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GOP-Led House Has Passed Just 27 Bills That Became Laws This Year; New Map Gives Black Voters In Alabama More Political Power; Rudy Giuliani Files For Bankruptcy In Federal Court. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 21, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They're trying to get Democrats back home. That's what they need to do first.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: And Biden maybe seeing that happen courtesy of Donald Trump and what he's been saying lately. All right, guys, more to come. Thanks so much.

Coming up, a paralyzed Congress got almost nothing done this year. You probably didn't notice that because they just didn't do a whole lot. What went wrong? And is there any reason to hope that 2024 will be a lot different? That's next.



ACOSTA: At the start of 2023, it took the House 15 votes in an altercation on the House floor before Republicans managed to elect a speaker. Remember this video that will live in infamy. A speaker who would be thrown out of the job less than eight months later, leading to a week's long standoff over his replacement with all the turmoil in the Republican-led House.

It is no surprise. Take a look at this. That Congress hasn't gotten much done. It's even worse than you may think. This do-nothing Congress has passed just 27 bills that became law this year, by far, the fewest in the first year of Congress in decades. That goes all the way back, I believe, to 1995.

The frustration within Congress even had House Republicans going after their own leadership. Take a listen.


REP. CHIP ROY (R), TEXAS: One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing. One that I can go campaign on and say we did. One.


ACOSTA: Just one. Let's bring back our panel to talk about this very unproductive year up on Capitol Hill. That does not apply to you, Manu.


ACOSTA: You've been extremely productive this year.

RAJU: Yes, being unproductive makes our live action this year so strange.

ACOSTA: That's true. That's true.

RAJU: I mean --

ACOSTA: Fistfights and -- I didn't even mention George Santos.

RAJU: Yes, I know. Seriously, it's been quite a wild year. Look, I mean, the big thing that they did this year was to avoid a debt default, and that is supposed to be the job of Congress, right? Not plunge the country into a global economic catastrophe. But they did it.


RAJU: But guess what, they just did it and they had to --

ACOSTA: That doesn't count.

RAJU: That doesn't count. And they had to come back and deal with it in the fall, because that's how long they extended it for. Look, they are setting up a real disastrous situation when they return in January. Because not only did the speaker of the House, when he came -- the new speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, after Kevin McCarthy was thrown out, he agreed to extend government funding for a short period of time, up until January and February.

Two separate deadlines he set up, which is kind of unusual, but that's when you heard Chip Roy there on the floor. He was yelling about that decision to extend government funding without spending cuts. So Johnson is going to have to make a decision coming in, how to deal with that.

If he goes the way of Chip Roy, that will provoke a fight with the White House and Democrats, and we could lead to a shutdown fight all over again. If he doesn't go that way, he will face that backlash on the right. And we didn't even talk about dealing with the crisis of the southern border and the Republicans say that must be dealt with first before Ukraine and Israel aid can ride along with it.

And getting a deal on immigration policy is so complicated.


RAJU: Meantime, Ukraine is desperately needed by the end of January. Most likely, can they get all that done in this unproductive Congress? There's a lot of expectation that they can't.

ACOSTA: They're demanding that border security get done, but then they left town also.

RAJU: Right. Until January 8th.

ACOSTA: Until January 8th. Tia, I mean, you write for The Atlanta Journal Constitution. This is what makes people's blood boil outside the beltway.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because, I mean, there are so many things that are like on the second tier, the farm bill, the federal aviation, reauthorization, foreign surveillance, you know, AI and policy that is really not even being touched.

Well, you know, there are hearings here and there, but it's not getting the time because even the pressing issues aren't being done. And I think, quite frankly, that Chip Roy video, we're going to see over and over again, because people tune into Congress. And what do they see? They see a fight over the speaker.

They see an investigation of the president of Harvard and whether she plagiarized something and they see impeachment investigations of the president. Whereas, they're like, where are you actually doing things that are going to help me and my family and affect our pocketbooks? That's not what they're seeing, particularly in the House.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Jeff Zeleny, I mean, let's show this on screen. At least 9 percent of Congress will be gone, next January. I mean, you have people leaving the Congress in droves right now.

ZELENY: The retirements are huge. I mean, as Manu well knows, many of the people he's stalking up there won't be around next year. They'll be former members. And that is a huge --

RAJU: And they become lobbyists, maybe.


ZELENY: And they may be around in these different places. Look, I mean, but that sort of gets to all of this. I mean, it certainly leads to the dysfunction. So many new faces up there. There's less incentive to actually get things done. You know, but we hear very little being discussed about the housing crisis in America and just a variety of other issues. So --

ACOSTA: Mass shootings.

ZELENY: Well, for sure.


ZELENY: I mean, so it is -- it certainly leads to sort of just like a level of disgust and a cynicism in Washington. That becomes a big thing next year and it leads to third parties and other things. So I think the retirement is certainly a big story at the end of the year. Some of them were surprising. ACOSTA: And Alayna, you're in touch with a lot of the House conservatives among your sources. And, you know, one of the issues that is driving a lot of this is Trump. Is it not? I mean, Kevin McCarthy would not have been in the fix that he was in during all of last year, all this past year, if it had not been for Donald Trump.


ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: No, I mean, there's no question that Donald Trump is still the most influential Republican leader in the country. And I think, you know, with a lot of the talk about Congress not getting things done next year, the thing that I keep hearing from a lot of people, Republicans, Democrats alike, is that it's an election year.

If they thought they couldn't get things done this year, why do they expect that in an election year when so much of the oxygen is going to be consumed around what will happen in November change -- you know, somehow change things so that they're actually more productive, especially when, of course, all these numbers.

It's not just a presidential election, you have people down the ballot in the House and in the Senate, some really crucial races that people are up for. They're going to be campaigning on. I don't understand why people think that maybe next year will be different.

RAJU: Yes, I mean, that's such a good point, because in an election year, things always get harder because you have people with different calculations, you have people worrying about their primary politics, people worrying in swing districts in swing states, worrying about the general election politics.

MITCHELL: And they're also just not in Washington --

RAJU: Yes, exactly.


RAJU: They're on the campaign trail. So if you're trying to get like a major deal of immigration, which Republicans have made it central to campaigning on, what is the chance of you can see them even coming to a compromise? Something that I'm doubting Donald Trump's going to come out and bash if there's a compromise to get that through.

The Senate and then the House, which is taking a much harder position, hardline position on immigration that any compromise that can get out of the Democratic led Senate, which leads to a lot of questions about these key huge issues. Can they get it done in an election year? It's going to get so much harder.

ACOSTA: Yes, it's not going to be fun to be Mike Johnson, aka MAGA Mike as he's been dubbed, the Speaker of the House.

MITCHELL: Right. And quite frankly, when we look at This next year with this new speaker, not really being empowered from the hardliners to do much negotiating, but not having an even slimmer majority with some of the members that left midterm trying to get anything done.

But then we look at the 2024 elections with the loss of institutional knowledge, and quite frankly, there could be more hardliners elected from the Republican Party, making it even harder for Republicans to govern in the years to come. It's a really tough spot.

ACOSTA: Yes, this was a year when Marjorie Taylor Greene was not the most outrageous member of Congress. That was George Santos.

RAJU: And a very influential one.

ACOSTA: That's right.

RAJU: Yes, yes.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. Alright guys, great discussion. Thanks very much.

Coming up, why the Voting Rights Act could determine who wins control of the House next year. Our new reporting is next.



ACOSTA: The biggest factor in who wins control of the House next year might not have anything to do with the economy or abortion. Instead, it could be all about the maps, the district lines that decide who votes for who. A handful of states are up against the clock with legal battles looming ahead of next year's elections.

Democrats contend Republicans across the South have manipulated maps to preserve their dominance at the expense of voters of color. Republicans accuse Democrats of trying to weaponize the Voting Rights Act for their own political gain.

And CNN's Fredreka Schouten has some new reporting for us on this. And if I were to build a show of most important stories to least important stories, we would have done you at the top of the show because this is the thing that flies under the radar, but it is so essential to our democracy.

FREDREKA SCHOUTEN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITER: It absolutely is, and we are seeing enormous fights going on over every single line, every single boundary in this country because the stakes are so high. I mean, who controls Congress next year could very well be determined by this.

ACOSTA: And talk about -- let's talk about some of these maps that we have to look at here. Alabama, the Alabama redistricting case has been pivotal. And leading the way for other court cases. I mean, this has been fascinating to watch.

SCHOUTEN: It has been. You know, the Supreme Court in recent years has been chipping away at the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And so it was a big surprise back in June when they upheld a lower court that said to Alabama Republicans who control the state legislature, look, you have about 30 -- no, about 27 percent of your population is African American, but only one of your congressional districts is majority black. You need to draw another one.

ACOSTA: Yes. Let's look at this on the map here. If we can show this to our viewers and explain this.

SCHOUTEN: Yes. So this is the map to the far left. You will see in 2020, that's the map that was used. And you can see in orange that that's the majority black population. Only one district was majority black.

The legislature came at it again. They redrew a map and it looked pretty much the same.


SCHOUTEN: So both sides went to court, fought about this. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. And finally, a court ordered map. You can see the yellow area has significantly boosted the black population. And this is the map that's going to be used in the 2024 elections, and it will potentially give Alabama, for the very first time in state history, two black lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

ACOSTA: Two seats instead of one.

SCHOUTEN: Two seats instead of one and, potentially, two Democrats.


SCHOUTEN: And so that's a change. And again, it's so hard fought, because every single seat is mattering this year.

ACOSTA: And this really could determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

SCHOUTEN: Exactly. We know that the margins are so thin in the U.S. House. We've seen, you know, recently that chaotic fight over who was going to be House Speaker was a sign of how thin those margins are. And so you're seeing in state after state, fights like these playing out. And we're going to see a bunch more in the weeks ahead.


ACOSTA: And we're getting down to the wire with some primaries fast approaching. What states are we watching?

SCHOUTEN: We're watching Georgia right now. A federal judge right now is trying to decide whether a map that was recently drawn by Republicans in the state legislature complies with his order to create another black majority district in the Atlanta area.

Now, why does this matter? If they created an extra district, you could potentially have another Democratic pickup in Georgia.

ACOSTA: Interesting. All right, fascinating. All right, Fredreka, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

In the meantime, we're going to go to a quick break, and then some breaking news on Rudy Giuliani. He is declaring bankruptcy. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: All right, the breaking news into CNN right now. Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy. Let's go straight to CNN's Katelyn Polantz. Tell us more.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing from Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, the former lawyer to Donald Trump after the election. He is saying that his debts are outstanding and he has quite a bit, he's buried under debt. He wants help from the court to restructure that. And what's happening in court is he's revealing how much debt he has.

Now we learned about that judgment just a few days ago, that massive defamation judgment where Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss were awarded almost $150 million by the jury to be paid by Rudy Giuliani to the best of his abilities. It's very unlikely he's able to get rid of that in bankruptcy, but he also owes accountants, lawyers, he has other pending lawsuits against him, and almost $1 million dollars in unpaid federal and state taxes. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, a dark day for the man who was once referred to as America's mayor. Of course, that is no more. Kaitlan Polantz, thank you very much.

And stay tuned to CNN. We'll have more on all of this breaking news throughout the day here on CNN. So stay with us for that. In the meantime, thanks very much for joining Inside Politics. I'm Jim Acosta. CNN News Central starts after the break.