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House Set To Pass Dems' Sweeping Health Case, Climate Bill; Jan. 6 Cmte Engaging With At Least 9 Former Trump Cabinet Officials; CDC Ends Social Distancing, COVID Quarantine Recommendations. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 12:30   ET



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: And so, it really comes down to a sales job here, because a lot of the benefits of this bill are not going to be felt immediately. So it really does come down to how they're going to message this bill. And, you know, it's really going to come down to that, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Melanie Zanona, live on the Hill in a very big day. Thank you very much. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. You could argue from a policy perspective, if you look at what Democrats have wanted to do for years. This is the most consequential day in the Democratic Party since they passed Obamacare back in 2009.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a big day here in the summer doldrums, in the middle of August, but it is a big day. You know, like we were talking to Tim Ryan up on the Hill earlier, and he was touting the benefits of this bill, talking about how it gives them something more to talk about, you know, he's running against J.D. Vance in Ohio for Senate, talking about how it gives them something to talk about with their constituents.

But, you know, they're also hearing Republicans. You can't -- even though they have something to run on, they still need to do both. And I think that the big issue for Democrats is that the story still is just Donald Trump, still has to do with him. And, you know, that may be for better or worse.

KING: But lawmakers do get to go home in August, the House actually came back just to cast this vote today. This is Katherine Clark. She's one of the deputy speakers in the leadership of the House of Representatives saying she hopes the odds are history tells you Democrats are likely to lose the house in November. She hopes maybe they pass this bill. They go home and they say, you know what, we're helping you.


REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): We see how seniors are struggling. We want them to be able to afford the drugs they need and put food on the table. It is critical that you take action, that you don't just come up here and say, we have inflation and there is pain at home, do something.


KING: Older voters are among the most reliable voters even in midterm years when turnout tends to drop out, younger voters care about the climate. Everyone should care about the climate. But younger voters are motivated and dissatisfied that Washington has done nothing about the climate. Do the Democrats think they can actually make that case? Do they think, to Sara's point, that it's August, why didn't we do this months ago?

MARIANNE LEVINE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think Democrats are just ecstatic that they got something done. Because I mean, as Melanie pointed out, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, it didn't seem like they were going to fulfill their promise of delivering specifically on climate change. And so I think that despite the fact that this bill shrank by a lot over the last 18 months or so, I think that Democrats are betting that the American people will understand the message of trying to lower prescription drugs of trying to address climate change. But of course, inflation is still at the top of mind for a lot of voters and whether or not this, the messaging on this bill can break through is an open question.

KING: And that's a giant challenge, Republicans hope it's about inflation, dissatisfaction with Joe Biden just frustration with the economy maybe even though some of the numbers are great, inflation are actually down. POLITICO has his headline today, GOP's risky proposition, rebuffing a fossil fuel friendly climate bill. There are provisions. Joe Manchin insisted on them in this bill to protect the oil and gas industry, the fossil industry, at least temporarily.

So that's the challenge. Can Democrats go home and say, two elections in a row, they've proven that health care helps them? Can they go home and say we did something on the climb and the Republican answer is vote, no.

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think especially on the health care provisions, it's hard to overstate what a big deal it is that they are about to pass a bill that allows Medicare to negotiate the price of some prescription drugs. Democrats have been trying to do this for more than 30 years. They've campaigned on it for nearly as long. This is the biggest change to prescription drugs since 2005.

It's a really big deal. Pharma almost never gets defeated on Capitol Hill, I've covered about 10 years worth of health legislation, pharma usually does not lose, and they strongly oppose this bill. So I think, you know, the climate provisions might be a little bit harder to sell for sort of normal everyday voters, especially in these tough swing districts, especially when you're talking about things like electric vehicle credits and heat pumps.

And these are not things that are going to I think resonate with sort of normal everyday voters. I know the White House and Democrats are trying to message it as lowering energy costs and fighting inflation. But I do think the prescription drug part of this bill gives them a very strong talking point, Senate Republicans opposed a $35 cap on insulin for private insurance. These are all sort of easy talking and attack points for them when they go back to their districts.

KING: And so what is the what is the Republican answer, you know, is it just, well, Joe Biden is president and inflation is bad, and so don't pay -- don't look over here?

MURRAY: I mean, I think it's a little bit of Joe Biden's president and inflation is bad, it's a little bit of this is not really going to help at all with the inflation problem. And government spending, you know, in their view generally drives up inflation. I think, you know, that is generally the argument there. And I also think, you know, they do know that Democrats are in a weakened position so they don't necessarily have to play the game the Democrats are playing. They can say, look over here, look at what Joe Biden is doing. He's a horrible president, and I think that's what they're going to --

KING: That's how midterms normally work. Midterms normally is, you know, first -- President's first midterm is about the party in power and the party that has the White House. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, the majority leader today saying he thinks Democrats can make the case, make it a choice.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: You have a MAGA Republican Party that's turning off at least a certain segment of Republicans and leaning Republican independents. And now you have a Democratic Party that says, hey, we can do a lot of things. We can get things done that really make your lives better. And I think it's going to serve us very, very well in November.



KING: So she does question, how do Democrats feel today, as they go home now having passed landmark consequential legislation, compared to if you're sitting at this table four months ago?

LEVINE: I think they're feeling pretty good, because even on some of their bigger wins of last year, for example, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was still a big win for President Biden, not a lot of Democrats were campaigning on that. And I think they had always had this idea of we're going to still pass this party line legislation. And so I think they're feeling much more confident going in to November, especially also, if you look at where things are with the Roe decision. And they're also betting not only on the fact that they passed this bill, but also what just happened in Kansas, where voters very clearly said that they don't want abortion rights rolled back. So I think they feel right now, the political headwinds are changing for them.

KING: You hear a lot of Democrats saying now they need the White House to pick up the ball, get the President on the road, get the Vice President on the road, get the cabinet on the road. Are they ready to do that?

ABUTALEB: I think that's a trickier question. I mean, the President's approval rating is quite low. So I think there are going to be a number of Democrats who are reluctant to appear with him, especially in districts where they feel he's not very popular, or in these tough Senate races where they feel like he might actually bring them down as opposed to sort of bully them, which is not unusual for the President during their first midterm elections.

But, you know, the White House is saying they're going to put the President and the Vice President on the road more to sell the various pieces of legislation they've passed. They're going to put him out there more. I think one of the challenges the White House is having is they're just not breaking through in the new cycle very much. And I think they want to make sure President Biden and Democrats achievements get sort of media attention and break through that very noisy environment that we're in.

KING: It'd be interesting to watch September and October put pins on the map. Where does he go? And then just as importantly, where does he not go?

Up next for us, the Trump cabinet and the January 6th Committee, one focus of the questioning, how close did the cabinet come to invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office.



KING: January 6th Committee is making progress in interviewing members of the Trump cabinet. One focus of the questioning, how serious were conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the Capitol riots? CNN has learned the former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was interviewed in recent days. The former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, former national security adviser Robert O'Brien, are in talks with the Committee, as the former Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe. So far, nine former Trump officials have engaged in some way, nine have engaged in some way with the Committee.

Our reporters are back now to discuss and as they, one of the topics we know the Committee is interested in is how serious. We know there was conversations about should we invoke the 25th Amendment, should we essentially say the President's unfit, remove him from office. Betsy DeVos, who's negotiating with the Committee, her spokesman says maybe she's not but we believe that she is said this to USA Today in June.


BETSY DEVOS, FORMER TRUMP EDUCATION SECRETARY: I felt that there were things that the President could have done to stop the activity to turn it back to avoid all of the things that ensued and it was just a bridge too far. I had conversations with a number of my colleagues and then importantly, I also spoke with the Vice President. And he made clear to me that that was not a direction that he was going to move in.


KING: There is a lot there in the sense that, you know, she just -- it's pretty, right there confirmation that this was a serious conversation among members of the Trump cabinet. And then Mike Pence was like, I don't think that's the way to go.

MURRAY: Yes, I mean, it is striking that we've had now had a former cabinet member go out there on the record and confirm that she was having discussions about the 25th Amendment. We also know from our reporting that Elaine Chao was having discussions about the 25th Amendment. You know, they found out pretty quickly that these were unlikely to go anywhere or be successful in removing Trump from office that Vice President Mike Pence was not going to go along with it.

And both of those women tendered their resignations on January 7th. So, yes, it's pretty clear that Committee does want to be able to get the full picture of just how deep seated these misgivings were, you know, in the days before January 6th, in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, so much though, that people were seriously considering trying to remove the President from office.

KING: Right. And, again, it's another example of how the Committee knowing the political attacks is going to get from Trump and his allies. Betsy DeVos is a member of the Trump cabinet. Elaine Chao was a member of the Trump cabinet. These are Trump loyalists who are there to the very end that the Committee is using as witnesses against Trump.

LEVINE: Yes. And I think it speaks to the broader strategy the Committee is using. I mean, clearly, they've had testimony now from Elaine Chao from Cassidy Hutchinson who is very well informed White House aide. And so I think it speaks to their message that these were people surrounding the President who had concerns about his fitness for office. And I think bringing in someone like Elaine Chao and potentially Betsy DeVos underlines their point in our line of inquiry into the 25th Amendment and to how fit the former president was during the aftermath of January 6th and before then.

KING: And it will be striking, they're spending the month of August doing these interviews, and then we expect more public hearings when they come back in September, September being two months before a midterm election. Again, you know, the normal midterm arc is it's about the President and the party that owns the White House. But the January 6th Committee has made some pretty dramatic headlines.

ABUTALEB: They have and I think in many ways, they've exceeded everyone's expectations and what they've been able to turn up and who they've gotten to testify publicly. And I think, you know, to your point a lot of the midterms is going to be about the president, especially President Trump if he does decide to announce that his run for 2024 before the midterms, which there have been reports he might do, his legal problem seems to be growing. And if the Committee is able to turn up more information that they release closer and closer to the elections, the Republican Party is still very tied to former President Trump.


KING: And it's interesting, if you could put the graphic back up on the screen. Just look at the left side of the screen, the Treasury Secretary, the Secretary of State among -- the Attorney General, among these cabinet members, these are Trump's people.

MURRAY: Yes, I mean, also even Eugene Scalia, who was the former labor secretary, who I think we were a little surprised to say that was something that he talked to even he said he encouraged Donald Trump to concede after the 2020 election. So I do think the Committee is getting a sense of just how wide these concerns were.

KING: Right, from people close who appointed by the president insensitive jobs loyal to the president.

Ahead for us, you don't want to miss this massive changes coming down from the CDC when it comes to the handling of COVID-19, possibly signaling a new phase of the pandemic as students get ready to go back to school.



KING: A major strategy shift for the CDC in its fight against COVID just as we prepare for another school year. The agency revising its COVID-19 guidelines, you see them there, recommending an end to social distancing and quarantining rules. Let's get to our CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, what are the biggest significant changes?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I wanted to sort of take a moment and say this is a bit of an end of an era. COVID is not gone. But this really marks a milestone. Now many people will say that by easing up on these regulations, or I'm sorry, on these guidelines, the CDC is just reflecting what Americans have been doing for months now. And that is true, but it is still significant to see this from the nation's leading public health agency.

So let's take a look at some of the changes that these guidelines make and then a couple of things that they keep the same. So no more six feet, all of those little stickers that you see on floors and supermarkets and whatnot, someone will have to scrape those off. Also, no more screening except under very specific circumstances, so the screenings that we've seen in schools, for example, they're saying that you don't need to do that.

Also, no more quarantining if you're exposed, you know, they -- the CDC has been saying, if you are exposed to COVID, you should go into quarantine, they've lessened that they've lightened up on that a bit. But now they're really saying, you know what, you don't need to quarantine anymore. And John, let's take a look at two things that they kept, they have kept indoor masking for much of the country, so they are still saying that people aren't really doing it, but they're still saying it. And also they have kept isolation rules. If you have COVID, you should isolate and lots of rules around masking afterwards as well. John?

KING: Put this one, Elizabeth, in the asking for a friend file, any recommendations for people who are immunocompromised?

COHEN: Yes, John, so there is actually, first of all, lots of folks are in this category. If they're not immunocompromised, they might be at risk for getting severe COVID for other reasons. And the CDC does get quite specific. They recommend even more masking, masking at even more areas of the United States. For folks who are immunocompromised, they recommend a drug called, Evusheld, which has been seriously underused.

They also say, look, if you're at risk of getting severely ill with COVID, you might want to keep distancing, you know, that might be something you want to do. So there are different rules for that group.

KING: We're talking about the CDC here. What about the FDA and the new home testing guidelines?

COHEN: Yes, we've all gotten used to these at home antigen tests. And the FDA is saying, look, they're good, they're useful, but we want to make it clear that they are to be used serially, you should be using not just one, but one after another after another if you get a negative result. Don't just say, oh, it's negative. Keep testing. Here's why. A PCR result when you're infected, a PCR is going to be right 95 percent of the time, if you're truly infected, it'll say, yes, there's the virus.

The antigen tests will be right under those circumstances, only 80 percent of the time. That's a significant difference. But if you keep using them, don't just rely on one negative test, keep using them, have a lot of them at home. That's the best way to go.

KING: Elizabeth Cohen grateful for the very, very important update. Thanks so much.


Ahead for us, a new survey says Americans are beginning to feel a little bit better about the economy.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a new report shows a more positive outlook from you, the American people on the economy. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index came in higher than expected. It's a survey that measures consumer confidence levels and it's up four points since last month, nearly three points more than what was expected. The stock market today opening higher to close out the week.

Republican Brad Finstad is the newest member of the U.S. House. Finstad sworn in this morning, you see it there by the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi to fill Minnesota's vacant first congressional district. He won a special election Tuesday. That was a quick trip to D.C. for Finstad. He replaces the late Jim Hagedorn who passed away back in February. Democrats have a nine member advantage in the House where there are now 211 Republicans, 220 Democrats, four seats remain vacant.

Tonight, Democrat John Fetterman will host his first campaign rally since his stroke back in May. The Pennsylvania Senate nominee says he has no physical limits, but still has some issues understanding speech, quote every now and then. Fetterman has spent months recovering ahead of the general election battle against Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Former President Trump has a prominent lawyer representing him in the criminal investigation into election interference in Georgia. According to "The New York Times," Trump has hired Drew Findling who is known as the hashtag, billion dollar lawyer. Findling's past clients include many high profile rappers like Cardi B and Gucci Mane.

This quick weekend programming note CNN takes you behind the scenes with our crews on the making of Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World. That's Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today and throughout this very, very busy news week. Try to have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.