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Inside Politics

Biden Admin To Send 1,500 Active-Duty Troops To Southern Border; Hundreds Of Migrants' Camp In El Paso As City Prepares For Influx; GOP Border Rep: Title 42 Might As Well Have Already Ended; Clock Ticking For Biden, McCarthy To Raise Debt Limit; McCarthy Accepts Biden Invite To May 9 Debt Talks; House GOP Hardliner: "Not Interested" In Voting On A Debt Deal; FL Republicans Deliver On Top DeSantis Priorities; Poll: GOP Voters Want A 2024 Candidate Who Is Anti-Woke. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 02, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A big Biden decision. The president, ordering 1,500 active-duty troops to the southern border. Already thousands of people camped out ready to enter the United States, and city say they are simply unprepared for the coming migrant surge.

Plus, countdown to crisis. The treasury secretary puts a clock on how much longer America can pay its bills. June 1, that calendar crunch spurs the president and the House Speaker to set a meeting, but there is no movement on the big details. And Ron DeSantis nears his 2024 moment by making clear cultural war fights on abortion, on the mouse, even on the death penalty are central to his campaign in waiting.

Up first for us this hour though, a big new Biden White House plan to help with a brewing border crisis. Sources telling CNN, the Pentagon will now deploy 1,500 more active-duty troops to the U.S. Mexico border. The decision comes just days before the pandemic era Title 42 expires and days before as a result of anticipated surge of migrants into the United States.

Let's get straight to the Pentagon, CNN's Natasha Bertrand. Natasha, tell us more.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, John. So, when that pandemic era Title 42 rule ends, it expires on May 11. The administration is expecting a surge of migrants to try to cross the border. In anticipation of that, we are learning that they are preparing to send approximately 1,500 active-duty troops to the border in order to help DHS. This came at the request of the Department of Homeland Security.

And those 1,500 troops are not going to be performing any kind of law enforcement function according to U.S. officials. Instead, they will be providing support in terms of data entry, administrative functions, other things including ground-based detection and monitoring warehouse support. So basically, logistical help so that CBP, Customs and Border Protection can actually get out in the field and not be kind of hampered by those administrative functions.

All of this, of course, coming as the administration including the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is saying publicly that they do expect the surge of migrants to try to cross the border when that Title 42 era law expires. But again, these troops will not be performing a law enforcement function and they will primarily be behind desks, John?

KING: Primarily for now. Still a big move from the Pentagon and the White House. Natasha Bertrand at Pentagon, thanks for kicking us off. El Paso, Texas, is one of the border cities already under severe stress and bracing now for things to get worse. There are hundreds of migrants camping on El Paso streets and a state of emergency took effect yesterday to prepare for next week when that pandemic policy allowing the United States to turn asylum seekers away expire.

CNN's Rosa Flores is there live for us in El Paso. Rosa, tell us what you're seeing.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the newsflash for the Biden administration is that even though they're waiting for May 11, the surge is here, John. Let me show you around. Right now, what's going on is a cleanup operation by the city of El Paso. This is what is allowed under the state of emergency that was declared by officials.

They have a sanitary team come through the streets and clean twice a day. Of course, public health is a huge concern. Public safety is a big concern. Walk with me and I'll show you. The only reason why you don't see migrants here is because literally they are cleaning the streets as we speak to make sure that there is no spread of disease.

But as we turn the corner, you'll be able to see an increased police presence and also an increased number of migrants. If you look around, you'll notice that there's a lot of adults, a lot of single adults, you're not seeing a lot of the families. Why? Because the shelters and there's a network of shelters here in El Paso. There are shelters who are housing, the women with children, the families with children. That's why you see a lot of single adults that are out on the streets lingering.

Now, earlier this morning, all of these individuals were sleeping on the streets. And of course, I've talked to some of them, many of them are worried because they can't leave El Paso. Why is that? One of the reasons is many of them don't have sponsors or family members in the United States that they can go to.

Sometimes what happens is family members changed their mind. They say, OK, join me in Miami, join me in Chicago. And John, those family members change their mind. They say no, don't come to my house anymore. And so, that's why a lot of the times you see migrants here. But the newsflash for the Biden administration is if they were waiting for the surge on May 11, a surge is here the surge is now. John?


KING: The surge is now, and one would expect it would get only more intense as that approaches. Rosa Flores, grateful you're on the ground for us in El Paso. Appreciate that reporting. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Arlette Saenz, Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Arlette, it's a big step for the White House. To Natasha's point, these troops it's been done before, they're largely to perform administrative duties. But the idea that you need 1,500 more troops to help the Department of Homeland Security, it comes in a time. 1,500 troops to the border.

The president just yesterday saying, he wants to designate more than $50 million for an unexpected urgent migration needs. New paths to legal migration, new asylum restrictions, they're considering family detention for migrants who enter illegally. The president knows he's going to be sharply criticized from a political perspective, these policy moves, how at the White House do they think is next week going to be as bad as Rosa seems to believe?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they have essentially been preparing for this moment since almost the start of the Biden administration. And the steps that you're seeing them take is trying to show that they are taking efforts, trying to put steps into place to address the issue that will arise around the lifting of Title 42.

This is not just a logistical issue for the administration, but also a political one. You saw as Rosa described there, how these cities are already being overwhelmed by these migrants who have come in now. There are more waiting across the border. And so, what you're seeing the White House trying to do at this moment is showing that they are taking some steps.

But of course, the president is going to face a major political headache when it comes to the lifting of Title 42. As Republicans are eager to pounce on him on the issue. You have his own allies, who in many ways think that some of the steps that they've been taking are too harsh.

This is also an issue that yes, it's driven by policy, but it's also driven by optics. And when you see images like that repeatedly on the screen, these are -- that's something that people will be using against the president as this debate place.

KING: And you see the images. Rosa showing you in El Paso, you see it in other places along the border as well, where there are thousands of migrants' camp, just on the other side of the border. Rosa is on the United States side of the border. If you follow along the southern border, we know there are migrants camped along the Mexican side of the border are essentially waiting for that day to come.

And if you look at the recent border encounters, there had been a dip at the beginning of the year and the Biden administration was celebrating a bit, the numbers going down. But now they're starting to head back up. So, the question is, from a policy standpoint, can you do anything? But the politics on this issue have been stuck for years, for years and years and years. This is Tony Gonzales from a border district in Texas saying, it's about to get worse and it's time we do something.


REP. TONY GONZALES, (R-TX): Everyone is looking at May 11, as this day where, you know, where Title 42 is going to end. In my eyes, Title 42 might as well have already ended. In places like El Paso are completely overwhelmed. We need to give them the resources we need. And this is what the -- this is a part of the Biden administration is missing. They're adding capacity. That's half of the equation. The other half of the equation is getting court cases heard in days, not years.


KING: But to get court cases heard in days, not years, you need more immigration judges, you need policy agreement. Now the House Republicans finally introduced today, their package. They've been fighting in the Republican family over this since they came into power in January. But it includes more border wall funding. The Democratic Senate is not going to pass it. The president is not going to pass it. So here we are, with a crisis point upon us likely to get worse next week, and the parties are as divided as ever.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And there are a lot of real people caught in the middle of care, who as we saw there are waiting to find out what their future is hold on. Listen, this is -- this has been not only an intractable problem for the Biden administration. It was an intractable problem for the Trump administration, the Obama administration. I mean, they haven't been able -- and all of these administrations have sent troops down to the border at one point or another.

The difference here is, I mean, when Democrats came into power, you had invested -- you had committees, looking into the fact that President Trump did send troops to the border. And in the backlash, I'm sure that Biden is going to get to your point from his own party for taking this step on that, that is only beginning.

And we'll just, I mean, we'll just have to say this, but this issue has extended, you know, we had those New York Times stories. Children that were getting sponsors and then ending up working at factories. I mean, it's just a continuous problem on so many levels for this administration.

KING: And the numbers are daunting. Again, you see the pictures. Rose is there on the ground. The Customs and Border Patrol says there's 22,000 migrants in CBP custody right now, already straining capacity before an expected increase in the surge next week.

But again, this is caught in politics right now. The big city mayors across the United States criticizing the governor of Texas, previous to that criticized the governor of Florida, but Texas the moment for busing migrants to Chicago, to New York City.

Governor Greg Abbott saying, he's not going to stop in a letter yesterday to Lori Lightfoot, the Chicago Mayor. To provide much-needed relief for our overrun border communities, Texas began busing migrants to sanctuary cities such as your welcoming city along with Washington, New York City, Philadelphia, with more to come. Until Biden secures the border to stop the inflow of mass migration, Texas will continue its necessary programs.


So again, the political divide is giant and everybody's pointing fingers at each other. Nobody is going to sit down on a table and try to see if there are two or three things we can agree on?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. And I mean, looking at what House Republicans have put out just this morning, I think there could possibly be room to agree if both sides were truly willing at coming to the middle. But instead, what we see is House Republicans doing these field hearings that are kind of dog and pony shows about ripping apart Democrats.

You see, Democrats really entrenched on, you know, saying Republicans are heartless and not thinking about the immigrants, and you're not getting actual policy being done. They're not really talking to each other. They're talking about each other.

KING: That's a great way to put it. And I suspect again, as Rosa low to the ground. If you think it starts next week, forget about it. It's already started, but likely to get worse next week. And that's next week when Title 42 expires. It's not the only pandemic or policy that ends next week.

Starting on May 11, the Biden administration will halt the COVID vaccine mandate for federal government employees. And on May 12, international travelers who enter the United States will no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID.

Up next for us, the president invites congressional leaders to the White House. As the treasury secretary warns, the United States could default on its debt in less than a month.




KING: Now to a new deadline for the United States to pay its bills and the dire consequences for you, if your government can't compromise, June 1. The treasury secretary says, that's when the country will bump up against the debt ceiling. There are 30 days between now and then. And there is little sign, a solution is on the horizon.

The disclosure did prompt a big invitation though. President Biden asking the key players, the House speaker, the Democratic House leader, the Senate majority leader, and the Senate Republican leader to come talk things over at the White House, that May 9 sit down. We'll mark 97 days since Joe Biden had a one-on-one sit down with the speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Let's get straight to the White House to CNN's Phil Mattingly. Phil, a meeting but no movement yet.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The meeting is the movement the positions are unchanged. I think therein lies the problem that everyone's looking at right now, particularly as that calendar is getting so dangerously close to the potential for something that's never happened before and would without any question at all be catastrophic as a U.S. default on its debt.

Here's the reality of where things stand. Obviously, House Republicans pass their bill. There's a lot of question here at the White House in the building behind me that they could actually do that. They were able to get that across the finish line. And in large part that was done in order to start negotiations. Negotiations the White House has said repeatedly will not happen. And continue to say, will not happen even with the meeting one week from today.

When you talk to White House officials, John, there's a couple of things they make clear. One, they feel like they have the political high ground on this issue. A clean debt ceiling increase, the idea of not using the debt ceiling, not using catastrophic default as some piece of leverage. They feel like it's something that they can win in terms of a political battle.

That is important because in these battles, and you've been through so many of them over the years. Usually, it's not that there's some grand compromise. It's usually one side politically, bludgeons the other and the other has to break. That has long been the position of Democrats and they have remained unified on that position over the course of the last several months.

The question now, given where Republicans are, given that they've passed this bill, and the White House making clear they are not ready to negotiate. What is the off ramp? Is it some type of formalized budget structured, formalized spending proposals going forward? That's something that will be raised during the meeting, but there are so many unanswered questions. And John, just so little time in the next 30 days or so.

KING: 30 days or so. Phil Mattingly, appreciate you giving us that important perspective from the White House. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. And again, we're just having this conversation about immigration in the intractable positions of the political parties. Here you have one where everybody's trying to bludgeon the other party or gain leverage over the other party.

Just to remind people, this is from Moody's Analytics of the potential consequences if the United States defaults doesn't pay its bills. 7 million jobs lost, 2008 like recession, a global financial market crash. So, everybody can talk about who is going to win the White House next year, which party will control the House or which party control the Senate? I mean, you look at that, it's just like, whoa, whoa. Ladies and gentlemen, please talk.

MITCHELL: And there's new polling out that shows that Americans are ready to lay the blame, not just on House Republicans, but on Democrats in the Biden administration as well. No one will come out unscathed if the nation reaches the debt limit. The question is, in the meantime, is there room for negotiation?

Yes, the House Republicans did put together an offer, but because that hard, right contingent of House members insisted on so many things being included in that provision that actually could make it harder to negotiate because the things that conservatives want are pretty much nonstarters, not just with the Biden White House, but with the Senate.

KING: Not only are they nonstarters, let's focus on that point, because what part of the dynamic here is each party is looking at the other party to see, A, who's going to break and how much of a lease do you have, right? How much will the president defy Democrats maybe in agree to spending cuts eventually? How much can the Republicans, you know, not give as much as those hardliners?

Well, this is Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of the hardliners in the House. He said, I'm not interested in anything coming back, anything but what we voted on. So, the hardliners are challenging. Speaker McCarthy saying, we passed a plan, we're not going to compromise again. They think that already was a compromise. So, McCarthy doesn't have much of a leash.

KUCINICH: McCarthy has a 5 percent leash in his conference, which means he's going to need Democrats to get this across the line. And does he keep his speakership? If that's how this gets across the line. That is the open question because it only takes one person to raise their hand for a vote for him. So, you might be facing some pretty tough choices as to what to do here. Should we get to that point, which there was no reason to think we will not get to that point on May 30.


KING: Right. We will be here. We will be here very close to the end of the month. That's just unfortunately the way this town always works. But again, the president does this invitation. Janet Yellen says, we got 30 days left. President says, OK, everybody come to the White House. But one of his top economic advisors this morning says, we'll have a meeting, but we haven't changed our position about how this should work out.


HEATHER BOUSHEY, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: The proper place to have a conversation about future spending is through the budgets and appropriations process. We need to just increase that debt ceiling limit. The president continues to believe that that is the right course of action. It is what he is called for, as he has said repeatedly, the U.S. should not become a deadbeat nation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the White House position have they been for my guess. Well, the question I keep asking Arlette is, is there a way to say clean debt limit, pass a single piece of legislation that raises the debt limit. There are no conditions. But the president signs a piece of paper with the Republican saying, here's some spending cuts, I will agree to. Once you do this, then we could do this. Can they do it as two separate things, but do it together?

SAENZ: I mean, that's something that they're going to have to work out over the course of the next few weeks. Some of this does have echoes of the debate that played out back in 2011. When President Obama was running for reelection basing these budget fights, they ultimately did settle on that debt limit increase with some cuts. Biden was around during that period.

So, could that be an route that they decide to take? I mean, we'll see over the course of the next few weeks. But Democrats have been insistent for the past few months that they don't want to do -- have a debt ceiling height without any -- with conditions attached to it. So, we'll see exactly how they decide to navigate.

I also think one thing that's going to be interesting is to watch the Biden and McCarthy dynamic. Because Biden, you know, as vice president was very involved with fiscal negotiations up on Capitol Hill, but he had a relationship with Mitch McConnell, him and Kevin McCarthy don't really know each other. So, how is that going to play out in this dynamic as well will be interesting.

KING: And we talked about how Kevin McCarthy doesn't have much of a leash. The question is, can the Democrats stay together when you have where every day closer to the June 1 deadline, but every day we speak we're closer to the 2024 elections. You have Joe Manchin, who has to run for reelection, he hasn't declared yet but would run for reelection and a Trump plus what 16 state or something like that.

Yesterday says, I hope the President Biden's invitation to congressional leadership isn't sincere, and he's genuinely willing to negotiate. The White House says, it's not time to negotiate but you do have some Democrats who are likely on the ballot next year in tough race to say, let's move.

MITCHELL: Right. And where there are whispers of that. But right now, Manchin is in the minority within his party. Most Democrats are saying, why should we do something that Republicans did not require during the Trump administration? And speaking of 2011, Democrats say the lesson learned was don't do that, you know, they didn't think it worked out very well for President Obama. So that's where we are right now.

KING: In a stare down. And again, 7 million jobs lost, 2008 like recession, global market crash potential consequences. Interesting month ahead. Up next, a new death penalty law in Florida at odds with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. It's the latest turn to the right as Governor Ron DeSantis prepares to run for president. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



KING: Ron DeSantis is bolstering his conservative credentials with help from some friends in Tallahassee. The Republican led Florida legislature says, they've delivered for their governor, this legislative session as he asked. That session slated to wrap up Friday soon after Governor DeSantis is quite likely to make his 2024 run, excuse me, official.

Our great reporters are back with us. And if you're Governor DeSantis, we'll see what the voters think nationally if he becomes the Republican nominee. But child rapists eligible for the death penalty, that's one bill, six-week abortion ban, allowing permitless concealed carry in the state of Florida, blocking children from attending certain drag shows, private school voucher expansion, revoking Disney special tax district.

That is a record Governor DeSantis wants to take to New Hampshire and to Iowa and to South Carolina and says, you know, I'm like Trump, but actually get things done.

MITCHELL: Right. And it's a record that I think will really appeal to evangelical conservative Christians. The hard right, those who believe that they want someone who will make America great again and be Trumpy like Trump without the baggage.

And quite frankly, DeSantis is also looking at the polling that shows that matched up against Biden, he performs better than Trump. But we know that the polling also shows that in a Republican primary, DeSantis despite all that he's done, all that the Florida legislature has helped him accomplish. He still is a distant second to President Trump right now.

KING: And so, that's a giant challenge, candidates get knocked down. The question is can you get backed up? Trump aligned Super PAC has spent nearly $8 billion trying to define Ron DeSantis before he gets to Iowa, before he gets to New Hampshire, before he gets to South Carolina. But he does fit the poll. This is a CBS/YouGov poll. This among Republican primary voters.

Do you prefer a candidate who challenges woke ideas, 85 percent DeSantis certainly does that, oppose his gun restrictions 66 percent, DeSantis signed the new permitless carry law. Says Trump won the 2020 election, the number starts to drop 61 percent, there makes liberals angry 57 percent, favors the national abortion ban 51 percent.

So, DeSantis fits the profile. The question is some people, you know, he said, let the legislature meet, then I'll think about the race. And he wants these achievements to carry into the race. Or some people thinking maybe that was a miscalculation, we waited too long?

KUCINICH: Well, particularly as you rightly mentioned, you have a Super PAC already spending against him. He had a tough week campaigning in some early states, what a week or two ago because it -- what is being sold is not necessarily what's appearing in front of voters. He's having trouble connecting.

You actually see former President Trump doing retail politics, perhaps to contrast himself with DeSantis and that's what's been interesting of seeing the former president adjust his behavior and start doing things that we didn't see during the last time he ran.