Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Some Dems In Tough Races Criticize Biden's Student Loan Relief; Maloney's Loss Sparks Dem Scramble To Lead Oversight Cmte; Heavy Rain And Flooding Prompt Dozens Of Rescues In Mississippi. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 25, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is an important, a very important battlefield because that any waiver modify language is if there is a national emergency. Now look, President Trump declared a national emergency in March of 2020. So there is one. So this, it can be said that the Secretary does have this power, but it's going to be challenged. Think about the last couple times, the big presidential executive orders, DACA over immigration, President Trump and the travel ban, they all faced huge legal challenges, because these are controversial, but most of the things here are political. The arguments are political ones, not legal ones.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: OK. On the politics of it all, President Biden must have known that this would be, there would be a lot of pushback, perhaps challenged legally, but the timing of it we are in on the cusp of September. Do you think that they figured, well, let's just do it. And if it gets challenged, we'll see what happens.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. And listen, I'm kind of shocked that he actually did it, right? There was all this pressure, obviously, from progressives to get this done. He waited for many months into his term to actually do it on the eve of the midterms. It's a risky move in many ways. You hear the pushback from Republicans saying this isn't fair. I remember when I would tell my mom, this isn't fair. She would say, well, guess what? Life isn't fair.

PHILLIP: Well, let me, here's McConnell statement. He calls it, student loan socialism, that is a slap in the face to every American family who sacrifice for college.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, I think Republicans are under estimating how widespread student loan debt is, we're talking to Republican senators about it, you should talk to Republican young staffers about their student loan debt. And they were probably Googling yesterday, if they could qualify for this, the average student loan debt is something like $25,000. You know, when you graduate from college, this will help something like 43 million people, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

So this is a big thing. I think on balance, it'll probably help them, Democrats, more than hurt them, particularly among these young voters who don't necessarily always show up in high numbers in midterms in have shown us sort of, you know, declining interest in the Biden agenda, I think this is going to get them --

WILLIAMS: You know, and the solution might be to elect a different president and get that president to lift the executive order rather than challenge it legally. Because it may actually hold up legally, that sort of the point I was making.

PHILLIP: And questions about who actually has standing to challenge it. On the question of the political part of it, the some of these frontline Democrats in swing states just seem to be unsure of how this is going to go. Tim Ryan in Ohio says it sends the wrong message to millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet. Chris Papas in New Hampshire, it should go through the legislative process and it should be more targeted and paid for. Even Michael Bennet in Colorado, a one time debt cancellation doesn't solve the underlying problem. So those folks seem to be a little concerned about how this is going to go.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Right. There has been a buzz about this for months, and it does create a divide for the Democratic Party, progressives were really banking on this. They lost out on a lot of issues this past year in terms of moving them through Congress. And so they were banking on this as being one last shot we can get before voters for the midterms.

Meanwhile, centrist some speaking publicly, some privately saying I'm really worried about this. This is not what Middle America voters who maybe don't have education to pay for, why am I paying for somebody else's college education, houses all working out, after all this pandemic relief. And so this is a concern for the centrist Democrats. In some cases, when voters go to the ballot box, if they're going to be thinking about why is all this money going to these folks who got these loans, and I didn't get a loan. And here I am helping them out now with the waiver of these loans in the end. So it's really tricky, tricky issue over Democrats in the --

PHILLIP: Michael Bennet, in his quote, made a pretty decent point, which is that the cost of college is too damn high. And I mean, look at this back, OK, the average yearly tuition of a four year college in state almost $10,000, out of state public $23,000, private that's $32,000. But that's just the tuition part, we're not talking room and board and books.

HENDERSON: And partying.

PHILLIP: And partying which Nia-Malika knows a lot about.

WILLIAMS: Was that about Duke.

PHILLIP: But the point being college is expensive. And this is sort of like a one-time maybe get out of jail free card, but there are bigger problems that are facing higher education. And there is some clamoring for the administration for Democrats for policymakers to do something about that. YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. I mean, $10,000 is not insignificant, but for a lot of people, it's only going to kind of make a dent in their debt, they're still going to face 40, 50, 60, you know, maybe more, you know, to still pay off at a pretty high interest rate. So I think and the rise of education is constantly rising it's just out of reach for a lot of people if they don't qualify for some kind of financial aid and loan saddled people for years and years and years so I mean I think you know it's probably like you said a pretty good political issue for Biden, even though he seemed to upset a lot of people with a compromise, he kind of struck, but he's still, you know, relief, people have some debt if it actually goes through.


But in the end, you know, it doesn't actually solve the problem that a lot of people face and going to school or not being able to go or not being able to finish. So it's, I wouldn't even call it a band aid. It's just kind of a maybe a good thing for them to do a couple months before the midterms, but it doesn't actually address any underlying issue.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think you mentioned one part of this that perhaps gets talked about not enough, which is that some people who have student loan debt never actually get their degree. So even though you might think that they're on a path to higher incomes, maybe they never finished their degree, and they're still saddled with the same debt. Before we go, I just want to play this little flashback from Nancy Pelosi, take a listen to what she said about this back in 2021.


REP. NANCY PELOSY (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone, he can delay. But he does not have that power that would best to be an act of Congress.


PHILLIP: And that is just a reminder that in Washington, things change very quickly.

Up ahead for us, a fight for control, Democrats are set to pounce as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney prepares to leave her committee posts after a primary loss.



PHILLIP: A battle is brewing among Democrats who want to lead the powerful House Oversight Committee. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney currently holds the post but lost her primary earlier this week. And now the leading contenders to succeed that New York Democrat are Virginia's Gerry Connolly, the January 6th Committee member and former Trump impeachment manager Jamie Raskin and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts. Now both Congressman Connolly and Lynch already announced their bids this week, just days after the Maloney lost her primary. And Raskin has yet to formally make her decision that just goes to show, nobody is wasting time here. This is going to be the job, one way or another no matter who takes control over the house in November.

HENDERSON: That's right. And it's going to be, you know, depending on if they win or lose, maybe it's basically a messaging post where you're going up against Republicans who are holding any number of people before this committee. And so yes, I mean, this sort of redistricting effort in New York went totally wrong and is unleashed so much mishigas among the House Democrats. And we see now this battle with these three folks really trying to take this powerful position. I imagine they call Maloney and said, you know, I'm sorry for your loss, and I'm going to apply for your job right now.

PHILLIP: I'm not sure that was even an apology. Let's take a listen to -- let's take a look at some of what they -- what has been said about this position. In the statement to CNN Gerry Connolly says we need a tested leader who will not be timid in the face of Republican insurrectionists. Jamie Raskin told Punchbowl News, the last five years underscores that our oversight duties are of central importance. And Stephen Lynch writes in a Dear Colleague letter, as the most senior Democrat running, I am well prepared to serve in this pivotal moment. They know that in addition to the investigations that they want to launch, this is also going to be a defensive job, because if Republicans take control, the first thing that they're going to do is haul a bunch of Trump, a bunch of Biden Cabinet members before oversight and have hearings.

GRISALES: I know exactly, the Republicans are already detailing those investigations. Fauci, Dr. Fauci is going to be one of the first up in terms of looking into his role with the pandemic. And so there's so many other areas they want to look into, they want to reverse the role of the January 6th Committee and look at what possible wrong turns they're claiming that this panel took, that's why Raskin expressing interest there would be interesting in terms of the messaging, because he has been such a major voice for that panel, and could reverse that role.

But again, it could be very much a messaging role with Republicans perhaps poised to take over the House. And in the meantime, Democrats are going to be fighting off a lot of long list of investigations for Republicans who will be looking to get back at Democrats for all their probes these past few years.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mentioned the Biden Cabinet members. But it's not just that I mean, listen to Congressman James Comer, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee talking about what's coming.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: The whole reason we're spending so much time investigating Hunter Biden and Jim Biden is because we know that Hunter Biden is a national security threat. And we fear that the problems in the in the shady business dealings from Hunter and Jim Biden have compromised this President. We will have subpoena power. And we will get to the bottom of this and hold these people accountable.


PHILLIP: The President Biden, I'm sure it's well aware that this is on the horizon, potentially.

ABUTALEB: Oh, I mean, the Republicans have made no secret of this for two years since Biden was campaigning that they would want to investigate Hunter Biden and also the president's brother, but Hunter especially, I mean, that was such a big campaign tool for them. And, you know, I think they're quite excited to be able to investigate Hunter Biden's business dealings and how he's maybe use his family name. And I think, you know, one of the risks of that is, A, we know the President cares very deeply when his family is sort of dragged through things and dragged through the mud it affects him and just investigations mounting is going to be a huge distraction for the administration whether they like it or not they can't just ignore it.


They have to beef up counsel. They have to figure out their messaging and how they're going to fight against, you know, whatever turns up in the investigations, potential misinformation that might arise from them. So, you know, I think the White House has an extremely if Republicans do take control of the House, regardless of whatever Democrat becomes the ranking member on the committee, they have a very different second half of their administration coming up.

PHILLIP: This next period for Democrats could be one of significant change. I mean, you had these Nadler and Maloney, two committee chairs going head to head, but there's also the question of Speaker Pelosi, will she remain, we could be seeing some Democrats would say finally, maybe an opportunity for some changing of the guard in the House.

HENDERSON: Right. And sort of generational shift, right, we saw that in that election between Nadler in Maloney with a third opponent in there saying, listen, you guys have been there for 30 years, you haven't really gotten what you promised to do done. Let's have the sort of Obama generation come in and get some things done. So yes, there's going to be a real fight a real generational divide. And also the sort of progressive centrist divide too in that fight, I think will play out, no matter who wins if the Democrats stay in control and the House or if they lose, we're going to see these tensions at play.

PHILLIP: Lots of jockeying, lots of people waiting in the wings as well.

But coming up next, a life or death situation as dozens are rescued from rising floodwaters, we'll have the latest on the extreme weather pounding the southeast, next.


[12:51:23] PHILLIP: High water rescues in Mississippi as record rainfall forces people to scramble for safety. More than 100 children had to be rescued from rising floodwaters at a daycare center on Wednesday and dozens others had to be evacuated from a nursing home as up to three feet of water rushed through that facility, roads have been washed away and a train derailment and homes and businesses left damaged or even destroyed. Now more rain is expected today. Let's get straight to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who is joining us live in a rain soaked Mississippi. So Jennifer, what is the scene like right now where you are?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Abby, much of the water has receded around the Jackson area. But the problem now is regulating the river flow, right, because these rivers are going to be rising as they flow downstream. So behind me you can see this spillway there's a big reservoir on the other side. That's where the Pearl River is flowing into, while the reservoir has reached maximum capacity. So now water is being drained out so it can continue to flow south along the Pearl River.

Now the Pearl River Valley water supply district has said this will flood some of the streets around Jackson. And they also said that they will most likely need to increase the amount of water that's being released from the spillway. And so that could cause even more flooding. So they're taking precautions trying to warn those residents that the water is coming, it will most likely rise in your neighborhood in the coming days. And they are going to get those people to safety before they end up in a precarious situation.

So it's just been this delicate dance of trying to regulate this water and not flood some of those neighborhoods. But what the ground is so saturated right now, any additional flooding is definitely going to be a problem. Now we saw those nursing home residents being rescued yesterday, all 42 of them. Luckily, were able to make it to safety when three feet of water just rushed inside. We also saw people being rescued from their homes. This flash flooding just happened in an instant. And it's all, Abby, because this area received about 10 inches of rain and under three days.

PHILLIP: Yes, with that extreme level of rain and water, is there relief in sight, or are they out of the woods in terms of the rainfall in the coming days?

GRAY: Well, rain is still in the forecast for today. And then it sort of dwindles over the next couple of days beyond that, but there's still a flood threat across the south. That heavier rainfall has moved south of here. But one town just to the southwest of mobile picked up more than five inches of rain in just an hour. So it just shows you how to rental these downpours are and if you're in an area that gets under one of these rain soaked downpours, you do have the potential to have some flash flooding. So we're still on high alert today, Abby.

PHILLIP: All right, Jennifer, we hope that you and your team continue to stay safe thanks for that report.

[12:54:22] And President Biden and Ukraine's President Zelenskyy just wrapped up an important call. We'll have more details next.


PHILLIP: Topping our Political Radar, a phone call between Ukraine's president and the president of the United States. Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeting a picture of his latest exchange with President Biden. Zelenskyy says the pair discussed what comes next in the war and how to hold Russia accountable for war crimes. And right now, another U.S. Congressional Delegation is in Taiwan on an unannounced visit. The group led by Republican senator Marsha Blackburn is meeting with Taiwan's president and Foreign Minister.

And today President Biden signed an executive order jumpstarting the $280 billion law boosting U.S. chip making and scientific research. The executive order will establish a 16 member committee to oversee the laws implementation.

And U.S. Military officials say three American soldiers are recovering after being injured during a rocket attack in Syria. The rocket struck two bases housing U.S. troops and it comes less than 24 hours after President Biden ordered airstrikes against Iranian-backed groups operating in the region. There was -- in response, U.S. helicopters returned fire destroying three vehicles and killing four people involved in the attack.


And thank you for joining Inside Politics. Bianna Golodryga is picking up our coverage right now.