Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Rep. Boebert: Rep. Omar Sympathizes With Terrorists; Powell & Yellen Testify On Economy Amid Omicron Uncertainty; Congress Faces Looming Deadlines On Government Funding, Debt Limit, Biden Economic Agenda In Coming Days. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 12:30   ET



ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, Omar's people have basically said the story is a fabrication. They weren't on an elevator together. I messaged with Omar who said that, you know, Boebert is unhinged. And you know, notably, the story is actually a little different from last time, there's no Capitol Hill police officer confusing her for a terrorist or something.

So it does lend, I think, a little bit of credence to the fact that this is sort of just a made up story that she's telling a crowd for. I don't know laughs maybe. I guess the joke is that Muslims are terrorists. But, yes, I mean, like I said, Omar called this unhinged.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Andrew Kaczynski grateful for your reporting and the KFile teams reporting. Let's bring it back into the room. And again, the point Andrew makes it so important is that it's not one video. It's not someone who got caught up in the emotion of a crowd and said something horrible, and then tries to apologize for and then does apologize for it. This is something clearly it's part of her quote unquote, routine. She thinks it's funny.

And this is from Congressman Omar after the conversation yesterday. "Today, I graciously accepted a call from Representative Lauren Boebert in the hope of receiving a direct apology for falsely claiming she met me in an elevator, suggesting I was a terrorist and for history of anti-Muslim hate. Instead of apologizing for Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Representative Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Melanie Zanona is joining our conversation. Unfortunately, you have to cover this a lot in the sense that the Kevin McCarthy, the leader refuses to do anything or anything meaningful about extremism in the ranks. He urged Boebert to call Omar. He wanted to make this go away, it is not.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. We saw her true colors in the social media video she put out yesterday where she doubled down on her remarks. Clearly she's not sorry. But you do see Kevin McCarthy tried to put out these little fires behind the scene.

He obviously urged a meeting between Ilhan Omar and Lauren Boebert. He's also had a call recently with Marjorie Taylor Greene. He's tried to urge these conservatives not to attack some of the fellow moderates in the party. But that strategy has its limits.

And what you hear from some moderates in the party right now is, yes, we understand that McCarthy is in a tough position politically. But there's a difference between politics and doing what's right. And doing what's right would be calling out the type of rhetoric and saying it has no place in the party.

KING: Exactly right. Looking straight into a camera and saying unless they stop, unless they apologize, they will not be welcomed. They will not have committee assignments, we will not raise money for them, we will not support them, and we don't care if we get the majority or not because principle is more important than power, which is the case made not just by reporters, not just by me who gets a little animated about this stuff but by one of McCarthy's fellow Republicans. Listen.


REP. TOM REED (R-NY): When you're in a position of leadership, you have to stand up. You have to deal with it. I appreciate the fact that Kevin called our colleague directly, discuss the matter with her. But at some point in time, you also have to stand up and just call it out for what it is. This type of rhetoric cannot be condoned. It cannot be upheld.


KING: The question is will Leader McCarthy ever listen to people like that who are going to go into the campaign next year and say, make us the majority, give us power to write the budget, give us the power to have a lot of control, give us the power Republicans will say to rein in Joe Biden. And oh, by the way, we welcome racism and extremism in our ranks. That's the message today.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, he's likely not going to change. You know, earlier this year when Marjorie Taylor Greene had made her own statements, he and Scalise would put out statements at least saying, you know, we condone this kind of behavior, this violent rhetoric, you don't see that anymore.

You see them much more defensive of their own membership and kind of just letting this play out. You try and ask them, what do you think about this? Are you going to do anything? And they just double down and say, well, why don't Democrats punish some of their own, never usually mentioning Omar's name but very much suggesting that she herself has made comments.

KING: And Tom Reed, a more moderate Republican from New York. Conservative Nancy Mace of South Carolina also said she found what Boebert said to be reprehensible. For that she did not get any applause from her, most of our Republican colleagues. She got this from Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is loves to stir this stuff. Just frankly Marjorie Taylor Greene loves this stuff and loves to stir it.

Nancy Mace is the trash in the GOP conference never attacked by Democrats or RINO's. This goes on. Mace, come back -- back off, hang up your real gal pals, the Jihads. You know, I'm not going to repeat it all because she goes on again with more Islamophobia, more racism.

And Nancy Mace fires back we could put her tweet up today while I'm correcting you, I'm pro-life fiscal conservative, what I'm not a religious bigot or racist. You might want to try that over there in your little league. Again, the few Republicans who are willing to stand up and speak out, get chastised by the Marjorie Taylor Greene- Boebert crowd for being disloyal.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes. Well, and the thing is, you have -- yes, you have Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, but you also had former President Trump. I remember being at rallies with Trump, where he would just put up Ilhan Omar's face and the crowd would go crazy screaming. I was at the rally where he said that Omar should go back to where she came from.


So this is not something that is coming just from these kind of fringe members, this came from the leader of the party who never apologized for any of those things that he said.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And let's be clear here as well, that it's not just, this kind of rhetoric and this kind of behavior isn't just happening because of the inaction in the silence of Republican leaders like Kevin McCarthy today. It's because of their inaction in silence during President Trump's time in office.

And while he was campaigning for president, when he was talking about banning Muslims from the country, when he was, you know, making incendiary remarks about Charlottesville, for example, all of those things add up to a pattern that makes this kind of behavior and this kind of rhetoric, OK, and also politically advantageous for these members in -- with the Republican base, and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are purling right from the Trump playbook. And Kevin McCarthy hasn't changed his playbook from the Trump.

ZANONA: It literally pays to be extreme in the Republican Party right now. It helps them fundraise. It earns them points on the right. And they, your point, suffer no consequences.

KING: But we often talk about Kevin McCarthy is afraid of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Let's just lay it out there. He's afraid she will go to Donald Trump and say block him from being speaker. But will he become afraid if more Tom Reeds speak out, if more Nancy Maces speak out? Does the other math become true? At some point was Kevin McCarthy going to have to make a choice?

ZANONA: Right. I mean, that is what I'm starting to hear from moderates behind the scenes. They're less willing to go on the record at this point. But they're saying he could have a mouth problem with us if he takes us for granted.

And there's more of them than there are Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Lauren Boeberts in the conference. And so it is this delicate balancing act for McCarthy. He's really caught between these majority makers, who they hope will deliver them the majority next year and these Trump allies who can make or break his speakership.

KING: It should not be a hard decision, do I stand with the racist and the bigots or do I stand with the decent people. That should not, yes, that should not take much time.

When we come back, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifying before Congress today on the economic threat posed by this new coronavirus variant.



KING: Just moments ago up on Capitol Hill, the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell warning, the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant could put yet another COVID cloud over the American economic recovery.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The progress of our economy -- of our economic recovery can't be separated from our progress against the pandemic. And I know that we're all following the news about the Omicron variant. As the President said yesterday, we're still waiting for more data. But where remains true is that our best protection against the virus is the vaccine.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant post downside risks to the employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation.


KING: CNN's Matt Egan joins us now in the studio. So, you know, the President says from a public health perspective, get boosted, get vaccinated. From an economic perspective with yet another COVID cloud. What are the policymakers do?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, John, I mean, there's no doubt that Omicron really represents a big wildcard to the U.S. economy. You have to remember that this recovery was gaining serious momentum in recent weeks, retail sales were booming, people are quitting their jobs at record pace, because they feel so good about their prospects for getting another one.

Now, just -- we have this like sobering reminder of the fact that COVID is not over and the economy remains inextricably linked to the variance. And so the real risks here are one, what is this due to inflation. Jerome Powell talked about this today. He said it creates more uncertainty, prices are high.

This makes it unclear when prices come back down. The other big thing is this could slow the job market recovery because if people are worried about going back to work, they're scared. There's going to be not enough workers. And the other big thing is the supply chain, because if there's not enough workers, then the supply chain stress is only going to get worse.

So these are all of the really difficult matters that they have to try to sort out right now. And then you have the inflation front, there was a really interesting back and forth with Powell and Pat Toomey, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, where he kind of called out Powell for his infamous use of transitory when referring to inflation. And he said, listen, you know, life is transitory. Powell conceded maybe we should probably retire that transitory phrase. It's probably a good idea.

KING: That didn't work well for him or the President of the United States for that matter. You see the Dow, the board, the big board up there at the bottom of the screen right now, the markets initially not liking what they're hearing, why?

EGAN: So initially, the market down on concerns about the variant, about concerns about how effective the vaccines are going to be, the Moderna CEO came out and said, you know, vaccines are probably not going to be quite as effective. We don't know enough yet, but not good.

Also, then the market took a bigger leg down on comments from Jerome Powell. He kind of surprised a lot of people, I think. He came out and said, listen, despite the variant, the Fed might move faster to unwind its bond buying stimulus program. That caught investors off guard.

KING: Uncertainty was one thing the markets don't like and there's a lot of it.

EGAN: Exactly.

KING: Matt, good to see in person in studio here.


Up next, tomorrow, look at your calendar, tomorrow begins December. That means it is a critical month for congressional Democrats and for the Biden agenda.


KING: We turn the calendar to December at midnight. And we begin a month of giant consequences. Congress needs to keep the government open and raise the debt ceiling, an attempt to pass a massive defense bill was already blocked by Republicans meaning, yes, that remains on the to do list. And oh, yes, there's also the bulk of the Biden first year agenda what the White House calls the Build Back Better plan.

The panel is back with me. Forget your Christmas shopping especially for those of you who cover Capitol Hill or do it all online because you're going to be busy. The defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act is a massive spending bill. It's also a massive policy bill.

And there's general agreement between the two parties. But as you can see from this POLITICO headline, the Republicans have stalled it. So December -- Democrats' December dread builds after defense stumble. Senator Chuck Schumer today says, this is all the Republicans fault.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: We Democrats are not going to let Republican intransigence stop us. We're going to keep working forward on a path forward. And we hope our Republican colleagues as they discuss this among themselves will see the light and come up with a fair proposal to make this bill go and to allow this bill to go forward. It's to say that we're being unfair, to say that we're not giving enough amendments is poppycock, and they know it.


KING: They may know it. Schumer says he's giving them more amendments than they've had on past defense authorization acts, but Republicans understand Democrats have so much they need to do this month and they're trying to run out the clock. It's pretty simple.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, that is exactly right. Why not? Republicans are saying why not just try and stall as much as possible. We've heard McConnell say, well, we need some time to go over the NDAA. Of course, this is something that's always been bipartisan, it usually passes very quickly.

So it is just another stall tactic. Of course, Schumer has said he wants that Build Back Better Act to pass before Christmas, that is just two to three weeks away, and then the House will likely have to pass it again.

But the longer you can stall, as you saw McCarthy tried to do in the house. You know, it just messes up the Democrats plan. So they can't stop this bill from eventually passing but they can stall it.

KING: And as they tried to get to the President's legacy, his first year agenda, Build Back Better, the social safety net plan call what you will, but a whole lot climate policy, childcare policy, pre K policy, everything the President campaigned on and the Democrats campaigned on.

They're still waiting for Joe Manchin to say I'm ready to do this. He's meeting with Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader now after time with the Democratic leader. At what point does President Biden call up his friend and say, Joe, we're Democrats, let's go?

RASCOE: Well, I mean, he's going to have to try. But it has to be a delicate dance like, you know, he can certainly try to put some pressure on them and try to get something done. It seems like there is room there for something to happen, right, like to get something done. Does Joe Manchin want to hold everything up, does he? Maybe he doesn't want to do that. And I mean, whatever they get through the Senate, if they can get this Build Back Better, this massive thing done, it will be a huge deal.

KING: And part of that -- part of getting Manchin, they hope, the Democrats hope is for working out something on the debt ceiling. This is John Thune, another member of the Republican leadership, the Democrats going to have to deliver the votes meaning, Republicans are not going to cooperate, although McConnell has had some conversations with Schumer about this one.

If you're the president of the United States dealing with this new variant, you do not need the threat of a government default to rattle the markets. How do they figure that out?

DIAMOND: That's right. And so far, the White House hasn't committed to doing the debt ceiling through reconciliation, which is the only avenue that Republicans seem to be offering Democrats at this point. So we'll see whether or not that changes, especially as all these issues pile up on President Biden's play.

Maybe he decides all right, let's take this one off and do it this way. What I think is interesting about Manchin is he's still singing the same tune that he's been singing for months now. We need more time. We need more time. And also bringing up these inflation concerns which he still is talking about today.

And what's interesting is that the White House has tried to take some of that head on. We heard even the Vice President Kamala Harris couple times, talking about this bill is going to lower cost for Americans and help ease those inflation concerns. But Joe Manchin doesn't seem to be accepting that and that is a space to walk for sure.

KING: On the Build Back Better, social safety net, again, everyone has their own terms. Do Democrats get it? They have to work there. Obviously after work, some -- Senate is going to change the House version. But do they get that if they don't pass this and go into the midterm election year without it that they are definitely screwed as opposed to we're not sure?

SOTOMAYOR: Oh, 100 percent. If there is anything that has been uniting them, even though we've seen tensions boil up and blow up, it is exactly that. They need this they need a number of those provisions to go on the campaign trail and say we are providing for families. I know you might be hurting and you're seeing those gas prices but we are here we can legislate and we can deliver.

KING: I can't -- this year has -- COVID has stolen another year from us. I cannot believe we are turning again into December but we do that tomorrow. We'll track it's a big month, big month up on the Hill.


Coming up for us, some brand new information from the White House COVID response team about the status of the Omicron variant here in the United States.


KING: Topic our Political Radar today, just moments ago, we learned from the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci that the Omicron variant has not been detected yet in the United States. Fauci says Omicron though cases have now been identified in 20 countries. That's up from 19 from just this morning. The White House COVID-19 response team says they are busy still trying to learn much more about this variant in terms of its transmissibility and whether it causes more severe illness.

America's top diplomat warning Russia, dial it back, stop escalating tensions with Ukraine.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's increasingly belligerent rhetoric, it's recent buildup of forces, it's unusual troop movements along Ukraine's border. Any escalatory actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States as they would to Latvia and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.


KING: And stay tuned. The Secretary of State Tony Blinken says he'll have quote a lot more to say after today's NATO meetings in Lafayette.

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell Dearborn office was broken into and vandalized yesterday. No staffers were there at the time but the Democratic lawmaker says this crime still hits home.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): None of my technology was taken. They have taken some paper -- paddles, patriotic paddles that have been given to me and taken it and damaged memorabilia of my husband. So the police said it was obviously personal.



KING: Appreciate your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Busy news day. Please stay with us, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.