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United Auto Workers and Large Car Manufacturers Still Unable to Agree on Contract as Strike Deadline Looms; Republican Conference to Meet on Impeachment Inquiry into President Biden; Utah Senator Mitt Romney Announces He Will Not Run for Reelection. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 08:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. We are so glad you are with us on CNN THIS MORNING. Let's start with five things to know for this Thursday, September 14th. Just minutes from now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is expected to meet behind closed doors with three committee chairs who have been tapped to lead the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And we are also just 16 hours from a potential strike. Thousands of members of the united auto workers union could walk off the job if they don't reach a deal with Detroit's big three automakers before midnight tonight.

HARLOW: And this. Republican Senator Mitt Romney calling for a new generation of leaders as he announces he will not seek reelection next year. The Utah senator slamming members of his party, saying a large portion don't believe in the Constitution.

MATTINGLY: And human actions pushed the earth outside the, quote, safe operating space for humanity, that's according to a new scientific report that warns the world has surpassed thresholds needed to ensure a stable, livable planet.

HARLOW: Also this hour, the Labor Department releases key inflation numbers. We'll give you some insight on where the U.S. is on all of that.

This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.


SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: We are still very far apart on our key priorities. We do not yet have offers on the table that reflect the sacrifice and contributions our members have made to these companies.

JIM FARLEY, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: On August 29th, we made our first offer, almost two weeks ago to the UAW. We've made three offers since then, and we've had no genuine counteroffer on any of those.


HARLOW: That was the president of the United Auto Workers and the CEO of Ford still miles apart on a deal this morning. We're only hours away from the deadline tonight for a high-stakes contract negotiation between the union and Detroit's big three automakers. If no deal is reached by 11:59 p.m. tonight, thousands of workers could walk off the job. And since those talks have stalled, the union president is announcing plans for a targeted strike at a limited number of plants that could grind auto production to halt. One analysis shows a 10-day strike could result in a nationwide economic loss of over $5 billion.

Sources tell CNN negotiations have proven uniquely challenging, that's a quote, because unlike past negotiations, the UAW has not selected a single automaker which to negotiate with. This is about all three at the same time. If all 145,000 members were to strike at the same time, it could cost the union's strike fund more than $70 million a week. That's how they pay their workers when they're not on the job.

The Biden administration is in close touch, we're told, with all parties over the phone. Advisors have stopped short of saying President Biden would support workers, though, if they decided to trike.

We have team coverage on the big day ahead at the White House. Our correspondent Arlette Saenz is standing by. Let's begin, though, with Vanessa Yurkevich who joins us in Detroit. You have been following these. You've been talking to the heads of the big three automakers and to the union head. Are we going to see a strike tonight?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, we still have a ways to go, but as you know, these deals come together in the very last moments. But a target strike approach is unique and it is being executed by a unique leader. The head of the UAW, Shawn Fain, talking about how this is going to play out. Essentially, the national union will reach out to local unions around the country and plan for certain days, certain times, and a certain amount of people to go on strike.

That, however, will leave other members working in the factories. And for the union, this is a way to confuse automakers, to keep them guessing, and also, as you mentioned, to conserve that strike fund if this strike plays out for a number of weeks or months. But this does come with some risks because if you leave union members on the factory floors, the companies are not obligated to pay those employees. And so you also need to look at how much of a supply these automakers have in the pipeline. We know that these big three automakers do not have as much car supply as they did in 2019 when GM went on strike. So there is a lot to consider, a unique approach here.

But just to remind our viewers what the union is asking for and what they have been asking for, they want a 40 percent pay raise over four years.


They want costs of living back into the contracts. They want a four- day workweek. And they want protections against job loss that may happen in the easy transition. The union has said those demands still remain at the table, Poppy, and those demands have not yet been met.

HARLOW: And the companies, what are they saying this morning?

YURKEVICH: The companies are saying they are ready and willing to negotiate at any moment. We heard the most from Ford, from Ford's CEO Jim Farley, who was visibly disappointed and frustrated last night when we spoke to him, saying he and Bill Ford yesterday showed up to UAW headquarters to deliver an offer. They did not see Shawn Fain there, and they have received no feedback on that offer since yesterday. We are just hours away from a potential strike. We know that subcommittees are going to be meeting today, discussing details of these negotiations. But frustrations clearly, Poppy, on both sides of the table as the deadline looms.

HARLOW: Vanessa Yurkevich, we know you'll stay on it. Thanks very much. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Poppy, I want to get straight to CNN's Arlette Saenz live at the White House with more. Arlette, Vanessa made a great point. These deals have often come together in these moments late and often. White House officials are very cognizant of what's going on and certainly have a role, if not directly, in the negotiations. What's the level of anxiety in the White House right now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, publicly the White House tried to be optimistic, saying that they don't think a strike would ultimately be coming to fruition. But it is heading into crunch time at this moment. And the White House has publicly been out there encouraging the parties to negotiate around the clock to try to secure a win-win agreement.

But sources who have been briefed on the negotiations talked to our colleague Kayla Tausche and told her this has really been a uniquely challenging moment, in part because of the strategy that has been employed by the UAW. In the past, in these types of negotiations, they have targeted simply one company, going through that negotiation process and then trying to replicate it with others. This time around they are focusing on all three all at once, which is creating a complicated situation according to some sources.

But it really comes at a time that the White House has been closely watching this now for weeks. The president had appointed one of his top advisors here, Gene Sperling, with a history as a Michigan native to try to be as the main point of contact between the UAW -- or with the UAW and these big three automakers. The acting labor secretary Julie Su has also been involved. And the president himself has engaged at times, just last week, speaking to both Shawn Fain of the UAW as well as the executives of the three automakers.

But what's unique in this situation is that the White House is not directly party to the negotiations. Yes, they are talking to each side. They are aware of what is going on, but they are not getting it into the nitty-gritty of negotiating these types of deals. But it is something that they will be watching closely as the day progresses, as the clock is ticking down until that midnight deadline on an issue that would have huge not just political ramifications for the president but also economic ramifications. If they were to head to a strike, one of the immediate focuses here at the White House would be trying to address any of the economic impacts that could happen. So all eyes will be on the hours approaching as that midnight deadline quickly looms.

MATTINGLY: Such a great point on the stakes. They are huge right now. Arlette Saenz, thank you.

HARLOW: Take a live look here at Capitol Hill where just minutes from now, the Houe Republican Party set to meet behind closed doors, the leadership there, to plot their impeachment inquiry of President Biden. Kevin McCarthy is forging ahead, enough time -- even though time is running out to prevent a government shutdown. And some skeptical Republicans are pointing out the lack of evidence against Biden, "evidence" being the key word there.

The president for his part pretty much brushing to off, preparing to give a speech on the economy today. At a fundraiser last night, Biden told supporters, quote, "I get up every day not focused on impeachment. I've got a job to do." He also said, quote, "I don't know quite why, but they just knew they wanted to impeach me. Now best I can tell, they want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government."

Our Congressional correspondent Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill watching it all, watching that clock, 16 days left to figure this out, very closely. What's going to happen today on the impeachment front?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this meeting was previously scheduled, Poppy, but obviously, a lot changed since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced he was opening that inquiry on Tuesday. Something that hasn't changed is the reality that the Republican Conference is still very much divided as to whether or not this was the logical next step.

One of the things that you can expect this morning is that the three chairmen who have been tasked with this inquiry are going to be laying out what they have found so far, giving members a sense of where they might go, and trying to get everyone on the same page.


Now, there's a lot of decisions that these three chairmen are going to have to make. And while staff among all of them have been communicating for months as they have been to go these investigations, they are going to be under more of a spotlight now that this is an official impeachment inquiry. Among the decisions they have to make include who to subpoena, how quickly to move, whether or not to go to court if some subpoenas are not answered. All those things are going to be weighing heavily on not just on the Republicans' plans for their investigations but also the political realities for many of the members among the rank and file.

So those are a couple of the things that they are going to be laying out in this meeting today. I did talk to Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who is leading this investigation, and he argued that they are just going to keep going, that in some ways this impeachment inquiry, which is now formalized, doesn't change what they have already been pursuing. Jordan said that yesterday he signed three subpoenas. He did not say who those subpoenas would be going to. But it's just such an important meeting for the Republican Conference not because of what they'll discuss, but because of the expectation and hope that members need to come out united giving the fact that the storylines right now around the Republican Party are they are deeply divided on not just this issue, but others, including government spending as well. Poppy?

HARLOW: Lauren, thanks very much.

MATTINGLY: Republican Senator Mitt Romney has announced he won't be seeking reelection, citing age as a major factor in his decision, and calling on young people to take the reins.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R-UT): I considered my age and the fact that at the end of a second time I would be in my mid-80s. The times we are living in really demand the next generation to step up and to express their point of view, and to make the decisions that will shape our American politics over the coming century.


MATTINGLY: With no re-election campaign ahead, Romney is going with what young people may call full send against members of his own party. Here's what he told McKay Coppins for his new book, quote, "A very large portion of my party really doesn't believe in the Constitution." He doesn't specify who, but he does get personal about specific members of his party later, like former vice president Mike Pence. Romney tells Coppins no one has, quote, "been more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God's will to things that were ungodly than Mike Pence."

HARLOW: And then there's Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, someone who Romney used to see as, quote, "bright as thoughtful" before his turn to Trumpism. Romney now saying, quote, I don't know that I can disrespect someone more than J.D. Vance." Then there is Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz who objected to certifying the 2020 results even after the attack on the Capitol. Romney says, quote, "They know better. Josh Hawley is one of the smartest people in the Senate, if not the smartest, and Ted Cruz could give him a run for his money." He says Hawley and Cruz, quote, "were making a calculation to put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution." Very candid words from Mitt Romney.

Joining us now to talk about why he said this, what he said, and what is next for him is Mitt Romney's former public policy director Lanhee Chen. Lanhee, it's great to have you. We have used you as a voice over the years on Mitt Romney's thinking. Can you talk about why he said all of this now and what he hopes it means for the party? LANHEE CHEN, FORMER MITT ROMNEY PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR: Well, Poppy,

I think it's an expression of the frustration as well as the challenges that the last couple of years have demonstrated. But Mitt Romney is a man of conscience. He has always been a man of conscience. I have written a little bit about this in sort of thinking about him not just as the conscience of the Senate, but in a lot of ways the conscience of the country on many of these issues.

And it's going to bother some people, and I know not everyone will have agreed with him, but I think his decision is well founded. I think it is thoughtful, like everything else he has about done in his political career. So I guess I am not surprised, but in a lot of ways I am saddened because I think it's a loss for the country. It's certainly a loss for the Senate. And I do hope that this passing of the baton won't be a baton that just ends up dropping, unfortunately, given the kind of leadership that we are seeing out of Washington right now.

MATTINGLY: To that point, Lanhee, you see a lot of people who will retire and say what I'm really going to do now, or people who lose campaigns, say I'm going to focus on getting young people engaged. I'm going to focus on moving from outside of Washington to get people headed in the direction that I want. And then the baton seems to get dropped quite often. Those efforts are all for naught or seem somewhat futile. The only criticism I heard from Romney supporters was we really would have rather had him in the Senate. We think he could be more effective there. Do you think there is merit to that?

CHEN: Well, I think he would have been an effective senator if he would have chosen to run for reelection. I have no question he would have been. And I think he is going to be effective, by the way, in the period of time he has left in the Senate. He has still got a year and a half left, and he is going to do a lot of things, whether it's on China, making sure that the US. can counter China.


He mentioned climate change, which is an issue that don't see many other Republicans frankly focusing on.

So, he's going to be doing the things he needs to do. But yeah, me personally I wish he would have stayed. I wish he would have stuck around because think he's an important and valuable voice.

That having been said, he knows the time to go and I think that he's trying to set an example in some ways that people need to know when to say Mitt Romney is a self-reflective, he's somebody who understands exactly what his own limits are and I think we have to respect that.

So yeah, I would have loved to have seen him stick around but I also respect this decision that he made that I'm sure was not easy.

HARLOW: What about his decision as he told "The Washington Post" in that interview that he's just not going to really get behind anyone because he doesn't think his support is going to help. He said, I doubt my support will mean anything positive to any of the candidates at the finish line, so I'm not looking to get involved in that.

CHEN: Well, that's the thing about now he's very realistic about where the Republican Party is right now, what his voice does and doesn't mean. And there are people who still deeply admire him. But I think he recognizes in the context of a partisan political primary like we're seeing right now with where the Republican Party is, with where this primary contest is, he's trying to be realistic about what his voice will and won't mean.

And I think that's refreshing. Gosh, you got a politician who actually knows where his place is in the electorate, and what his voice means and doesn't mean. So, I think it's a realistic perspective and it's one that is well-founded.

HARLOW: Lanhee Chen, thank you for your voice on all of this.

MATTINGLY: Well scientists warning that humans are pushing their earth outside the, quote, safe operating space for humanity. The details from that alarming report are next.



HARLOW: Welcome back. This morning you've got hurricane and tropical storm watches issued for parts of the Northeast because of Hurricane Lee. The National Hurricane Center also warned there's potential for life-threatening storm surges, also flooding. Derek Van Dam joins us again this morning. Where is this going?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERITIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, look. It's going to impact much of New England and into the Canadian Maritimes. This is a look at the latest weather alerts. You can see the hurricane watches for coastal Maine, but tropical storm watches from coastal Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. This thing continues to balloon in size.

It's absolutely massive, spanning at least a cloud deck over 850 miles. That's the same distance from Miami to Washington DC. What's interesting to note, it is moving north at 12 mph. So, it's picked up its forward speed in that northerly direction so that you can basically track that out and show exactly where the path of the storm is headed.

But one very important note we've been stressing this for days is that you don't want to focus on the middle ground of this path because the impacts will be felt well out from the center of the storm. Remember, tropical storm force winds extend as they stand right now, roughly 300 miles from the center.

So, we will feel the impacts of Cape Cod all the way to Bar Harbor and near the border of Canada and the United States. So, here's the storm surge forecast as the winds wrap in behind it. Cape Cod, the Barnstable County area. There we have the potential for two to 4 feet.

That's why there is a storm surge watch in effect for that location. On top of that, heavier rainfall that'll start to shift a little bit further east from where we thought yesterday.

So maybe providing some relief from those hard-hit flooding areas we saw across central Massachusetts yesterday. Poppy.

HARLOW: Okay, Derek, thanks very much for keeping an eye on it.

VAN DAM: Appreciate it.

MATTINGLY: Well, human action is pushing the earth outside a quote, "Safe Operating Space" for humanity. It's ominous and it's according to a new analysis from 29 scientists from eight countries. The experts find that human activity has now put the world in the danger zone on several key indicators, including climate change, biodiversity, freshwater, and land use.

Those thresholds are defined as what the world needs to stay within to ensure a stable, livable planet. CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir joins us now. We were just talking. It feels like there's always really bad catastrophic news here. What's your takeaway when you see something like this?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the most interesting thing this is like if you think about the instrument panel on our little spaceship Earth. These are the life systems that you keep an eye on as we're hurtling through space.

And it's everything from freshwater and land use to climate change to temperature. And on six of those measures, we're above the safe zone, biodiversity loss. Everything from pollinating insects to bird life that's crashing to a million species of plants and animals that are moving, migrating.

Now, this is a hard graph to read, but in the center there, that circle, that's the safe spot for humanity. And these sorts of petals that are shooting out of this flower are the troubling spots.

And the biodiversity crisis is the big one there. But what I find out of this is of the nine things that are really important for us to think about, one was outside the safe zone, and that was the ozone.

HARLOW: Just going to ask you about the good news.

WEIR: In 1990, the ozone layer on that little chart was in the danger zone. But thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the most successful international environmental treaty ever, that's fixing itself, the ozone hole is healing. And it's an example of what can happen when human beings are pulled together.

MATTINGLY: Are you saying that there are policy decisions that can having an effect on the environment?

WEIR: It is stunning to think about that. I know it's shocking, but there is an example of that where countries got together. Now, the example there is they had to eliminate these chemicals from air conditioners. And the American Chamber of Commerce, for example, was behind that because it made more profit for American manufacturers. Now, the big one is oil and gas and coal. And that is so intrinsic to

so many economies. Getting away from that is much more difficult than eliminating hydrofluoric carbons from air conditioning.

HARLOW: But it does show that you can reverse some of this.

WEIR: Absolutely, absolutely, it's never too late. And the amount of damage is in our hands right now. And things that are happening at the grassroots level are hugely exciting. At the energy level, on the big picture, electrification is exploding. Almost 90% of new energy projects in the United States this year are all renewable, mostly solar and batteries.

So, we're on the cusp of something. Oil and gas are going away. There is a better, healthier planet on the horizon. The question is how much of life as we know it now will survive that transition?

HARLOW: Yeah. Bill Weir, thank you.

WEIR: Good to see you guys.

HARLOW: Good to see you.

HARLOW: Republican Senator Mitt Romney slams his party, saying the GOP and this country need a new generation of leaders. We're going to be joined at the table by Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie. He is here to weigh in on that and a lot more. Stay with us.




SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I think it'd be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective party pick someone in the next generation. President Trump excuse me, President Biden, when he was running, said he was a transitional figure to the next generation. Well, time to transition.


HARLOW: Republican Senator Mitt Romney announced saying he will not be seeking reelection. He is on his way out, but not out of the party. I should note. He is calling for a new generation of leaders to step forward, one that does not include President Biden nor former President Trump.

Let's talk about this and a lot more with Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, who joins us at the table. So nice to have you in person. Good morning.


HARLOW: Did Mitt Romney surprise?

CHRISTIE: No. No, I kind of thought two things about Mitt.

One, is that I think he feels like he had done what he could do inside that institution.

And secondly, I do think he's a guy who understands his place in the party at the moment, and that that he doesn't want to stay there until he's in his 80s. The guy's got a big family that he's genuinely close to, not like some politicians pretend to be close to their families.