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Congress' To-Do List: Fund Government, Pass NDAA, Debt Limit; McConnell To Address Trump's Call To "Terminate" Constitution; Biden Faces Backlash Over Proposed Primary Changes. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's a very valid point.

MATTINGLY: It is trying to maintain everything get the number of votes he needs to become Speaker of the House. Mitch McConnell's endgame is to not have to deal with House Republicans that have no ability to find consensus at this moment in time that may change, about the big issues that allow the government to function beyond September, the end of September, in this moment in time, and he has very clear asked that he's given the President Biden that he's given to Chuck Schumer as well. We don't know whether or not they're going to be able to reconcile those differences.

McConnell is the person to watch on the end of Congress, the end of the lame duck session right now, McCarthy doesn't matter. They're in the lame duck. And he's focused on one thing and one thing only.

And I think the question right now that I have is they really start to have real meetings for the first time the President with the top appropriators, McConnell and Schumer meeting as well as we're 10 days away from the spending deadline, that means we're about eight days away from things getting really serious, which means then they'll punted from another week is when does the reality of we don't want to deal with this next year, we don't want to deal with this with all the uncertainty about what the House Republican Conference will look like, start to overtake the realities of well, I want this added on or I want that added on, tends to happen, whether it will or not, that still an open question.

KING: Right. And the McCarthy piece of it, the House Republican turmoil and the transition from Democrat to Republican just adds another uncertainty to what is always a quicksand environment, it just adds even more to it. So if you're the president, you want a spending plan. And you prefer what's called an omnibus, forgive me, America, an omnibus that's a full year spending plan, as opposed to a continuing resolution where you say we're going to fund the government for a month or two, and then we'll fight about it all over again. You need the annual defense spending bill.

It's not just the money there. It's the policy for the Pentagon and the defense secretary says in the middle of the war with, you know, helping support Ukraine and the war with Russia. Let's have clarity, please. The House will vote on the Senate version now of the -- to protect same sex marriage. We believe that one will be done.

But the challenge here is to your point is that the President is negotiating and Schumer's negotiate with Mitch McConnell to try to get a deal on as many of the big issues as you can, that you can then sell to the House Democrats who only have a four or five seat majority four seats now, I believe after the death of Congressman McEachin. So to get them, to do that before the Republicans take charge, so Ron Klain, the White House Chief of Staff says it's complicated.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We want to see Congress pass this in the lame duck. We're right now like in a Tetris game of legislation, there's like eight bills, they have to fit together. This one goes on that one. This one goes on that one. This is part of that. This is part of that.


KING: He was including in that there's permitting reform, which is part of energy exploration. The deal they tried to cut with Joe Manchin before they fell through. There are others including a bipartisan group, Senator Sinema and Senator Tillis, who thinks somehow they can bring up immigration in the lame duck session.

Mark me down as skeptical, important issues there. Let's speak and be let's be also be candid. Both would -- most of those issues there would pass pretty overwhelmingly if everybody felt free to vote their conscience and vote with their states back home would want them to do. But what, the question is what will get done?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The bare minimum. I mean, that is usually if you look at lame ducks, usually it's the bare minimum and only what they have to get done. And, you know, what they have more than enough votes to get done with so, you know, the thing as you mentioned that maybe perhaps a continuing resolution, maybe an omnibus, but I would, I'm very skeptical.

KING: Is there a test here? Which Republican leader is stronger? Meaning will McConnell dig in and say I'm going to get a year-long spending plan, as a way to tell Kevin McCarthy, you know, I can control my people. I negotiate. I'm a governing conservative, not a rabble rousing conservative?

MATTINGLY: I mean, I think it's fair to say that McConnell has thought through that possibility. There aren't many things that he does that haven't had multiple different second and third orders behind them to some degree. I think McConnell views things right now. One, he thinks he can get a good deal on the omnibus, particularly in terms of dropping parity between defense spending and non-defense domestic spending, which would be a big shift and a big win for Republicans.

Two, I think that he looks at the House Republican conference right now to everything we're saying. And it's what can you do now to lock in wins, knowing that you have no clue where things are going to land next year, both because it's divided government and because you don't necessarily trust where leadership is going to be. NDAA has to get done.

The Defense Authorization Bill has to be done. It's been done 60 plus years in a row. Omnibus is where McConnell clearly wants something done looking to next year. Can he find a way to thread the needle? And frankly, can President Biden find a way to get his Democrats in the same place to get that done knowing what's coming next.

KING: Tetris.

MATTINGLY: Tetris, it wasn't bad. Hand motions were a little confusing. But I liked it.

KING: That's old school. So Tetris is old school. Trust me. I know old school.


Up next, the GOP's Trump divide, most Senate Republicans condemned the former president's suggestion to ignore the Constitution and put him back in the White House.


KING: Today the Senate's top Republican promises to give his take on another dustup stirred by Donald Trump. The former president says he should be reinstated immediately. And the former president says it would be OK to ignore the Constitution and other laws and other rules to get him back in the White House. Senator Mitch McConnell told reporters yesterday that he will weigh in today, after a weekly party meeting. Trump for his part is claiming the media is lying about what he wrote. You can go online and read it yourself. The media is not the one creating a lie right now.

Our great reporters back around the table with us. Let's start. It's always interesting that we were having this conversation just a moment ago in the context of funding the government and policy items, the huge divide between Senate Republicans and House Republicans when it comes to Donald Trump and how willing people are to talk about him. Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah saying curious.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): When President Trump says he wants to suspend the Constitution, he goes from being MAGA to being Rhino, we're the Constitution Party.



KING: Romney's attempted humor there because he's one of the Republicans that Trump often calls Rhino Republican in name only, trying humor. But it's not funny for most of these senators who the last thing they want to talk about is a former president who happens to be a current candidate for President right now, saying there was election fraud. There was not, I should be reinstated immediately, even if we have to rip up the constitution, so what.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Right. This is just such a replay over the last few years of chasing Republicans in the Senate hallways to get their reactions to something explosive that Trump said something controversial he said, in this case, this week, it's looking at these new questions over him making these statements about breaking the Constitution.

And Republicans such as Romney and others saying that is not our party and turning the tables on Trump and calling him the rhino in this case when they're so used to being tagged with that label before. And so it's a change. It's a shift. And once again, I expect McConnell will be speaking out against the former president.

KING: The question is, there's no doubt he'll be speaking out and condemning the remarks. The question is, how clearly and how plainly and how forward looking does he say for example, you know, this man cannot be, must not be the nominee of our party if he defies the Constitution. You know, he condemns it. You know, Trump has also repeatedly launched racist attacks against McConnell's wife.

But you know, McConnell is going to condemn it because of this. These are four key McConnell allies in the Senate John Cornyn says I think it's irresponsible what Trump said. John Thune says I couldn't disagree more. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, an affront to our Republic. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, ridiculous. All key McConnell, allies, deputies, friends, and colleagues there. The question is how far does he go?

KUCINICH: Well, right. And so that's we're talking about math at the break. That's the variable, right? Trump is the constant. He's always going to get more extreme that does move a little bit that we can kind of set our watch by that at this point. But which Republicans start peeling off and how forceful they become based on whatever the former president has put out there into the world, that's what's changing. And so that's why it's worth watching to see how far McConnell goes.

KING: Right. Trump meets with anti-Semites, white nationalist, as you can tear up the Constitution and put me back in power. It is understandably, it's a test for some of these Republicans who have to go home to states that Trump won quite convincingly including a Mike Rounds of South Dakota who did say this, he went out, he went farther than many Republicans have, no one is above the Constitution. Anyone who desires to lead our country must commit to protecting the Constitution. They should not threaten to terminate it.

MATTINGLY: Can you say this is like the lowest hanging fruit --


KING: It should be. MATTINGLY: But the thing that's interesting about McConnell today is kind of hanging over everything the last several months, frankly, the last two years has been the midterm elections, has been not undercutting any of his candidates, not undercutting their ability to rally base support. McConnell will not talk about Trump.

If he feels like it's a necessity, he will weigh in and make clear where he stands. But he won't kind of go to war with him. And it's been made very clear, they didn't want the name to even come out of his mouth. Obviously, they have not spoken since shortly after January 6th.

The thing that I'm intrigued by right now, this is the last Election Day of the midterm cycle. Is today a day where McConnell makes clear publicly what is very obvious privately in the sense that he does not think Trump is fit to be president of the United States, he wants any other Republican But Trump and would probably support wholeheartedly, every dozen plus Republicans who are considering it right now. Is this the day to do it? I have no sense of whether or not but like that time needs to come at some point.

Because as we've seen over the course of the last two years, if you let President Trump hang around and just talk behind the scenes about why you don't think he's fit for office, he will maintain his position inside the party in that grip. This is a moment once again, where it feels like there's a loosening, can they make an actual pivot from him? Or do we go through what we've gone through last year?

KING: And you have that dynamic if were McConnell to do that. He knows McConnell is one of Trump's favorite targets. And this is, you know, McConnell is the Republican establishment to Trump. He's the problem. And McConnell would say, look around, look what happened in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Trump's the problem. The question is, what does he say today?

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, they have plenty to point to signal that Trump is the problem. And, you know, McConnell seems to try to thread this needle where he very forcefully criticizes what Trump says without going after Trump personally. So I think to Phil's point you want to see if today is he willing to actually say, you know, no, we cannot stand behind this person anymore.

This cannot be the leader of our party. I think the challenge that McConnell and other Republicans are grappling with is they want Trump out of the party. They don't want him to be the front runner, but they don't want to lose his voter base. And if Trump does not win the primary, does he tell people don't come out and vote for whoever the Republican nominee as they're trying to avoid, I mean they're already kind of as a Republican civil war, but maybe an even worse one.

KING: Right. It's a drama that continues, no end. That question is, no one can find the off ramp to it.

[12:44:48] Up next, New Hampshire Democrats stage a boycott, Georgia Republicans say, no, thanks. President Biden's plan to remake the presidential primary calendar, quickly facing stiff opposition.


KING: President Biden's proposal to shake up the Democratic primary calendar is facing loud and messy, yes, messy backlash. Biden wants South Carolina to go first, then New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan. In Georgia though the Republican Deputy Secretary of State is hitting back, warning the chance of this happening is very slim, he says, at best in New Hampshire. The Republican governor calls Biden's plan a selfish stunt. The state's two Democratic senators, well, they're also mad Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan boycotting last night's congressional ball at the White House in protest.


Our reporters are back with us, in some ways, as America watches, this is sort of a silly game among politicians. But the consequences of it are hugely important how we pick a president, how we nominate at least the president. This was the President's plan. He gave it to the Democratic National Committee, how does he clean up the mess? Or does he care?

MATTINGLY: Be careful about how I frame this. I don't think he doesn't care. I don't think this plan sees the light of day if they, A, had not thought very deeply about what it would mean in the backlash it was certain to receive. And B, if they were very comfortable with that reality before they released it, I think the President's top advisors did not do this ad hoc. This had been thought through. It is sending a very clear message. They believe on the substance of the matter, they have both the moral high ground and the sense that this really elevates black voters, which are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and certainly were the backbone of President Biden's ability to win the Democratic nomination back in 2020.

And they also believe they have the political high ground given where the party has shifted. And also, you know, implicit in all of this is -- this really lines up with where Joe Biden wants to be in terms of his political constituency. They knew the fights were coming, they were expecting the fights, I don't think they're going to shy away in any way, shape, or form. What this does more than anything else, is for a president who is often deliberative to a fault to some degree, and is not necessarily willing to go ahead and just put this down on certain issues. That's what this is. And I think it sends a clear message about what's happening next to some degree.

KING: And you see the debate. And again, most people around the country will be like, why, what is this doesn't change the price of gas, doesn't, you know, get you to school. Any cricket doesn't get you out of traffic. But like the Bernie Sanders camp saying, how can you -- how dare you do this to Iowa. New Hampshire saying, you know, we have a state law. And Biden saying, you know, deal with it.

KUCINICH: Well, Iowa kind of did it to Iowa, let's be honest, I mean, the 2020 election and delay in results really kind of putting, it was already sort of in the ether that Iowa might not be able to maintain where they were. But I think that that race kind of settled it. But, you know, when we're talking about New Hampshire, when we're talking about new, these other these other things? I don't know that it's over yet. I think that's pretty clear. We've all been through different primaries where things get moved up, and everybody keeps moving it up. And then all of a sudden, at least in my case, you're celebrating the New Year in Iowa.

So it really -- there's still a lot of shifting. What I'm curious about is, what is the permanence of this and how, you know, there is a financial incentive for these states to have all these ads and these people in the state, how that plays out, you know, going forward and whether there are grudges.

KING: Right. And part of that and so Chris Sununu, just reelected the Republican governor of Hampshire, a lot of people think and he doesn't deny that he's at least taking a look at running for president down the road, he'll see how it plays out to your point economically through the governor Hampshire, you don't want this economic, this economic piece being taken away. He says Joe Biden wants South Carolina first because it's selfish.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Joe Biden is saying, well, we're going to send it to South Carolina for no other reason, then his -- the party bosses and his buddies in South Carolina want it. It's really unethical if you look at it. And by the way, didn't Joe Biden say that he's going to be a candidate in '24. So now you have a candidate dictating what state is going to go first, again, for no other reason than he did well in that state.


KING: I just want to note for the record, if he were a candidate, he would very much like his state to be first. I mean, it's just, you know, well, welcome to politics. The question is, though, how does this get resolved? And we're talking about the Democrats, you know, how the Republicans want to do it matters in two. You don't have to do it the same. There are always some differences in the calendar, but it would help if they had rough agreement, general Agreement.

ABUTALEB: Well, in Georgia, I mean, it looks like the Democrats are probably not going to go along with the President's plan, because the Republicans don't want to do it. And the laws differ in each state as to whether the Republican and Democratic primaries have to be on the same day. So I think they're still -- it's unclear how it's all going to shake out. I think the President will probably end up getting some of what he wants, maybe just not exactly the way he's laid it out.

KING: Well, watch it play out. I mean, how -- who settles it --

GRISALES: I know. That's exactly. Maybe Biden gets to have the last word here. But that remains to be seen. South Carolina was a lucky charm for him. And so perhaps he can have that happen once again. KING: Lucky charm --

MATTINGLY: He doesn't runs the DNC by the way, like not literally but over the top of the DNC, President --

KING: The President of the United States, yes --

MATTINGLY: Just keep that a no.

KING: Yes, it is his party at the moment.


Up next that after mentioned President on his way to Arizona this is for a big technology event, he says he will not visit the border.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the President United States on his way to Arizona right now to promote his economic agenda. Head of the trip as he left the White House the President was asked why visit a border state but not visit the border.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because there are more important thing going on and they're going to invest billions of dollars in a new enterprise.


KING: Los Angeles will make history this Sunday. The Vice President Kamala Harris will be there to swear in Karen Bass is the city's first ever female mayor. Bass will also be the first woman of color to hold that job.

Arizona has certified its midterm election results nearly one month after Election Day. There's now a five day window for that certification to be challenged. Republican Kari Lake who lost the race for governor is expected to file a lawsuit.

Rupert Murdoch will be deposed in Dominion voting systems $1.6 billion lawsuit against "Fox News." That defamation suit alleges Fox quote recklessly disregarded the truth because lies were good for business. The fox corporation chairman will appear through a video conference one week from today.


And it's that time of year to vote for your favorite CNN Hero. Go to You can vote up to 10 times a day. Remember, you can use all your votes for one hero or you can spread the love.

Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you as part of our election coverage tonight. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage now, right now.