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Pelosi's Infrastructure Bill in Flux as Liberals Revolt; Biden, Pelosi Claim Cost of Social Agenda Bill Will Be 'Zero'; Lawyer: Laundrie Bought New Phone Days Before Disappearing; Judge Frees Britney Spears from Father's Longtime Control. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 30, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman on this NEW DAY. It's a moment of truth for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing her biggest test yet. Is the vote today on the Biden agenda even going to happen?


And the FBI search for Brian Laundrie is now focusing on a new cell phone. New details on where the phone was discovered and who has it now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Britney Spears scoring a huge victory in the right to control her life. Her father suspended as her conservator after 13 years. How the drama unfolded in the courtroom.

General Milley reportedly blaming the State Department directly for the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. His blunt message to senators behind closed doors.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, September 30. And nine months into his presidency, the fate of Joe Biden's agenda is on the line today. Will Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a vote on an infrastructure plan, a bipartisan one, as her own party threatens to shoot it down? And will Senator Joe Manchin blow up the Biden agenda?

The White House says by tonight there will either be a soaring, dramatic, Aaron Sorkin-like narrative or a laugh riot joke.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, this is why we all came to Washington. It's like an episode of a TV show.


PSAKI: Maybe "The West Wing," if something good happens. Maybe "Veep," if not. I'm not sure.


KEILAR: So here's where things stand this morning. The good news for Americans is that hours before the government is set to shut down, lawmakers have reached a deal to keep it open, for now.

The bad news is a Senate vote to suspend the debt ceiling is expected to fail, pushing the U.S. closer to defaulting for the first time ever.

On top of this, the House scheduled to vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. But Democratic infighting is standing in President Biden's way.

BERMAN: Yes, this morning we don't even know for sure if there will be a vote. That's one of the two key questions as of 6:01 a.m.

It all boils down to this. Will Speaker Pelosi hold a vote? And No. 2, will Joe Manchin show his cards?

House progressives say if there is a vote on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan today, they'll vote against it, even though they like it. Why? Because they have no agreement from moderate Democrats -- Democrats, mind you -- to pass the president's other domestic agenda items: child tax credits, pre-K, paid leave. Listen.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I have a feeling that it will be delayed. But it it's -- if we have a vote, then we'll vote it down, and we'll continue the negotiations so that we can actually deliver the entirety of the president's agenda as he himself, the president himself, said he wanted us to do.


BERMAN: So No. 1, will they even vote?

And then No. 2, what about Joe Manchin, the moderate from West Virginia? What does he want? Not a deal, at least not today.

He put out a blistering statement, criticizing what he calls "trillions in spending on all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces." That's what he's against.

But other Democrats, almost all of them, are practically begging him to say what he's for.

It's enough to ruin a baseball game. The congressional contest overnight. President Biden had to take calls from the dugout. Nancy Pelosi taking calls from the stands.

Joining us now, CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox and CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond.

Lauren, where are things right now? What's going on?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is an absolutely huge day on Capitol Hill for the future of the president's agenda, for the future of Speaker Pelosi's power over her House Democratic caucus. She is someone who is known to get the votes if the votes are going to

be there. The huge question today, of course: whether or not this bill, this $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate, is going to actually come to the floor of the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying last night that was still the plan. But, look, the whipping operation to actually ensure the votes are there might be under way. But there's no evidence that the votes are actually going to be present on the floor if she were to bring it to vote this evening.

So one of the key question marks, of course, are progressives going to give in here? Rep. Pramila Jayapal saying that, if this comes to the floor, she has dozens of progressives ready to vote no, because they haven't gotten any kind of assurance from Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema about what they're actually going to support in that bigger passage.

If this bill comes to the floor, and progressives are willing to vote it down, that might be a moment of reckoning for the Democratic Party. Sometimes you have to fail up here, really reveal what is at stake, before folks can come together. That happened in 2017 when Republicans were trying to repeal Obamacare. Potentially, that could be a real catalyst here.

But look, Speaker Pelosi has been clear. She doesn't bring things to the floor if the votes aren't there. And I think that that is really why everyone is watching so closely today. Is she going to actually take this gamble? Is she actually going to put this on the floor?

Because everything that the president has been promising is really on the line. And I think that that has been one of the difficult pieces of bringing her caucus together. Some of these members are new to being in power, with all three levers at their disposal. The House, the Senate, the White House.

They are not used to having to make some kinds of concessions. They want everything the president promised. Can they find some middle ground over the next 12 hours? I think that is a huge ask. It's a huge question. It's what we are looking at today -- John and Brianna.

KEILAR: Jeremy, does the president, does the White House know where that middle ground might be?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're certainly trying to find it. And that is what the president has been doing the last several days, kind of playing this role as closer in these negotiations, attempting to bring these two sides together.

Officials have told me that over the last several days, the president, not only with those meetings in person with Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but also on the phone with key progressive leaders, as well as meeting yesterday afternoon at the White House with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. The president in those meetings at times is cajoling. At times he's

kind of offering this realism of, Come on, man. Let's -- let's get to a deal here, reminding people of what is at stake.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked yesterday about this role of closer. And she said that the president certainly is trying to unify the caucus, trying to find that common ground. But ultimately, here's what is important. Listen.


PSAKI: Our objective here is winning two votes, getting these two pieces of important legislation across the finish line.


DIAMOND: And that is what this ball game ultimately comes down to. And listen, this is -- President Biden has been a senator for -- for decade. He is known as a consummate dealmaker. But this may certainly be the biggest of his dealmaking abilities test thus far.

And as we approach this potential vote on an infrastructure bill, there is no sign that that middle ground has been found or achieved.

So the president's task here is huge. Listen, it is also important to note that earlier this week the president said that, look, he would like to see a deal come through this week. But ultimately, this is not the be all, end all.

Whether or not this vote happens today, whether or not it comes up for a vote and fails, these negotiations are going to continue. And perhaps, if there is that failure on the floor today, those stakes will be made that much more apparent.

One thing is clear, White House officials here telling me that they will continue to press forward with these negotiations, regardless of what happens today. And the president will continue to play a key role in those negotiations.

KEILAR: Yes. We -- look, we just saw on the screen what all is in that bill, and it's a lot of stuff that looks pretty good for Democrats. So what do moderates want to jettison? That is the big question here.

Jeremy and Lauren, thank you so much for those reports.

It's a frenzied push for President Biden's legacy, defining remake of the economy. Top lawmakers claim the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, the Democrats-only plan, isn't the spending spree that opponents say that it is.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's not about a dollar amount. The dollar amount, as the president said, is zero. This bill will be paid for.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): It must be pointed out that this is going to be paid for. This is not adding to the debt.


KEILAR: Is that true? CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, here to take a look at that -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: You know, Brianna, don't get caught up in the price tag. That's the message from House Speaker Pelosi and Senator Bernie Sanders.

You know, they're echoing their boss, who Sunday tweeted this: "My Build Back Better agenda costs zero dollars and adds zero dollars to the national debt."

These are the closing arguments meant to take the sting out of claims that Build Back Better is a tax-and-spend frenzy.

What it is, is reshaping the economy to favor the middle class, with lower costs for child care and health care, free community college, and approved elder care, and dental, vision, and hearing coverage for seniors. And it is paid for by raising the corporate tax rate and higher taxes for rich people who make more than $400,000 a year.

On paper -- on paper, those tax increases and the economic growth that happens because of it pays for all of this.

But the spending bill, Brianna, it's a work in progress. There's nothing for the Congressional Budget Office yet to score. And there's always the risk in Washington dealmaking that, if you water down the tax increases, it could add to the deficit, right? You wouldn't pay for everything.

Still, assuming that the tax increases stay, PolitiFact finds the plan could add zero dollars to the country's national debt if it balances new spending with new revenues, on paper.

Now, there's a reason why these so-called pay-fors are often met with scrutiny. Right? When you're talking about spending. Recall the 2017 Trump tax cuts. Supporters promised they'd be paid by the ensuing economic growth. They were not -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Look, members of Congress say, Trust me, it's paid for. You've got to see the numbers. There's no CBO score.


KEILAR: Christine, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Right now this has really boiled down to a battle between moderate Democrats, like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and progressives like a great many others in the House and the Senate.

Joining me now to discuss this and to debate where things stand, former senior advisor to Joe Manchin, Jonathan Kott, and former Ohio state senator Nina Turner. She served as a national co-chair for Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign. I kind of want to understand where each side is and the tough questions that face each side. So Jonathan, let me start with you. As someone who's worked for Joe Manchin, why won't he just say what he's for? Why won't he say right now what he would support and where he would reach agreement with the rest of the Democrats?


JONATHAN KOTT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I think he has said that. I think what he said is, I want to look at all the programs. I want to see how we're paying for them. I want to see the long-term impact we're having on the economy.

What he's not saying is here's a top-line number that I think we can spend enough money on, and then we'll just shove these programs in there.

He wants to do this in a responsible way, because he knows this is something that's going to have a lasting effect on the country.

There's no reason for him to go out there and say, Oh, I'll only take this top-line number. He also wants to see how we're going to pay for it. He doesn't want to add to the debt. He doesn't want to cause problems to the economy.

So I think he's doing this in a reasonable way and something that he's been saying for months. This is not a new position for him. This is how he has felt. And this is what he's been telling his colleagues, the public, anybody who will listen. That's what he wants. He wants to just do it in a responsible way so he makes sure that he's helping the people that need the help most.

BERMAN: Senator, how satisfying is that?

NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: I mean, the responsible way is to do what is necessary for the people of this country. And continuing to suffer. The pandemic and the people should be No. 1.

It is always curious when people want to know how you're going to pay for something when it's going to help Main Street and help people in neighborhoods. But when it comes to allowing the wealthiest people in this country to get away with not paying taxes, when it comes to endless spending on wars, nobody ever asks how much does this cost.

Both Senator Joe Manchin, also Senator Sinema should absolutely tell the American people what they want them to cut. Do they want them to cut the expansion of Medicare that increases access to vision, dental and hearing? Do they want them to cut child care? What do they want them to cut?

Let's go on and be bold and lay it on the line and let the American people that they are answering, first and foremost, to their owner donors and not the people that they serve.

And by the way, Arizona and West Virginia are two of the poorest states in the United States of America. And the -- and the people of those states deserve better than what they're getting right now from their two senators.

BERMAN: So Nina Turner, let me put this question to you. The tough question --

KOTT: Can I just point out --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

KOTT: Senator Manchin voted against the Trump tax cuts. And he even said in a statement last night, we need to work on fixing those so that those that are wealthy are paying their fair share. So that is one of the first things he said, and he's been saying that for years now.

BERMAN: So Nina, let me put this to you. Progressives, by and large, they like what is in the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. They may not think it's enough. But they're certainly not opposed to what's in that.

TURNER: That's right.

BERMAN: So why vote against something you support?

TURNER: Because the progressives have been very clear, and I definitely appreciate what they're doing in terms of holding the line to be able to get more for the American people.

Congresswoman Jayapal and Senator Sanders and others in that progressive caucus are standing strong. I mean, just as the two senators, both Manchin and Sinema, they continue to stand strong and hold out.

You know, isn't it curious, John, that the majority of the Democrats in the caucus agree with this, even though you're absolutely right. Progressives certainly want more, but they agree with this. And you've got two senators who are holding out.

The question becomes why? Is Senator Sinema, for example, waiting for her checks to clear before she will say what it is she would cut or not cut?

This is wrong. It is immoral. People are suffering. And especially people of color are suffering the most disproportionately. They need to stand up and decide whose side they are actually on.

And if I was President Biden, I would just go ahead and set up shop in West Virginia, just go and move the West Wing to West Virginia, and let Senator Manchin know he will be bringing the West Wing to West Virginia until he stands up for the people and let -- let Senator Sinema know he will be in Arizona directly.

BERMAN: Well, Jonathan, I mean, you have some experience here. How would that work? How does that kind of heavy-handed pressure work with Joe Manchin?

KOTT: I think Joe Manchin wants to have conversations with people and get deals done. He's shown that over the years. he just spent months negotiating a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that all Democrats support.

So I don't know why there's such -- there's such a hard time deciding whether to vote for a bill that all Democrats support that will bring thousands of jobs and trillions of dollars of investment that is deeply needed everywhere, that helps provide clean water, Internet access to people, fix roads. Those aren't moderate or progressive roads that are being fixed. He wants to get that done.

And he did. He worked together with Republicans and all of his Democratic colleagues. And he'll continue. He said continue to work on reconciliation. He just wants to see it done in a responsible way.

BERMAN: Nina, willing to get nothing here?

TURNER: John, he has -- he has the luxury to hold out. He's a -- he's a multimillionaire. Isn't it curious that people don't -- who don't have the lived experience, people who are not suffering, they've got the luxury to hold out? What are we holding out for?

The American people deserve better than what they're getting right now.


And one thing I do agree with Jonathan said in terms of what the needs are in this country. So then why hold out? Overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus agree. Let both senators come in and talk this through right now, and let's go ahead and have this vote today and pass this, so that the people on Main Street and in neighborhoods across this country don't have to continue to suffer while people who've got the luxury -- who have the luxury to banter about and take their time to make a decision, while people's livelihoods hang in the balance.

This is about the pandemic, and this is about the people, and they deserve better than what they're getting right now. So come on, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema. Get with the program and stop trying to be the shadow president and vice president. And let's deliver for the American people. Stop playing games.

BERMAN: Nina Turner, Jonathan Kott, I have to say, I appreciate the discussion. Thank you both for coming on and having this discussion. Getting people together and in the same room is the type of thing that might move this forward. Sometimes it seems like parallel play, to use a term that Brianna Keilar likes a lot.

Thank you both for being with us.

Some major developments in the seven for Brian Laundrie. The FBI seizing a new phone. Where authorities found it and who has it now.

KEILAR: Plus, General Milley reportedly blaming the State Department for the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal. What he told senators privately. BERMAN: And the CDC issuing an urgent warning for pregnant women.



KEILAR: Some new developments in the search for Brian Laundrie. According to a family attorney, Laundrie purchased a new cell phone on September 4. But he left that new phone at home when he disappeared 10 days later.

We've also learned that the FBI has obtained surveillance video from a camp site where Laundrie went with his parents after returning from his cross-country road trip without his fiancee, Gabby Petito.

Let's talk about this now with CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.

Andrew, great to see you this morning. What do you make of this? He buys a phone September 4. He's gone 10 days later without the phone.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, Brianna, this is really fascinating. This is one of those factual developments that, were I back in the FBI, where I ran these sorts of cases for many years, we would be sitting around a conference room, throwing this back and forth, really trying to game out what is the significance here.

Principally, if he had that phone and was using it from September 4 until the time he left, allegedly on the 14th, it is potentially a source of good leads.

If he's looking at locations on that phone. I would be interested in who he was talking to, who he was exchanging text messages with, who he might have made phone calls to. And all those people would be contacted.

But I'd also internetwant to see what sort of Internet activity he had, whether he was looking at anything that I could consider to be planning or in preparation for his flight.

The other thing to wonder about is whether or not his -- there's been some reporting that his mother was with him when he purchased the phone. So it again raises the question of how much do his patients really know about what he was planning to do, and are they ultimately supporting him in this flight from law enforcement?

KEILAR: Well, I mean, that is the question. Right? Could he be getting assistance from people that he knows? At this point, they are certainly being looked at very carefully by the FBI.

MCCABE: That's absolutely true. So any known associates and family members, I'm certain, are under some level of watch or surveillance.

But if you look back across the -- the record of successful fugitives, they all have support in one way or the other: from family members, from friends, from just members of the community or like-minded people who -- who are invested in their success. So that -- those are the folks that you really want to pick out of that crowd, people who could be providing him with cash, a place to stay, transportation, things of that nature.

KEILAR: So at this point, he's been gone a while, Andy. Over two weeks. Where does that leave the FBI?

MCCABE: Well, Brianna, it gets tougher every day. Right? Every day that crawls by that you're not developing, you know, really hot leads, good investigative avenues to pursue, the trail gets a little bit colder, and your fugitive gets a little bit further out ahead of you.

Now, we know that he had at least, you know, a three- or four-day lead on law enforcement before he left the area. So they were in a bit of a disadvantage from the very beginning.

Of course, we don't know what information and intelligence the FBI has generated across the scope of their broad investigation. So they may have important things to work on right now.

But certainly, as that clock continues to tick, it is hanging over the heads of the investigators, and they are worried that he is getting potentially further and further away.

KEILAR: All right. Andrew, thank you so much for your analysis here.

Coming up, one of the harsh new realities in Afghanistan under Taliban rule is that musicians have gone silent for fear of punishment. Clarissa Ward will join us live on that.

BERMAN: Plus, Britney Spears freed from her father's control after 13 years.



BERMAN: This morning Britney Spears celebrating along with her fans after scoring a major legal victory in the fight to regain control of her life.

A judge in Los Angeles suspended Spears's father, Jamie Spears, from his role as conservator of her estate. CNN's Chloe Melas, who has been covering every twist and turn in this story, with maybe the biggest turn yet, Chloe.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The biggest. And I was in the courtroom, John. And I'm telling you, it was heated. I felt like I was a juror on a trial, with Mathew Rosengart, Britney's attorney, you know, like turning around and looking at all of the media and, you know, making his case for Britney.

It was quite the show. But Britney is closer to freedom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MELAS (voice-over): Britney Spears is one step closer to freedom.

MATHEW ROSENGART, BRITNEY SPEARS'S ATTORNEY: It's a great day for Britney Spears. And it's a great day for justice.

MELAS: A Los Angeles judge suspending her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator, temporarily placing a certified public accountant in charge of her estimated $60 million estate.

The ruling a major legal victory for Spears. But it doesn't fully end the 13-year arrangement that saw her father control her finances and many other aspects of her life.

Inside Wednesday's hearing, Spears's attorney, Mathew Rosengart, calling her father, quote, "a cruel, toxic" --