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Senate Poised To Pass $740B Climate Change/Health Care Bill; Indiana Passes Abortion Restrictions After Emotional Debate; Six In 10 Kansans Vote To Protect Abortion Rights; Trump's Revenge Tour; Democrats Near Big Win on Senate Floor; Senate Control a Coin Flip with 3 Months Until Election Day. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 07, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Democrats on the cusp of their biggest winner of the Biden era.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: It will reduce inflation. It will lower prescription drug costs. It will fight climate change and make America a much better place.

PHILLIP (voice-over): As Biden's celebrates one of the best stretches of his presidency, are he and his party poised for electoral comeback? Plus, another red state bans nearly all abortions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Policy the state of Indiana is to support life, the unborn children who cannot speak for themselves.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But a referendum in Kansas may signal a backlash over Roe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The threat on abortion, it's no longer theoretical.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And pro-Trump election deniers will top the GOP ticket in at least three key states this November.

KARI LAKE, ARIZONA GOVERNOR: This is truly a battle between those who want to save America and those who want to destroy her.

PHILLIP (voice-over): What happens if they're in charge of the ballot box in 2024?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't believe in democracy. They don't believe in our election system. It is very dangerous.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Inside Politics, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Welcome to Inside Politics Sunday, I'm Abby Philip. We're going to take you to the Senate floor right now. You're looking at live pictures where senators have been added all night. They are debating the Democrats $740 billion bill aimed at lowering health care costs, fighting climate change, and reducing the deficit.

CNN's Manu Raju has been up with them for all those hours and he's joining us now. So Manu, what's going on over there on the Senate floor? A little bit of a party for some of these senators, right?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Look, they've been going ever since 11:30 p.m. Eastern time last night. And there are hours more of amendment votes ahead. It's really no way to estimate exactly what time this will end because under the rules of the Senate, senators can offer a limitless number of amendments because of the process that Democrats are employing to pass this bill along straight party lines.

Because they are using the budget process to do that, essentially, it allows any Republican or Democrat to offer any amendment they want. Typically, you need 100 senators to agree to get one amendment vote, not now, which is why it's really uncertain, and ultimately when this will come together. But what is certain so far is that Democrats had been sticking together, had been fending off Republican efforts to amend the bill.

And actually, right now, the Democrats are going to push back against one of their own Senator Bernie Sanders has an amendment on the floor right now that is being voted on that would extend the child tax credit and raise the corporate tax rate, which most Democrats actually agree with.

But they're voting that down because they're concerned, if you amend this bill, it's going to undercut their efforts to try to pass this along straight party lines later today and also into the House next week.

Now, the Republicans have been focusing on other issues to try to put Democrats on the spot. One of the big arguments Republicans have been making is about the increase in IRS enforcement, adding more IRS agents to help pay for this bill. One of the senators, Marco Rubio, tried to go after this issue, but Democrats pushed back.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): They're going to hire an army of IRS agents. This is the one that I love, they're going to go after the people that aren't paying enough in their taxes. So who do you think these agents are going to go after? Because fighting these corporations ain't easy, and you will eventually run out of billionaires to go after. They're going to go after small businesses. They're going to go after working people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: I mean, I'm tagging.


SCHUMER: Impactful bills Congress has seen in decades, for families struggling to pay the bills, for seniors struggling to pay for medication, for kids struggling with asthma, this bill is for them.


RAJU: Now, increased IRS enforcement would pay for this bill in some way by adding roughly $124 billion back to the Treasury. In addition to pay for this bill, they're going to raise the corporate minimum tax to 15 percent. They also going to add a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks and all this has to pay for their plants here to extend health care subsidies for three years to actually pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new climate change and energy programs.

And also for the first time, Medicare will have the power to negotiate drug prices under this legislation, assuming Democrats can keep their folks in line, unite and get this bill out of the Senate, which is expected later today. And then on to the House where Democrats have a narrow majority but still expect to keep their caucus mostly in line, sending this bill to Joe Biden's desk after a more than a year of internal democratic wrangling. Abby?


PHILLIP: And Manu, we know that a lot of these may be all their caucus mostly in line sending this bill to Joe Biden's desk after a more than a year of internal democratic wrangling. And Manu, we know that a lot of these maybe all of these amendments are expected to fail. But are there other changes that could be coming down the pike?

RAJU: Yes, there is one that actually could succeed. That is the efforts to buy Republicans to strike out from this legislation to eliminate the cap on insulin. Democrats want to add a $35 cap and the both in the private marketplace and through Medicare. But the Senate parliamentarian has actually ruled that the efforts to cap the private marketplace for $35 of insulin actually wouldn't violate Senate Budget rules.

Nevertheless, Democrats still included this in the bill, essentially daring Republicans to try to strip this out. And I just talked to Senator John Thune, the number two Republican who did tell me that they do plan to strike it out because it violates the Senate budget rules, hoping that Democrats are almost goading them to do this because they want to go after Republicans for stripping out this cap on insulin, which would be popular among folks who has certainly need this medication.

But nevertheless, lot of these votes here, Abby, meant to put the other side on the defensive Republicans, putting them on the defensive of an immigration, and the IRS issue, on energy issues, hoping to take this to voters in the polls, because when this passes, both sides are going to make the arguments to the voters about why it is good for them, why it is bad for them, and the voters will ultimately have to decide

PHILLIP: All right, Manu Raju, hardest working man on Capitol Hill right now. I will get back to you with more later as things progress.

RAJU: Yes.

PHILLIP: But Senate passage will cap what has been an extraordinary week for President Biden. Overseas, the leader of al-Qaeda killed by U.S. hell fire missiles, and here at home strong economic news with the unemployment rate matching the lowest point it's been in 50 plus years.

Now President Biden left the White House this morning for the first time in 18 days where he's been in quarantine from COVID. But he's headed to his beach house in Delaware. And he told reporters that he's now feeling great.

Let's discuss all of this and more with Molly Ball of Time Magazine, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, CNN's Harry Enten and Politico's Marianne LeVine. Marianne, this is not quite the bill, the Democrats thought that they were going to get, perhaps thought that they really wanted and yet, I can't emphasize how optimistic Democrats sound. I mean, it's probably the most optimistic you've heard them sound in about a year and a half.

MARIANNE LEVINE, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, Democrats are ecstatic. And I think it's important to note that two to three weeks ago, we did not think this bill was going to come to fruition. We -- what it was looking like, up until that point was that Democrats were going to get a narrower health care package that Senator Joe Manchin was going to approve.

And so, I think the fact that the expectations were lowered so much by the assumption that they were going to get a narrower bill only made this what they see as a pretty big victory for them and only made the passage of this not much of a bigger deal.

PHILLIP: Now I say Democrats because the one senator who is expected to probably vote for this bill, but also is so unhappy right now on the Senate floor is Senator Bernie Sanders, who is of course, an independent, but take a listen to what he's been saying.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It's important to understand that real weekly wages for the average American worker all lower today than they were 49 years ago. And clearly, the inflation of today is pushing the average person even further behind. This legislation, does not address any of their needs.


PHILLIP: Meanwhile, Republicans are like, yes, what he said. So I mean, it was Bernie Sanders, but still he's offered all these amendments, they're going to fail. But still, this will probably go forward. MOLLY BALL, TIME MAGAZINE NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It will. And, you know, as Marianne was saying, there's clearly there's been sort of a vibe shift in favor of the Democrats. I think, in so many ways this bill, they feel like sort of fell out of the sky, thanks to Joe Manchin suddenly reversing himself.

And so, it just feels like this thing they didn't expect. And then, you have, you know, gas prices coming down, the economic news, you mentioned, the foreign policy news, you mentioned, just after at least a year where it seemed like they just could not catch a break, even on stuff that they sort of had nothing to do with.

You know, like, the I think the Kansas vote, the good political news where a few weeks ago, the Democrats were so depressed about Roe v. Wade being overturned, and the seeming inaction on things like climate, and it's just like we're in a completely different world now. And, you know, to your point, Bernie Sanders complaining about this on the floor of the Senate, arguably helps the credibility of this bill, right?

Joe Manchin being out there selling it after he earned so much credibility on the right for torpedoing all of the Democrats aspirations for the last year that potentially adds credibility to it. So if you're a Democrat in a red state, or in a tough race this fall, yes, you want Bernie Sanders out there saying this is a terrible bill, it falls short of the $6 trillion because that maybe helps you make the case to moderate voters.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But also you see the delicate nature of this, because a lot of these amendments that he's putting forward Democrats generally support, but a lot of them has said we're not going to vote yes for them.

And he's struggled to peel off Democratic votes, because they don't want to upset the balance here. I mean, it really shows how striking it is, what Democrats wanted and talked about a year ago to what they're accepting now.

Because, I mean, just look, even in the name in and of itself, and how they've rebranded this from Build Back Better to now it is called the Inflation Reduction Act. That is the work of Senator Joe Manchin.

And it speaks to how Democrats have adjusted their goals to reality and what they're seeing. And this bill is transformative when it comes to climate change and whatnot. It's very different from what they wanted a year ago.

That's what Senator Sanders is complaining about that there's not the childcare, the elderly care, all of these other efforts to really rewrite basically, the social contract that initially saw it. Though, you can see given just how enthusiastic Democrats are about this, how much their goals basically have changed.

PHILLIP: Yes. HARRY ENTEN. CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I think they're watching the clock kind of running out, right?


ENTEN: The end of the legislative session, the end of this Congress, we have the midterms now less than 100 days away. And I think they realize it's either now or it's never. And I would make the argument, Molly, that, you know, Democrats were quite enthused by what happened, given the overturning of Roe.

They said, wait a minute, we got to get off our behinds here, because we don't get off our behind. We're going to get nothing done. And we've sort of seen that right, in the polling. We're all of a sudden you've seen the Democrats climbing back on the generic congressional ballot. And I think that vote in Kansas, this week shows, hey, Democrats are actually quite enthused right now. And it's very different from that sort of usual midterm dynamic.

PHILLIP: It's Almost like a switch flipped a little bit here in Washington. All of a sudden Congress is extraordinarily productive. But also some things that are outside the total control of the folks here in Washington are going the Democrats way. I mean, take a look at what has happened. Just, you know, in the world of President Biden, in the last few weeks, gas prices are down 20 percent.

Unemployment reaches a 50-year low, bipartisan bills on guns, veteran, semiconductors, climate change and health care on the cusp of passing, al-Qaeda leader killed and Senate approved in a bipartisan fashion. NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, that's just some of it. If you look even further back, there is even more.

So for -- even for President Biden, things are looking up and yet, Harry, his approval rating is still at a low. I think we're looking at here 36 percent --

ENTEN: Yes, that's --

PHILLIP: -- in our poll of polls?

ENTEN: CNN poll of polls. I mean, usually you see a President's approval rating go down as we head into a midterm election cycle, right? You know, you start off at that high that honeymoon period, and then it just goes and goes and goes. But, you know, I would make the argument that yes, it's true.

President Biden has not seen a recovery as numbers, maybe in some of the most, most recent posts, you've seen a slight uptick, you know, a few of them might be popping a 38 percent instead of a 36 percent.

But I don't think Democrats particularly care if their own numbers are going up.


ENTEN: And that is what we're seeing (INAUDIBLE). PHILLIP: He's not on the ballot in 2022.

ENTEN: That's right.

PHILLIP: But they are. I do want to bring this up. Maureen Dowd has a column out today that basically says, hey, Joe, go out on a high note. She says, "He could leave on a high, knowing that he's delivered on his promises for progress, and restore decency to the White House.

It would be self-effacing and patriotic and a stark contrast to the self-absorbed and treated as Trump. And this is the topic du jour right now, where many Democrats are kind of hedging on this question of whether Joe Biden should remain on the ticket.

BALL: Yes. And this drumbeat has been going on for a while, it's only going to get louder. I think, going up to the midterms, and then after the midterms, and this is going to be a big argument that is going to be had within the Democratic Party because, you know, you have -- the president repeatedly saying that he intends to run for reelection, but fewer and fewer people, a, believe that or, b, think it's a good idea.

And when you have a lot of people, you know, within the party, people potentially close to the president taking this line. He's going to have to answer it, I think more and more particularly after the midterm.

COLLINS: And I think one of the most interesting thing that Maureen writes in this column is she talks about what Biden was elected to do, and she is talking about this legislation and the other aspects and notable achievement, saying that's really what voters wanted to see. They didn't want this LBJ like candidate to totally transform everything.

They wanted a bridge from Trump back to normalcy. And she's saying basically, that's what they got. Don't be like RBG and attempt to basically overstay your welcome.

And that's the argument. Obviously, people in the West Wing don't like that. They think and it will ignore (inaudible).


COLLINS: But it's even not just his critics talking about his agents, it's Democrats as well talking about what he means for the party and where it should go going forward.

PHILLIP: And when I say it's been the topic du jour, I mean, among Democrats --


PHILLIP: -- elected Democrats not wanting to talk about this. But everybody, stick around, coming up next for us. Kansas voters turned out in droves to say no to abortion bans in their state. But does that tell us anything about the Democrats chances in November?



PHILLIP: Indiana is now the latest flashpoint in a nationwide abortion debate. The Republican governor there signed a near total ban of abortion into law on late Friday night after it was approved by the state legislature.


JOANNA KING (R), INDIANA STATE HOUSE: I believe life begins at conception. I believe life is a gift. This body has the duty to protect life.

CAREY HAMILTON (D), INDIANA STATE HOUSE: I am stunned that we are here today about to remove the most basic freedom that women hold dear in their lives.


PHILLIP: But days earlier, nearly six and 10 Kansans sent a clear warning shot to advocates and lawmakers seeking to push forward similar abortion bans by voting to keep the right to an abortion in its state's constitution. That decisive win for abortion rights may not have stopped Indiana lawmakers but it may be a preview of a new political calculus going into November.



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSSETS: Now, the threat on abortion, it's no longer theoretical. It's now real. I think that's going to have a powerful influence. Roe versus Wade will be on the ballot in November.

GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: And we believe in the sanctity of life in our state. And I don't care what it means for the political consequences of the future.


PHILLIP: Yep, I mean, I think that's pretty telling. I don't care what it means for the political consequences in the future. There's an acknowledgement here, even among Republicans, that these abortion bans may not be popular. They may push them anywhere anyway. And if you're looking at Kansas, and six and 10 Kansans are saying no to abortion bans, that means you're also probably talking about some Republicans and some independents as well.

COLLINS: I'm struck by the numbers here, I know Harry is our numbers guy, but -- looking (INAUDIBLE).


COLLINS: Like 540,000, people came out voted against that abortion measure. That's a state that Trump won by 15 points about 15 points just two years ago, and 18 of the counties voted against this. Biden only won five counties in 2020. And I think it just challenges the conventional political thinking here. And what people have been saying how it's going to affect the midterms, what they're going to look like.

And I think the thing to watch over the next few months before the midterms is how other states try to copy this playbook, how abortion rights activists are trying to mirror what they did in Kansas. And I just think it's remarkable, and it does go against what people had predicted was going to happen.

PHILLIP: I was going to say just before you jump in, the turnout is also part of the story here, too. I mean -- when you take a look at this, we have numbers from this Kansas referendum that looks like it approaches, presidential election numbers or midterm election numbers where you have a competitive primary situation going on or competitive races going on. That alone tells you a huge part of the story.

ENTEN: People were very enthusiastic to vote in Democrats particularly and you can look at the turnout in the Democratic gubernatorial primary there versus the Republican gubernatorial primary there, compared to four years ago. And what we saw was the Democratic turnout, the people who voted that democratic gubernatorial primary was 80 percent, 80 percent. And the Republican side was up a little less than 50 percent.

But Democrats are more people who are choosing the democratic ballot this year versus four years well, compared to the Republicans. And that is so different. So different than what we've seen in other primaries so far this season, where Republicans are turning on a much larger numbers than they were compared to four years ago. But Democrats are actually turning out less.

So all of a sudden, you see this very different dynamic in Kansas. And I think the question going forward, is whether or not abortion can, in fact, sort of be that thing that allows democratic enthusiasm to climb because midterms aren't just about persuasion, they're about turnout, too.

PHILLIP: Yes and, I mean, you see Democrats answering that question with how they are running ads. It's only been a few days and listen to what's on the airwaves right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Told us exactly who she is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you for the exemptions for rape and incest?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blake Masters has made his dangerous ideas on abortion easy to understand.

BLAKE MASTERS, U.S. CANDIDATE FRUM ARIZONA: I think Roe v. Wade was wrong. It's always been wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lake wouldn't just ban abortion, she's criminalized it.

PHILLIP: It's pretty clear, they now have their primary challengers, and the ads that are on the air are on this issue.

BALL: Well, and this is the question for Democrats that we've seen that this is good for them politically when it is on the ballot, but can they make voters believe that abortion is what is on the ballot, this midterm election, right? Because the conventional wisdom is always that particularly in a midterm, voters are voting on pocketbook issues. And that has been what Republicans have been counting on and what they seem to be really succeeding on up to now.

So if Democrats can change the subject, if they can make it -- bring at home to voters that this is urgent, I think particularly at the state level, and gubernatorial races, they may have some success with that. Maybe a little bit of a higher hurdle with Senate races to convince voters that this is what Congress is going to be dealing with.

We have seen, you know, legislation be brought in the Senate. But can they convince voters because the Kansas vote was very pure, it was an up or down vote on a constitutional amendment about abortion specifically. So do you get that same turnout, do you get that same enthusiasm when it's about two candidates who are talking about a whole range of issues?

LEVINE: Yes. And Kansas is really the first test case that we've seen of the democratic theory that abortion would make a difference, at least on the margins in the midterms. Now whether Democrats can continue to turn voter rage and frustration with the overturning of Roe into actual votes remains an open question in some of these key Senate races. But it's clear that this is at least going to have some impact on the midterms, but we don't know quite yet by how much.

PHILLIP: Yes. I want to show you some a map here that kind of extrapolates from Kansas to look at what the -- what abortion referendum vote would look like in some of these other states, how these votes would break down.


And it's really fascinating because when you look at these other states how these votes would break down. And it's really fascinating because when you look at the some of these battleground states in a state like Pennsylvania, for example. 64 percent is where a similar abortion referendum would be in a state like Wisconsin, 66 percent, 65 percent up here in Michigan, in Georgia 54 percent.

So these are numbers that Democrats would say, look good if, as Molly said, abortion is on the ballot in an up or down fashion. And, but the thing is, though, it could be. I mean, Republicans want to press this issue. They are being pushed to press this issue. ENTEN: There's not a lot of read on that map, which essentially say that, you know, there would be more pro-life people than pro-choice, and they're basically all in that interior sell very Republican areas. And I would say that, you know, you pointed out those key Midwestern states of those states that border on the Midwest, I guess, in the case of Pennsylvania.


ENTEN: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, key gubernatorial races, they are this year, I think Molly's right. You know, I'm not sure how much you can extrapolate out to the Senate, but in the governor's race? Absolutely. And I'm --

PHILLIP: Yes, if you're Gretchen Whitmer --

ENTEN: Oh yeah.

PHILLIP: Oh, yeah, you're absolutely pushing.

ENTEN: Absolutely Right. And you know, the thing I'll point out is sure, yes, inflation, the economy is still the number one issue. But according to Gallup, more people say that abortion is a top problem in this country. And at any point they've pulled it, and basically the last nearly 40 years.

PHILLIP: Yes, that's absolutely fascinating. It's been a sleeper issue, but, you know, the Supreme Court forced it to the front of the table.

But coming up next for us, Donald Trump's on a revenge tour. Two-high profile, anti-Trump Republicans have lost their primaries and he has a new target in his sights.



PHILLIP: Donald Trump promised to exact revenge on the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him and so far he's largely succeeded. At least one more lawmaker fell last week. That was Peter Meijer who lost to a Trump-endorsed opponent in the primary. And votes are still being counted in Jamie Herrera-Beutler's race but she is hanging on by just a thread.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers also lost as well. He refused Trump's requests to overturn the results there and he testified before the January 6th committee.

Now, the ex-president's latest target is someone you probably don't know but the very conservative Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos. His crime is refusing nearly two years later to somehow declare that Trump was the winner in Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Adam Stein is running to defeat your rhino speaker of the house, Robin Vos. Vos said we won't let it happen again. Well what about 2020. They won't let it happen again. In other words, it was ok to cheat in 2020, but we won't let it happen again.


PHILLIP: I mean I think we should just let people know, Robin Vos is an extremely conservative Republican. He was actually kind of on board with this idea of trying to find fraud, but he just didn't find any. And that is not good enough for Trump.

COLLINS: Because there was no fraud in Wisconsin which non-partisan committees that investigated it has said no, Joe Biden did win the state by 20,000 votes.

I think what's remarkable about Robin Vos is he is not a well-known figure. People -- he's not a household name. He and Trump though were actually quite close once and they had a pretty good -- I would call it an alliance to a degree.

They had met in person. He did launch an investigation into the election results. But it's come this way where there was no fraud so there's really nothing for him to push forward. And instead of taking the path that you've seen some other Trump allies in states continuing to push the lie about the election, he said, you know, there's nothing for me to do.

He's still been fielding calls from Trump in recent months including a recent one I believe was in June asking him to overturn the results of the election and proceed with that.

And he said it was unconstitutional. There was really nothing for him to do. And then Trump admitted publicly he did not know this opponent of his that he's now endorsed very well. He said I don't know him, but basically I'm going to endorse him if he doesn't do what I want him to. And that's where we came on Friday night.

PHILLIP: Yes. This reminds me a couple of weeks ago, Lindsey Graham telling the "Washington Post", when Trump runs, he'll just forget about all of this election denial stuff which obviously has not happened.

But also this week, I mean Liz Cheney is still running. She's likely to lose but put out an ad with her dad, Dick Cheney, a towering figure in the Republican Party basically saying that, what you just saw from Trump is the reason why he is still a threat to American democracy. That is her whole argument to the American people, not just to the people of Wyoming -- I'm sorry. Yes.

LEVINE: Yes. And I think Cheney along with a bipartisan group of senators -- I think there is concern on the hill about the election lie and the impact that this had not only on January 6th, but just generally in terms of what this could mean for 2024, what does it mean for someone like Kari Lake to be governor, and she'll make it more difficult for Democrats, if they win at their election, to actually succeed in a state like Arizona.

And so I think the concerns from Liz Cheney have made it clear that she views Trump as a cancer on her party, as well as the fact that you actually have a bipartisan group of senators working on reforms right now that they're trying to pass before 2024 to ensure that the state certification process goes more smoothly and that you don't have interference.


LEVINE: And that is something that we're watching and it's a sign of broader concerns.

PHILLIP: One of the biggest concerns to that point is who is running the elections -- you know, 2024 and beyond. One name, another non- household name that you should probably know in Arizona, the Republican nominee now for secretary of state is a man named Mark Finchem.

And here is a little bit about him. He was at the Capitol on January 6th. He's identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers. He's attended recently actually a QAnon conference. And he sponsored legislation to overturn the election results. And he's still pushing to decertify the 2020 election.

That's in Arizona. You've got care Kari Lake as Marianne mentioned, Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, in Nevada Jim Marchant, these folks are on the ballot and they're running on this stuff.

BALL: Right. And so the question that we were asking in the primaries was, you know, Trump's obsession with the 2020 election. Is that something that Republican-base voters care about and we have heard a resounding yes, right.

Republican base voters very much do want to continue to promote the election lie. And they are very passionate about this passion of Trump's.

Now the question that we're going to be asking is what do general election electorates think about this? Do they care basically about this argument about American democracy? Because again, the conventional wisdom is that compared to things like inflation, compared to pocketbook concerns, compared to just, you know, concerns about COVID or the stability of how people are feeling are going to be much more important to voters than these abstract ideas about democracy and clean elections, and so on and so forth.

So the question is going to be in the general election, number one, do voters respond to arguments about this? And I think we're going to see that in how the Democrats campaign. Are they campaigning on these ideas about democracy or are they trying to meet voters where they are with more concrete issues instead? And that's going to be really -- or perhaps all of the above.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Do bad candidates actually matter I think is often the question that I ask myself in this era of high polarization where everything just seems to stem from where people stand nationally.

But I will tell you, you look at those early polling data from Pennsylvania, from Arizona, from Wisconsin and you do, in fact, see that the Democratic candidates are up there in the early numbers. So it does seem to me that voters are responding.

Maybe it's not necessarily particularly tied to how they feel -- these candidates feel about the 2020 election, but just the vibe that these folks are perhaps a little bit more out there than were willing to go even if we're not exactly thrilled what's going on nationally with Democrats.

COLLINS: But also when it comings to the secretaries of state races, they have so much power. I think everyone thinks, ok yes, the state legislatures are the ones that make the laws of what that state's election is going to look like.

But as a secretary of state in a state you have so much significant power over how an election is conducted. You're in charge of how the resources are distributed. You can launch investigations that call into question election results and maybe erode trust in voters.

And I think that's why that's something that I'm going to be watching come November because that is such a significant part of what this looks like right now and also what the elections are going to look like in 2024 because Mark Finchem in Arizona has said if he was secretary of state when 2020 happened, Trump would have won Arizona.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean I think we're asking both the question about whether voters care, but also there are some kind of objective questions here about what is going on with the Republican Party when it comes to democracy.

Here is what's happening over at CPAC, this is the Conservative Political Action Conference which over the years has been becoming wilder and wilder. But they had this year the Hungarian President Viktor Orban who is widely viewed as kind of autocratic figure. Take a listen to him.


VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: I'm here to tell you that we should unite our forces. If you separate western civilization from the Judeo-Christian heritage, the worst things in history happen.

If traditional families are gone, there is nothing that can save the West from going under. The globalists can all go to hell. I have come to Texas.


PHILLIP: Huge applause. But this is a guy who has real disdain for democracy, getting basically a hero's welcome at a conservative political conference. BALL: Yes. And you know, the scholars will tell you he is basically

the leading example of this type of sort of quasi-democratic authoritarianism right, where a figure like this is able to get elected once and then rig the rules in his favor so it's essentially impossible for the opposition ever to win an election again.


BALL: And we see, if we didn't know it already, that this is sort of the clear aspiration of a lot of these figures who want to change the way elections are run and to have a greater say in who wins the election on behalf of the party that's counting the votes.

And so, you know, the fact that they would actually bring Viktor Orban to speak at CPAC is a little on the nose for that type of thing.

PHILLIP: Yes, exactly. Elections -- y k, authoritarianism is ushered in when they start to rig the election. And effectively that is what a lot of these candidates are running on.

But coming up next for us, the Senate is going to vote later this morning on a big health care and climate change bill. We're going to talk about the two senators in the middle of it all, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.


PHILLIP: Welcome back.

We're keeping an eye on Capitol Hill for you. Senators are planning to vote later today on the Democrats' $740 billion bill aimed at lowering health care costs and fighting climate change. But we wouldn't be talking about any of this if it weren't for two Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.


PHILLIP: And Sinema was giving some folks a little bit of heartburn this week, focusing on some key provisions -- the carried interest loophole, something that has been a target for Congress for a long time but she got her way.

LEVINE: Yes. And I think that no one was particularly surprised that Sinema wanted changes to this package. I mean we had reported that she was feeling frustrated and that she felt out of the loop when Manchin and Schumer announced that they had reached this deal.

So it's not entirely surprising but she did get the carried interest loophole adjustments taken out of the package and she also added money for drought resiliency. And I think it's a sign of the fact that she told Schumer she would not go along with this package if some of these provisions were not in there. So I think it's a sign of how she's used a lot of her leverage --

PHILLIP: And that she has leverage and they're kind of like, ok, what do you want and you'll have it. other thing that's going on here with Joe Manchin is that Republicans

just -- they sound like somebody just broke up with them like they thought that Joe Manchin was their guy. And then all of a sudden Joe Manchin is brokering this big climate change deal they're like, what happened.

BALL: Yes. And you have the -- to Marianne's point -- the entire Democratic caucus sort of holding their breath waiting to see if Kyrsten Sinema would just nuke the whole thing. So when this was sort of all she wanted, they sort of breathed a sigh of relief, yes, give her what she wants, let us vote, you know.

And you know, there's a lot of angst about the fact that they feel like had they just given Manchin and Sinema what they wanted a year ago, we could have done this then. At the same time a lot of Democrats saying we kind of would rather have this now, right for timing purposes, for political purposes, having this land in their laps now versus a year ago potentially could be better for them politically.

So you know, yes Manchin and Sinema have been these figures of fascination throughout this debate and they did come through in the end.

COLLINS: Well, and speaking of Sinema feeling like she was out of the loop, this was something in Washington that is very rare which is a closely guarded secret as they actually came out with this announcement. It caught a lot of people in the White House off guard about it because they had not been brought in.

Senior figures obviously were later on in the talks and in the negotiations, but it does show that, you know, with Republicans, they were completely caught off guard by this and they've been so frustrated. That's why you're seeing all these amendments that they're proposing that aren't actually going to go anywhere.

They are doing their best to try to message against this saying it's not going to reduce inflation, basically saying it's an insult to people who are worried about those prices.

But I think when it comes to Manchin, at the end of the day, he is still a Democrat. You know, there was all these criticism of -- and questions of is he going to change parties?

He may be too conservative for some Democrats' taste but he's always been a Democrat and he's always said he didn't walk away from the table, he wanted this to happen. It just --


PHILLIP: At the end of the day he's been there for them when it matters on this and on judges.

Coming up next for us though, Republican heartburn in key battleground states. Could bad candidates actually cost them the Senate?



SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We have a 50- 50 Senate now, we have a 50-50 nation. And I think when this Senate race smoke clears, we're likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with either us up slightly or the Democrats up slightly.


PHILLIP: That very telling statement from the Senate Republican leader highlights an important fact. Control of the Senate right now is a jump ball. The history and the conventional wisdom will tell us that Republicans are expected to win the House, but what is happening in the Senate is a different and fascinating story.

And we have Harry Enten back with us to walk us through it all. So Harry, you're a betting man. I don't want to be in Vegas with you. But tell us, what's going on in the House versus the Senate. Where are your odds right now?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, I throw those dice. So if we go over and we look right now, look at the chance at chamber control. I think this really gets at it, you know, when we're looking at the next Congress.

In the house, the conventional wisdom is basically right. You know, the Republicans are still a very clearly heavy favorite, over 80 percent chance to take control of that chamber.

But look at the Senate, basically 50-50 at this point. And this I think --


PHILLIP: I mean even this -- 51 percent for the Senate is not something I think even Democrats sort of expected at this point--

ENTEN: I don't think Democrats would have expected it. I certainly didn't expect it. And I think this just gets at something that we've seen so far, Abby which is, you know, candidates do matter.

And you know, If we look, if we look basically at the popularity of the different -- make sure I get this right, there we go -- the popularity of the different Senate candidates that Republicans are running. Take a look here.

Look at these key races. Herschel Walker in Georgia, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Dr. Oz down in Pennsylvania. Look at their net favorability ratings. This is the favorable minus unfavorable. They're all under water, Abby.

PHILLIP: On the Democratic side, similar --

ENTEN: What we've seen on the Democratic side for the most part is that these candidates are much more favorable. Like, in Georgia, you see Raphael Warnock for the (INAUDIBLE) is net favorable. In Wisconsin we don't have a candidate yet.

PHILLIP: We can go over to the Senate side now.

ENTEN: Yes. We can go over the Senate side and you can basically see, look at these leads that these different Senate candidates have right now. These are the choice for Senate. Look at Pennsylvania, look at Georgia, look at Wisconsin.

Look at Fetterman's lead in a recent Fox News poll, 11 points. Look at Georgia, Raphael Warnock's lead, plus 4 points. Mandela Barnes, this is an older poll, a plus two points over Ron Johnson.

These are, you know, huge.

PHILLIP: But here's the other thing about these three races in particular. We're also talking about states that Joe Biden has won. So that's the other reason Democrats are feeling pretty good about what's going on in the Senate.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. So, you know, if you look essentially at these states and you say, ok, what are the most competitive Democratic held seats, like who won them in the last presidential election.

You know, in 2014, the last time Republicans took control, Look at all these seats that were competitive were Democrat-held. Romney won all of them by double digits.

Look here at the 2022 midterm. Joe Biden won all of them. Now some of them were closer than others but this is a very different battleground than I think that a lot of people are used to. And that's part of the reason you have bad Republican candidates but also very different battlegrounds.


PHILLIP: We do have to also note though that Republicans only need to win one net seat in order to take control of the Senate.

But let's go quickly to Joe Biden.


PHILLIP: His approval rating is in the 30s. Where would he need to be just to maintain the status quo here in this Senate in particular?

ENTEN: Yes. So, if we essentially look back over time, right, and we look at the president's approval rating, in midterms where the White House party had no net loss in Senate seats. As it turns out you can actually have some pretty unpopular presidents. Remember the Republicans actually gained seats in 2018. In 1982 the Republican Party actually held.

So I'm not sure that they're --

PHILLIP: I mean to be -- these numbers we may never see again.


PHILLIP: And what happened here in 2002, this was post-9/11 world, but still I mean, Joe Biden is even, according to the polls currently, less popular than Donald Trump.


ENTEN: Right Here's Biden's Gallup approval rating is 38 percent. But I think this chart shows that there's not that necessary connection between Senate seats lost and the president's approval rating. Obviously Democrats hope that that's the case this time around.

PHILLIP: All right. So Harry Enten, thank you so much. We will be watching all of this. But also, what a fascinating Senate cycle we are in for this year. It's truly maybe a coin flip where we end up.

ENTEN: Up in the air.

PHILLIP: All right. I want to be on your team for that.

But that's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcast and scan the QR code at the bottom of your screen.

But stay with CNN. Coming up next we have "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests this morning include Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.