. This has been a personal priority for you. But listen to what House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan said just a few days ago on this.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Well, I don't know that there's any law that can stop that evil that we saw that is just - I mean just difficult to watch. What strikes me is just the lack of respect for human life. So, I don't know that any law, any training, any reform is going to change -- you know, this man was handcuffed. They continued to beat him.


HARLOW: Given that you're going to need House Republicans to get something done on a national effort, is it a futile effort?

DURBIN: Listen, I agree with Chairman Jordan in terms of what happened, sadly, to Tyre Nichols. It was indefensible. Reprehensible. There's just no excuse for it.

And I also agree with the premise that we cannot mandate virtue by law. That just isn't going to happen.

But, still, we should take an honest look at the policing in America today and acknowledge the obvious. We all want someone to answer that 911 call who is a trained professional and will keep us safe. Secondly, we know by video camera evidence that things are happening in policing, which are just absolutely indefensible in America. And, third, there are things we can do to step forward for screening future police, monitoring those who are in service in law enforcement, and making certain that we have standards of conduct that are acknowledged to be sensible. The things we've seen, the evidence we've seen, the videotape is just a reminder that we cannot stand by and let this go without having a purpose and a course of action ourselves.

HARLOW: So the effort will continue.

Senator Dick Durbin, thank you for all the time this morning.

DURBIN: Thank you.

LEMON: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame one step closer to revealing its new 2023 class. We're going to tell you who some of the nominees are. That's next.



COLLINS: All right, this just in, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame revealing its nominees for its 2023 class.


GEORGE MICHAEL, MUSICIAN (singing): I'm never gonna dance again, guilty feet have got no rhythm. MISSY ELLIOTT, MUSICIAN (singing): Go, get ur freak on. Go, get ur

freak on. Go, get ur freak on.

KATE BUSH, MUSICIAN (singing): Be running up that road, be running up that hill, be running up that building.

SHERYL CROW, MUSICIAN (singing): I'm gonna soak up the sun.


COLLINS: George Michael, Missy Elliott, Sheryl Crow, Kate Bush. Other nominees that are included, Cyndi Lauper, my favorite, Willie Nelson, and The White Stripes. It's a pretty good class, I would say.

LEMON: Yes, that's the music I know. I don't know any - like all of the new stuff.

HARLOW: You were - you were literally singing every single one.

LEMMON: Every single one.

COLLINS: Can I say that that Sheryl Crow song, I made my parents play every day on the way to like junior high.

HARLOW: Love that song.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

HARLOW: I agree.

LEMON: Well, this morning, authorities inspecting a massive hump backed whale after it was found dead on the beach in New York's Nassau County. It marks the tenth time a whale has washed ashore in New York and New Jersey since December. Now scientists are working to learn what is causing this.

CNN's Jason Carroll live for us at Lido Beach on Long Island with more.

Jason, good morning. What do we know about this? What's going on here?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, you know, Don, it's always sad when something like this happens. As for what happened out here yesterday, the whale that you were talking about was buried right back here over that mound. He was so massive it took much of the day to get him buried. Scientists have a pretty good idea of what killed him. As for those other whales, that is still under investigation.


CARROLL (voice over): All Long Island beachgoers could do was stand and helplessly watch as heavy equipment moved a hump backed whale that had perished and washed ashore. It was found Monday morning and was nicknamed Luna.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope they're treating that carcass with some dignity. I mean it was a living thing and it's just very somber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope they can find out what happened, too, because I know there's been a lot of whales lately.

CARROLL: Late Tuesday, a team of about 20 biologists conducted a necropsy on the humpback. They determined it was more than 40 feet long, weighed some 29,000 pounds. It was a male that was about 40 years old. Experts say they normally live twice that long.

DON CLAVIN, HEMPSTEAD TOWN SUPERVISOR: It was amazing to see this creature of this magnitude on this beach. And then, after a couple seconds, you say, and now it's perished.

CARROLL: Don Clavin is the Hempstead town supervisor.

CARROLL (on camera): So, what's going to be up here?

CLAVIN: That's when the - where the burial will be. They've already moved the first piece up there. The second piece is probably after the autopsy is done. And lastly will probably ne the fin. That's one of the larger pieces that we've brought up here.

CARROLL: It's not the first or the second case of a beached whale along New York/New Jersey's coast. As of late, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, some ten whales have beached themselves since last December. In this case, NOAA released a statement saying, preliminary findings indicate that a vessel strike is the likely cause of death. However, we will know more once the results of the samples become available.

In the past, NOAA has concluded that vessel strikes and climate change represent some of the leading threats to humpback whales, though some lawmakers and environmental groups question if off-shore wind farm development could also be playing a role.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really do believe you don't want to destroy the environment to save the environment. Facts matter. And if we don't have the facts, let's go about trying to find out how to get them.

CARROLL: But NOAA disputes a connection, saying there have been elevated humpback deaths along the Atlantic coast since 2016, before much offshore and wind farm development took place.

ANDREA GOMEZ, NOAA COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: NOAA is a science-based agency and so we really go by the facts and the evidence. And right now there is no evidence to suggest that there is offshore wind activity that is linked to any of these whale deaths.

CARROLL: As for Luna, he was buried not far from where he washed ashore.


CARROLL: And, Don, one thing that both scientists and environmentalists can agree on, they want to get to the bottom of what's been killing all the humpback whales out here. Don.

LEMON: Excellent report.


Jason Carroll, in West Lido Beach, in New York, thank you very much for that. Beautiful, beautiful animals and someone needs -- they need to get to the bottom of it.

HARLOW: Why it's happening.


All right, so, thank you, everyone, for joining us. We appreciate it. We're going to see you tomorrow.

The breaking news, remember, Tom Brady retiring for good. We'll see if it sticks. I'm sure they'll have more coming up right now on the CNN "NEWSROOM."