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Biden's Own Party Threatens to Blow Up His Domestic Agenda; Next 24 Hours Critical To Biden Agenda, But Key Dems Not Budging; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Calls GOP Despicable for Treatment of Pentagon Brass. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 30, 2021 - 07:00   ET



MICHELLE MALDONADO (D), CANDIDATE FOR VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: It is something that's done at graduate levels most commonly and some things at the undergraduate level is it becomes more well-known. And I am a former practicing attorney and I will say that I never saw critical race theory as a course in law school even though that is --


MALDONADO: So, when I knock on doors and when our constituents knock on doors across their district or candidates knock on doors across the district, they have to think about, like how do we bridge this divide. And one of the things that's really important to me is think about how do we create one community, one commonwealth, so we can address these complex issues. . KEILAR: Does that help what he said?

MALDONADO: Well, I think the schools and the parents have to be in partnership. They have to be -- teachers and parents have to be champions for the students. And I don't think any parent wants to have sexually explicit things talking about pedophilia and showing pedophilia in graphic representation. I think that that is something that people don't want, and I think people can agree on that. But if the line that we have to figure out where to draw the line is how, in fact, do we create the flexibility for public education to be inclusive. And that doesn't mean with those things, but where does the line draw so that we set up clear standards that are consistent across the board.

And that's one of the things that we struggle with as a society, not just in the commonwealth in Virginia. What are the clear and consistent standards? And as we move towards a closer conversation around equity and inclusion, we see a lot of things bubble up where people are uncomfortable with talking about what is the full panoramic sort of contribution of different people across communities.

KEILAR: Michelle Maldonado, thank you so much for talking with us. We will be looking to November to see what happens.

MALDONADO: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: And New Day continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Thursday, September 30th on this New Day. It is 7:02 A.M.

Speaker Pelosi, do you know where your party is? The answer to that question could help determine the success or failure of the Biden presidency. Will there be a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan today, one of the key pillars of President Biden's domestic agenda?


REPORTER: Is there any chance that you pull the bill tomorrow?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The plan is to bring the bill to the floor.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you worried that you may not have the votes?

PELOSI: One hour at a time.


BERMAN: So, the reason this is a question is that progressive Democrats who support the infrastructure plan, by the way, they like what's in it, they're promising to vote against it because they can't get a commitment from moderate Democrats on other key parts of the president's domestic agenda.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I have a feeling that it will be delayed. But if we do have a vote, then we will vote it down and we will 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.


KEILAR: So, will Democrats suffer a humiliating defeat maybe at the hands of their party? Senator Joe Manchin is also complicating the speaker's plans. She wants an agreement in the Senate on this big social safety net bill, the Democrat-only bill, before today's vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Manchin insists he's not changing his mind. He told reporters that's not going to happen. But we still don't know what he wants. What does he want?

There is hopeful news the Senate expected to pass a stopgap spending bill today to temporarily keep the federal government for shutting down for now, but a Senate vote to suspend the debt ceiling is expected to fail, and that is pushing the U.S. closer to default for the first time ever.

Joining us now to explain the state of play within the factions here of the Democratic Party, we have CNN Congressional Correspondent Melanie Zanona.

Okay. Walk us through the politics here.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, of course, the politics are important. There is a lot at politically at stake. But there is also a ton at stake for the economy and the American people.

Let's just take a look at what's in this infrastructure package that already passed the Senate and that is supposed to get a vote on the House floor. You have over a hundred billion dollars for roads and bridges, those are traditional infrastructure projects, also things like passenger freight rail, public transit, airports, ports, also money for broadband. That was a huge priority in the negotiations. And there's also money to upgrade the electric grid, as well as plug-in electric vehicles.

All this, however, Brianna, is at stake, because Democrats have not been able to coalesce around their massive economic package that would expand the social safety net. That package includes things like -- let's go to the next slide here.


That package includes things like universal pre-K, two free years of community college, expansion of the child tax credit, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, lower prescription of drug prices, paid medical and family leave. I mean, you could see how this bill would touch every aspects of a person's life and contains so much of Biden's economic agenda.

KEILAR: Yes, hugely popular priorities for Democrats. So where is the holdup?

ZANONA: Well, the two sides are still very far apart, just like a flurry of meetings this week. I mean, let's just start talking about the price tag. Progressives want to keep it at $3.5 trillion. They feel they like already compromised. They wanted $6 trillion. But Sinema and Manchin have not said where they are yet. We know they want less than $3.5 trillion but it's still unclear where they are.

Next up, let's talk about climate change. That is a huge one. That was a massive priority for progressives. One of the provisions in the bill on that slide you'll see they want to have a provision that would essentially to incentivize utility companies to switch over to clean energy and penalize companies that don't. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, says companies are already doing this, and he says, maybe this is not the best way to use our resources. So that's a huge sticking point.

The next one is health care. That is also a big and very interesting fight. There's always so much money to go around. Democrats are trying to figure out how to divvy it up. In one corner, you have Pelosi and establishment Democrats who would rather shore up Obamacare. Of course, that was a legacy item for Pelosi. They want to make those subsidies permanent so they can't be taken away by a future Republican majority. But then you have progressives who want to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing. That was a huge priority of Bernie. And for centrists, they actually think that some of these programs should be tested.

And then, finally, we have taxes, that's also going to be a huge, huge fight. Sinema is specifically concerned about the corporate tax rates that they want to hike in order to pay for this whole bill. So, you can see why they are still so, so far apart. And, frankly, these are issues that could take weeks to resolve, Brianna.

KEILAR: Oh my gosh, years, it seems. Mel, thank you so much for that.

ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, Dana Bash, CNN Chief Political Correspondent and co-Anchor of State of the Union, and Kasie Hunt, CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst.

What we have is something unusual in Capitol Hill, which is aggressive uncertainty, like aggressive I don't know what's going to happen mode. And to me, it all boils down to three questions. I'm going to take them one at a time, and I've got some graphical aids here.

And so, Dana, here is question number one. Will they vote today? Will they vote?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought I would see actual graphics, not your chicken scratch on a card.

So, we don't know the answer to that. I don't think we will pretend to know the answer to that. Because it used to be that -- there was a time a leader, no matter Democrat or Republican, wouldn't take something this big to the floor knowing it would fail because it just doesn't look good. It is bad politics.

I've also seen times when a leader in more recent times has taken a bill. What we are talking about right now is the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is what the moderates are saying, take the vote already, that they would take it to the floor to show, okay, look, this is where we are, these are the votes that we need. Let's work on the negotiation to make it all happen. But we honestly don't know where the speaker is going to be.

Here's what we do know, John. What we do know is that they are very far apart, not just on the numbers but on the philosophy, on the ideology, the notion of the social safety net bill, which is what really they're really negotiating about right now. The moderates, as Melanie just laid out, they actually don't want to have what they view as more of an entitlement society in America. These are Democrats. And you have progressives who have more numbers than they've had in, really, ever, saying, we have leverage, we want this, our constituents voted us in for this, and we are not going to give up our leverage at any point.

BERMAN: You talked about the why, differences there. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin put out a statement last night that included the words, this is the definition of fiscal insanity. That's not the kind of stuff friends say to each other when they're playing nice, kasie, which leads me to question number with my graphical aid here. What does Manchin want?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: More time, first of all, which is not something that is tenable with the way that the speaker has set up the rest of the day go. And he wants (INAUDIBLE) actually come out and said a little bit more of what he does want, which -- some of it is in that statement.


He wants to spend a little bit less money. He wants these things to be means tested. He wants to have conversations about how the taxes are set up in this reconciliation package. He's worried about those things.

But I think, really, overall, that statement that just was trying to push the pause button. Now, it is also noteworthy it came after Kyrsten Sinema went to the White House four times and became the center of the news cycle. I think he sort of stepped out and said, hey, here's where I stand and this is what I'm going to do here.

But I think this question that you were just talking about with Dana about what the speaker is going to do today is really I th8ink the critical one for everyone heading into today. Like Dana, I have seen it kind of go both ways. And my big question starting out the day, the one I have been asking sources about for the last 12, 15 hours, has been, is she actually going to move forward, put this on the floor and dare progressives to sink it. I mean, that is a pretty tough moment.

And the reality is that while she knows where the votes are and it is completely impossible, I don't imagine if that would be the strategy. But, look, there is a big difference between having private conversations, insisting that you're going to do something, saying you're going to hold out for your values and then watching those numbers on the board in that massive house chamber, watching Republicans seem gleeful about what's going on, getting pressured -- this is where we get the phrase, arm twisting, because quite literally they will go down to the floor is and you will see the conversations play out.

And Pelosi has had her share of frustration with these progressives in her caucus. They have done a pretty good job of tamping that down over the course of the last couple of years and trying to avoid making it a story but there have been some pretty like high profile flashes of frustration between Pelosi and this group, and I wonder if maybe it doesn't come to a head today.

BASH: Yes. And if I may, I know you might have another card to put out. But --


BASH: You do, okay. One other quick thing because I think it's important not to miss the forest through the trees here with regard to where the Democratic Party is, because we covered so many Democratic debates and fights where progressives feel like they just rolled over and agreed to wait for the next election, wait for the next fight. And they aren't there now.

They see they that have the numbers. They see that they have the Democratic president on their side with issues that used to be, frankly, kind of fringe, whether it's expanding Medicare or social safety net issues, about paid leave, and the child tax credit, things like that. And they know that this is their time.

And, generationally, you have Democrats who couldn't get their arms twisted before the ballot box. They ousted long-time sort of establishment Democrats. They are there to do what they have to do and it's very hard to twist their arms because they have the numbers, they have the leverage and they feel like they have a mandate that no group of progressives I have seen to date have felt they had.

BERMAN: And that brings me to question number three, which I have to put up very quickly, because they are giving me the hook here. Question number three is, what can Biden do about it, Kasie, quickly.

HUNT: Biden can make phone calls. He can do what he says he does best, which is try to convince people, get them in a room together. But the reality is he waited until the last second, and he is also a senator. And right now, this is about the House.

BERMAN: Yes. That doesn't sound like a whole heck of a lot at this point, as the clock sticks. All right, Kasie, Dana, stick around, more with you in just a minute.

KEILAR: Some funds for critical highway programs are at risk if the bipartisan infrastructure bill fails to pass. CNN's Pete Muntean is joining us now to talk about this. What's at stake here?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this is one of the kinds of projects that could be hurt by this. This is D.C.'s new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. It just opened. 60 percent of its funding or $200 million comes from the federal government. And it is that kind of funding that expires at midnight. A one-year extension of federal highway funds expires tonight. A five-year extension is called for in the Biden infrastructure plan. But without that, senators say they might need to extend that funding with a one-month stopgap. I've been talking to trade groups about this. They say this is so critical and this just has to get done.


JIM TYMON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF STATE HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS: Well, this is an extremely critical time for the country and for state DOTs and those of us in the transportation industry in particular. Congress has a deadline of September 30th to try to get this infrastructure bill done. And if they don't, you're going to see a real impact in what state DOTs and other transportation agencies around the country are able to do.



MUNTEAN: States like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan are all concerned about this. They are sometimes reimbursed for highway projects from the federal government on a day-to-day basis. That means they can only continue construction for a little while before they have to stop and put shovels down. It's an unintended consequence of an action, Brianna, that's going to have a big impact.

KEILAR: Yes, we see it right behind you there. Pete Muntean live for us from Washington, thanks.

BERMAN: So, is it always this complicated, infrastructure, and controversial? John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a make-or-break day. Because less than 24 hours, we're going to know if the U.S. government suffered another self-inflicted shutdown. We'll know if Democrats can come together to pass a landmark infrastructure bill while paving the way for a Biden-defining budget. And we'll also have a better sense whether the U.S. could default on its debt for the first time in our history.

So, yes, some days matter more than others. And this is as big as it gets on Capitol Hill. Yes, Joe Biden's Democrats have a razor-thin manager anyone Congress. But here's what's really frustrating. We're as close as we have been in a half century to major infrastructure investment and closer than ever to a debt default. For all our divisions, these should be areas that unite us as Americans because they have been broad areas of consensus for presidents of both parties.

Forget all the jokes about infrastructure week because this has been a big goal going back decades.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This bill, which I look forward to signing, will speed the repair of our aging roads, bridges and transit systems.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The philosophy of this administration to invest in the future, to create new jobs and new opportunities for sustained economic growth.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think we should start by accelerating a renovation of our nation's highways, bridges, waters and sewer systems.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Our economy depends on us having the most efficient, reliable transportation system in the world.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The inadequate state of so many schools, our addiction to foreign oil or our crumbling roads, bridges, and levees.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're going to get this infrastructure going.


AVLON: After all that talk, President Biden finally corralled a bipartisan group of senators to pass a trillion dollar bill in August. This is a big win, ready for the taking. But House Republicans are reflexively whipping against it despite the fact that it would benefit many of their communities, while House progressives feel blindsided by the conscious uncoupling crippling of the infrastructure bill from the much bigger budget that would deliver more support for working class and middleclass families.

Look, there is plenty of room to negotiate and disagree about what are the sustainable levels of debt. Although the complain to be a hell of a lot more convincing if Republicans hadn't dismissed questions about how to pay for their $2 trillion tax cut, which was also passed in reconciliation.

It's one thing to vote against raising the debt ceiling, and as Biden did in '06, but it's another thing entirely to filibuster it as Republicans are doing now. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling isn't fiscally responsible, it's the opposite. Especially because the debts were paid were most recently racked up by Republicans during the Trump years.

Government shutdowns also play into autocracies' claims that democracies are chaotic and ineffective, but the next step, defaulting on our debt, would be catastrophic for the country and the world economy. That's why presidents from both parties have warned against it.


G. W. BUSH: I think Congress ought to pass a clean bill that raises the debt ceiling, and I'll sign it. I think it's important.

OBAMA: Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We have always paid them in the past. The notion that the U.S. is going to default on its debt is just irresponsible.

TRUMP (voice over): People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt. These people are crazy. This is the United States government.


AVLON: Here's the final insult. This deadline was entirely predictable. It didn't sneak up on us like some attack out of the blue or a global pandemic. We know when we're heading towards a government shutdown and a collision with the debt ceiling, and Democrats, particularly holdout Senators Manchin and Sinema, have known that this September was the stated deadline for passing these big linked Biden bills. But after more than ten trips to the White House, they still haven't put down their bottom line as a basis for negotiation leading to reconciliation. That's not responsible. It's reckless. But difficulties are the excuse history never accepts. Today is not a drill. It's the real deal. We're either on the verge showing our democracy can deliver on its promises or on the verge of showing our democracies dysfunction. Choose wisely. And that's your Reality Check.

BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much for that.

So, Congresswoman Liz Cheney with a remarkable rebuke of her Republican colleagues while they were sitting right there.

KEILAR: Awkward, maybe. Plus, Republican Governor Kristi Noem drawing scrutiny for reportedly pressuring a state official to approve her daughter's real estate license.


BERMAN: And an alligator, a man and a trash can. It's like my favorite poem ever.


KEILAR: Congresswoman Liz Cheney apologizing to top military officials for what she describes as despicable conduct by her Republican colleagues. Several of them, including those who have tried to obstruct the January 6th probe went after the top brass, questioning their competence and their commitment to the country.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): General Milley, on January 6th, we had a violent attack on our Capitol. You found yourself and your constitutionally prescribed role standing in the breach.


And for any member of this committee, for any American to question your loyalty to our nation, to question your understanding to our Constitution, your loyalty to our Constitution, your recognition and understanding of the civilian chain of command is despicable. I want to apologize for those members of this committee who have done so and I want to thank you for standing in the breach when so many, including many in this room, failed to do so.


KEILAR: Let's talk about this now with CNN's Dana Bash and Kasie Hunt.

What did you think, Kasie, at this moment?

HUNT: Pretty remarkable moment. The reality here, we must just step back and think about it. No person is perfect but those generals have been, they have served their entire lives for this country. They have put their -- they have made those sacrifices, they have spent time away from their families, and for them to be treated this way in this context, I think it was a pretty remarkable moment from Liz Cheney and important that she stood up and recognized that.

I think, big picture for Cheney, I mean, this is clearly the way she is differentiating herself from Republicans. We know she has got to win her House race, but it is possible she's setting herself up for a presidential bid in 2024 or at least a bid to stop the former president from going forward. But she's the only speaking this way in the Republican Party right now.

KEILAR: The questioning of their commitment to this country, I think that's where -- it sounds like that's what chafed her.

BASH: Absolutely, and it's understandable. Like Kasie said, these generals, are officers, are members of the United States military who are following the Constitution, which is civilian rule and civilian run. And it was the commander-in-chief who was democratically elected who made the decision to pull out of Afghanistan. And now we know more about what happened at the end of the Trump administration that General Milley didn't go around the chain of command. He went within the chain of command.

KEILAR: I want to change gears here, switch gears, change -- like whatever. Okay, we're doing something different, people. We're talking about Monica Lewinsky because she actually appeared on David Axelrod's podcast and she said some really interesting things. Let's listen.


MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: I just couldn't see a way out. And I thought maybe that was the solution, and had even asked, you know, which is, this is also an interesting point of just I had asked the OIC lawyers about what happens if I die. And as --


LEWINSKY: Yes. As more of an adult now, I think back, how is there not a protocol, like that's not a point where you're bring a psychologist in or, you know, something. How is that not a breaking point?

It's very distant. And at this point, it's really just about, these are the choices he's made. He will come to the end of his life one day, like we all do, and he'll have to reconcile those choices, reconcile if he wished he had, you know, cleaned up those messes.


KEILAR: So, she's clearly -- she doesn't seem to really care what Bill Clinton does. She says, basically, like that's his business, it's up to him. But that first comment which was about -- and we knew she had actually considered taking her own life during that intense period of attention, which has been eye-opening, I think, to learn here in recent years. But I thought that was incredibly interesting where she was also saying, going to the Office of the Independent Counsel and they didn't do anything.

BASH: Yes. Well, listen, I think I'm going to pull a Liz Cheney right now and apologize to women, like Monica Lewinsky, including Monica Lewinsky. And let's just go back to the earlier segment you did on Britney Spears, apologize on behalf of society.

Because look at the way that women, those young women especially, were treated. Let's just stick Monica Lewinsky. She was treated broadly as the perpetrator. She was not treated the way she would be today. I really fundamentally believe that society has changed for the better in this way. She would be treated as somebody who was a young person in a power situation where not only was her boss the person she was having the affair with but the president of the United States.

And it is so understandable that she felt that way, that she felt suicidal. Because I remember the attention, I remember how she was villainized, again by -- she was the butt of jokes again by society, by media and by a lot of the then-president's fellow Democrats.


KEILAR: It's -- you would hope that she would be treated differently. We know a lot more now about power dynamics.