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Republicans Drop Hints About 2024 Primary Runs; Biden's Re- Election Chances May Hinge On 2023 Economy, GOP Begins 2023 At War With Itself; Supreme Court Cases Could Shape 2024 Elections And Beyond; Stories To Watch In 2023. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 01, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Open season. Ambitious Republicans think Donald Trump is beatable in a GOP primary.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I think we'll have better choices.

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I've won tough primaries. I've been the underdog every single time.

PHILLIP: But who will choose to battle him for the nomination?

Plus, can President Biden build on his second year successes and avoid a recession?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake: prices are still too high. But what is clear is my economic plan is working and we're just getting started.

PHILLIP: And a new era on Capitol Hill. House Republicans are back in charge, but are they capable of governing?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It doesn't matter whether we have a 30- seat majority or a five-seat majority. We're going to use it in a manner that the American public wants us to.


PHILLIP: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip. Thank you for spending your New Year's Day with us.

We begin the year in politics as we begin most years, with more questions than answers. On Capitol Hill, will the new Republican House majority be able to overcome their internal divisions? And what will there legislative priorities actually be?

At the White House, can President Biden beat back the economic headwinds? And will he be able to maintain momentum from his string of 2022 winds? And where we begin today on the campaign trail. What will the 2024

Republican primary field look like? And can whoever runs succeed where the 16 candidates to cycles ago could not?

While no contender has officially announced that they're running against Trump, many potential candidates have been dropping hints for months.


PENCE: All my focus has been on the midterm elections and it will stay that way for the next 20 days, but after that, we will be thinking about the future.

HALEY: Now that the midterms are over, I will look at it in a serious way. And I'll have more to say soon.

MIKE POMPEO, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Still working our way through. We figured through the course first quarter of next year, we need to be hard at it if we're going to do it.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: I'm looking at it, looking at it very seriously.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: We're going to take a look. I still have to do my day job until January 18th.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: We're moving on, we are as a country, as a party. We want the next idea. We want the next generation, whatever it is.


PHILLIP: Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN's Melanie Zanona, Hans Nichols of "Axios", Jackie Kucinich of "The Boston Globe", and Laura Barron-Lopez of "The PBS NewsHour".

Thank you all for being here. Happy New Year.


PHILLIP: So, Jackie, if you're Trump, you want as many of these people as possible to hop on into the race because that's exactly how he won the last time. Just take a look at this. This is a bit of a flashback from the Republican primary in 2016.

New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, some of the first few states. Trump, never getting a majority. Only getting in the 30s until Nevada, he's in the mid-40s. Still became the nominee.

KUCINICH: And he still has 30 percent of the Republican base, at least, at which point you are looking at. That wanted to run again, that want to see him back in the White House. So, that's definitely, well, you look at that without knowing, you know, the rest of the pie. You think oh, that's not great. But then you look at how many people are thinking about running and the lane they are trying to occupy. It's the, I'm not Trump, but I like all the Trump things. And again, there are some Republicans that are clamoring for that, but there are so many of them that are trying to be in that space. It certainly is problematic.

PHILLIP: I don't know if Trump light is really ever a recipe for success. Because you're either Trump or you are not. And this is particularly, I think, important if you are Ron DeSantis, who's really the guy that everybody is waiting for. He's probably the one out of all of these folks who you are not seeing explicitly going out there and saying, oh, I'm going to decide about 2024.

But he's not doing that because of polls like this, FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, showing him running ahead of Trump at the moment. I mean, if you're Ron DeSantis, at some point, do you have to kind of make a clean break from Trump?

HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I mean look, I suspect his team is thinking about it. They're strategizing, they're wondering how to separate, but also stay close. This is sort of Jackie's point, and that is, no one really knows of Donald Trump has an ideological hold or psychological hold on his party.

And for someone, I mean, I don't want to make -- too many bad football analogies. But for someone to be the party's nominee, they are going to eventually have to play against Trump. They will eventually meet Trump in the playoffs. That gets the cycle into question is, do they have what it takes to go head to head with Trump? Because the ideology, as we all know from covering the Trump era, gets pretty muddled pretty quickly.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it's going to be probably difficult for Ron DeSantis because the fact that policy-wise, he's so closely aligned with Trump. He's aligned with Trump on immigration, aligned with Trump on election denialism, he was actually someone who also went along with that about 2020.

So, distancing yourself from him, especially in a primary when Republicans, we've seen particularly after 2022, have just run far more to the right and far more to try to rally this Trump base to their side, I know that the polls show him head right now, but it's an eternity between now and the primary.


KUCINICH: And there is one space that you have seen from trying to get to the right of Trump, that's on COVID-19 policy. And you've seen him increasingly do that and really put himself, you know, on the side of keeping everything open and being vaguely critical of the approach that the Trump White House took there. So that will be --

PHILLIP: And critical of vaccines that he was once touting as governor.

KUCINICH: Right. PHILLIP: But the other thing, if we could pull up that "FiveThirtyEight" poll again, just because I think it's really a illustrative. Once you get past Trump on the list, it's like a cliff. You just drop off really dramatically. You're down 4 percent if you are Mike Pence, and all of these other folks.

So, they have a long hill to climb. And also, it's a question of timing. At what point does it make sense to even get into this race?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, I think for a lot of these folks, you can't miss your moment, especially for someone like Ron DeSantis. I've heard people in GOP circles saying things like, maybe we will be better off if he waits until 2028, you know? He's still young, he's popular, and I think a good run potentially with Trump's blessing as opposed to running against Trump.

Again, his star is rising now. Someone like him probably should be jumping in now. Someone like Mike Pence is probably looking at this and saying, this is potentially the last opportunity to get into the race. So, I do think if we see one person jump in, we are going to see a lot of people jumping. And I think it'll be a crowded field.

PHILLIP: DeSantis is not going to be, it seems he's unlikely to be first because he has to, I mean, I think he has actually wait until his legislative session ends. All the way in June. Which gives him some time to just watch all of the rest of the field kind of settle out, right?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yeah, that it's also interesting to see how DeSantis or others are going to try to make this argument that Trump, himself, cannot win a national election. You know, making the arguments after 2022 and I was talking to some Republican strategists in Arizona who say that, look, Trump can't win Arizona, but Ron DeSantis can win here.

Because they consider the state to still be red, even though, of course, it's been going Democratic in recent cycles. They chalk that up to the fact that too many people are running towards Trump more than Trump himself is on the ballot.

PHILLIP: If Trump doesn't do this year with his brand really injured by a lot of things of his own doing, you know, I just want to play one bit of some of the things that he's been saying that has led to this perception that he does not really get it, that he's running kind of in a way that is poking independents in the eye and saying, look at me. Just take a listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: What they've done to torment people and go after people like never before, I don't think anything like this has ever happened in our country, we are going to be, as you know, looking about it, talking about it very, very strongly in the coming weeks, months, and over the next period of a year, year and a half during the campaign.


PHILLIP: He's talking about January 6th rioters. Running on January 6th rioters seems like, I mean, it seems like it makes sense in Trump's mind, but not to the rest of the electorate.

NICHOLS: That's always the issue we're sort of, I don't want to say genius, but the sort of unique nature of Donald Trump in that he has a theory in the case, he thinks he understands where the Republican electorate is, and he's going to first bring them on board before he tries to fight for the independents.

I think to the broader point on the Arizona's, the losses he's had, that's been his challenge as well, frankly, his problem. It's that he's so in bed with whatever grievance he has or whatever part of the base that he's stoking, and he can't run back the Senate and say, this is, like, a unique problem in American politics. You see this all the time where candidates running to the left or the right, and then unelectable.

And, Donald Trump, you know, again, he has a theory in the case and he's going to prosecute that case as he sees fit.

ZANONA: By the way, there are advisers in Trump's ear who are saying, 2020 is not a winning message, voters are -- that's somewhere where a Ron DeSantis and other candidates can also have a -- Trump is crying about 2020 and complaining about his election loss, I was taking on woke corporations, I was standing up to Disney, you know, you can go down the list of things he's done that conservatives like. And so, the question is whether Trump will have that restraint in his next campaign.

So far, his heart is not into it. He's walking into this, has not been energized, but I do think someone like DeSantis is jumping into the race can energize him.

PHILLIP: It has not been that long since he announced he was running to begin with. We're already hearing talk of a reset. Here's "The Wall Street Journal" writing that rather than staging signature large-scale rallies, the plan calls for Mr. Trump to tour key states and conduct smaller policy events.

The goal of the policy events, these people said, is to remind voters of the ideas that Mr. Trump advanced in his time in office, which remained popular among Republicans, even if his personal style is not.

Where have I heard this before?

KUCINICH: I guess I'm trying to remember the last time I watched Trump have a policy event that was a campaign stop.


PHILLIP: I'm racking my brain as well. I do not seem to remember.

KUCINICH: It's not coming to me, but I do think the Republican field underestimates him at their own peril because when you do have people jump in, when they eventually do, there's also the danger of the branding machine that is Trump. How many candidates did receive all by the wayside because he ridiculed them in a way that stuck? I'm not saying that's, like, the silver bullet here for former President Trump, but it certainly was effective the last time he ran in a crowded Republican field.

PHILLIP: This is ultimately why Trump ends up really defaulting to Trump, is because when he his advisors try to make him into someone he's not, it doesn't really work as well in his mind, as it would work if you just did what can came naturally to him, which is the brand his opponents and give them nicknames, to his big rallies. The question is, what's past is not always prolonged. It may not work. A third time, actually. This would be the third time.

NICHOLS: Yeah, this is why we all got to, you know, we don't get to fly the private planes. We go to travel around the country and talk to voters, and I think if there's anything we learned from 2022, we should listen to voters more. And so, we will also one-time and whatever the primary states are and ask these very questions.

And that's why 2023, because the campaign is starting 2023. As you see all those candidates there, they're wondering how they last through 2023, and how they raise enough of money. This is back to the DeSantis point, two things that DeSantis has, he has time, he has money. That's why he seems so formidable right now and money sometimes begets more money and it snowballs, and then suddenly are the front runner.

But again, I don't know if you want to be the front runner when it's against you and Donald Trump. And that gets back to the time a question on when you go and who goes first.

PHILLIP: Well, amen to the point about listening to voters. More voters, less conventional -ism.

Coming up next for us, can President Biden capitalize on his 2022 wins in 2023?


PHILLIP: Trump, Obama, both Bushes, Reagan, and Carter all presided over an economy in recession during their first years in office.


The single biggest question now looming over President Biden in the New Year is whether or not he will join them. Most economists say a recession is almost a certainty and a necessary evil, in order to fight inflation. But President Biden hopes they are wrong.


BIDEN: Make no mistake, prices are still too high. We have a lot more work to do. Things are getting better, headed in the right direction. We shouldn't take anything for granted. What is clear is my economic plan is working and we are just getting started.


PHILLIP: So, here's what I'm hoping, Hans. In 2023, we will know what exactly this economy is doing, are we going to have a recession or not? I'm pretty sure the Biden White House is hoping the same thing.

NICHOLS: Yeah, standard response. If you're asking for any sort of forecasts, especially on economics. If you knew that, we would be somewhere in the Caribbean and we would have flown private there, right? I mean, to look into the economy this far ahead is exceedingly difficult. I was hoping you played a clip Biden actually acknowledge, it was on CNN, where he acknowledged that a recession was possible back in -- I believe he did that in October.

Presidents are duty bound to be overly positive, almost Pollyannaish about the economy. They're always going to be glass half full because the minute you're not, you talk down the economy, it seeps into consumers sort of perceptions of the economy. This is self of filling prophesy. That's why across the administration, first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, even if there is a downturn, it will be over the by the administration. They will be overly optimistic, they will be positive about the economy, and they will try to work for the best sort of story to tell coming up.

PHILLIP: But it would be in a long series of defying history. It would be very momentous moment if this economy were to avoid a recession. It's been a long time since the country's been in a recession, but Biden is hoping that they, like, thread that really fine line, which is really hard to do.

KUCINICH: When you speak to people at the White House, particularly in the wake of the 2022 midterms, they're feeling vindicated. They're feeling like a lot of the things that they have said have come true and that is sort of what you get when you're talking about the economy as well. Even though, I mean, you take credit for the economy at your own peril if you are in a White House because it's, like, gas prices. You either embrace it and it's your fault or you don't and you're like, it's no one's fault. Either way, you will get blamed.

So, but I think at this point, that positivity kind of extends across the board. Not only with the economy, but whatever their priorities are. They think they will get stuff done because they did.

PHILLIP: There are some unknowns here. I mean, there's the border, there, is the war in Ukraine is ongoing. No end in sight, there's a lot that could happen.

BARRON-LOPEZ: There is a lot that can happen. There's also, but heading into 2023, the White House is trying to say that they can start talking more, selling the whole agenda that was passed the past two years, because now it's actually going to take effect. So, some of these bills haven't even taken effect.

Like the prescription drug reform and other elements of manufacturing, where you are going to see more planes open up in different states and they're showing, that look, we're trying to compete more aggressively with China, so they will try to focus on all of that, have Biden go out there as much as possible to sell all these items.

But yes, on the border, look, we still don't know the answer on Title 42, which is the deportation policy started under Trump in response to the pandemic. And we are not going to have an answer, the White House will not have a full answer on that until sometime next year from the Supreme Court.

When that finally is repealed or lifted, potentially, there's going to be a big issue at the border, where the White House has to try to ramp up in preparation for all of these migrants coming across and claiming asylum.

PHILLIP: And on top of that, on Capitol Hill, Melanie, there will be a Republican majority in the House. They are teeing up what could be, you could look at it as a nuisance if you're the White House, or some real headaches for them that they have to deal with.

ZANONA: Yeah, they are taking it very seriously. There's been strategy meetings at the White House between attorneys, communication specialist. He clearly knew this as both a legal response that they have to do, and also a pr response to a lot of these investigations.

So, they are preparing for that, they've been studying James Comer, and Jim Jordan, the to Republicans leading some of these key investigations. I think really, what the White House is banking on right now is that Republicans overreach and that this backfires with Middle America.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, take a listen to President Biden responding to this prospect.


BIDEN: Lots of luck in your senior year as my coach used to say. Look, I think the American public wants us to move on and get things done for them. It's just almost comedy. I mean, it's -- but, you know, look, I can't control what they're going to do. All I can do is continue to try to make life better for the American people.


PHILLIP: Is that confidence that Jackie was just talking about. They've come through two years, a midterm where they performed better than expected. Biden is looking at the situation on the Hill and he's saying, you know --

NICHOLS: These are my opponents.


You will see a couple of things from the White House. You will see them trying to sharpen the contrast with congressional Republicans, they like having the foil there. They're not going to like the conversation about to the extent that they're looking at Hunter Biden, looking at other things. There are going to be uncomfortable conversations. There will be uncomfortable hearings and Republicans want to make them as uncomfortable as possible.

The ultimate goal is, you know, Republicans say, like, fact finding, oversight, investigations, the goal is sort of the shine the White House in a negative light. Shine the Biden administration in a negative light and potentially put pressure on it for an independent counsel, especially as it relates to Hunter.

We've already seen the Senate move here. Put pressure on the president, the Department of Justice, to have an independent counsel for Hunter Biden. That seems to me what they're driving towards and it seems to me that what we will see a lot of in the next couple weeks.

PHILLIP: We were just talking about the Republican field, right? But Biden is set to make decisions about his -- whether he will run for reelection or not, and if it is a Trump, Biden rematch or even the prospect of a Trump, Biden rematch, we can see Biden really taking on Trump more.

I mean, I think which he's already been kind of signaling that he would do over the last years.

BARRON-LOPEZ: He is. I mean, even just after the midterms, you've seen the White House rapidly respond to when Trump put out that the Constitution should be terminated or one other Republicans have joined in saying that January -- like, Marjorie Taylor Greene, when she said that if she had been part of the insurrection, she would've made sure that it was successful.

The White House put out statements when, they have not necessarily previously. So, they're very much more aggressively trying to draw this contrast on everything from that to abortion, to any types of bills that they think House Republicans are going to try to bring forward. And on that contrast, you know, I was talking to allies close to the White House this week and they were saying that they're looking at the pass and at history, and the past two Democratic presidents, where they lost the midterms, the House in the midterms, went on to win reelection.

And so, they feel as though that really provides this great foil for them, heading into the potential reelection.

NICHOLS: I don't think anyone will -- the opening few months of the House Republicans control is going to be terribly smooth. I think we all kind of acknowledge that it's going to be --

KUCINICH: That's fair.

NICHOLS: You know, they will have some challenges there and those -- that still the benefit of the president.


PHILLIP: I do want to get briefly to vice president, Kamala Harris, who will lose her ceremonial role or at least not be on the Capitol as much as she used to be now that Democrats have 51 seats. But just take a look at this poll. Her approval rating is a solid ten points behind President Biden's. She's taken a lot of hits in these last couple of years.

What do you see for her in the next year?

ZANONA: Yeah, listen, she's had a tough portfolio. I think being the vice president is always a difficult job. You're playing second fiddle, sort of being sidekick. So, she's had a rough go at it. I think being stabilized for her and I think she really found her voice on issues like voting rights and on abortion, after Roe v. Wade was overturned. That's where she's really useful for Biden, whose views on abortion have really evolved over the years. Not an issue, -- I think going forward, that's an area where she can be a huge asset to the White House.

PHILLIP: The abortion issue turned out to be, to a lot of people, surprised a pivotal issue. And she put it on the table pretty early on.

KUCINICH: Absolutely, I think the key is the willingness and for her people around her to sell that willingness and to put it out there, to turn it into something that is very much hers. She's definitely on her way there, but she's been very careful not to overshadow Biden, to be very much his biggest champion, but not be her own individual, which is the role of the vice president. If you will transition into the one who wants the job next, you would see more of that.


PHILLIP: -- will happen at some point.

All right. Well, coming up next for us, Republicans may have won a House majority, but now comes the hard part. And that is governing.



PHILLIP: A new year ushers in a new day on Capitol Hill and in just over 48 hours, Republicans will take back the majority in the House of Representatives. But as 2023 kicks off, Republicans are not fighting Democrats, they're fighting themselves. Hard-liners are taking aim at Kevin McCarthy, moderates are taking aim at the hard-liners, House leadership is taking aim at the Senate leadership, and even some are taking aim at the party itself.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think that Kevin McCarthy is little more than a vessel through which lobbyists and special interests operate.

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): You can't govern with a gun to your head, you know? That's what they're asking for. It makes us highly unstable.

SE. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I ran against Mitch McConnell to be the leader of the Republican Party up here in the Senate, and I did it because I believe we've got the start acting like a Republican Party. SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I think this election was the funeral for

the Republican Party, as we know it. The Republican Party is, as we have known, it is dead.


PHILLIP: It's also known as Republicans in disarray, I guess. I mean, they're coming into this New Year really circular firing squad, I think, would be a bit of an understatement.

ZANONA: This is not where Republicans thought they would be heading into the New Year. Kevin McCarthy thought he would be gliding into the speakership, he thought that he has a massive majority, and instead, it's the opposite.

We have a paper thin majority, they're fighting over who should lead them. And it is a disaster for Republicans right now. We're seeing the tensions between the MAGA wing, the moderate wing over the speakers race and over getting started in the new Congress, but that's just foreshadow for things to come with they can only lose four seats on any given vote, so that's going to be a battle to watch.

And their entire majority is getting off to a late start. They haven't even decided to their committee chairs are going to be yet. They can't pay their committee staff until they figure all that stuff out. They can't figure out their committee assignments, so that means they can't get up and running with hearings and investigations, all these other priorities.

So, they're definitely not taking the new majority at a strong play right now.

PHILLIP: There's also this, like, micro drama between, you know, the House and the Senate Republicans, where there is a lot of disdain in the Senate for what is going on in the House, and then you have the Rick Scott drama. Rick Scott, the head of the national Republican senatorial committee, going after Mitch McConnell. And that is really a big ideological fight over the future of the party as well.

KUCINICH: That's more unusual than the Senate disdaining the House. I feel like that's --

NICHOLS: I don't think micro drama, but I like constitutional drama. Like, the House and the Senate, like that's --


KUCINICH: They have long, the Senate has long looked down the hallway at them. But they have long -- the Senate has long looked down the hallway at them. But it is true there is McCarthy trying to kind of flex on Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans over and over. Again, to what end?

But Mitch McConnell has been this untouchable entity in the Senate among Republicans for so long. And then you have Rick Scott who isn't alone. I mean there were others that were backing him. What -- my question is, ok. What happens to them now? Because in terms of what kind of leadership positions are they going to go for in the future. How does that work out for them going up against Mitch McConnell because there is more.

PHILLIP: And they're -- they have not been able to take him on.


PHILLIP: They really have not.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And they haven't been able to get the numbers that they would need to back them in any of the challenges to McConnell. And look, because McConnell is very well aware of the fact that if you want to try to gain the majority in the Senate you have to more appease the moderates than the ones that make the majority in the Senate, you know.

And this time around Rick Scott as head of NRSC was not able to do that. He went along with Trump-backed candidates and they didn't win.

On your point Abby, about the split between the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans, the White House probably loves that because of the fact that House Republicans are going to be launching all these investigations, even talking about potential impeachment of President Biden and Senate Republicans right now are sending signals that they want no part of that. That they would not at all approve it.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean just to your point, here's a very long list of investigations that they have said that they want to be involved in including some potential impeachments of the DHS Secretary Mayorkas. You're talking about big tech, the origins of COVID, the DOJ leadership, critical race theory.

Some of the things that you look at it, some of these are important. Some of them are much less so. And it is a real question to me, like, are they going to be able to differentiate from what's really needed to rise to the top?

NICHOLS: They will be forced by the calendar, by the schedule. They'll be forced, of course, by funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

And a lot of the issues they were talking about may seem cosmetic and may seem theatrical and some way they are. That's part of what Congress does. They're trying to sell -- make a case to the American public.

But on big issues -- funding the government and raising the debt ceiling -- those are two confrontations that Kevin McCarthy or whoever is speaker cannot avoid and that's going to be a challenge and they're going to have to work that out with Senate Republicans, the White House, Senate Democrats.

And again, maybe it is just, you know, all former financial reporters are always worried about the debt ceiling. So maybe discount me on this, right.

But when you think about what -- if people are saying publicly it is concerning and it's a little scary. Because the White House is saying they're not going to negotiate and it's awfully hard to see how you find House Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling and that has to get done some time in 2023.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean the key point is probably one of the few points of leverage that the House Republicans will have which is what they've said a little bit scary here Hans make over someone who cares about this.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, everyone should care about these things --


PHILLIP: -- the United States government.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, the United States government. Also the White House right now is looking at those Republicans that are left. There's about six that voted for the infrastructure bill in the House. About 12 that voted for the semiconductor bill. The ones that crossed party lines and backed those. And so those are the Republicans they're keeping an eye on to see if in any of these key votes, they would be willing to break with the majority of their party.

PHILLIP: What of this idea that Republicans might try to impeach President Biden? I want you to just take a listen to James Comer who is going to be leading up some of these investigations into Hunter Biden, et cetera, et cetera.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We have his laptop and the laptop shows very incriminating evidence that Hunter Bide he took millions and millions of dollars from China and Russia for nothing more than influence peddling. Our investigation is about the sources of his revenue and also what part of that revenue did Joe Biden enjoy?


PHILLIP: I mean Melanie, is this going to go anywhere?

ZANONA: So what I'll say is GOP leaders do not want to impeach President Joe Biden. They do not. They've kept that at an arms' length.

But what they're dealing with --


ZANONA: Yes. But what I will say is that they know that they have a base that is thirsting for revenge. What they're kind of hoping is to try to channel some of that rage into that litany of investigation and potentially into impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas, the cabinet secretary. They do that at a little bit lower stakes but still enough to maybe satisfy, throw some red meat to the base.

But even then again they can only lose four votes and so it's unclear whether the moderate wing is going to be willing to go along with it. There's going to have to build a case to go down that route. And even then there's some risk if they do.

PHILLIP: I want to talk about the Democrats for a second though. We know about the squad. These folks -- AOC, Ilhan Omar, et cetera, Ayanna Pressley -- these are the progressives that everybody knows is a whole new class of incoming freshmen who's maybe going to making their own little squad but the Democratic Party has been pretty united up until this point. Will we see progressives really flexing their muscle a little bit more in this new congress?


KUCINICH: I think a lot of them are going to be -- this is the first time a lot of those members have been in the minority so I think there will be some effort to kind of find their footing because this is going to be -- this is a whole new world that we're in here in the House minority.

But that leadership team does have progressive representation. Katherine Clark is number two Republican -- excuse me, we just talked -- Democrat.


KUCINICH: Democrat in that leadership team. And she has a direct line to progressives. So I think that there will be -- there is some cultivation that will be happening of these brand new members.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And I think one thing that surprised a lot of people the past two years was how President Biden managed both the progressives and the moderates in his party, And I think going in, a lot of people thought the progressives were going to be much more angsty and try to fight him more and he actually, you know, kept them specifically chief of staff Ron Klain kept the close -- you know close conversations with all of them and all of the progressive leaders.

Also with the House Republican majority and the types of bills that they're going to be putting on the floor it is really hard to imagine that any of the squad, you know, go along with the types of messaging bills and red meat bills that are on the floor.

ZANONA: Much easier to be in the minority, right.


BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. It's all message.

PHILLIP: Yes. Yes. It's gives them some time to work it out. But who would have thought Democrats moving on from Nancy Pelosi for the first time, in the minority and they are not the story really anymore. It's what's going on in the Republican Party. But coming up next for us, from voting rights to civil rights, the cases that we'll be watching as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down another monumental set of decisions. That is coming up.



PHILLIP: 2023 is shaping up to be another blockbuster year for the nation's highest court. Abortion rights may have dominated the national debate in 2022 with the Supreme Court's landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade but a number of other high profiling rulings with far reaching impacts are expected to come down by early summer.

So here to break down some of the biggest cases to watch in the New Year is CNN's senior Supreme Court analyst and biographer Joan Biskupic. Joan, this is going to be yet another year for this conservative court flexing their muscle.

Let's take voting rights first. They've got two big cases in front of them, one that deals with this obscure independent state legislature theory and then the other that deals with the Voting Rights Act and what is left of the Voting Rights Act.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's exactly right. They're poised to break ground on a whole another set of areas going beyond what they did in 2022.

The first case that you mentioned involving the independent state legislature doctrine is also an idea that would allow state legislators to have almost complete authority over state election laws not to be checked by state court judges interpreting state constitutions. So it really would reorder the usual checks and balances on election laws in the state.

PHILLIP: And it would take a fringe theory and really put it in the center of American life which is incredible.

BISKUPIC: That's right. By fringe. There's no exaggeration with this word here. It has never -- it was raised in 2000 in Bush v. Gore by the Chief Justice William Rehnquist and it was almost as an aside in that landmark case year of Bush v Gore. And he could only get two other justices to join this theory that would give state legislatures more power again without checks by their state courts in supreme state constitutions. Nobody bought into it for two decades.

That idea essentially went nowhere until in 2020 some of Donald Trump's supporters were pushing it in the courts. And I have to say four justices, four of the most conservative justices, have expressed an interest in it but it would really be opening a Pandora's Box of a lot of complications. And I don't think this Supreme Court irrespective of how far right it is, is going to go as far as the state of North Carolina in this case wants it to go but it still is likely to diminish state court judges' power over elections.

PHILLIP: Yes. Really an important case to watch. I want to turn now to affirmative action. This is another big case -- a long standing effort to challenge affirmative action at the most elite schools in the nation. Where is the court leaning here?

BISKUPIC: This is an area where the Supreme Court is likely to roll back precedent yet again. Remember in 1978 the Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE) decision that said race could be consider in admissions in schools. You know, for campus diversity. Because campus diversity was part of the educational mission the Supreme Court ruled.

And what's happening now with this case from Harvard and with the University of North Carolina cases would affect both private schools and state institutions. the justices are poised to say that race should no longer be a factor in admissions for campus diversity.

This is an area where Chief Justice John Roberts has very strongly said he wants race out of classifications. Race should not be part of the calculation voting rights for example as we were just talking --


BISKUPIC: -- or in campus admission screening.

PHILLIP: I have to note that this is happening at a time that the court is perhaps the most diverse it has ever been. Two African Americans, more women than ever before, a Latino woman, Catholic, et cetera, et cetera. The most diverse ever taking up this really important case.

But now on to this free speech case or freedom of religion case depending on how you look at it. This is the case of a web designer who wants to be able to not serve LGBTQ customers because she doesn't believe in same-sex marriage. What's incredible to me about this case is that it is a totally hypothetical case and yet the court still took it up. There's not same-sex couple that she's been presented with whom she doesn't want to serve and yet the court took it up.

BISKUPIC: Well and I think that just goes to show how aggressive the Supreme Court is, this new Supreme Court is in this area of the law. It was 2015, a whole different kind of court back in 2015 that declared same-sex marriage a fundamental right under the constitution and now the question is what kinds of rights will accompany that.

Can same-sex couples be served the same way heterosexual couples can be in wedding services. And that's what this is all about. And what justices are looking at this from two distinct languages (ph) depending on their ideology.


BISKUPIC: When you referred to the court kind of reaching out for this case is the conservative justices who have been putting themselves more in the shoes of the service provider saying she wants to develop this creative Web site and she wants to be able to say this is part of her own message, her own free speech so she shouldn't have to serve same sex couples. Whereas the state of Colorado which is saying that all service

providers that would be public accommodations should serve all couples because it's like a general business. It's a commercial business that's akin to a public accommodation here.

PHILLIP: And as you said, the court basically reaching out to bring these cases in --

BISKUPIC: Definitely. Definitely.

PHILLIP: -- but the goal here, it seems to me is to open the door to other (INAUDIBLE). This ruling, whatever it is, will have some far reaching --


BISKUPIC: Oh, for all sorts of services that would go to same-sex couples whether in weddings or other kind of situations.

PHILLIP: Really interesting stuff. A lot to look forward in 2023.

Joan, thank you so much for being here.

And next, our great, greatest panel of reporters with some of the under the radar stories that you need to know in 2023.


PHILLIP: It's the first day of 2023. And so we want to end the hour talking to our great reporters about some of the big stories that they'll be watching out for this year.

Let's start with Jackie. Jackie, it's been a big year for democracy.


KUCINICH: Yes, indeed.

And I think that one of the things this year was how voting laws had changed across the country and how voters coped with it.

That's not going to go away in 2023. There are already -- there are several state legislatures that are pushing various things that either make it easier to vote or make it harder. Places like Minnesota. There's some hope there among Democrats that they have auto voter registration. They have -- of having high schoolers to pre register.

But in my home state of Ohio, there is a bill currently on Governor DeWine's desk that would impose strict voter ID, limit drop boxes.

So you're going to see this continued push to either limit or open democracy depending on who you're talking to, to voters.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean there's always this push and pull on voting, but it's hyper charged now that the Republican party has made this their calling card. Laura, you are looking at some of -- actually in some ways the flip

side of this. What's happening at the state level when it comes to LGBTQ laws?

BARRON-LOPEZ: So we saw in 2022 that there were a record number of anti-LGBTQ, anti-transgender laws that were passed in a number of Republican-led states and that's only going to continue in 2023.

In states like Texas, there's already been some 17 bills introduced in that state House in preparation for the next session that are anti LGBTQ, anti trans gender, including one that would outright drag shows.

And then there's South Carolina also which is looking at legislation that would try to define what it is to be a woman and a man, to define those terms, you know, legally which is -- you know what's interesting about this, though, is that we saw in so many races across the midterms where this was a big issue for a lot of Republicans that were running and yet those Republicans didn't win.

Like Herschel Walker in Georgia was one of the most recent examples. I saw him stump speech over and over again when I was in Georgia. And he talked over and over again about pronouns. And you know you don't want someone that looks like me to compete against your young daughters. And he didn't win.

PHILLIP: I mean the culture wars didn't really win, to your point. Also, shortly after the midterms, back in congress they passed a law that basically tried to protect same-sex marriage. So. I mean it seems to me Republicans are going down this path, but that's not really where the country is.

NICHOLS: Just to clearly an mate the base. And Herschel Walker knew where his base was on that, and just the same way former President Trump does. The culture wars have a certain galvanizing effect on the Republican Party.

And I don't think you're going to get them to foreswear that for the sake of public polls that say that the country doesn't like that. It's just what they feel on their end.

ZANONA: We're going to see some of these bills in congress with Republicans in charge of the floor.

PHILLIP: Yes. And Melanie, tell us what you're looking at.

ZANONA: So I know we talked about the Freedom Caucus and these fringe members but what I'm watching are the Republicans in Biden-won districts. There's over a dozen of them. These are majority makers. These are the people that gave them the majority that are going to keep them in the majority if they do in 2024. And they have a lot of sway over the agenda.

Again, it only takes four people -- it would take five for them to band together to block things like a federal abortion ban or impeachment. POMPEO: But there are 17 of them to your point. And some of these

members are in Biden, plus 15 districts, I mean these are very, pretty blue districts. So they're going to be walking a really, you know, tightrope.

ZANONA: Yes. Kevin McCarthy is going to have an incentive to protect them. The White House and Democrats are going to be courting them, trying to team up with them.

The question is whether they're willing to play hardball and to use their leverage and to actually buck their party.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean this could be -- you know, we used to talk about the blue dogs back in the day. I mean now we're going to be talking about the red dogs, I guess.

KUCINICH: Right. And McCarthy has spent so much time appealing to the more freedom caucus types. You're absolutely right. It's easy to forget there is this other potential voting bloc that could dictate Republican policies.

NICHOLS: There's 17 Joe Manchins. It's not quite analogous, but they have an incredible amount of sway on what's going to pass their party. And they can extract the fight. And their argument always is, if you want to see me again -- if you want to see me in the next congress, you have to do what I have to say.

ZANONA: And if you want to keep the majority, you probably have to do what they want to say.

PHILLIP: Yes. And they're not wrong about that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: No. I mean yes, there's a perfect time (INAUDIBLE). I mean Biden plus 15, like that's probably going to flip next time around especially since like Democrats -- look, I'll admit that they made a mistake in New York and that they just weren't paying attention where they should have been. And I think it's safe to bet that those seats will probably flip back next time around.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean New York alone is probably enough for the Republican majority. And those seats are very much in play the next time around. Hans, what are you looking at.

NICHOLS: I'll be very brief, and that's just Iran. There's always a foreign policy sort of potential crisis we're not thinking about. The president declared that the Iran nuclear deal is dead. He said it in a private comment. He hasn't really full out come out and said it.


NICHOLS: And Iran continues to enrich at their highest levels yet. At a certain point that has to be addressed by the international community and by the president of the United States.

PHILLIP: What a turn-around for Biden. I mean he came into office campaigning on reinvigorating the Iran nuclear deal and now is faced with the reality where he's getting pressure. I mean even Hillary Clinton said recently that Biden needs to walk away from the table while these protests are happening on the ground in Iran. President Biden privately is saying this. At some point publicly this is going to come to a head.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I think it will. But I mean to Hans' point, I think that the president has -- look, when he makes a decision, he ends up sticking with that decision. He's very good at weathering a lot of these storms. I mean when people have told him about Afghanistan, another example, he's decided there that he was going to stick with that decision to withdraw and he's willing to take on all of the heat that comes, whether it's from inside his party or also from Republicans.

PHILLIP: That's a very important point. I mean Biden hasn't been willing to kind of back down even in the face of public pressure. I think when it comes to Iran, something is going to have to get done. Because, as Hans pointed out, they're enriching. They're moving forward toward a nuclear weapon.

NICHOLS: And sort of the X factor in all this is that you have a new right of center with a right wing coalition government in Israel forming, and the kind of pressure that Netanyahu -- if Netanyahu can actually form a government and maintain a government, the pressure that they will be putting on the Biden administration and the international community, Europeans.

It's again, these are real challenges and it's a potential crisis. Not yet, but they are going to have to spend, I suspect, some time on this in 2023.

PHILLIP: All right. And if I could add one thing to your thing, that would be China. I mean there's -- I think that there are two -- there's obviously Russia, but Russia is almost like a subsidiary of the China problem for the Biden administration.

So that's what I will be watching as we go into this new year.

But that's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Coming up next, "THE STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests this morning include retired Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger and outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Happy New Year.