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Biden Confident on Spending Deal, Open to Altering Filibuster; Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun in Deadly Shooting on Set. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, October 22. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


A news eruption overnight from President Joe Biden in a CNN town hall. A free-flowing stream of revelations about what's going on behind the scenes as the White House and Democrats move closer to a deal on a huge social spending plan that could change the lives of millions of seniors, kids, and working parents.

After more than 100 hours of negotiations, he predicted there will be a deal, although four or five issues remain unresolved, he said. And he specified exactly what the holdups are with senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, where he is willing to compromise, and where he is not.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And another big takeaway of the night was President Biden's evolving position on the filibuster. He says he is open to altering it to address voting rights and other things, he said, but he also is concerned he'll lose votes on his domestic agenda if he pushes the filibuster issue right now.

Jeremy Diamond is live for us at the White House with all the highlights from the big night in Baltimore. We really did get a look at some of the inside workings of these negotiations, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We certainly did. President Biden revealing that he is open to fundamentally altering the filibuster to get voting rights done but making clear that he first needs to get through these negotiations over this reconciliation bill.

The president last night pulling back the curtain on those closed-door negotiations, making clear what is and isn't going to be in this bill, and also giving insights into the two senators who are driving many of the cuts.


BIDEN: I do think I'll get a deal. DIAMOND: President Biden telling voters he's confident the marathon to

pass his domestic agenda is nearing an end after months of negotiations and infighting between Democrats.

BIDEN: Look, I've been -- I was a senator for 370 years. And I was never -- I was relatively good at putting together deals.

DIAMOND: But today, Biden facing a different dynamic.

BIDEN: When you're in the United States Senate and you're president of the United States and you have 50 Democrats, everyone is a president. Every single one. So you've got to work things out.

DIAMOND: One of those key senators clearly on the president's mind.

BIDEN: Mr. Manchin is -- is opposed to that.

Joe is not a bad guy. He's a friend. And he's always at the end of the day come around and voted.

Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college.

DIAMOND: The president name-checking Senator Joe Manchin, as well as Senator Kyrsten Sinema, throughout the night.

BIDEN: First of all, she's smart as the devil, No. 1.

No. 2, she's very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation. Where she's not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period.

DIAMOND: The two moderate Democrats stalling the effort to get Biden's bill through the Senate and forcing hard choices.

BIDEN: We're down to four or five issues, which I'm not going to negotiate on national television, as you might guess.

DIAMOND: The president says he's willing to slim down or even eliminate some sections of his plan, removing a proposal to fund free community college nationwide; cutting down paid parental leave from 12 to just four weeks; and extending the child tax credit for just one more year.

Biden also saying it will be tough to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing.

BIDEN: That's a reach. And the reason why it's a reach, it's not -- I think it's a good idea, and it's not that costly in relative terms.

DIAMOND: A potential compromise, $800 dental vouchers for people in need.

As for Manchin's push to add a work requirement for the child tax credit -- BIDEN: No. Here's the deal. All of these people are working anyway.

DIAMOND: On voting rights, the president says he's open to possibly reforming the filibuster, a Senate rule requiring a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation.

BIDEN: Well, that remains to be seen, exactly what that means, in terms of fundamentally altering it, whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Just so I'm clear, though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue? Is that correct?

BIDEN: And maybe more.

DIAMOND: Outside passing his sweeping agenda, Biden also discussed supply chain issues, climate change, policing and immigration, specifically the situation at the southern border with Mexico.

BIDEN: I guess I should go down. But the -- but the whole point of it is I haven't had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.

DIAMOND: With the coronavirus pandemic still the reality, the president says he's hopeful vaccines will soon be available for children ages 5 to 11.

BIDEN: Unlike past administrations, science will dictate this. I'm not telling anyone -- no, I really mean it.

The expectations are it will be ready in the near term, meaning weeks, not months and months.


DIAMOND: And President Biden also reflecting on his hot mic reaction, back when he was vice president, to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which he called "a big f-ing deal." The president saying that he believes this piece of legislation is a bigger darn deal.


The question, though, can he get that deal done before he leaves on his foreign trip at the end of next week -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. Jeremy, thank you so much for that report.

Let's talk about this now with CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers and CNN White House correspondent, John Harwood.

John, to you. What stood out from the town hall when it comes specifically to the negotiations around these bills?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he made explicit what has been reported and that people have suspected about the stance of the recalcitrant senators, Senator Manchin. But he put it right out there.

And I thought that that bit of candor reflected some confidence on his part that he's going to get to the finish line. And they are working out what he -- there were some things where he misspoke a little bit, where he said Kyrsten Sinema is not willing to take a penny from wealthy individuals or corporations.

As we understand it, that's not correct. It's just she doesn't want the tax rate -- tax rates to go up on those people. But there are other ways of getting money from those sources.

I do think it reflects his confidence that he's getting close to the finish line. He seemed very relaxed. He was smiling through much of it. He was in command of a lot of the policy detail.

And I think this is a president who -- he wanted to counter the impression that he's beleaguered and down in the polls. He is down in the polls. But -- but paint a picture of somebody who is about to get something significant done.

KEILAR: I mean, he went through a lot of these line items to tell us what was in, what was out. What was being threatened.

HARWOOD: Paid leave, community college.

KEILAR: Community college out.

HARWOOD: That's right. That's right.

KEILAR: Community college out. Clean electricity performance program in. Climate change is so important when it comes to liberals on this bill. Where do things stand? Did he tip his hand on this?

HARWOOD: The clean energy performance program itself is not going to be in the bill. But there -- he made the point that you can take the money that he was going to spend on that program and apply it to other climate uses.

There are various tax incentives that they are planning to use to encourage electric vehicles, for example. Other means of getting carbon emissions down.

It's pretty important for the Biden administration and for Democrats to succeed on that. And they're trying to figure out a way that Joe Manchin can live with it.

And he was explicit in talking about Manchin. Manchin said -- he was quoting Manchin as saying, yes, I get that coal is going away, but I don't want to accelerate it before the people in West Virginia are ready for that change. That was a bit of candor about where things are headed and how Joe Manchin looks at that situation.

BERMAN: You know, Bakari, as a reporter who's used to trying to get blood from a stone, it's always remarkable when a principal walks up on stage and tells you everything.

The president walked up and said, OK, I'll just tell you everything that's going on behind the scenes.

And on the filibuster, where he really did make some news last night, and he said that he would argue to change the filibuster on voting rights and other things. He made news there, too. A, telling us where he is, and B, telling us why he's not pushing harder right now, because he doesn't want to get in the way of the other domestic agenda items.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it -- it was refreshing and still slightly disappointing, if you can be both of those things at the same time.

There are a lot of individuals like myself who are at the point with this White House, this Congress, where particularly, that we have to see something happen.

There are individuals who voted for Joe Biden simply for these justice issues. Whether or not it's criminal justice reform, whether or not it's voting rights, whether or not it's climate change.

We voted to actually have something done on these issues. And to this point, we have a majority in the House, Senate, and the White House, and none of this has happened. And so there is a frustration building.

That frustration is going to play out in 2022. So this president has to get something done sooner rather than later.

And the real frustration lies with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and I think last night, it didn't do much to douse that frustration. But hopefully, it built public pressure on these two individuals, saying, look, we voted for Joe Biden to be president of the United States. We didn't vote for President Sinema or President Manchin. Contrary to the, you know, every senator is a president. And we want things to happen.

BERMAN: I will tell you, and it's important that people know this. When it comes to the filibuster and voting rights, it's not up to Joe Biden. Not at all. It is up to President Sinema and Manchin there. But I guess my question, Bakari, is is it important, or how important is it to many Democrats that Biden get in the fight for real?

SELLERS: There's no question. Because for far too long -- and Joe Biden, if you're listening this morning, and I know you are, like you have to weigh into this fight.

There's -- the fact that Kamala Harris is vice president of the United States and Kamala Harris is charged with passing voting rights. And the president, up until last night, was silent on the issue of the filibuster, shows the disconnect.


We have to slim -- I want to eliminate the filibuster. I mean, the 44th president of the United States called it a relic of a racist past. Right? But if we can't get rid of it, we at least have to narrow it. And the reason we have to do that is because the civil rights issue of

our time is voting rights. And without narrowing the filibuster, we'll never pass it.

KEILAR: Yes. He's saying not now, John, but maybe in the future. And I just wonder if that is enough for Bakari and others who are looking and saying that really isn't anything that we can, you know, take away.

HARWOOD: Well, look, there's really no alternative to it. When you're president of the United States, you've got to prioritize and you've got to sequence the things that you want to do.

Joe Biden could not change the filibuster right now if he wanted to. But what he wants to do, as he said, is try to get his program passed. And trying to get rid of the filibuster right now would prevent him from getting his economic program passed.

And once that's done, they're trying to build a case for filibuster reform. And part of that case is the failure of the voting rights bill, for example, that was attempted to be put on the floor this week that was Joe Manchin's bill.

So if you're trying to get Joe Manchin's vote for filibuster reform, it might be helpful for you to demonstrate to Joe Manchin that Republicans aren't going to play ball with you on voting rights. That's part of the building process to try to get that vote.

The debt limit is another aspect of it. Democrats understand -- and Joe Manchin understands that, if you don't raise the debt limit, you're going to damage, in a serious way, the United States economy and the global economy for no good reason.

If Republicans insist on filibustering a debt limit increase which they backed away from a couple of weeks ago, that is part of building the case for Manchin and Sinema.

But you -- it's not within, as John Berman was just saying a minute ago. It's not within Joe Biden's power to summon those votes right now. But he's hoping that you can build that over a series of events.

And it's also a little bit better time for Joe Biden in the 2022 midterm elections to have a big fight on voting rights as you're ready to have a midterm election. And that is maybe part of building the pressure on those two holdout senators. If you can't, go to the public pressure.

BERMAN: Bakari, one more point where things stand right now on the domestic agenda, the spending plan, how it will be paid for.

President Biden, again, he told us everything about where Kyrsten Sinema is. She does not want to raise corporate taxes. That changes substantially how they will pay for this $2 trillion deal.

President Biden campaigned -- Joe Biden campaigned on raising corporate taxes not just for revenue but for fairness purposes. SELLERS: I still think that what Joe Biden attempted to articulate,

although it was unclear, is what Kyrsten Sinema stands for. I mean, we know that she's not for -- and I love how John Harwood explained it a little earlier, not for raising taxes but there are other ways to -- or raising the tax rate, but there are other ways to get around that.

But nobody know what Kyrsten Sinema --

BERMAN: It could be a minimum. It could be a required minimum tax.

SELLERS: But even outside of this issue, no one knows where Kyrsten Sinema is standing -- is standing for what she wants. She's been very close to the vest, to say the least, about what she wants in this process.

The fact remains, though, whether or not it's voting rights, whether or not it's Build Back Better, whether or not it's infrastructure, they have to pass something. And I think that's one of the biggest things.

I think that from what I gathered last night, infrastructure is in a bow, right? That's done. That's sent away. That's ready to go.

But you have this reconciliation bill where there are literally people who are Democrats in this country who are against free community college. I mean, we are in -- we are negotiating against ourselves.

There was once a saying that when Republicans get in power, then they fall apart. They don't know how to lead. We saw that with the alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Now Democrats are in power, and we're just tripping over ourselves. I've never seen anything like it. It is -- it is the most frustrating political legislative process I've ever seen. And the fact is we're against things that people put us in office to do.

The Democrats will pay the price in 2022 if they don't get their act together.

KEILAR: On Taiwan, Harwood, he was asked what the U.S. would do if China attacked Taiwan. And with his answer, I was thinking, there are some NSC staffers somewhere pulling their hair out.

HARWOOD: Right. I mean, he reiterated the commitment of the United States to defend Taiwan. But that situation is getting increasingly dicey.

And, you know, a central through line of Joe Biden's foreign policy, both economically and militarily, is to stand up to China. And it is quite apparent that Xi Jinping wants to stand up to the United States.


And where that situation in Taiwan goes with the sort of intimidation moves that the Chinese leadership is engineering, we don't know. But Joe Biden upped the ante a little bit by saying we're not going anywhere. We're going to defend Taiwan.

KEILAR: And China is responding, saying that this is sending the wrong signals. Right? You have strategic ambiguity, which has been the policy and, at least rhetorically, some of this seemed to move towards strategic clarity, which has not really been where the U.S. is.

HARWOOD: Exactly. It hasn't been the kind of commitment that the United States has made, say, under NATO Article V, where we say an attack on one member is an attack on all. And we would be in full. That strategic ambiguity has been designed to keep a little distance.

But Joe Biden was not willing to concede that -- that the United States would not step in. And that -- that is, as I said, consistent with a whole series of postures that the administration has taken, designed to show that the organizing principal for Joe Biden's foreign policy is, you know, this whole frame of democracy versus authoritarian countries.

He's thinking China in that frame.

BERMAN: John Harwood, Bakari Sellers, so great to see you in person. Even more handsome in person.

SELLERS: I thought so, as well. I thought so, as well.

BERMAN: Me or you? Thank you both for being here.

All right. A really serious story breaking overnight. Alec Baldwin in a deadly shooting on the set of his new film. One dead, one injured. A prop gun in the middle of this tragedy.

KEILAR: Plus, a brand-new interview with the lawyer for Brian Laundrie's parents after officials confirmed that Laundrie's remains were those found at a Florida reserve. What they say about the day that their son disappeared.



KEILAR: Breaking overnight, a deadly mishap on the set of Alec Baldwin's movie "Rust" in New Mexico. Police say that a prop gun fired by Baldwin during filming killed the cinematographer and wounded the film's director. His reps are calling this an accident.

Photos show the actor distraught after the incident, and CNN's Stephanie Elam is tracking this for us from Los Angeles. Tell us what we know here, Steph.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know a lot, Brianna, other than that this is an awful tragedy. According to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, they received a call around 1:50 p.m. local time yesterday about a shooting on the set of "Rust," which is a western, an 1880s time line for that movie that's being filmed in New Mexico on the Bonanza Creek Ranch. They said that they did respond to two individuals being shot. The

director of photography. That is Halyna Hutchins. She was 42 years old. She was taken to the hospital via helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

We also know that the director of the film, Joel Souza, was also shot. He's 48 years old. He was taken by ambulance to a regional medical center. We do not know more on his condition at this time.

But looking at this, the police department, the sheriff's department saying that this investigation remains open right now, as they are interviewing people, talking to witnesses as to what happened. No charges are filed at this time.

But I just want to let you know, according to "The New York Times," some reporting statement from the production company behind "Rust." They said, in part, "The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy. And we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones."

As you might expect, the prediction has been shut down at this point, Brianna, as they are going to provide counseling, the statement says, to everyone who was there and part of this movie, to see how this tragically could have happened, where this prop firearm could have discharged in the way it did.

We still don't know information about how that happened. But we do know that Alec Baldwin, who's also a producer on the film, was behind this prop that fired this way.

KEILAR: All right. Stephanie, thank you for the latest on that.

And coming up, we do have some more on our breaking news. What is the protocol for this use of prop guns on set? How could a gun with blanks end up killing someone?

Republicans on edge or over the edge. Marjorie Taylor Greene goes after Liz Cheney right on the House floor. The details ahead.



BERMAN: Police investigating a deadly shooting involving Alec Baldwin on a movie set in New Mexico are trying to determine how the prop gun, fired by the actor, could have killed someone.

Joining us now is Daniel Oates from Miami Beach and Aurora, Colorado, police chief. Chief, thank you so much for being us. If you can, broadly speaking, talk to us about gun safety and the difference between a gun with bullets and a gun that might have blanks.

DANIEL OATES, FORMER AURORA, COLORADO, POLICE CHIEF: Well, there's a general proposition in our business, in policing, that you treat every gun as if it's dangerous and it's loaded all the time. My understanding of these prop weapons, and there are various kinds,

is that they all contain a charge, a powder that creates the noise and the -- and the explosive, the visual blast. And usually, some kind of wire or something that explodes out of the weapon when it's fired. So even at close range, these weapons can be very dangerous. And this -- this would not be the first time there's been this kind of tragedy.

BERMAN: Now, look, if you look back historically, in 1984, Jon-Erik Hexum was killed by a gun. That, of course, had blanks. It was the pressure from the barrel close to his hand that caused the injury. Brandon Lee in 1993. Now, in that case, it was a gun with blanks, but there was something in the barrel that discharged and hit him. Is that potentially what could have happened here?

OATES: It could be. That's why in policing, there is so much emphasis on training and treating a weapon as if it is always dangerous. You know, in the course of my career, I've seen very, very experienced police officers have an accidental charge under stress. They put their finger on the trigger when they shouldn't have. They're not conscious of where they are, you know, where their hand is under the circumstances of stress that they're in. And, you know, those are experienced veterans who handle guns all the time.

With an actor, you know, I don't know the circumstances. But with an actor, who doesn't get that kind of training, doesn't think the weapon is as dangerous as it might be. You know, this kind of tragedy could happen.

BERMAN: I guess one way of asking it is, should one ever consider a gun with blanks, if that's what it is, to just be blanks?

OATES: No. Every gun -- in police training, and I would assume in Hollywood, every gun should be treated as it's loaded all the time and that it's dangerous all the time.