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Monthly Inflation Falls For First Time Since 2020; Six GOP Rebels Assigned To Key Committees; Alabama AG: Women Could Be Prosecuted For Abortion Pills. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 12, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: An encouraging turning point today for the slowly cooling American economy. Monthly inflation was down in December, down for the first time in three years, as consumer prices continued to decline. The President this morning saying the United States continues to head in the right direction.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I came to office almost two years ago, the economy was flat on its back, as you all remember. Two years in, it's clear, clearer than ever that my economic plan is actually working. And we still have more work to do, though, we're clearly moving in the right direction.


KING: Matt Egan joins us now live. Matt, walk through these new inflation numbers and is it all good news or is there anything in there to worry about?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, John, we know that momentum can be a powerful thing, right? We see that in sports, we see that in politics, and I think we're seeing it now in the economy. It finally feels like the Fed has the upper hand here in putting this inflation fire out. So consumer prices, they were up by 6.5 percent year over year in December. That's not good. But it is moving in the right direction. It's the 6th straight month of improvement.

Month over month, prices declined. We haven't seen that at all during this entire inflation crisis. Now let's look where prices are cooling off. We saw price declines year over year for gasoline, that's a big deal. Used cars down almost 9 percent, television, clearly supply is catching up to demand. But the cost of living does remain problematic elsewhere. We see that shelter costs are going up sharply. Actually, they're going up at the fastest pace since under Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Grocery store prices continue to rise rapidly. And look at the price of eggs, 60 percent more expensive than a year ago. So where does this leave us? Inflation is still the biggest problem in this economy, but it is getting better. For now, the Federal Reserve is continuing to raise interest rates, but maybe instead of slamming the brakes on this economy, they can tap the brakes and hopefully they can pause these rate hikes altogether before they cause a recession. John?

KING: Matt Egan, breaking down those important numbers for us. I appreciate it very much, Matt. Thank you.

Kevin McCarthy, as you can see, very happy to finally be in the Speaker's Office. And now we're beginning to get more of the details of those side deals he cut to get the final vote. Side deals with the rebels, the holdouts who were keeping him from being speaker. Let's walk through some of this. If you remember back when we were electing a speaker, there were 20 Republicans initially who said either never Kevin, or not yet Kevin until we get something out of this deal.

Here are the 20 who at one point were not prepared to make McCarthy speaker. Obviously, most came around in the end. And we know now among the holdouts, three are on the very powerful, very important House Appropriations Committee. How are your tax dollars spent? Where does that money go?

Three of them getting seats on the House Appropriations Committee. Three more getting seats on the powerful House Financial Services Committee. This part of McCarthy's negotiating give some of my critics seats on these important committees. They say just to add ideological, geographical diversity to them. If you want to walk it through all the way, and you look at Freedom Caucus members, some Freedom Caucus members were McCarthy supporters. Many were among the holdouts.

Now, these important committees and you see the asterisks on some of them might be hard to see at home. Some of them were already on these committees. So these are not all new members. But look, Freedom Caucus members now have more power on appropriations, more power on financial services, more power on energy and commerce. And David Schweikert was already on the Ways and Means Committee. That's the tax writing committee. The Freedom Caucus keeps its seat there.

Let's bring in CNN's Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, again, the speaker in these holdouts say this is a good thing. It allows more diversity, ideological, geographical, generational, some say, though, it puts some of the people who like to cause trouble in very important places.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, it's pretty remarkable that the McCarthy holdouts, instead of being punished, they're actually being rewarded. As you mentioned, we knew that one of the concessions that Kevin McCarthy made in his bid to become speaker was agreeing to put more conservative hardliners on key committees.

And sources told me and Manu Raju that at least six of the holdouts are now assigned top tier committee assignments. We should also mention that Byron Donalds, who you tick through up there, he also already received a seat on this powerful steering committee, which doles out committee gavels and committee assignments. So he's made out pretty well in all of this. But that does make for a total of 16 House Freedom Caucus members on this key top tier, so called A-list committees. And it is going to change the dynamic of how these committees operate, especially as they are approaching decisions about spending, government funding, the debt ceiling that is something that is looming probably will have to be dealt with this summer or later this year.


But I will tell you that McCarthy allies are trying to spin this in a positive way and saying basically they're going to sort out all their potential issues before bills get to the floor. Just take a listen to Barry Loudermilk earlier today.


REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): The idea is, when you come out of appropriations or ways and means with the debt limit, whatever key piece of legislation, every group has already had their fingerprint on it and it should, you know, help us get it through.


ZANONA: And there are more committee assignments to come, including on House Judiciary, House Oversight, House Rules, House Arms and Services. And we are expecting those decisions to be made by next week. John?

KING: Melanie Zanona live on the Hill. Congressman Loudermilk has the glass half full perspective on this. We will see, we'll see in the weeks and months ahead if that's the way it plays out. Melanie, thanks so much.

House Republicans also hold an early vote to highlight their opposition to abortion rights. It keeps a campaign promise, though not all Republicans think it's smart politics.



KING: The new Republican House majority is quickly making clear its policy priorities, and restricting abortion rights is clearly one of them. Yesterday, House Republicans approving a bill that would require doctors to preserve the life of an infant who survives an abortion procedure. Now, that is something that is exceedingly, exceedingly rare.

Now, many House conservatives say trying to restrict or ban abortion should be a priority, though more moderate Republicans see it as bad policy and bad politics. There are also new abortion access debates in the states. In Alabama, for example, the state's attorney general says women could be prosecuted for taking abortion pills.

Our great reporters are back at the table. Let's start there. Because of the Dobbs decision, abortion is now a state-by-state debate whether you support that or don't, that's the reality. This is the headline, Michael, in your newspaper today, talk of prosecuting women for abortion pills. Roil antiabortion movement. This is something that may have actually popular support in some conservative red states, but then it ends up into the national argument where it might help a Republican or be popular here, but a problem here, right?

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well this really interesting moment after the last election where abortion really played the Democrats favor, where Republicans believe they misplayed abortion at the ballot box by having a number of candidates who didn't want rape and incest exemptions, who said ban abortion in all cases, that evangelical leaders, leaders of the national antiabortion movement are sort of breaking from the grassroots and saying, don't go as extreme as you want.

Let's not -- this is not a time to be pure. We just won a big victory at the Supreme Court. We can make progress here. But if you embrace these most extreme measures, if you're talking about no rape exemption, if you're talking about medication abortions, if you're talking about banning all abortions up to zero weeks, those are going to be losers and you're going to end up electing Democrats and having more abortions in the end.

So there's -- this debate going on within the Republican Party right now, and I think what you saw in the House was an extension of that. They took the lowest hanging fruit. You know, they're banning something that basically doesn't happen. It's not going to become law anyway. But they're going after something that really is not an issue.

KING: Right. But there are some House Republicans who do want to bring a total abortion ban or at least more restrictions on how many weeks to the floor of the House. We'll see if the speaker in this new transparent process allows something that to happen. And this is really an example of, A, what's your state and maybe even what's your district, right? House district is very different than somebody else to run statewide who might have to appeal to Democrats and appeal to the moderate suburbs. Nancy Mace, one of the newly reelected Republicans, says, we need to be more careful here.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We want to beat our chest and we want the base to love us. But I just proved in this election, I had two big elections this year, a primary, big primary, and a big general election that you can stay true to your principles and your values. You can find middle ground and you can win big. We're racing to the fringes. I have a colleague in the House right now that wants to bring a bill to the floor that bans all abortions with no exceptions. What are we doing here?


KING: How will this play out? I mean, how much of a priority does the speaker or do these new committee chairs put on Nancy Mace says her colleague who wants to bring a ban to the floor?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: I think as the House Republicans are getting pulled further to the right, as we've been discussing all morning, they want to put more abortion bills on the floor. But it's the Nancy Maces and the more moderate Republicans, or just Republicans in districts that aren't as ruby red, who say, please don't force us to make these tough votes that could come back to haunt them at the ballot box as soon as 2024.

Again, we know that abortion is one of the reasons why there was no red wave in the midterms. Abortion was very important. And even Republican voters are not necessarily in favor of some of these really extreme abortion limitations that the more conservative Republicans would like to push.

So overall, some of this legislation doesn't seem to be a winning issue, but we know that lawmakers want it. They're very antiabortion, especially, you know, a lot of the men in the Republican Conference. And the question is, with all the, you know, backdoor dealings that McCarthy has had with the conservative lawmakers, what agreements have been made? We don't know yet.


KING: And it's January 2023. But you hear and I want to play a snippet of the House floor debate. Look, the Democrats did this, too, when Nancy Pelosi was speaker, they passed some legislation that they knew they could never get through the Senate because the Democrats didn't have enough vote. The Republicans in the House know a lot of these issues they're going to pass in the House are just dead on arrival in the Senate. And as the President Biden said today on a different context, comes -- gets to my a desk, it's going to get a veto. But listen to the debate on the House floor because what you're hearing here in Washington today, you will hear next year's campaign.


REP. ANN WAGNER (R-MO): The House will at last take action to ensure that every single baby born in the United States receives lifesaving medical care at their most vulnerable moment.

REP. LIZZIE FLETCHER (D-TX): What this bill is about is an assault on the health, rights, equality and dignity of American women and the people who provide their reproductive health care.


KING: Is it fair to say, we assume President Biden is going to run for reelection, that he disagrees with everything the Republicans are trying to do on this issue, but he's probably politically not unhappy that they bring this to the floor and that they have these debates. This is just looking at some, you know, in the state of Ohio. Should abortion be legal, 58 percent, in Arizona 62 percent, in Pennsylvania 62 percent, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio not so much, but Arizona and Pennsylvania, critical to the Electoral College map for Joe Biden.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, a lot of this Republican resistance and trying to pass these new laws or messaging votes when it comes to abortion in some ways is a gift for Democrats. They are hoping that this will galvanize their voters to head out to the polls and help them win. That's something that you saw in the last midterms. So they're looking at these votes, they disagree or these, you know, types of debates, they disagree with where Republicans are, but in some ways, they're hoping that it's going to help motivate their voters to get out it's something that you could see play out in the coming years.

KING: The flip side for the conservative Republicans is they'll say they promised that, too. They promised their voters, you have to at least have the votes. But we know how it played out in the midterms. We'll see as we head into 2024.

Up next for us, in just the last hour, the suspect accused in the murder of four Idaho College students appearing in court. You see it right there. We'll be live outside the courthouse next.



KING: The suspect in the killing of four University of Idaho students was just back in court. Let's go straight live to Moscow, Idaho. CNN correspondent Josh Campbell is there. Josh, tell us what happened.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, that hearing just wrapping up. A short time ago, our colleague Gary Tuchman and I were inside court. The suspect, 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger, was escorted in by deputies. He was wearing orange prison guard. His ankles were shackled. Now, today's hearing was, as expected, largely procedural, but importantly, we now know when the next key hearing will be, that is June 26th. That is when the judge has set this probable cause hearing, the preliminary hearing where we could actually learn new details from prosecutors as they continue to build this case.

Now, one of Kohberger's attorneys, although he hasn't yet entered a plea of guilty or not guilty, his attorney said that his client expects to be exonerated. But of course, as we've been reporting, authorities have already unsealed a trove of damning evidence, including DNA that was apparently found at the scene, allegedly similar to the suspects.

Police were also able to analyze the suspect's cellphone and his vehicle movements, authorities say placing him near the scene where those four college students were killed at least 12 times before that incident. So, again, we will have to wait and see whether authorities released new information on June 26th. But that is the key date, the judge in this case says that as expected, this defendant will remain in the custody of the state with no bond. John?

KING: Josh Campbell, live for us in Moscow, Idaho. Josh, thanks so much.


Up next for us, the gas stove debate. Yes, the gas stove debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our political radar today. In Georgia, the Republican Governor Brian Kemp officially starting his second term today. He was inaugurated this morning after easily defeating, of course, the Democrat Stacey Abrams back in November. Governor Kemp says growing Georgia's economy will be priority number one.

Former governor Pete Ricketts will be the next senator from Nebraska. He was appointed today by the current Governor Jim Pillen, to fill the state's vacant senate seat. Ricketts just completed his second term as governor days ago and he backed Pillen in last year's Republican primary. Ben Sass resigned that senate seat to serve as the University of Florida's president. A special election will fill that seat next year 2024.

Senator Elizabeth Warren with an early endorsement for fellow progressive Katie Porter, who is running to be California's next senator. Sources say Congresswoman Barbara Lee, though, also planning to jump into that democratic primary. That seat currently held by the incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who has not announced if she will actually retire.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Senator Feinstein will make her own decision in her own time, and I have respect for that and I know that she has respect for others who are throwing their hat in the ring and want to be the best warrior that California can have in Washington.


KING: The Biden administration says it is not emphasis on not coming for your gas stove. A safety commissioner argued those stoves are a, quote, hidden hazard, suggested a ban might be on the table, but the White House shot that down yesterday. A study did find gas stoves can cause a higher asthma risk in children.

Washington gathering today to pay its respect to Obama era defense secretary Ash Carter, who died back in October after suffering a heart attack. President Biden this morning honoring the former Pentagon chief during his service at the National Cathedral.


BIDEN: Ash was a force. He was a force in nature. His genius was evident, his integrity, unfailing. And his commitment to service before self was literally inspiring.



KING: He was the Mayor during 9/11. In the midst of tragedy, yes, he stepped up, but then what happened to that leader? The CNN original series Giuliani: What Happened to America's Mayor? Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Bianna Golodryga picks up our coverage right now.