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Pelosi Dodges On If Dems Will Take Action Against Boebert; Judge Blocks Biden's Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 12:30   ET



MASHA GESSEN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, actually, I think that Putin thinks that those are -- that that's exactly his view. He feels like the United States is trying to tell him how to act. He feels like the United States told Russia a long time ago how to change its borders.

Putin and other people in the Kremlin in the last year have repeatedly made statements indicating that they no longer recognize the redrawn borders of the Russian Empire, but the posts of the borders of the Russian Empire as well, right? So they actually feel like Biden is engaging in doublespeak that he is saying, one nation cannot tell another to change his borders. But that's exactly what they're telling Russia.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Masha Gessen, grateful for your time on this important day. We'll stay in touch as we watch, watch this play out in the weeks and months ahead, very much appreciate it. Thank you.

GESSEN: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, new pressure from progressives today demanding the speaker punish Congresswoman Lauren Boebert for racist and Islamophobic remarks that as a prominent House conservative takes us behind the curtain, calling some of his colleagues, performance artists.



KING: The end of the year, Russian Congress is dizzying, beyond dizzying and includes a mix of consequential policy and some eye popping controversy. The House passed a major defense bill last night, it gives raises to service members and changes the way sexual assaults are handled in the military.

Senate action is next. And there's also a deal there, believe it or not, between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to raise the debt ceiling. The next giant policy question is this, does the Senate now have a path to pass the big Biden social safety net plan before Christmas? And there are controversy questions too. Among them, progressives want Speaker Pelosi to punish Republican Lauren Boebert for racist and Islamophobic attacks on a Democratic colleague. The Speaker though, is resisting. Let's discuss and as we do, CNN's Melanie Zanona joins the panel.

Let's -- I want to start with the policy, the Build Back Better plan, the Biden's social safety net plan, whatever you call it, because they cleared up the debt ceiling, because it looks like they have a path now to pass the defense authorization bill, there is this small window for Chuck Schumer to bring it to the floor if he can get 50 votes, which means Manchin and Sinema. The Speaker A short time ago, Melanie, says let's do it.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: All your questions are always about what you're going to do for the holidays. We will -- we are on our path to get the job done for the American people. And we feel very confident about what is in Build Back Better. We know what some possibilities are and would be my hope that we would have this bill done before the Christmas vacation.


KING: To get her wish, she needs Chuck Schumer to get 50 votes, possible?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. Well, they have a lot more breathing room because they did clear the debt ceiling and the government funding deadline. But there is still a big question mark if they can get this done by Christmas because first of all, you look at the legislative calendar. There's only a few weeks left before Christmas.

And there's a lot of a ton of negotiating to do. Joe Manchin is demanding some pretty serious changes to the bill. It's unclear where Kyrsten Sinema is in all of this. And so they're going to have to lean in really, really hard. Is it possible? Sure. But is it more likely that they move to the New Year to wrap this up, I think that's probably likely.

KING: Another thing, the speaker is good at deflecting when she thinks it's in her interest. And she has been declining to answer all week. But especially today, there are progressives who want her to bring to the floor legislation to punish Lauren Boebert for clearly racist, clearly Islamophobic comments about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the speaker says that's Republicans business that Republicans should clean up their own house.

And part of that calculation is she's worried, you just give Boebert more attention. And she'll just raise more money. But can she gets progressives essentially to just, you know, swallow their pride?

NOLAN MCCASKILL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I think part of it from Democratic leadership is one, you don't want to give too much attention to Congresswoman Boebert. On the other hand, Kevin McCarthy has already threatened Democratic members.

I think he's threatened, Eric Swalwell, Maxine Waters, Ilhan Omar for previous comments they've made this Congress essentially saying that if Republicans regained the majority, there will be a vote to strip them of their committee assignments. So I think that Speaker Pelosi has to weigh those considerations and look out for the entire caucus and not just the one member who's being targeted.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think what they have to balance is that they punish Republicans before saying that it's up to Republicans to deal with Lauren Boebert. They have dealt with it before when it comes to Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

I think the issue that they're balancing that with is that they don't want to have to punish a Republican or go through this every time. They think a Republican says something that is offensive or that they don't like because then it becomes this, is that what you're spending all your time doing?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I think that -- I do, I think that's what it is. I think, look, it's -- there are midterms coming up. You asked voters, particularly in swing districts, what do you care about? They don't say punishing, like marginal, you know, one or two term Republicans who have no power on committees, they're talking about the economy COVID as it relates to the economy, inflation, not.

KING: And yet, Congress is a workplace and you cannot have people in a workplace saying racist Islamophobic things. And so, yes, it's an institution that governs for the American people, but it's also a workplace that has to have rules, which is why this is interesting. This is Dan Crenshaw, a relatively new conservative member of the House of Representatives. It doesn't get all the attention that alarm Boebert gets or that an older member like Paul Gosar gets, Dan Crenshaw says, this is probably why.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): There's two types of members of Congress, there's performance artists, there's legislators. Now the performance artists are the ones that get all the attention, the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well.



KING: He's absolutely right. He's absolutely right in the sense he made a point at the same event that Adam Kinzinger, who is, you know, viewed as a pariah by Trump World actually voted with Trump more than a lot of members of the ECO, the Matt Gaetzs and the Lauren Boeberts of the world.

But to Dan Crenshaw's point, Lauren Boebert knows the progressives are mad at her. Lauren Boebert knows she said racist and Islamophobic things. Lauren Boebert, you would think normally you take a low profile. Nope. Laura Boebert puts out this picture of her and kids with their weapons, essentially following another Republican Congressman Massie, who did the same thing. Confrontation is her business, controversy is her game.

ZANONA: Yes, absolutely. And that's the Republican Party right now. I mean, the idea that they're show horses and workout horses in Congress is not necessarily a new thing. It's not unique. But with the rise of social media combined with the rise of Trump, this outrage, politics, trolling politics has become the mainstream. These are the vocal voices in the Republican Party right now.

And if you look at the Freedom Caucus, it was designed to be a conservative counterweight to the Republican Study Committee, which was also a conservative caucus. So a bunch of Tea Party Republicans got together, formed this caucus, but it has not been about conservatism in the most recent months. It has become an involved into a club about Trump --

KING: Yesterday, I think we have some pictures of it. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar among those who had a press conference. They wanted to defend, defend the people charged in the insurrection saying they were being treated unfairly.

And at that event, Congressman Gaetz went on to say that he still likes the idea of Donald Trump as speaker if the Republicans were the majority, so they poke their own leadership. And they just say things that, forgive me, they're not American, not patriotic about defending people who stormed the Capitol building.

COLLINS: Yes. And I think that what you're seeing with that is that they're trying to keep this, they're trying to say that they're the ones defending that. The idea of Trump being speaker is not seen as realistic by anyone. And it's something that I keep pushing, that you see Mark Meadows pushing, Steve Bannon was the one who originated this idea, I think, because he pushed it heavily.

That's obviously not going to happen, but it does show back to what Dan Crenshaw was saying about what is the point here? What is -- what do they prefer to talk about? And what do they prefer to be in the news on talking about this? The problem that I think that Lauren Boebert staying in the headline poses for Nancy Pelosi is that she is continuing to get pressure over how she's going to respond to this.

And she's been deflecting questions in our own conference today to reporters about what she's going to do. But Ilhan Omar on CNN on Sunday said that she was competent, she was going to take action this week. And so I think that is what's raising the bar here of what does the House Speaker do?

KING: Right. And the Ayanna Pressley, one of her colleagues, Ilhan was colleagues and friends, the House was unequivocally condemn this incendiary rhetoric and immediately pass this resolution. We will see.

We will see what the speaker does. She's I think, trying to do the policy part first, but we shall see. Up next, big setbacks for the COVID vaccine mandates favored by the Biden White House and other federal courts setback and now Democratic defections on Capitol Hill.



KING: President Biden's push for COVID vaccine mandates is facing even deeper resistance today. A federal judge in Georgia delivered another court blow blocking enforcement for now anyway, of the White House vaccine requirements for certain federal contractors. That is the third court setback Biden efforts to mandate vaccines for certain health care workers and for people working at larger companies also frozen at the moment by court rulings.

Plus, at least two Democratic senators, Jon Tester and Joe Manchin say they will support a Republican effort to overturn the federal vaccine mandate on those larger businesses. The panel is back with me including Shan Wu. Let me start with you because I want to read from, this is U.S. District Judge Daniel Baker in the Georgia case, the court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.

This is a Trump appointee. And he said, yes, COVID has taken a horrific toll in the country. And you recognize that in the decision. But he's saying the White House overstepped. Is the case law backed that up?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think the case really backs it up. His rhetoric is kind of silly. I mean it talks about how he's just preserving the status quo. That's kind of like a duh moment judge. That's what injunctions will do. OSHA on that front has a very poor history with trying to institute health mandates like that.

So historically, it's been hard to do. But legally, this is not really going to be backed up on either side, in terms of the Court of Appeals issues. It's not a district court issue ultimately. It's going to have to go to Court of Appeals.

KING: But the timing impact is that for now, Biden's efforts to increase vaccination across the country, through these mandates in these different sectors are on hold, which means not happening.

TALEV: Yes, you know, it's interesting. I think there's two ways to look at this. On the one hand, just the announcement of the rollout of these plans weeks ago, months ago, I don't remember when it was now, had an impact on vaccinations, a lot of people just went ahead and got vaccinated. They were like, I'm going to have to get vaccinated anyway.

I'm just going to do it. And so to that extent, he's already accomplished quite a bit. But in this final push, and as you see with new variants coming online, it matters like what is the percentage of vaccinations, and this final push, he is obviously hitting a snag at multiple levels in courts in states from a couple of folks in his own party. And the polling gives some clues as to why. When you ask people generically, are vaccines a good idea? Most people not most Republicans, but most people, most Americans say, yes, most independents say yes. When he asked people should healthcare workers be vaccinated? Most people say yes.

When you start talking about businesses and how that impacts the economy, it becomes a different answer, and it is that, it's the crossover concern with the economy and that I think is driving some of this Democratic resistance.


KING: And so Republicans are going to make this an issue in the midterm elections. Joe Biden wants to mandate your life and in this case COVID vaccines. So it's interesting, Senate Republicans want to go on the record and pass something that says no business, no mandate on the big businesses. It won't go anywhere in the House, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker there. But Joe Manchin says this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): And I don't think the government has to make every decision for the private sector. You know, you've been doing quite well allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a better approach than a mandate that the government --

MANCHIN: I've always said incentivize, don't penalize.


KING: Manchin is often an outlier, if you will. But this is Jon Tester of Montana, I intend to join a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in defending Montana jobs and small businesses against these burdensome regulations. So you see, some Democrats deciding too because of their politics back home, Montana and West Virginia, the home states of those two senators, I can't be with you, Mr. President.

MCCASKILL: Right, I think we're starting to see that Democrats are really starting to understand that some people just don't want to be told what to do. I mean, we're more than a year into this pandemic. We've had vaccines for months and months. You know, I've gotten my shots.

I've gotten my booster. But I did that on my own volition, there are other people who just don't want to be told what to do. And I think that this is the issue that Biden and Democrats are running into. I mean, the 2022 environment is not favorable for Democrats right now.

The Republicans are able to just point to the environment, point to the economy, point to all of the issues that Biden is faced and continue to say that Biden is also trying to mandate private companies to do this and do that. You know, I think this is something that could come back to hurt Democrats in 2022. COLLINS: And it's not just Senator Manchin and Senator Tester who are have a problem with this and don't want to embrace these vaccine requirements. You're also seeing the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy say similar. The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, they're not embracing this wholeheartedly like some other Democrats are, because I think they realize they're not very popular. And President Biden himself did not want to do this.

Initially, when he got to office he said this is not the route he was going to take. They felt forced to take it because the rate of vaccinations were so low and the hesitancy was so high and that they really felt like this was the only way to get that out there, especially after the Delta variants swept the country.

And so he introduced this in September, it took several weeks for the Labor Department to try to craft this rule from private businesses, trying to give it, a muster so it could go through the courts. Of course that has not happened yet.

KING: We'll watch as the court cases play out. And we'll watch as the Capitol Hill politics play out.

Coming up for us, you don't often associate Ben Affleck and gerrymandering but the two, trust me, they do go together. We'll explain next.



KING: Topic our Political Radar today. President Biden's nominee for a key financial regulator position is withdrawing her name from consideration. Facing resistance from the banking industry Republicans and even some moderate Democrats Saule Omarova told the White House it was quote, no longer tenable to pursue her nomination to be Comptroller of the Currency.

Omarova's confirmation hearing through headlines you might remember after Republican Senator John Kennedy tried to connect her upbringing in the Soviet Union to communism. Charlottesville, Virginia's controversial statues of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be melted down and turned into a public arts project.

City Council voted in faith of the bronze statue which will be repurposed now by a local African American Heritage Center. That statue you might remember was a prominent part of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville back in 2017. It was removed back in July.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon go together. Ben Affleck and J.Lo if you want a more timely pairing but Ben Affleck and gerrymandering, the Oscar winning actor made his opinions on voting rights and partisan redistricting very clear in a virtual fundraiser last night along with Hillary Clinton, and the former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. Affleck called out Republicans and said they quote, want to dodge the consequences for their actions by redrawing congressional districts in their favor. Mike Pence visiting New Hampshire today, this his second visit to the first in the nation presidential primary state since leaving office back in January. We learned just yesterday that his vice presidential chief of staff Marc Short is now cooperated with the January 6th Select Committee and in case you've lost count, we keep it 1,063 days until the 2024 presidential election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring three pieces of legislation to the House floor today to address human rights abuses committed by China. The measures include condemning China for its persecution of its Muslim Uighur population and calling out the International Olympic Committee. But what Speaker Pelosi says is ignoring its human rights commitment. This has been an issue for Speaker Pelosi for years look at this flashback.


PELOSI: A package of strong legislation that sends a clear message that Beijing's crimes against Uighur people constitute genocide and must end now.

We have been told by many presidents including the present one that if we unconditionally yield to every wish of the dictatorship in Beijing, that human rights in China will improve. We've been told that for over a decade. And the record proves that not to be so.


KING: That's the speaker from 20 years ago. This has been an issue from the very beginning for her. It's that time of year when the stars come out to honor some of humanity's best. Now more than ever, the world needs heroes. Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they name the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year, 15th annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribune Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN, a must see T.V.


Thanks for joining us today in Inside Politics. Don't forget you can listen to our podcast, download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. Busy News Day, stay with us. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.