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Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) Is Interviewed About The Failed Burn Pit Vote; Key Inflation Rose 6.8 Percent; Political Impact Of Economic Numbers. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 08:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A bill that would fund medical care for veterans who have health problems because of exposure to burn pits and also other toxins has stalled after 25 Republican senators, many of whom had previously supported the bill, voted against it on Wednesday.

Earlier, we were joined by Army veteran Le Roy Torres. He has suffered from health problems because of his exposure to burn pits during the Iraq War, and he calls the failed vote heart wrenching.


LE ROY TORRES, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): I see it as strictly repulsive partisan politics that is hurting the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. You know, and I'm totally just - it's disgusting.


KEILAR: Joining me now is Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana. He is the bill's co-sponsor. He is the chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us. I wonder, today, do you have a better sense of what happened here, what the Republican objections are that led to this reversal of their support?

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): I really don't. But it was a silly thing to do. I mean, backing our men and women who have fought for this country after being in war for the last 20 years and making sure we live up to our end of the bargain, which is, you sign up the line -- on the dotted line and we're going to take care of you when you get home if something happened in the conflict, or in your service to this country, is part of the agreement.


And this bill passed with 84 votes back on June 16th. And there was a technicality that was found, so we had to do it again. And now, all of a sudden, folks are playing politics with veterans' healthcare. I would hope that people would rethink their vote from a few days ago,

when they previously voted yes, we support our veterans and we support healthcare for our veterans. And then all of a sudden, day before yesterday, they changed their minds and said, no, we don't support our veterans because of whatever issue it might be. Some will say it's the issue that Senator Toomey has brought up. I don't believe that because I don't think Senator Toomey's issue is real.

But whatever it is, there's going to be a vote on --

KEILAR: His -- I just want to be clear on that, Senator, his - his issue is about a budgetary gimmick. And at the risk of making some people's eyes glaze over, it has to do with mandatory versus discretionary spending.

But what you're - I think you're alluding to, and I want to ask you about, Congressman Brian Mast, who is a Republican, he's a combat veteran, he lost two legs during his service, he actually tweeted that, you know, in his opinion, any version of Build Back Better will make inflation worse, should be opposed. So he's in opposition to this Manchin deal that has been brokered among Democrats in the Senate. But he also said veterans are not a political bargaining chip. He seems to think these two things are connected, this deal and this Republican revolt on burn pits. Do you think so?

TESTER: Well, look, if you want to find a reason to vote against any bill out there, you can find a reason. I think if they are connected, they shouldn't be. I think our veterans are too important to play politics with. And he is - he is -- both the people you've had on are absolutely 100 percent correct, we need to take care of our veterans. And that's the bottom line.

And if people want to find excuses to vote no based on a bill that is unrelated to veterans healthcare, then go ahead. But let's just be honest, if you do that, that means you're opposed to taking care of our veterans.

And hopefully, on Tuesday - or on Monday or Tuesday, whenever the vote is held again, people will come to their senses and say, hey, we're going to vote correctly this time, as we did on June 16th, take care of our veterans and make sure that we are all volunteer military and the people we send off are taken care of when they get home.

KEILAR: Recruiting's been tough. The Army is actually likely to miss its goal by nearly 40,000 in -- over the next two years.

TESTER: That's correct.

KEILAR: Do you worry this contributes to that?

TESTER: Absolutely 100 percent correct. I don't think we can be critical of the Army on their recruitment when they miss their goals, and they will, and then do stuff like this because this will add to their inability to get good people into the Army.

And so this is important on so many different levels, Brianna, to make sure that not only we take care of our vets, that we're able to have an all-volunteer military, to protect ourselves against threats, like Russia and China and Iran and North Korea. But the bottom line is, is that folks need to understand what they're voting on is healthcare for veterans, not a package to reduce the debt or have Medicare compete for drug prices.

So, let's just get the job done, like we did on June 6th, and move this ball forward so veterans can sleep at night. There's a lot of veterans out there, when this bill passed on June 16th, had already spent the money because they assumed it was a done deal, as I did. And now they're going, well, those healthcare benefits you thought you had, well, you're not going to have them.

And, like I said, after being in war for 20 years and we've seen the impacts of burn pits and agent orange and other things that are contained in this bill that deal with toxic exposure, it's time the federal government step up and make it so our fighting men and women don't have to fight for benefits and healthcare that they've earned. And that's exactly what this bill does. It allows them access to healthcare and benefits for the damage that were done to them in their service to this country while they were in the military.

KEILAR: Senator Tester, we do appreciate your time. We'll be looking on Monday, or, as you said, maybe Tuesday to see what the result of the vote is.

Thank you, sir.

TESTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: A key inflation report has just released. We're going to have a breakdown of that ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a Las Vegas casino soaked after a severe storm.





KEILAR: All right, we have some new inflation data just coming in to CNN. So, let's get right to chief business correspondent Christine Romans to break all this down for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And this is the Fed's favorite inflation gauge. And it is still running hot. In fact, this is a fresh 40-year high for something called the personal consumption expenditures, PCE price index, 6.8 percent that index is up over last year. You look at a couple of the key categories here, energy up 43.5 percent in June. Anybody who drives a car, right, or heats their house or cools their house knows this, and food up 11.2 percent. This is a gauge that is a little different than the Consumer Price

Index that we report every month. The Fed likes to look at this one because it has some other through lines, especially for medical costs, for example, in here. So, this is a number that the Fed has been watching and this is showing you why the Fed is raising interest rates so aggressively to try to cool inflation. It is widespread in the American economy right now across all kinds of categories. When you look at the trend again, the highest now in 40 years at 6.8 percent, that's not the kind of line that you want to see.

This has been a crucial week for economic news, as you know, capped by this particular report. You have recession fears fanned by two quarters in a row of negative GDP growth. But, still, a strong job market at the same time. So, it is a complex economy with some treacherous waters trying to get through here. This number just reinforcing that inflation story that has been so difficult to try to turn around, Brianna.


KEILAR: All right, Christine Romans, thank you for that.

BERMAN: So, obviously, there's an economic impact in numbers like this. What about the political impact? With us now, senior data reporter Harry Enten.

So, Harry, we're talking about a president's party heading into a midterm.


BERMAN: Inflation numbers like this, what do they mean?

ENTEN: Well, let's take a look. We're going to put in -- we got this in last second. Boy, we put this in.

Where are we right now? At 6.8 percent. These are the five highest yearly changes in inflation at this point in a midterm cycle using that PCE-PI, and that ranks, look at that, the third highest since 1962. And if you look at these five highest, the average seat loss for the president's party, 25 seats. So, not a particularly good sign in the House of Representatives for the Democrats.

BERMAN: No, you're looking at losses. This points to losses in the House if history is a guide here.


BERMAN: Now, we talk about inflation, non inflation. There are numbers that actually people feel more than that.

ENTEN: Yes, how much money is in your pocket? How much disposable income do you have? So, the real disposable income, take a look here, five worst yearly changes in real disposable income growth in midterm cycles since 1962. Look at where 2022 lands, minus 3.5 percent. That is the worst at this point in a midterm cycle since 1962. And if you look at all these other numbers, right, what was the average seat lost for the -- in the House of Representatives for the president's party? Look at that, 48 seats on average. So, this one tends to be more predictive of what happens in midterm elections.

Look, we'll see what happens this year, but this is the worst on a very important metric.

BERMAN: That's a low number. And that's a big number right there.


BERMAN: How about GDP growth in general?

ENTEN: Right. So we got those numbers earlier this week. This is just another sign, the five worst real GDP growth in these quarters, at this point in a midterm cycle since 1954. Look at that, again, negative. Negative growth. That is the worst at this point in a midterm cycle since '54. And the average seat loss there, 27 seats. So, look, inflation, real disposable income, GDP growth, all at or near the worst.

BERMAN: And we saw the second quarter in a row of negative GDP growth and people are saying is that a recession, is it not a recession. People, when polled, have a view of whether we are in a recession?

ENTEN: Yes, the economy is in a recession. Overall, 64 percent say, yes, we are in a recession. But more than that, what's really interesting, across the political aisle, Republicans, independents, Democrats, a majority of all of them, believe that we are in a recession.

BERMAN: And that is the number that will probably have the greatest political impact here.


BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: This was really enlightening.

Protests underway this morning at Donald Trump's golf club as he hosts the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour.



KEILAR: Time now for the "Week That Was."

The U.S. makes Russia a trade offer that Moscow has yet to refuse or accept.

The president and his Chinese counterpart hold a virtual chat as Speaker Pelosi may visit Taiwan. BERMAN: New intelligence reports that 75,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in its invasion of Ukraine as Moscow starts to reduce gas supplies to Europe.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un says he is ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States and South Korea.

KEILAR: The economy continuing its Jekyll and Hyde ways. Gas prices down for 46 straight days, but the GDP also down for the second straight quarter.

Jerome Powell hikes rates again and Joe Manchin stuns, striking a historic tax and climate deal that Larry Summers says will fight inflation.

BERMAN: The Justice Department's January 6th investigation heats up, talking with Trump insiders and asking about Trump's actions and conversations around January 6th.

KEILAR: Emails surfaced showing the fake elector plotters admit their scheme was fake and Merrick Garland vows no one is above the law.

BERMAN: The January 6th committee expends its witness list to Trump's cabinet and threatens to subpoena Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

KEILAR: Democrats help fund election deniers while Trump and his former number two square off in a party quagmire.

BERMAN: As President Biden emerges from Covid isolation, 75 percent of his party say they want someone else in 2024.

Justice Samuel Alito mocks critics of his Roe decision, while CNN reports Chief Justice John Roberts tried to save Roe until the end.

KEILAR: The pope goes to Canada, Bubba Watson joins the LIV Tour, while protesters join the uproar over Trump hosting the league.

New studies show Covid likely started in the market there while the U.S. admits it's late to the game against monkeypox.

BERMAN: Dangerous heat hits the nations. Fires and destruction near Yosemite, deadly floods in Kentucky and a volcano erupts in Japan.

Russia says it will leave the Space Station and build its own, while an out of control Chinese rocket debris will leave space and hit somewhere.


BEYONCE, MUSICIAN (singing): Cause she comfortable. Comfortable in my skin. Cozy with who I am.


KEILAR: And Beyonce returns. So does Shark Week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRACY MORGAN, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN, HOST OF "SHARKS WITH TRACY MORGAN": And another thing you don't know is that I love sharks.


BERMAN: Black Panther gets a sequel. Aaron Rodgers dresses up like "Con Air." Hollywood loses a beloved bad guy and one of its favorite good guys.




KEILAR: The shipwreck said to have inspired Chunk and Booty Traps is found, unlike the billion dollar Mega Millions jackpot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, it's - it's - it's - whoa. Whoa. Whoa.


BERMAN: And a "Daily Double." Two hosts get the job for "Jeopardy."

And, finally, two signs of the apocalypse. First, somehow, Choco Tacos are being discontinued.


And if that's not bad enough, there's this.




BERMAN: Basically, we're talking a real life version of Terminator. A Russian chess robot broke a kid's finger. Yes, the robots are attacking us, just like in the movies. So, enjoy your weekend.

KEILAR: If you can.

BERMAN: If you can.

KEILAR: "The New York Times" reporting that the Biden administration expects to roll out updated coronavirus booster shots in September. So, what does that mean for you?


KEILAR: This week's CNN Hero Carie Broecker is on a mission to help seniors of all kinds, the two-legged and the four.


CARIE BROECKER, CNN HERO: Peace of Mind Dog Rescue has a dual mission, helping senior dogs and senior people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yep, he's my dog now.

BROECKER: We take in dogs from senior citizens who can no longer care for them, or who have passed away, and we also take in senior dogs from animal shelters.

Yeah, definitely Peace of Mind dog.

We have found homes for almost 3,000 dogs. And we have helped close to 2,000 senior citizens.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looks happy.

BROECKER: In our society, sometimes the elderly, whether that is senior people or senior dogs, get ignored, and so we really want to cherish all of life.


KEILAR: That is beautiful. And to see more of Carie's story, just go to

BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.