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Biden Surpasses Trump In First-Year Judicial Nominees; Source: Manchin Wants Child Tax Credit Cut From Econ Bill; Right Now: Biden In Kentucky To Survey Tornado Damage. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 15, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And if you come through right -- if you just look at cases in the United States right now, we're just around 120,000 cases, 119,888 back in November 14th, that was 80,000. So a seven-day average of cases is up 50 percent since last month, and most of this is Delta. Are you worried that is Omicron starts to double as we have seen in South Africa, and we've seen in London quickly that this number will go even higher as we prepare to enter winter?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE-MCCAIN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Absolutely. When Delta emerged, it was the most transmissible COVID variant that we had seen to date. And Omicron is quickly taking that title. It has become the most dominant strain in South Africa. And now the most dominant strain in the U.K. as of today.

The U.K. is also seeing case numbers but they hadn't even seen during the winter surge. So of course, I'm worried that we're going to follow suit and experience the same as what's happening in Europe.

KING: Dr. Fauci's message there clearly was and you raised a key qualifying point, but his case message was clearly please go out and get vaccinated. Vaccinations are up, if you look at the numbers, but most of these are boosters. What is more important right now with the dual threat, if you will, of Delta and Omicron, is it to get those who are vaccinated of booster shot and maybe as you noted, shrink the wait period for that or to get those who are still completely unvaccinated to get a shot?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: I'm not sure if we can place importance on one thing over the other when it comes to fighting COVID and combating this pandemic, all of the different things vaccines, boosters, masks, social distancing, these are all tools in our arsenal. And we have to employ all of them in order to be able to win this war against COVID- 19.

KING: So I asked you this question last time you were here. I'm going to ask it, again, based on what you know today, excepting that the science is evolving by the hour if not by the day, what should people be thinking about in terms of holiday travel, holiday gathering?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: You know, those thoughts change day to day. I particularly had plans to travel over the holidays and I had to change my plans. I think that what's going to be important is looking at the virus spread and the rate of cases in wherever you plan on traveling too, that's number one.

Number two, you have to remember that even if you're vaccinated, going through traveling in airports and buses and trains, you're going to be around a significant amount of people whose vaccination status you don't know which in and of itself poses a risk. So for those people who are older and aged, for those who are immunocompromised, for those who are unvaccinated, I was -- I would significantly rethink any travel plans for this holiday season.

KING: Sober message but as always Dr. Bicette-McCain grateful, grateful for your time and your insights. Thank you.


KING: Up next for us, the numbers simply don't lie. President Biden is running ahead of Donald Trump on an issue that is defining to the Trump legacy.



KING: The Biden White House is doing a little bit of bragging today as it not just passed Donald Trump on an issue that for conservatives was the holy grail of the Trump presidency. Today, President Biden made his 73rd nomination to the federal bench. That eclipses the 72 federal judicial nominations President Trump made in his first year. Let's get straight to the White House. Our senior correspondent Phil Mattingly was tracking these numbers. Phil, it is a big deal.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about it. And look, the push from the White House. The emphasis on this from both the White House and Senate Democrats came in large part by a recognition of the sheer success that President Trump and then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had it reshaping the courts from the Supreme Court on down.

It was something that unsettled a lot of Democrats and made clear that during the presidential campaign, this needed to be a focus. And a focus it absolutely has been. John, you mentioned the top line number, 73 total nominees. He's also -- the President is on the verge of having 31 confirmed between circuit courts and district courts. That's more than any president in his first year since Ronald Reagan.

And it's not just the top line numbers. It's also depicts themselves. The White House is really focused on diversity, both on the personal and on the professional side of things. You're seeing labor lawyers, civil rights lawyers, public attorneys that perhaps wouldn't necessarily have been filling the federal bench in the past that have been selections, more than 70 percent of the picks have been women, more than 20 of the selections have been African American, 15 Hispanic.

And so you go up and down the list and you get an understanding of his administration that is really taking a new tact when it comes to who they're selecting. But really continuing what you saw in the last administration, the focus of naming those selections. Now overall, obviously no Supreme Court picks up to this point, but just in a matter of moments, you'll have his 11th Circuit Court Judge pick Jennifer Sung in the Ninth Circuit, timed it perfectly for this hit, John.

KING: Timed it perfectly. I don't know how you did that Phil. Phil Mattingly, live for us at the White House. Appreciate you're kicking it off. Let's have the conversation in the room. Let's start with Carrie Cordero. Let's go back to the numbers that were just write up there because the President did, candidate Biden did promise much more diverse, across government, appointees across government, 73 percent of these picks are women, 27 percent of black, 21 percent are Hispanic 18 percent are Asian.

Add that to the number, the raw number is impressive. But how does that make a difference, the diversity?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So it really is important. And because what the district court judge appointments are doing is they're creating a pipeline. So they're going to be obviously considering the cases that are before them, but they're also creating a pipeline of judges who can be future considerations for appellate level judges, even potentially for Supreme Court justices, you know, in the decades to come.

And so he is -- has an opportunity here, President Biden to reshape the federal judiciary in a way that is more representative America, it's not just comprised of all former federal prosecutors for example, Phil's emphasis on the Civil Rights backgrounds of some of these nominees and new judges is an important one.


KING: And a lot of conservatives who get the downsides, the many downsides of Donald Trump, this is where they hide, if you will. But look what we got. We got all these judges. And Donald Trump was never shy, listen about saying I'm breaking records.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But something that people aren't talking about is how many judges we've had approved, I want to say that we will set records in terms of the number of judges.

A big percentage of the court will be changed by this administration over a very short period of time. I don't believe anybody's come close.


KING: Well, again, those clips serve a purpose, because now President Biden has not only come close past him in nominations the first year, we'll see, we'll do this every year. We'll see where we are at the end of the first term before years. But if you look at this, Lauren Fox, in terms of, Phil touched on this, in terms of confirmations, in terms of confirmations, yes, President Biden has not had a Supreme Court pick.

And that is huge. We'll get to that the second. But in terms of confirmations at the district court level tied at the appeals court level, well ahead of Trump at the district court level that matters. That's actual people on the job.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And this is a lesson that was learned under the Barack Obama administration where this wasn't an emphasis early on in his presidency. And when Mitch McConnell took back the Senate, it became a focus for him. And he laid the groundwork so that when President Trump was in office, he could move very swiftly.

And, you know, their relationship now, obviously, not strong. But at the time, McConnell and Trump worked hand in hand to do this. And it was McConnell reminding him over and over again, Mr. President, you want to prioritize this because you can break records, you can brag about it, you can go out and talk about all the things you saw there in those clips.

KING: And we see the real world impact every day because so little is done in this town now that so many things are now litigated in the courts, whether it's mask mandates, vaccine mandates, border policy, pick your issue.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. It's become the shadow politics of our time that has taken the place of a dysfunctional executive and legislative branch in many respects. And this oftentimes is where big issues are finally decided, in the courts. And I think both parties have come to recognize that this is now increasingly where the action is. And that's why they're moving so swiftly to a point their toggles.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What will be interesting to see is sort of a grassroots, a liberal voters and activist see this in the way that we've obviously seen from conservative voters is really a motivating factor for conservative voters never really has been for liberals.

So it'll be interesting sort of going forward. It's sort of the lesson of the Obama administration was learned in the Trump administration, the fact that you've got a six, three Supreme Court now that could overturn massive rights for women in this country. So that's one of the things I'm looking forward.

KING: It's a great point and a great question. The numbers don't lie. But to the voters, Democratic voters care about this as much as conservatives. It's a great point.

MARTIN: And just real fast. There's a liberal judge on the court, who's in his 80s name Stephen Breyer, and that is going to be one of the major storylines of 2022, does he retire?


KING: Without a doubt up next for us? Do you benefit from the Expanded Child Tax Credit? It is expiring today.


KING: Some important news just into CNN. A source familiar with the conversations between President Joe Biden and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin tells us the two are quote, very far apart from reaching a deal on Biden's big social safety net package. The hold up, Manchin wants to cut the child tax credit from the bill. This news comes the very same day millions of you, millions of U.S. parents will receive what could be the last payment under an expanded child tax credit that began in March.

CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell is here with us. The data studies I've looked at say this child tax credit has been an overwhelming plus when it comes to fighting childhood hunger, fighting child poverty. Why would a Democratic senator whose state has those issues want to rip it from the bill?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's an excellent question. Yes. The research suggests that the payoff of this kind of reduction in child poverty is enormous. It pays off in terms of better health outcomes, better educational outcomes, higher earnings for those kids who received the child tax credit when they're poor when they grow up eventually.

So there's a lot of solid evidence to suggest this is a good policy and for this particular Senator state, in particular, a lot of beneficiaries there. But West Virginia has a very complicated relationship with government transfers, even though the state has very high benefit receipt per capita for a lot of different kinds of benefits, including things like disability.

There's a lot of political aversion, none the less to those very same transfers. People think, well, I deserve this benefit, but everybody around me is on the dole. So I think Manchin is responding to very real political pressures in his state.

KING: OK, pressures in his state. This is from Axio. So Manchin telling colleagues, the expanded child tax credit is both the most underpriced item and the biggest inflation driver in President Biden's Build Back Better plan. Underpriced I get, mentioned is concerned about the debt and you may disagree with him at home, but that is an issue he's raised consistently.

And this benefit does cost a lot of money. Does this government spending driving -- is this the kind of government spending that drives inflation?


RAMPELL: Well, it is fair to say that putting more money in people's pockets so that they can spend it, yes, it could lead to higher demand and therefore inflation. But there are ways you can counteract that, right? You could raise taxes elsewhere. This is a tax cut. This is a tax cut for low-income families and middle-income families. You could counteract that by saying, you know what, we're just going

to raise taxes on billionaires and on corporations. And that's sort of the argument that Democrats have been making, but they've gotten cold feet on a lot of those tax increases.

KING: So let's do the other side. I just asked you a question essentially, if you keep this going, if you extend this tax credit, would it drive inflation? What happens if you take it away? Today's the last day unless they do something about it, and we showed it before, but 39 million American households benefit from this, 61 million children benefit from this.

Families get $300 a month for children under the age of six, $250 a month for children between the ages of six and 17. It phases out depending on how much money you make. Why did you take all that money away? What will the economic impact be?

RAMPELL: The economic impact will be quite painful for a lot of these families. Families are using this money to pay for school supplies, to pay for child care, to pay for other kinds of necessities. I mean, we have survey data on this from the census. And if they don't have that funding available, then their kids are going to suffer more deprivation, right? I mean, that's just what happens. Giving them the money, reduces child poverty, taking that money away will increase it.

KING: We're waiting for the Fed today, more action on inflation. If you saw our poll at the top of the hour, it's personal to people, they are seeing these higher prices and they are blaming whoever they can, including the President, his approval numbers are way down. Is there a fix for the Fed? Or is this a long-term issue?

RAMPELL: This is a very long-term issue. And it's a difficult issue that the Fed obviously has been working on for decades. In fact, figuring out that that tricky mix between balancing maximum employment and stable prices, its dual mandate set by Congress. And yes, they got things wrong earlier this year. And now they have to figure out how do they change their messaging and how do they change their policy tools so that they can get these price increases under control?

KING: The guy lives at the White House. We'll be watching closely Catherine Rampell, grateful for your time and your insights. Right now, the President is in Kentucky about to get a close up look at the damage from the devastating tornadoes that killed more than 70 people. We'll be live on the ground next.



KING: President Biden is in Kentucky right now. He is there to get a firsthand look at the catastrophic damage from those deadly weekend tornadoes. At least 74 people were killed just in the state of Kentucky, Commonwealth of Kentucky thousands displaced. Our Kaitlan Collins is live for us now in Dawson Springs. Kaitlan, what do we know? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you saw the President just a few moments ago, John, getting a briefing from the Kentucky Governor, the Administrator of FEMA, his Homeland Security Secretary as well, they're all here on the ground talking about what the efforts are going to look like. Because this is going to be a very long road to recovery, sadly, for people here in Kentucky and several other states that were hit by these storms.

And so the White House says that the message that President Biden is bringing with him as he's about to tour a neighborhood in Mayfield where of course we know the damage was incredibly extensive is that they are going to be here to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes because of course they know that there is a lot going on here.

And so, you know, John, the message of the President brings with him though is not always just about federal resources. It's also he says he's here to listen to people. And that is certainly what people want to hear because what they are going through is incredibly overwhelming.

We just spoke with someone earlier, a man who is about as kind as they come who lost his mother here in Dawson Springs. And so now, not only is he dealing with the sudden loss of that, John, he's also can't go to her house and just reminisce over photos and memories like you would expect someone to do when you lose someone like that.

He's also going through rubble and looking for anything he can find, mementos, her cell phone, his letterman jacket from high school, moments like that. And so they said they do welcome the President's visit here today to put the national spotlight on what has happened to a small town here that is feeling a lot of pain.

KING: Kaitlan Collins grateful for the live report. And I'm sure as you know the community is grateful for the visit of the President the pictures still even days later, still just heartbreaking. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Topping our Political Radar today, for the first time in the city's history, the next New York City Police Commissioner will be a woman. Keechant Sewell will lead the country's largest police department, the New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams picked her. She currently is the chief of detectives on Long Island.


KEECHANT SEWELL, SELECTED AS NEXT NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I am mindful of the historic nature of this announcement as the first woman and only the third black person to lead the NYPD in its 176 year history. I bring a different perspective. To all the little girls within the sound of my voice there is nothing you can't do. And no one you can't become.


KING: Fascinating to watch that play out. The National Archives, get this, just released a tranche of secret documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Now JFK researchers do not expect these new documents to include a smoking gun. Conspiracy theorists though in some historians do hope documents show otherwise and clear up some of their questions about the 1963 assassination.

The Secretary of State Tony Blinken now cutting short a trip to Asia after a journalist traveling with him tested positive for COVID. The State Department says instead of having meetings and events in Thailand, Secretary Blinken instead will travel back to D.C. The trip has already included stops in the U.K., Indonesia and Malaysia.

This quick programming note on Sunday join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for look at how some families with autistic kids are finding hope in cannabis and see how some for hope for some hope comes at a great risk. The new CNN special report Weed 6 Marijuana and Autism begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.


Appreciate your time on Inside Politics today. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera -- don't forget you can also listen to our podcast download the INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.