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Catholic Bishops Move to Deny Biden Communion Over Abortion; Today: Critical Vote in Senate on Elections, Voting Rights; Sinema: I Won't Change My Thinking On Filibuster; Progressive Dems Criticize Biden Over Voting Rights Bill; NYC Voters Head to Polls in Bruising Mayoral Primary; Interview with Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all so much for joining us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. John King picks up our coverage with "Inside Politics" right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. It is a very big day here.

Today, a major Senate test on voting rights, Republicans call it a power grab and promise to kill a big piece of the Biden agenda. We are about to learn a lot about Democratic unity, and about the fate of the filibuster.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is not election integrity but this is voter suppression, and voter suppression directed only at one group of voters.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): But whichever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same. It's always been a plan to rewrite the ground rules of American politics.


KING: Plus, New Yorkers today are voting for a new mayor, crime is a big issue as a messy Democratic primary ends with ugly accusations and name calling. And there is simply no textbook for this rising prices, workers who want to stay home entire industries now without customers, the economy beginning to emerge from 15 plus months of pandemic shock. And it looks very, very different.

But we begin this hour with today's big test vote in the United States Senate voting rights is a critical piece of the Biden and the Democratic Party agenda even more so now that Republicans from coast to coast are moving to make it harder to vote.

Today's attempt to win 60 votes to open the voting rights debate therefore is a big deal on its own. It is an even bigger deal, though, because so much of the Biden agenda waiting in line is also dependent on the Senate's math and the Senate's mood.

Let's get straight to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. Manu Democrats believe they're going to lose this vote but they hope to keep all 50 together. But even in these final hours. That's a question.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. They do hope to have unity. But yes, there is still that question of where Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has long been this key swing vote within the Senate Democratic Caucus still has not committed to supporting the moving forward to this bill.

Because he is still trying to negotiate changes to an eventual compromise proposal compromise just among Democrats but they still have not reached that agreement yet. Just moments ago, I tried to ask Manchin repeatedly about where he could - may come down on this his conversations with President Joe Biden yesterday?

And he made clear, he's still asking for changes to this plan. And he's still undecided about how to proceed?


RAJU: Senator Manchin is you going to support this bill today?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We're still waiting. You're talking about the voting rights?

RAJU: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're waiting to see the final. I mean, it's going to be the vote on--

MANCHIN: No, no, no, no, no, no, some, you know, I got to make sure that we're going to move to a better compromise. OK, that's for me to have a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to--

MANCHIN: We don't want to move. I haven't seen it.

RAJU: They haven't made the changes to your liking?

MANCHIN: I understand they're working. Everyone's working in - you've had President Obama come out, you've had basically Stacey Abrams, and we're looking at a much more, I think, a much fairer, and a much better approach to take.


RAJU: So what Manchin has been proposing is to essentially pare back the Democrats more sweeping overhaul to rewrite voting rights, voting rules, rewrite election laws to impose new campaign finance limits, as well.

But Manchin wants to essentially narrow that down substantially looking at some issues in which he believes Democrats can get behind such as expanding access to early voting, as well as dealing with partisan gerrymandering of House districts, and then including, putting new voter id requirements.

But as you can see, right there, he is just not there yet. So whether Democrats can get to 50 votes is an important political argument. They want to say they're unified, Republicans are blocking their efforts going forward, but it's not going to change the outcome John, which is they don't have the 60 votes, they're not going to change the filibuster rules. And as a result, this issue likely will be over after tonight, until after the midterms.

KING: Over tonight until after the midterms. That's a dramatic way to end an important way to end it. Manu Raju I appreciate the hustle and live reporting up on Capitol Hill with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Abby Phillip, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times", "POLITICO's" Laura Barron-Lopez and Julia Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times".

Let's start Abby right there with Manu's point. This is not just about the Democratic proposal. It's the Democratic proposal, which is a counter to what's happening out in the country? Number one, Republicans has an advantage in the post census redistricting, drawing their lines of new congressional district and state legislative district.

Number two, in 14 states, we can put up the map in 14 states already voting rights have been restricted. So Republicans think the battlefield in 2022 is tilted our way in a good way therefore, no Democrats, we're not doing this.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think there are real consequences to not addressing what's happening on the ground in the states, which is that there is the advancement of the legalization of aspects of the big lie by Republican officials and state legislatures.

Now, Democrats, though, don't have much of a solution that's available to them in Washington. I think they're going to have to pivot. They're going to have to pivot to the state level. They're going to have to pivot to activists to voter education.


PHILLIP: Because at the end of the day, it seems very clear that Manchin's compromise, which I think is a pretty significant compromise one that calls for voter ID something the Democrats have been pushing aside for years and years and years, is not going anywhere.

Even the moderate Republicans don't want to touch this issue with a 10 foot pole. And if people don't think that that's about politics, they have not been paying attention in this.

KING: And so a few hours before a vote on a signature foundational piece of the Democratic Party's agenda. Knowing coming into the day, you have 5050 math, you have a key Democratic Senator who's still not on board. In a management textbook, they would say that's not the way to run the railroad. Correct?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, correct. But I mean, the fact is that Democrats have waited many, many months, you know, since they first took over the Senate majority in January, they said they were going to move this legislation, President Biden has been talking about it.

Progressive activists are extremely energized around it. And I think Chuck Schumer knows that at some point, you have to call the question. And so that was the reason that he ended up deciding to schedule this vote for this week.

I think everyone really hopes that at the end of the day, at the end of today, at least, Joe Manchin will at least be willing to vote for cloture, that is to say, to open debate on this bill, with the understanding that as you heard him say, to Manu earlier, you know, Former President Obama has endorsed this, the White House has endorsed this, Stacey Abrams had said she could live with it.

And so he at least has the opportunity potentially to have this become part of the bill. But as he also noticed that this is not going anywhere. If it can't get 60 votes, it can advance. So this is really more messaging. It's a messaging thing more than anything.

KING: It's a free vote. It's a free vote, but remembers, so much of the Biden agenda, and even more so the bigger and bolder progressive agenda is behind this, right? So this vote is going to tell us not just about voting rights, but where's the math? Where's the Senate?

And so here you have this is Ayanna Pressley, one of the House progressives, she's from my home State of Massachusetts, the people did not give Democrats the House, the Senate and the White House to compromise with insurrectionists. Abolish the filibuster, so we can do the people's work.

The anger frustration, of progressives is growing and building. This is their signature issue. When they lose tonight, what happens next?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, that's the key question; do they become demoralized because this bill and others are obviously going to fall by the wayside because of the U.S. Senate rules? Or can Democrats to echo what Abby said a minute ago, sort of leverage this moment and turn it towards the grassroots and try to energize their voters by using as a political issue going into the midterms next year?

And that is the key question. Historically, when Democrats are somewhat down, they don't show up in midterms, 2010, 2014, bad things happen for Democrats. The question now is can they use this as a rallying cry to get their base motivated and galvanized in a way that they haven't in past midterms, at least in the Obama era?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: And what tactics are they going to press their leaders to use? Which is aside from also trying to mobilize the grassroots? It's, do we also take multiple votes on these bills, even if they fail and fail again? So does a lot of Hill sources have been telling me that they think

there's a possibility that Speaker Pelosi could bring up a Manchin compromise bill to the House floor, pass that through the House, make it go again to the Senate, and then another failed vote, but with Manchin supporting it all have Democratic support across the two chambers?

And that just gives them as Jonathan mentioned, this argument heading into the midterms that time and time again, it's Republicans that are blockading them.

KING: And so does that happen again, on the January 6th Commission? Does it happen? Do you want to do a separate climate bill or separate immigration bill and force the votes? A lot of people have said before, if we can't pass these things, at least get everybody's votes on the table so the voters know.

DAVIS: I think there's a very good chance that they will, in fact, try to do that. And that has been the hope of progressive activists who want to do away with the filibuster is that they would continue to chip away at this, you know, vote after vote after vote and build the case publicly to do that.

The challenge that Democrats have is that each one of these votes that they lose their own base is going to become more and more angry that it's they're actually their own people. It's Joe Manchin, its Kyrsten, Sinema that is saying no, we are not getting rid of the filibuster; we're keeping the filibuster, because we don't believe that it's good for the Senate and good for the political system to get rid of it.

And so yes, you make the case to the public that these things would be happening. We're not for Republicans, but you also have very angry base that says that their own people are not doing what it takes to get the agenda across the finish line.

KING: And so let's try to - can you reconcile that? I guess is the question you mentioned Senator Sinema of Arizona Manchin gets most of the attention but Sinema of Arizona is also on the record, saying I'm not, never, not today, not tomorrow, not next week, then a vote to abolish the filibuster.

She writes this in "The Washington Post" today, if anyone expected me to reverse my position, because my party now controls the Senate. They should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or the majority.

So she says that she's holding firm and again, I just want to come back to this tweet from Ayanna Pressley who represents the sentiment among the progressives especially on the House. The people did not give Democrats control to compromise with insurrectionists abolish the filibuster.


KING: How does this family feud become so big that it gets in the way of what Abby and Jonathan are talking about, which is to try to at least look, the Republicans blocked us, mobilize vote?

PHILLIP: I don't think that it's as easy as some folks might think to get all Democrats on board, even for these messaging bills. I mean, I think Ayanna Pressley's tweet illustrates that in the House there is, you know, maybe it's a small group, maybe it's like five or six members, but that's enough to prevent - that is their margin to get prevent them from getting unanimous support.

And there are a lot of Democrats, who are looking at a lot of issues, whether it is voting, or it is policing, and they're saying, why would we vote for the compromise we don't want and make that our position? When what we really want is something that is very far from this.

And I think that's going to increasingly become an issue. Even if they wanted to do a messaging strategy on a lot of these a lot of these bills, I think you're going to see progressives objecting to that, because that's actually not the message that they want to send to the American public about where the Democratic --?

MARTIN: And the real risk is that it then bleeds into the infrastructure debate, which is sort of one big ticket item, where there's actual optimism that it can get passed through both chambers, those House Democrats, again, maybe it's just four or five.

But if they say, you know, they can't even pass a democracy bill, why am I going to over here - in my view, a watered down infrastructure bill, and do them a favor in the Senate, you know?

BARRON-LOPEZ: And you're starting to see the progressives increasingly target President Biden, which they were doing this week. They were saying you need to be talking every single day about s one about the elections bill or about these other priorities.

So I think you're going to increasingly see them do that as well as turned to him to say you need to pressure Manchin and Sinema, although we all know that that's probably not going to be successful, but pressure them to support some kind of work around to the filibuster or potentially an exemption to at some point.

MARTIN: At some point those five House liberals are going to realize that they can wield the same power--

DAVIS: Exactly.

MARTIN: --that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema do on the House side.

KING: Well, that's the art of segue because up next, we're going to talk to one of those new young progressives in the House. Progressives are frustrated. They're angry at Senate Democrats and as Laura just noted, also at the president they wish would show more fight.



KING: A giant piece of the progressive agenda is poised to die in the Senate today. Republicans promised there will not be enough votes to bring a sweeping Democratic elections bill to the floor. This is not just another Washington political squabble.

The Democratic legislation is designed to counter some of the big Republican political advantages of the moment whether that question is redrawing congressional districts after the 2020 census or benefiting in the 2022 midterms from new voting restrictions enacted in more than a dozen states now.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon puts it this way; we are going to lose the opportunity to basically enact legislation for the people for a decade. The Oregon Democrat goes on to say it is very, very, very bleak. It is policy and political Armageddon.

Here to discuss, Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York.

Sir, it is great to see you on this day. You are a big proponent of this sweeping elections bill. It is going to fail tonight in the United States Senate.

One of your colleagues, Ayanna Pressley, one of your friends, just tweeted moments ago, the people did not give the Democrats - did not give Democrats the House, the Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists. Abolish the filibuster, she says.

Another friend and colleague of yours Mondaire Jones tweeted, our democracy is in crisis, and we need the president of the United States to act like it.

Is the president of the United States absent in this big debate?

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): He's not absent, but he needs to be a lot more vocal and a lot more out front. The president supports H.R. 1, the American people support H.R. 1 overwhelmingly.

We just dealt with an insurrection on January 6th, and the Republicans have never shown - haven't shown the ability to compromise in good faith.

So, the American people want it, the White House wants it, the House of Representatives passed it overwhelmingly with Democratic support.

And now it's time for the Senate to do its job. H.R. 1 is the North Star. It's what we need in this moment to get big money out of politics, to retroactively oversee, supersede what's happening at the state level, and to bring D.C. statehood to a reality so we can stop marginalizing 700,000 voters in Washington, D.C. So, this is our moment to get it done, and the Senate has to do its job.

But you're right, the president needs to lead out front and be very vocal on this issue.

KING: Well -- just define what you mean by that. The president's support is there. He has named the vice president who presides over the Senate to be the point person on voting reform. However, the votes simply aren't there in the Senate today. So, what

specifically do you think the president of the United States should be doing, or perhaps should have already done, to at least try to make a difference?

BOWMAN: Well, the president was in the Senate for a very long time, as was the vice president.

The same way just last week we were able to bring -- to make Juneteenth a national holiday, almost without a peep in the Senate, there was no pushback, there was no rejection -- there were many conversations, I'm sure, that happened behind the scenes to make that happen and to make it pass so swiftly.

The same conversations need to happen when it comes to S-1. The same relationships need to be used that the president has built over the course of his career to make sure we pass S-1.

Again, the American people have sent us here to deliver. If we deliver, we maintain power in 2022. If we don't, and we show that inability to deliver, then we risk losing power and risk this moment in American history to really push a progressive Democratic agenda.

KING: So, what can progressives do about it? You're going to be frustrated tonight. You're going to be disappointed. There might be a stronger word you choose to use. Feel free to you use it if you wish.

But when you lose in the Senate, 50/50 -- it'll go down even if Manchin votes with the Democrats, and you get 50, it will go down.


A lot of people -- we were just having the conversation among my reporters here at the table during the break about the idea that if, Jamaal Bowman, I just mentioned the tweet from your friend, Congresswoman Pressley, the tweet from your friend, Congressman Jones, you add one or two more right there, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, Ilhan Omar, for example, you can stop the House right there.You only have a five or six -- five or six votes, you can stop the House.

Are progressive prepared to get together and say, Senate won't work with us, we will use our power here?

BOWMAN: Absolutely, 100 percent. We are prepared to say it. We are prepared to do it. We are in conversations like this as we speak, because enough is enough.

Again, we cannot acquiesce to Republicans have not - who have not shown the ability to negotiate with us in good faith.

And we cannot allow our more moderate Democrats who are more interested in corporate interest and corporate control of a corrupt government than they are in governing for the American people. We are in the people's house. The country has become much more progressives -- progressive. Progressives have organized to get Joe Biden into the White House and to win the Senate. Look at what happened in Georgia.

So, we are here. We are ready to get to work. And if they're not ready to negotiate in good faith, we're going to have to do what we have to do on the House side.

KING: Well, a test of that could come soon if there is a smaller infrastructure package negotiated with the bipartisan group in the Senate. And the president then says, I need you to pass this in the House, and then we'll come back and try to do more, but I need you to vote for this now, will progressive say no?

BOWMAN: Public housing has not received a dime from the federal government in 10 years. When I walked through public housing in my district, mailboxes are broken, doors have broken, there's rodent infestation, garbage is piled high, because of this neglect.

We need to go bigger in infrastructure for public housing, we need to go greener, and we need to go more equitable. And that's how we bring jobs and programs for our young people so that they can begin to live with dignity.

This is the time for us to be visionary and bold and lead as a Democratic Party. So, if we're going smaller on infrastructure, you cannot guarantee that I will vote for an infrastructure package that goes smaller.

KING: I want to read you something Charles Blow, the columnist in "The New York Times," wrote this today about the mood among progressives, and he's making the point that Republicans, whatever the margin is, are never afraid to use their power, even if they have a one vote advantage, they use their power.

He writes, Republicans are in win-at-all-costs mode. They don't really care how they sound today or will be judged by history. The only thing that matters is winning and retaining power, defending the narrative America that white people created and protecting the power and wealth they accrued because of it.

Do you agree with that statement? And if so, again, how, given the math -- you just mentioned some of the more moderate Democrats in the House, some of those moderate Democrats would say, I'm not here for corporate interest, sir, but I can't vote for that bill, because then I can't win reelection, and then there are fewer of us -- how do you deal with this tension in the family?

BOWMAN: We have to focus on the needs of the American people.

I agree with that statement. And we have to be more strategic on the progressive side to build powerful working class people, those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised, and to become the multiracial democracy that we are where all races and classes of people have equal power at the table. That's what democracy reform is all about. That's what the

infrastructure package is all about. That's what the American Rescue Plan was all about. And that's what the family plan is all about.

We just - we're going through a global pandemic, killed 600,000 Americans in one year, almost the same amount died within four years of the Civil War. That's the kind of trauma and disruption we're dealing with.

Our response needs to meet the scale and scope of the problem. This is not the time to go small. And as progressives, we have to organize -- continue to organize with the grassroots to build grassroots power to push back against the corporate interests that continue to control and corrupt our government.

KING: Congressman Bowman appreciate your time today. We'll continue this conversation. This is going to be fascinating as we go through the next several days, and then several weeks, to watch it all play out.

Come back and continue the conversation, as we do appreciate it, sir.

BOWMAN: Thank you so much.

KING: And when we come back its primary day right now in New York City, rising crime a big issue as voters pick a new mayor.



KING: Polls are open right now it is the last day to vote in the tense Democratic primary to be New York City's next Mayor. Here's "The New York Times" headlines today "New Yorkers vote for Mayor and race tinge with acrimony and uncertainty. Post pandemic leadership is of course a major campaign theme. And crime and safety were a big part of the closing arguments".


MAYA WILEY, (D) NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We all count every last one of us and we will stand together to have the courage to be compassionate.

ANDREW YANG, (D) NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Literally the people that we're going to be relying upon to ensure public safety and falling crime rates have endorsed me.

KATHRYN GARCIA, (D) NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Making sure that everyone feels safe in the city regardless of the color of their skin is an imperative.

ERIC ADAMS, (D) NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We want safety and justice. We don't have to surrender the safety we deserve or the justice we need.


KING: With us to share his insights to CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis.