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CNN This Morning

California Ends Business with Walgreens; Biden to Propose Deficit Reduction; Brawl on Southwest Flight; Record Early Start to Pollen Season. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 06:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: California is, quote, done with Walgreens. That's according to Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced that the company -- after the company would not -- said it would not dispense abortion medication in 21-Republican dominated states. Newsom's office now says California is not going to renew a $54 million contract with the company. It was set to take effect in just May.

CNN's Camila Bernal has more.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): California's governor, Gavin Newsom, is declining to renew a $54 million contract with Walgreens after it capitulated to 21 states attorneys general warning the retail pharmacy to discontinue mailing abortion medication to their states. Newsom tweeting, we're done. We're serious about not investing in companies that cave to the extremist agenda of the GOP.

JONATHAN KELLER, CALIFORNIA FAMILY COUNCIL: The governor seems to be ideologically shutting off Walgreens because they're not following his pretty extreme views on abortion medication.

It's really beyond the pale.

BERNAL: In a statement, the nationwide chain writing, they are deeply disappointed in California's decision and said the decision not to renew was made off of false and misleading information.

LAURA FRIEDMAN (D), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: To say because of politics in some states we're going to now deny basic health care to women is shameful. And I think that for California - for the state of California to put our purchasing dollars where our values are is completely appropriate.

BERNAL: Abortion medication is used in more than half of all procedures nationwide. California's decision comes at an already tense time as a Texas judge will be deciding whether to outright ban the abortion medication Mifepristone. The 21 attorneys general are arguing that mailing drugs, like

Mifepristone, violates the 1873 federal law, the Comstock Act, that prohibits sending anything pertaining to abortions through U.S. mail. In four of those states, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, and Alaska, abortion medication is legal.

Earlier this week, Walgreen wrote they plan to dispense Mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it's legally permissible to do so. Despite this statement, the backlash has been split for the company. In Chicago, protesters flooded the streets outside a Walgreens to mark International Women's Day.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It is unacceptable for women to be left at the mercy of a patchwork of state laws governing their ability to access reproductive care.


BERNAL: And where it stands today, this multimillion-dollar contract with Walgreens provides medication to inmates in California's correctional system. So, by not renewing this contract, the state is essentially showing where it stands when it comes to abortion and abortion medication. And the governor saying he's not afraid of using the state's economic power to show where they stand because California, he says, is on track to become the fourth largest economy in the world. So, the money here in California could make a difference.


COLLINS: Absolutely.

Camila Bernal, in Los Angeles, thank you so much.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in now CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Good morning to you.


LEMON: So, basically Newsom is saying to Walgreens, we are done.


LEMON: But this has ramifications really beyond California.

ROMANS: It does. And he's really highlighting this. He's saying that they're taking a stand against corporations who cave, cave to extremists and cut off critical access for women. That's where Walgreens stand -- or that's where California stands on this.

But this is bigger than California because you have these 21 states here that are pressuring this company and other companies about sending this drug to their states. And Walgreens says it's being unfairly singled out here. But all of the drugstore chains are very closely watching these legal developments and considering what they're going to have to do about this also.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Can you explain - I don't - it's certainly not clear to me, I think it's not clear to a lot of folks - because Walgreens said in Camila's piece, you've got it wrong. You misunderstand what we're doing, governor. What is Walgreens doing vis- a-vis California and other states and this pill?

ROMANS: So, it's not about California. It's about other states where these state attorney generals, 21 state attorney generals, wrote a letter to Walgreens and said, we do not want you to send this drug into our state. Even a couple of states where medication abortion is still legal and accessible, but you have conservative lawmakers who are suing to overturn it, right? So there are legal challenges. There's also a legal challenge from Texas, right, about whether the FDA can actually offer -- for 20 years this two - this pair of drugs has been - have been accessible and authorized by the FDA for 20 years. And that now is the subject of a lawsuit, which means these companies, these drugstore companies, could be in the middle of a situation where the FDA is fighting for its right to be able to authorize these drugs in the first place.

So, it's a mess. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, it opened up this whole can of worms here for medication abortion, which these companies provide the drugs for.

HARLOW: That said, there is no constitution -- that court said there's no constitutional right to this anymore. On every level that has an impact.

ROMANS: And there is a very aggressive campaign by some of these lawmakers in some of these states to go further, to go further than just the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but to make this medication abortion, which the majority of abortions are medication abortions in this country, to make sure that is not accessible.

LEMON: All right.

ROMANS: The companies have found themselves in the middle of it. And they -- it was a place they do not want to be. I will tell you, none of them want to be in the middle of what is a fraught political and legal fight over the access to this medicine.

LEMON: Christine Romans, thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

LEMON: Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Happening today, President Biden will release his annual budget proposal. It's expected to map out how he plans to reduce the federal deficit by $3 trillion. That's what the administration says.

Let's turn to senior White House correspondent MJ Lee. Taxes, taxes, taxes. That's how you do it.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, Poppy. You know, we are waiting on the full details to be released later today. But we already know some of the major components of President Biden's budget that is coming. We know, for example, that he is going to call on cutting the deficit by some $3 trillion. This is in part notable because recently he had been talking about that dollar figure being more like $2 trillion. So, this is a lot more aggressive than what he had been talking about. We also know that he wants those cuts to come from, in part, taxes, as you said, on high earners and large corporations. He did say no tax increases on anybody making less than $400,000 a year.

We also know that he wants to allow Medicare to negotiate prices on more drug prices. He says deficit reductions that would come from that would be put right back into the Medicare program.

We also learned overnight that he wants to boost federal funding for childcare and early education, including free preschool for all four year olds around the country and expanding tax cuts for business that do provide childcare for their workers.

Now, if all of these ideas sound pretty familiar, that is because these are some of the top domestic priorities that we have heard the president talking about over the last two years. So really, this is a budget document, but it also is a blueprint of some of the president's top priorities and agenda items.



HARLOW: And, Phil - MJ, our colleague Phil also sat down with the head of the Office of Management and Budgets, OMB, Shalanda Young, and asked about the deficit reduction part of all of this. Let's listen to that exchange.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But I think what I'm interested in is, does that underscore the fact that the president believes, at this point in time, that the current level of debt and deficit is unsustainable for the U.S. economy?

SHALANDA YOUNG, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: What we want to make clear is, you can do investment in American people childcare, paid leave, food assistance, health care, all while bringing down the deficit. But do you have to ask the wealthy in this country to pay their fair share. So, there is a vision here. There is a contrast. You can be fiscally responsible and invest in American people, or you can pull the rug out from people by going after programs that people absolutely need.


HARLOW: But does the White House expect this budget to get passed? How on earth would they get Republicans on board?

LEE: Yes, Poppy, no, there is no expectation that this budget is going to get passed. It is not going anywhere on Capitol Hill, especially where the house is now controlled by Republicans.

And to give you a sense of how much this is really a political exercise, consider the fact that the president is going to be traveling to the important swing state of Pennsylvania to unroll his budget in a speech that I suspect will sound a lot like a political campaign speech. As we heard the OMB director telling Phil there, this is a way for the White House and the president to lay out the groundwork for the very important political contrast that Democrats and President Biden would like to continue making between Democrats and Republicans heading into 2024. Also more narrowly speaking, this, of course, is the beginning, really, of President Biden and his upcoming negotiations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on raising the debt ceiling as well.


HARLOW: And there's that.

MJ Lee, at the White house, thanks very, very much.

Ahead, more mayhem in the sky. A fight breaking out on a Southwest flight in Dallas before it even takes off.

LEMON: So get the allergy medication ready. Allergy season hitting earlier than expected this year. A lot of people sniffling around this set. And Kaitlan's like, no!

HARLOW: We are not.

LEMON: Is the climate crisis to blame?

COLLINS: I'm a big allergy sufferer.

HARLOW: Do you?


COLLINS: I take Claritin like every day.

HARLOW: All the time. And is it -








LEMON: Oh, it happened again. Another wild airline incident. This time a fight breaking out between two passengers on a Southwest flight just before takeoff. One man putting the other in a headlock, calling him obscenities before punches were thrown. A passenger on the flight tells CNN, the man in the tan jacket said the other man approached his family aggressively.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get off of him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell them what happened. Tell them what you did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no need for that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). I will sit down in jail for you approaching my family. I will die for my family. So, that's why I beat your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).



LEMON: So, let's get perspective on this.

CNN's Ed Lavandera, live for us in Texas.

Ed, good morning.

There video finally gives us a full picture of what happened on this flight. What can you tell us?


Well, things clearly escalated quickly. All this happened before the plane even left the gate here at Dallas Love Field on Monday. And as you mentioned there, according to the witness who spoke with CNN, it had to have - it had to do with an altercation or one of the passengers who was receiving the punches bumping into the other man's family. And the witness also said before the video even started recording there, there were three or four different punches already thrown before that video even picked up. So, some tense moments there before that flight even left the gate.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement that it commends the actions of its crew and for resolving the situation. And also ensuring the comfort of other passengers on the plane. And this is -- they also went on to say that the flight took off and arrived on time. It was a flight scheduled to leave from Dallas Love Field to Phoenix on Monday. But, clearly, a great deal of tension now as spring break travelers start filling up airports across the country. A reminder that even though airplanes are full, tensions are also high, Don.

LEMON: And the Dallas Police Department, what are they saying?

LAVANDERA: You know, both men were taken off the plane. They left the plane. And no charges were filed. Dallas Police told us yesterday that no charges were filed. None of the -- neither of the men were arrested. So, where exactly they ended up, if they caught another flight, we don't exactly know. But that flight did take off, but no - no criminal charges being filed in this particular case.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera, in Dallas. Thank you, Ed.

COLLINS: All right, spring is not here. You heard Ed talking about spring break. But allergy season already upon us.

Don't worry that wasn't a real sneeze from Don.

Why the pollen in the air, even here in the studio, is hitting near records.

HARLOW: Well, we have that.

Also, though, overnight, a barrage of missiles raining down across Ukraine, hitting the capital of Kyiv and several other cities, knocking out power, killing innocent civilians. CNN is live on the ground.



HARLOW: We are weeks away from the official start of spring, but, boy, is Don sneezing a lot. In fact, the pollen count this season is setting record places - records in places like Atlanta. What's going on? Why so much pollen this early?

Meteorologist Chad Myers is here.

My colleagues suffer from this a lot. I have not. But, apparently, it's really bad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. All the way up the East Coast. I mean this is a weather pattern here that we had over the past month or two. Yes, it's been very warm. In fact, the warmest on record. But this is the climate pattern. We would expect this because over the last 52 years temperatures have gone up one or two degrees compared to where we were. That means the growing season has also gotten longer. In Atlanta by 34 days. In Minneapolis, the same. It is now frost free for now over one half of the year in Minneapolis, although it doesn't seem like it because you can get a late frost or an early frost depending and kill everything you put out there. New York City, though, you are over 240 days now frost free. I took this picture this morning in my parking deck. This was a car

that was clean just a few days ago. This is a black Honda, although you cannot tell what color it is. That's why I took the picture. This isn't some barn find that "American Pickers" picked out of a barn that's been sitting there for 30 years. This car was clean just a week ago and that's what's in your lungs right now.

LEMON: That car is green, Chad.


MYERS: That car is - that car is yellow/green. It is. And that's the pine pollen. The pine pollen doesn't affect people as much as other pollens. But, stay inside. Keep the windows closed on your car. Make sure you have some filters in your air conditioner or your heater.

I have a little HEPA filter that I have in my bedroom. And it only really works for about three or 400 square feet. And so for the six or seven hours that I'm in my bedroom, it works. Now, for the rest of the time, it's really expensive to get a HEPA filter that can clean your entire house. But you have to do what you can. Keep the doors closed.

LEMON: That's in Atlanta, right, you took that picture?


LEMON: I remember those days. My car, I would come out and it would just be green. That sort of chartreuse whatever color.

MYERS: That's right. That's it.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

Thank you, Chad. It's serious. A lot of people do suffer from that.

MYERS: You bet.

LEMON: Thank you.


COLLINS: OK, also, we're tracking major news overnight in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been hospitalized after he fell in a Washington hotel. We have the latest on his condition. That's next.