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History of the Filibuster; Weekly Jobless Claims Rise; Vaccine Mandate Compared to Nazism; Erica Sullivan Shares Her Story of Depression. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 08:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The filibuster required a senator to take the floor and speak for hours. It was supposed to be a mechanism for protest by the minority.

And let's look at the data. This is a graph showing cloture votes in the Senate, which are needed to try to block a filibuster going back to 1917. Yes, we're going to bring the wonk (ph), but it will be fun, so stay with me here. Notice that for the first 50 years or so, filibusters are very rare. They start creeping up during the civil rights era. But in 1975, a rule change allowed senators to filibuster a bill from the comfort of their own office or home. It became a painless procedural move, a poison pill, rather than an extended stand. And so the abuse began.

But as you can see on the right side of your screen, things got really ugly with partisan polarization this century. Bumping up with President Bush, then rocketing toward routine, reflexive obstruction under Presidents Obama and Trump.

And so the current filibuster rules are actually a break from Senate tradition, and a prime driver of our division and dysfunction. Returning to the old talking filibuster, as President Biden has proposed, would restore some sanity by requiring the minority party to take the floor and make their case. It would adjust the incentive structure away from this tyranny of the minority that reduces faith in a functioning democracy.

But here's the thing, the urgency around voting rights right now is real. And yesterday we saw two reasons why. In Ohio, redistricting reform advocates were given a win when the state supreme court voted 4-3 to reject an absurd partisan gerrymander of the state legislature that voted a -- violated a constitutional amendment which was passed by the voters just a few years ago. And the Republican chief justice, Maureen O'Connor, sided with Democrats and a decision on congressional maps is expected soon. So, stay tuned. But on the opposite side of the ledger, a North Carolina court allowed

the Republicans lopsided 10-4 congressional seat map to move forward, despite there being 300,000 more registered Democrats in the state. The court even said that it, quote, neither condones the enacted maps nor their anticipated potential results that could, quote, potentially lead to results incompatible with Democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.

But that's the thing, in the absence of state or federal law regarding partisan gerrymandering, they felt their hands were tied. And that's precisely why new legislation is needed to address the rigged system of redistricting and other ongoing efforts to subvert truly representative democracy in America. That's the defining challenge of our times.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, thank you. We'll see you back here shortly.

AVLON: Thank you. All right.

KEILAR: Inflation hitting a 40-year high, but what about unemployment? We will break down the numbers released just moments ago.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the U.S. loses an icon.



KEILAR: All right, just in moments ago, the weekly jobless claims. We have our CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans with these numbers to break them down.

What are we seeing here?


This is more welcome news in the American labor market, 230,000 first time jobless claims. That is -- look at the trend. I mean that's what you want to be seeing. We are back to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, that number was up just a little bit, but still very near a 52-year low for jobless claims.

What does that mean? That means that companies are so hungry for workers, they're not firing the workers they have. Layoffs are very, very low here in what is overall a strong job market.

We also got new data just in on producer prices. You remember that CPI index yesterday, consumer prices. Well, these are factory level inflation numbers. And you can see it is up here, 9.7 percent. That is also near a record. This number only goes back to about 2010 or so, this data series, but, still, we can say near record inflation for the prices that are happening at the factory level. So, consumers and businesses, the downside of this strong economy overall in this, you know, booming consumer demand is that prices are going up.

We saw those consumer prices yesterday. You dig into those numbers. Just about every -- every place you look over the past year, you're paying higher prices. That's because consumers are flush with cash and they are -- they are -- they are -- their demand for goods and services is rising pretty aggressively. The same time you have some supply glitches still because of Covid and the pandemic world that we live in.

So, overall, I think the picture, Brianna, of the economy here is good news on the jobs market. An economy is strong. Inflation is a problem. The Fed is on the case. The Federal Reserve is the official inflation fighter. And we'll start to see higher interest rates as the Fed tries to tackle inflation in the near term.

KEILAR: Yes, bacon up 19 percent there on your graphic.

ROMANS: It's a crime. It is a crime.

KEILAR: Wishing my kids did not like bacon so much, I'm telling you.

Christine --

ROMANS: It is a food group. It is a staple of the food group in my house.

KEILAR: They eat it. We serve it.

Christine, thanks.

BERMAN: Dozens of Republican lawmakers comparing Covid measures to the Nazis. Why they need to go back to history class.

KEILAR: And Senator Marsha Blackburn speeding down the hypocrisy highway in her opposition to a judicial nominee.



BERMAN: This morning, outrage over a tweet by Ohio Republican Congressman Warren Davison, who, ahistorically, and according to Holocaust survivors and seemingly German law, absurdly compared Covid measures in Washington, D.C. to the Nazis. So, noting D.C.'s requirement for masks and proof of vaccination to enter certain establishments, like bars, Davison posted a picture of what he seems to think is a Nazi health pass and wrote, this has been done before.

The Nazis killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust versus wearing a mask to get a beer.

So, how offensive is the statement from the Ohio congressman? The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland respond to the tweet is a symptom -- as a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.

How offensive is the statement from the Ohio congressman? Twitter appeared to block his post in Germany because it violated anti-hate laws there.

How offensive is the statement from the Ohio congressman? Well, if he doesn't believe Holocaust survivors or the nation of Germany, maybe he'll take the Nazis' word for it. There is record of the Nazis' opinions on vaccinations. Yes, they wanted to withhold them from people as part of their genocidal policy, keep them from people in order to kill them. One of Hitler's key henchman, Martin Bormann, one of the 20th century's most evil men, wrote in 1942, the Slavs are to work for us. Insofar as we don't need them, they may die.


Therefore, compulsory vaccination and German health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable.

Don't give the Slavs vaccines because we want them dead. That's what Bormann is saying.

So if you're really making a direct, historical comparison here, maybe it's, Martin Bormann, one of the worst people ever, didn't want vaccine requirements for the Slavs, whom he wanted dead, and Warren Davidson doesn't want vaccine requirements to get into bars in D.C.

And as long as we're quoting Nazis here, there's a saying often attributed to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

Along those lines, CNN has found more than two dozen state and local and federal lawmakers from the Republican Party who have, in some way, connected Covid restrictions to the Nazi party.

John Avlon back with us.

And they just can't seem to let go of these absolutely ahistorical and incorrect and offensive Nazi comparisons.

AVLON: Yes. And they always seem to be Trumpist congressmen and state legislators who can't quit the Nazi comparisons. And that list to me is actually the most dangerous part. This has been widely circulated bile that people keep returning to, whether it's Marjory Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, you know, Scott Perry, some of Trump's strongest allies in Congress. And it gets worse when you get down to the local level, both current candidates running, state party chairs and state legislators.

So, why this impulse to trivialize and insult the Holocaust? The Holocaust is the Holocaust. They are comparing mass murder, one of the worst things humanity's ever done, with an attempt to save lives during a pandemic. And the fact they keep doing it speaks to a deeper sickness in our politics, John.

BERMAN: Look, if you want to take on vaccine mandates, take on vaccine mandates. Congressman Davidson has every right to do that. He doesn't have a right to warp history here. And once you've pissed off the Auschwitz Memorial, you know you've gone down the wrong road.

John Avlon, thank you very much.

AVLON: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Biden has nominated Andre Mathis to the U.S. court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. And if confirmed, he will be the first black Tennessean on this court that has jurisdiction over Tennessee.

Yesterday, Mathis hit a speed bump during his confirmation hearing. Senator Chuck Grassley. And then he hit a speed hump, Senator Marsha Blackburn, from his home state, concerned about his failure to pay three speeding tickets between 2008 and 2010, more than a decade ago, including one that was for driving five miles per hour over the speed limit. A deal breaker, it appears, for Blackburn.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): On the eve of his hearing, it has been made public that he has a rap sheet with a laundry list of citations, including multiple failures to appear in court. In Tennessee, we expect our judges to respect the law, not disregard it. If Mr. Mathis thought he was above the law before, imagine how he'll conduct himself if he's confirmed as a federal judge. I cannot, in good conscience, support the nomination.


KEILAR: Mathis says he must have put the tickets in his glove box and forgotten about them and he doesn't remember being notified that his license had been suspended. He says when he learned of his license being suspended, he fixed it.

At his hearing, he took Blackburn's concerns seriously and he gave an emotional response.


ANDRE MATHIS, FEDERAL APPEALS COURT NOMINEE: I highly regret that I'm in this situation. I feel like I have embarrassed my family. And I truly regret that. While I deserve this, they don't.


KEILAR: Democratic senators on the committee didn't take Blackburn's concerns nearly as seriously.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Senator Blackburn refers to your rap sheet, is what she called it. Well, if speeding tickets are a rap sheet, I've got one too.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): I laughed with my staff that I have a rap sheet now, probably much longer than -- than the witness's. I was pulled over quite a few more times than -- than they were. And we all knew what it was about. Especially back in those days, coming over from Washington Heights, if you were driving over the GW Bridge. And my brother and I used to think, we're black, we just prepare for being pulled over. And sometimes I was pulled over for going three miles over the speed limit.


KEILAR: Senator Booker mentioned race there, and it does matter here. Blackburn calls Mathis' speeding tickets a rap sheet. A rap sheet is a criminal record. It is an acronym for record of arrests and prosecutions. Mathis doesn't have a rap sheet. He doesn't have a criminal record. But Blackburn waited wheel-well high into a stereotype that black men are criminals.

But not every Republican on the committee was worried about Mathis' speeding tickets.


Not worried -- as worried as Blackburn, for sure. Here's Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I have some experience with our department of motor vehicles in Louisiana. I spent a year there one time trying to get my son's lost license renewed. I remember -- I remember all they had -- I didn't bring any reading and I remember all they had were copies of "Popular Mechanics" from like 1997 or something to read.


KEILAR: Senator Kennedy highlighted how Mathis grew up in his local boys and girls club and now gives back to his community. And Kennedy was quite sympathetic to Mathis, even as he validated Blackburn feeling slighted for not having a private audience with Mathis for which Kennedy seemed to blame the White House. Maybe.

But what the White House cannot be blamed for is Blackburn trafficking in a racist trop, even if inadvertently, especially since Blackburn herself knows a thing or two about speeding tickets, or rather getting out of one. Just last year Capitol Police pulled her car over as Blackburn's driver was racing her down Constitution Avenue to the airport to catch a flight home. She hopped out of the car, flashed her congressional pin, and away she went. Most people don't have that luxury.

Andre Mathis didn't when he was ticketed for going five miles over the speed limit. But for Senator Blackburn, life is a highway, where you don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

So, new evidence that omicron may be peaking in several East Coast cities. The data that is being called a glimmer of hope.

BERMAN: And new finger pointing after the deadly "Rust" movie set shooting. The film's armorer is now taking legal action. But, first, you know her face, but do you know her story? Discover the

life and legacy of the true Marilyn Monroe in a new CNN original series "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe," premiering Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marilyn Monroe knew that she was more than just a pretty face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wanted control of her own destiny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's frustrating that people can't think about her in terms of her intellect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marilyn challenges what it means to have agency as a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see a woman that is so in charge of her sexuality is extremely empowering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This woman is so comfortable in her skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was rolling the dice with her career in very real terms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marilyn would have been the biggest influencer of all time. Create her own production company, getting films made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marilyn Monroe is a mirror for people's ideas about women's sexuality and women's power.

MARILYN MONROE: It's hard to know where to start, if you don't start with the truth.

ANNOUNCER: "Reframed, Marilyn Monroe," Sunday at 9:00 on CNN.




BERMAN: A young woman works through grief and depression to win Olympic silver in today's "The Human Factor."


ERICA SULLIVAN, OLYMPIAN: I started swimming competitively when I was six years old. A big part of it was because my dad was a swimmer. He played a big role in teaching me to enjoy the sport.

He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. My mom was in a position of taking care of my dad. I felt really alone during that time.

I started to realize I was gay around right before my dad's diagnosis. I'm going through the turmoil of coming out, while my dad is going through his illness.

My dad passed away when I was 16 years old. I made the national team for the first time three weeks after he passed.

I couldn't even get through swim practice anymore. I think I just pushed everything down for so long to try not to feel anything.

My coach got me a therapist. So nine hours of therapy a week for six months. The whole mental health and coming out, I was just lucky to have a support system behind me.

The moment I won the silver medal in Tokyo, in an Olympics, it felt like I was living a dream. I feel like I represent America, I am queer. I am Asian-American. My mom is a first generation immigrant.

Having other people be able to look at me and be, like, oh, I see myself in her, oh, maybe I can do that too, is more rewarding than the medal around my neck.


KEILAR: What a story that will resonate.

The loss of a legend.


RONNIE SPECTOR, MUSICIAN (Singing): So won't you be, be my little baby, say you'll be my darling , be my baby now. Oh, oh, oh.


KEILAR: '60s pop icon and lead singer of the Ronettes, Ronnie Spector, has died. She was known for that sultry voice, her sky-high beehive hairdo and hits like that one, "Be My Baby." Her family says that she died in the arms of her husband after a brief battle with cancer. She was 78.

CNN's coverage -- or I should say, actually, we have a moment here to reflect on this, Berman,

I -- I mean, what a special performer. And that song is -- it just stirs something in me. It's beautiful.

BERMAN: It's because it's at the beginning of "Dirty Dancing."

KEILAR: Well, yes.

BERMAN: That's -- that's why it stirs something for you.

But Ronnie Spector is more iconic than even "Dirty Dancing" is.


Honestly, the role that she played in the Ronettes played, the role they played in music, and in society, you know, it's super important. And they had hits.