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AP: "DeSantis To Expand 'Don't Say Gay' Law To All Grade"; House GOP's Border, Immigration Bills Stalled Amid Infighting; How Ginsburg's Death & Kavanaugh's Moves Shaped Roe Reversal; Senators Demand SVB, Signature Bank CEOs Testify; Markets Rally After Fed Raises Rates Amid Banking Turmoil. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 23, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And you see clearly, DeSantis is thinking about the Republican base, right? He has not formally declared, as you said, but the Florida legislature is in session now. They end April or May. We expect that announcement would come after that in the Florida legislature.

You see this here. This is from the Associated Press. DeSantis trying to expand what is called the Don't Say Gay law in Florida. "The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 through 12. The initial that DeSantis championed last spring ban those lessons in kindergarten through the third grade."

So this is about, you know, there are a lot of people who wonder, are you going so far right, that you can't sell yourself in a general election? But it is very clear he wants to use this legislative session to essentially say to Trump voters, I will give you everything you get from Donald Trump, but I actually deliver. I get things done. No drama.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. The legislative session is essentially his platform for running for president essentially. He's run on these cultural issues. But one thing that's really interesting that you're finding now is that for the first time, Ron DeSantis is being challenged.

He has been almost in a bunker in Florida. You know, he didn't get many real challenger in his reelection. And so now he is having to really fight back against a fellow Republican and someone who is so good at it, Donald Trump. And he hasn't even -- Ron DeSantis has not even entered the race yet, and he's already feeling a lot of pressure from the master tactician of Donald Trump being able to attack his opponents effectively.

KING: As evidence of that, we see evidence today. Jeff Roe, who worked for Ted Cruz back in 2016, helped Glenn Youngkin get elected governor of Virginia, is now joining this Super PAC, that's being set up to help Ron DeSantis. That's proof to me, to your point, that they understand they need seasoned professionals around to use the Super PAC to rebut some of these arguments. It's also part of a very clear DeSantis effort to say this should be a two man race. If you're not for Trump, if you're a Republican and you're not for Trump, and you're worried, the more candidates, the more it helps Trump, look at me, you know, I can raise money in Florida. We got the Super PAC operation put together. Stick with me if you don't want Trump. Don't let the field get too big.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: It's very clear to me that part of his strategy is to not differentiate himself on policy, but on personality. And something else you're hearing a lot from Ron DeSantis' camp is electability. I think that is going to be a huge part of his campaign pinch, is I'm electable. I've proven I can win.

Whereas Donald Trump has lost repeatedly. He was responsible losing Republican House Senate. You're going to hear that a lot. But with Donald Trump, he is trying to paint every single attack on him from Ron DeSantis as an attack on the entire MAGA base. You've saw that in the numerous attacks that he's already lined up.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: But the heat is only going to get hotter on Ron DeSantis if he continues to poll at this level. He's going to have attacks from Donald Trump. If Joe Biden announces his presidential bid soon, he'll start getting those from the expected Biden campaign as well. And already facing heat this week from the White House, from the podium as well on the expansion of that law that you mentioned in Florida.

KING: This is how you learn about candidates. You get the heat of the campaign. The incoming comes from all directions. That's how we learn.

Up next for us, House Republicans hit pause again. Promises of quick action on the border, energy and more meet the reality of a narrow and yes, a divided majority.



KING: House Republicans are hitting the pause button on another big promise -- quick action on border and immigration issues. The Judiciary Committee was planning to act soon on as many as eight different bills dealing with border security and immigration issues. But House leadership now asking for a delay because of sharp policy differences among Republicans.

Those same House leaders vowed to act on the border bill in the first two weeks of the new Congress. You might remember that was two months ago.

Our great reporters back at the table. This is hard, but they just had this policy retreat. They all went down to Orlando. They understand they only have four or five seat majority, but this was the border, immigration, this was their big issue. Why?

ZANONA: They ran on this issue. I interviewed Kevin McCarthy before the election, and this was at the border. And this was one of their big priorities at this head. They were going to pursue. They promised a bill within the first two weeks.

But two things happened. One, they got a much smaller majority than they expected. And number two, there's been a lot of push back from Hispanic lawmakers in the Republican Party, from moderates in the Republican Party who are worried about this hard line approach turning off those key voters that they're going to need to keep their majority.

And so that is the debate you're seeing play out. Immigration has always been an issue that has been elusive in Washington. It's been hard. It's no easier now. And they are struggling on this issue. I mean, I think it was Hamilton that said winning is easy.

KING: Right.

ZANONA: Governing is harder. They are also learning just how difficult it is to be in the majority. Campaigning is really easy for a lot of Republicans. This is their first time in the majority. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, it's his first time as speaker. So they are just working on a lot of kinks right now.

KING: Hamilton lyrics (ph) are always welcome. They're always welcome in the program. This is Bruce Westerman telling the truth here, Republican of Arkansas. "It's always more challenging when you're the majority because you're expected to put ideas forth and be able to pass them. And when you're in a slim majority, it makes that much more difficult."

Yes, OK. But they knew that when they were in the minority, too. I guess it's easy. You can, you know, you can be a flamethrower in the minority, but this cannot be a surprise to them. I guess the size, the small size of their majority was a surprise to them in November.

CALDWELL: But that was a long time ago. You're supposed to figure it out.

That was a long time ago, but also in the minority. They didn't really have to do deep dives on policy. And when you put legislation to paper, it becomes much more difficult. And they didn't realize -- you know, I was interviewing Republicans before the election who were telling me and right after the election that they have never been more united on this issue of immigration before in the history of Republican politics.


But that's not true. They didn't understand the ins and outs of their conference and how some of these members won, including Tony Gonzalez, Representative Gonzalez of Texas, who is really, really angry about how his party is handling this issue of immigration.

And so, you know, like you said in the opening, this was supposed to be one of the first bills they passed --

KING: And one of the problems -- and look, it is hard, but Nancy Pelosi would say, I didn't have that big a majority. I got a lot of things done. That's what the Democrats would say to Republicans. But one of the hard parts is when you're trying to win the majority and you say things and you make crystal clear promises like this one.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: If you're like everybody else we hear, whether you can afford it, whether you feel safe, the challenge of your children getting lost behind or a government that's run amok. Who has a plan to change that course? We do. The Democrats have no plan for the problem they created. But on that very first day that we're sworn in, you'll see that it all changes.


KING: Well, they were sworn in back in January. And look, this is what politicians say in campaigns on the very first day. Never very much, very little happens on a first day normally. Kevin McCarthy was trying to save his job --

CALDWELL: Right, let's not forget that.

KING: On the first day and the second day and I think the third day. But so what have they done? They did vote in the House to end the COVID national emergency and the Biden administration pretty quickly said, we're going to do that anyway. So the House Republicans, you know, they get credit. They pressured the administration there.

They did pass a bipartisan resolution, not a tough one, criticizing China. They flew a spy balloon over the United States. But they have also launched a bipartisan commission -- a committee on China that is getting some work done. But border, giant issue for Republicans in recent years, spending plans.

Now they say they're supposed to have a budget by now. They say they may punt it down the road. On the big ones, immigration, spending, the things you would think of as big Republican issues, they're stuck.

CHAMBERS: And none of those things have to do with Democrats keeping the United States Senate either. They could pass these bills in the House of Representatives even if they never come to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Democrats more broadly, though, feel that the focus on investigations that they've had and, you know, spending so much time of that -- time on that has not yielded the results that Republicans thought that they were going to.

And while you have seen that Joe Biden's approval rating has not, you know, increased substantially, new polling out today showing at roughly around 40 percent again, it certainly hasn't had this real dragon him that Republicans might have hoped that it would have heading into 2024.

KING: And so I guess my question is, can they fix this? Can they work it out? Because if you're having trouble here on the border issue, which is your big issue, aren't you then going to have even more trouble here, which is right around the corner?

The big negotiations with the President over -- and the other Democrats over raising the debt ceiling and the Republicans want spending cuts. But if you can't agree on something you've been talking about for a decade, how are you going to deal with that?

ZANONA: Right. Those are messaging bills. We should point. They are struggling with messaging bills, let alone these heavier lifts, these must pass pieces of legislation. I think there is a concern right now they're nowhere on these debt ceiling talks.

House Republicans were supposed to put out their own budget by April 15th. They are now warning that it might slip to May. They've been struggling behind the scenes to reach consensus. So I think there is a fear that's starting in Washington right now about how are they going to resolve these incredibly difficult positions that have actual ramifications for the entire country.

KING: And almost nothing they pass in a Republican House is going to get through the Senate. It's an important point. Oh the president wouldn't sign it anyway. But will they understand -- what the Democrats did have to understand? You got to pare back your expectations.

You can't do -- for the Democrats, it was they wanted bigger spending bills. They wanted more government. Will the Republicans realize we need a more modest border bill, we need a smaller package of cuts if we want to get Joe Biden on board?

CALDWELL: So especially on spending, there has been a lot of effort by Republican leadership to actually send that message, to rank and file that we are not going to get everything that they want. Whether that translates into actual votes and Republicans agreeing on legislation is a whole other question.

But the challenge is they have big, broad, bold ideas about paring back government spending. But the piece of the pie that they have left available to meet those goals is shrinking and shrinking by the day. If you take off Social Security and Medicare and defense spending and border spending and a whole host of things, it's hard to meet that.

And so they're in a very tough position right now. And they're blaming Biden, saying that Biden needs to invite McCarthy to the White House again to start these negotiations. But they have to get their own.

KING: Yes. President says, put it in writing, you'll get a meeting.


KING: Now I have, winning is easy. Governing is horrible playing in my head. Thank you, Melanie. That'll be there all day.

Up next, "Nine Black Robes", a fascinating new book by our own Joan Biskupic, goes inside a Supreme Court drive for the internal feuds and distrust.



KING: Let's take you inside now. Brewing drama and tensions inside the nation's highest court. A series of events, from the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Donald Trump's controversial appointments to the bench. And then, the court's ultimate decision to overturn Roe, exposing deep rivalries and distrust on the nation's highest court.

Joan Biskupic, our CNN Senior Legal Supreme -- our CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst, let me get that right, Joan, lays this all out in a fascinating new book. You see it there. "Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences."

Joan, one of the things you detail here is the distrust. This episode after the death of Justice Ginsburg.


You write this, "The abrupt mandate from Chief Justice John Roberts' administrative team to clear out Ginsburg office make way for the next justice broke from common practice of allowing staff sufficient time to move. It upset employees throughout the business."

So I don't want to call that a small thing because, obviously, Justice Ginsburg was beloved and she had passed. But the idea that the Chief would do this, it's part of mistrust, distrust, anxiety in the building?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I found this to be so symbolic. You know, immediately after she's buried, her staff is asked to just clear out, move everything down to this dark, windowless office, and start sorting through things there. It was much faster than normally happens. It disregarded the fact that they'd been grieving and they had been handling so much of her business leading up to the funeral.

And to me, it was symbolic of then what happens to RBG's legacy, especially on reproductive rights. Think of how defining the Dobbs decision has been for this Court. 1973, Roe v. Wade had been upheld year after year, decade after decade. But then when Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes away and Justice Amy Coney Barrett is appointed Donald Trump's third appointee to the court, suddenly everything changes.

And I think you know this about, you know, the state momentum, once Justice Barrett came on, was so huge to try to get a rollback of Roe.

KING: And so how does that play out in the court, where you have a 6th judge now?


KING: And initially, there was some speculation. You know, could Chief Justice Roberts somehow convince one of the others to not go completely?


KING: But you detail how they just -- there's distrust, there's dissension and then the new majority says, oh, we have power.

BISKUPIC: That's right. That's right. They don't need him anymore, especially on abortion. That's right.

KING: Yes. And so one of the key justices there, one of the theories was, could he get Kavanaugh? You know, was Kavanaugh maybe a more centrist Republican, not a hardcore conservative? You write about Kavanaugh and personally, how his brain works at the Court then this is fascinating.

I remember Brett Kavanaugh where he worked for Ken Starr way back in the day. "Kavanaugh has long been concerned with appearances. He remains torn between his allegiance to conservative backers from his 2018 nomination fight and his desire for acceptance among the legal elites who shunned him." Why does that matter in the business of the court?

BISKUPIC: Oh, it so matters. Brett Kavanaugh is essentially at the ideological center of this court. He's the justice who could be most in play for any kind of middle ground ruling, but he sends mixed signals within the court and beyond the bench.

And I know you're aware of one anecdote that I showed. You know, he's -- there are all these times when he has, you know, as I said, you know, kind of double signaled to his colleagues. But one case that I found intriguing when I went back to -- reconstruct what happened, remember in 2019 when the court struck down Donald Trump's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2000 census form.

And Brett Kavanaugh was one of the dissenting justices who wrote a really scathing, caustic dissent about a lower court judge who had similarly rejected Donald Trump's effort. And it was very harshly critical of a district court judge up in New York. But then what I found out is that Brett Kavanaugh separately wrote a note to that judge saying, I really respect you. Don't worry about what I said there. And to me, that was just another indication of all the effort that he takes to appear more conciliatory than he might actually be.

KING: And so a group, the Nine, who are not supposed to be politicians, they have a lot of politics?

BISKUPIC: A lot of internal politics, John. A lot.

KING: A lot. Joan, I appreciate you coming in. Everybody, again, "Nine Black Robes." Pick it up. It's fascinating. Joan knows what she's doing.

Up next, a demand from Capitol Hill to the CEOs of two failed banks -- come to D.C. Testify.


[12:58:26] KING: Topping our political radar today, a fresh sign of volatility in the economy 19,000 jobs gone after Accenture announcing its dramatically cutting its workforce over the next 18 months. The Irish- American consulting company is down more than 5 percent year over year.

A bipartisan push for the CEOs of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank to testify about what led to the huge banking failures. In a letter, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, Republican Senator Tim Scott writing, quote, "You must answer for the bank's downfall." The bank's CEOs, though, say they're unable to testify at a scheduled hearing next week.

The stock market up right now. That, after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates yesterday by a quarter point. The move continues a trend of rate hikes to fight stubbornly high inflation. Fed officials, though, do say they recognize the impact the recent banking turmoil has had on the economy, but say they're still confident in the overall system.

The Georgia Republican Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene says she will lead a bipartisan group to visit the D.C. jail tomorrow. Earlier this month, you might remember, Congresswoman Greene pushing for the trip to see the treatment of January 6 defendants held at the jail. 20 members of the House Oversight Committee are expected to join in.

The Michigan GOP chairwoman doubling down on her organization's controversial tweet tying the state Democrats gun reform efforts to the Holocaust. Yesterday, the state party tweeted a photo of wedding rings taken from Holocaust victims and wrote, quote, "Before they collected all these wedding rings, they collected all the guns."

The Chairwoman Kristina Karamo, dismissing the criticism saying people get way too offended. Madam Chairwoman, you need a history lesson. Adam Sandler and his funny friends are coming to CNN. The Kennedy Center presents the "Mark Twain Prize for American Humor," celebrating Adam Sandler at Sunday night 08:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Appreciate your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.