Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Supreme Court Limits LGBTQ Protections in New Ruling; Biden Tonight Says Court's Decision on Student Loans Was Wrong; Two Major Rulings on Final Day of Supreme Court's Term; French Public Transit Shut Down Nationwide as Rioting Hits Cities. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 30, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And another major ruling blocking President Biden's student loan forgiveness program, the president now promising new action to help millions of Americans in debt, but will he face more legal hurdles?
And as France reel from violent protests, tens of thousands of police officers are being mobilized across the country, authorities bracing for another damaging and destabilizing wave of unrest.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Our top story this hour, the two major new rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and what they mean for the nation. Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider, she's here with mere in The Situation Room. Jessica, walk us through these very, very significant decisions.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, two major decisions on the last day of the court's term, Wolf, from what has become a very divided Supreme Court. So, the conservative majority striking down the president's student loan debt forgiveness program, while also issuing a ruling in favor of a website designer that leaves the door open for businesses across the country to discriminate.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Supreme Court ending the term with a dramatic finish and showing just how ideologically divided the justices are. First, all six conservative justices ruling in favor of a Christian web designer from Colorado who refused to create wedding websites from same-sex couples citing religious grounds.
She objected to a Colorado law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, saying it violated her free speech rights.
Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed, writing for the majority, the First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Colorado cannot deny that promise. Lorie Smith, who runs 303 Creative, lost in the lower courts but prevailed before a Supreme Court that has repeatedly ruled in favor of religious group in recent years.
LORIE SMITH, PLAINTIFF: I want to design in a way that's consistent with my faith, but Colorado is censoring and compelling my speech and forcing me to create custom artwork, custom expression that goes against the core of who I am and what I believe.
SCHNEIDER: But Justice Sonia Sotomayor warning this decision could also lead to other kinds of discrimination. Today, the court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class. A website designer could equally refuse to create a wedding website for an interracial couple, for example.
While the majority disputed that notion, Colorado's attorney general warned --
ATTORNEY GENERAL PHIL WEISER (D-CO): This case will have the impact to cause considerable mischief undermining the principle that once you open up the doors to the public as a business, you have to serve all comers.
SCHNEIDER: The Supreme Court also handing a stinging defeat to the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Biden, please keep your promise.
SCHNEIDER: In another 6-3 decision the conservative justices, rejecting a program that President Biden in 2022.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made a commitment that we provide student debt relief, and I'm honoring that commitment today.
SCHNEIDER: It was aimed at delivering up to $20,000 in debt cancelation to millions of borrowers.
Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative majority that Biden's administration read a federal law too broadly when trying to enact the program. The economic and political significance of the secretary's action is staggering by any measure, he wrote, adding the $430 billion price tag was just too big to justify action from the secretary of education instead of Congress.
The question here is not whether something should be done, it is who has the authority to do it.
The liberal dissenters claim the majority was making a political decision with Justice Elena Kagen writing, the result here is that the court substitutes itself for Congress and the executive branch in making national policy about student loan forgiveness.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And this court's decision means that student debt will not be canceled for the 40 million plus borrowers who might have been banking on it. And not only that, Wolf, but these borrowers will have to start repaying these loans starting October 1st, because up until then, there's been this pause from COVID, but on October 1st, that pause expires and people have to start paying these loans back.
BLITZER: Yes, these are very significant development, indeed. Jessica, stay with us. We're going to get back to you in a few moments.
Right now, I want to discuss all that's going on with a prominent attorney in the legal fight for same-sex marriage equality, David Boies, is joining us right now. David, thanks for joining us.
What does today's ruling on services for same-sex weddings mean for the LGBTQ community nationwide and potentially for protected minority groups?
DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY WHO HAS REPRESNTED SAME-SEX MARRIAGE EQUALITY: It is a terrible step backward.
A step backward for the community that's directly attacked here but also a step backward for anyone who believes that this country ought to not discriminate, that ought to welcome, ought to be a society that sponsors equality.
It's a step that is particularly sad that comes from the United States Supreme Court which for so many, many decades has really been in the vanguard of promoting individual rights. And to take away these rights now is, I think, sad for the justice system and sad for all of us who care about equality.
BLITZER: Do you see a future, David, in which the U.S. Supreme Court revisits, or even overturns its own 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage?
BOIES: You know, I don't believe they will, but I didn't believe they were going to overrule Roe v. Wade either. So, I think once you start down this road of narrowing a minority's rights, you can't tell where it's going to end.
One of the things that is striking is how often this court, the majority, is substituting its judgment for the judgment of private universities like Harvard, the legislature of Colorado, the executive branch, President Biden, the Congress of the United States and overruling the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance reforms.
So, what you have is a court that is extraordinarily activist, extraordinarily aggressive in substituting its judgment for the judgment of other institutions. And I think that's got to be something that concerns people.
BLITZER: Before today's rulings, President Biden said, he said it yesterday, this court, and I'm quoting him now, is not normal. He says it's out of sorts with the values of the American people. Do you agree, David? Is today's court different than the previous times you've argued before the U.S. Supreme Court?
BOIES: I'm not sure I would say that it's not normal. We always like the court when it decides in our favor and we always don't like the court when it decides against us. I think what you can say is the court has swung very much to the right, that this court has abandoned stare decisis, that this court is more and more often deciding against the rights of the weak and vulnerable and minorities and that you see that in the last 24 hours.
The last 24 hours, the United States Supreme Court says the Constitution prohibits a private university from favoring a persecuted class. And yet at the same time, within the same 24 hours, says the Constitution enables, protects as a constitutional right a private business' ability to limit what services it performs based on a discriminatory purpose. It's just hard to reconcile those two cases.
BLITZER: The student loan decision, did President Biden, David, misstep proposing this massive student loan forgiveness program?
BOISE: I think there's no doubt that it was a bold step. I think that there was ambiguity there. But I think in prior times, the Supreme Court would have respected executive discretion when it was ambiguous. And I think that what you see here is an increased willingness of the Supreme Court to say, no, we're going to go with our judgment, not the judgment of the executive, we're going to go with our judgment, not the judgment of the legislature. We're going to go with our judgment, not the judgment of Colorado State. We're going to go with our judgment, not the judgment of Harvard University.
And I think when a court begins to take that kind of power on that often, it's troubling.
BLITZER: David Boies, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue, of course, this conversation down the road.
Let's dig deeper right now with our legal and Supreme Court experts, and, Norm Eisen, let me start with you. Justice Sotomayor, in her dissent, wrote this, let me read it to you.
The opinion of the court is, quite literally, a notice that reads, some services may be denied to same sex couples. Is she right? How do you see the impact of this decision on the LGBT issue?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's profoundly impactful, Wolf. I do agree with Justice Sotomayor because the effect of this is not going to be limited to this one business. It's going to be broader, and she writes about the stigma of being turned away and some of the compelling stories that we know about.
For example, she includes a footnote about a same-sex couple, where they refuse to provide burial services in the manner that was requested, and as a result, one of the memorials had to be canceled. It's going to have a real life impact. I think it is extraordinary for the Supreme Court to say, essentially, for the first time, as the justice points out, that a group can be turned away and that this stigma can be faced, so very significant.
BLITZER: Let me bring Michael Waldman into this conversation. Michael, in three major opinions this term over the last two days, affirmative action, student debt relief, today's LGBTQ rights case, we've seen the same 6-3 conservative majority prevail. How do you think that impacts the court and how it is perceived?
MICHAEL WALDMAN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: I think it fuels correctly a perception that the court is divided, that it is moving hard to the right, that this six-vote super majority is upending decades of precedent and laws that affect the lives of millions.
And it comes one day after the same supermajority in its first full- term overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutionally protected right for abortion federally for so many women and had the most expansive Second Amendment ruling, the most sweeping one ever and began the process of curbing the power of regulatory and government agencies to act.
In that case it was climate change, in this case it was this egregious, in my view, decision. But they're taking more and more cases that will really hobble the ability of government to protect the environment and workers and other things. And it is going to lead to tremendous controversy, political controversy, public controversy going forward.
BLITZER: Let me go back to Jessica Schneider, who covers the Supreme Court for us. The Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to acknowledge, Jessica, as you know, the increasing criticism the Supreme Court has faced recently in the last opinion today. There's going to be a lot more criticism down the road. What stood out to you about that?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it was quite an extraordinary statement from the chief justice. I mean we are really, especially in the past two days seen the 6-3 split conservatives versus liberals. We saw it in the written opinions. We saw it on the bench, I mean, to the point where these liberals said I dissent. They typically say I respectfully dissent.
So, interestingly, in this opinion, the chief justice said that plainly heartfelt disagreement should not be mistaken for disparagement. So, he seemed to simultaneously addressing the public who may be viewing this fractured court with skepticism, with concern and also addressing his fellow justices saying, we need to hold things together, we need to make sure that this criticism doesn't become disparagement.
BLITZER: And, Norm, I thought it was interesting in his remarks after the decision on the student loan forgiveness issue. The president, President Biden, said the Supreme Court, and I'm quoting him now, misinterpreted the constitution. How do you see it?
EISEN: Well, in the dissent we also saw that very strong language, at one point, one of the dissents actually saying that the majority violated the Constitution.
I think the problem with the student loan case is that the typical policymaking that is adjudicated between the legislative branch and the executive branch is here being irrigated onto the unelected judicial branch, and it just goes beyond in the pattern, Wolf, of a Supreme Court.
Last term in Dobbs, as David Boies said, story decisis, the idea that Supreme Court cases becomes settled law, they overturned choice. This term they overturned affirmative action. They are inserting them self into these legislative in executive policymaking on student loans. It is a momentous turn.
BLITZER: I thought it interesting, Michael, that Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent that programs like Medicare, could be at risk because of this decision. Do you agree?
WALDMAN: Well, I think that Medicare has such a solid political basis, as well as legal basis, as well as more than half a century of precedent that I wouldn't worry that people will lose their Medicare benefits. But her point is that Congress passes laws, by definition, necessarily, with some language that gives authority to the executive branch, to take actions on complex matters that experts need to act on or where presidents need to act.
And if you say, as this court has now started to say that when it thinks that this action violates this brand new and very vague standard that if it's a major question, as they call it, then all of a sudden, the president can't act even if the law gives the president power to do it, that gives the power, as has been said by my colleagues, that gives the power to the judges. And they're not elected, they serve for a lifetime. And, increasingly, they are ruling on big, hot button political issue.
Think about what the topics have been, guns, abortion, ending affirmative action in higher education. That sounds like a political caucus, not like a court. And, again, it's going to draw more and more attention to the court and more and more controversy.
Conservatives have talked about the court and have talked about judges for many years. Liberals mostly have not paid nearly as much passionate attention. Now they will.
BLITZER: They certainly will. All right, guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, today's high court rulings are politically charged as Republicans and Democrats gear up for 2024. We'll have reaction from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
[18:20:00] BLITZER: Tonight, two consequential new rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court are sparking some heated reaction over at Congress.
Let's go to CNN's Melanie Zanona. She's joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Melanie, Congress is on recess right now, but leaders from both parties are speaking out about these decisions, these rulings. What are you hearing?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Reaction has been pouring in all day even though Congress is on recess, and, not surprisingly, the responses are falling entirely along party lines.
Republicans are just thrilled with the outcomes here. They're crediting former President Donald Trump with swinging the court in a conservative direction and making these rulings possible, and they are particularly pleased with the decision to end Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness program. That is something that Republicans have been fighting against in Congress.
And I want to read you part of the statement from Mitch McConnell. He is the Senate minority leader. He wrote, the president of the United States cannot hijack 20-year-old emergency powers to pad the pockets of its high earning base and make suckers out of working families who choose not to take on student debt.
But, Wolf, I can tell you that inside the GOP, there is some concern there could actually be some voter backlash over this issue because student loan forgiveness is popular. And so that is why you're seeing some in the GOP now pushing for legislation to lower education costs.
And, similarly, the GOP has been notably a lot less vocal in that other Supreme Court ruling from today, which determined a Christian website designer can deny services to a same-sex couple. Both Speaker Kevin McCarthy and McConnell put out statements relatively quickly praising the student loan decision but they still have not weighed in on the gay rights case.
And I think that just really shows you, Wolf, that this continues to be a politically tricky issue for Republicans as over the last decade or so public support for gay marriage has dramatically shifted. So, you get a sense why Republicans are reluctant to weigh in on that case.
And, meanwhile, Democrats are just devastated and furious with what has transpired this week. It has been setback after setback. Democrats now, urging Joe Biden to try to come up with some sort of plan B to provide relief for student loan borrowers. They are renewing their calls to reform or pack the Supreme Court.
And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been especially outspoken today. I want to read you, part of his statement, because it was pretty scathing. He wrote, the fanatical MAGA right have captured the Supreme Court and achieved dangerous progressive policies that they can never obtain at a ballot box. These MAGA-captured Supreme Court feels free to accept lavish gifts and vacations from their powerful, big-monied friends, all while they refuse to help every day Americans.
So, we'll see how Democrats try to use this as rallying cry in the next election, the way they did with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But for right now, it is clear that these, last round of opinions from the Supreme Court have delivered a massive disappointment for Democrats while delivering a big victory for the right, Wolf.
BLITZER: Melanie Zanona reporting from Capitol Hill, thank you.
More perspective now for from our political commentators. Scott Jennings, is it logical for Republicans to praise some of this conservative court's decisions but shy away from the more controversial rulings, like the one limiting LGBTQ protections?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess it depends on who you are and what your station in life in Congress is. The leadership may feel differently say than your average rank and file member out there who may represent a different kind of constituency. So, I think it really might be very dependent on who they are and what their responsibilities are.
I think, overall, what you're hearing out of Republicans is happiness with the court. You know, really, these 6-3 decisions are exactly what conservatives had envisioned when Donald Trump got his appointments. And they're thrilled basically overall with the direction of it today and throughout this last couple of weeks.
So, I'm not surprised that they're shying away from a couple of them, but on the whole, I think you're hearing Republicans frankly euphoric about what's happened here.
BLITZER: Karen Finney, let's get your thoughts. Take a listen to President Biden's defense when he was asked if he gave borrowers of these student loans false hope over how -- now that the Supreme Court has blocked his forgiveness program. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I didn't give any false hope. The question was whether or not I would do even more than what was requested. What I did I felt was appropriate and was able to be done and would get done. I didn't give borrowers false hope, but the Republicans snatched away the hope they were given, and it's real, real hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Karen, how much could this potentially be a political vulnerability for President Biden?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the political vulnerability is for Republicans.
Because let's just go back a couple years when Republicans were actually campaigning on their opposition to the efforts of President Biden, who campaigned in 2020 on relieving student debt, and he has taken a number of measures, I mean, acknowledging you have to deal with both the cost of college as well as the affordability, as well as student debt.
So, I think in this instance, particularly given that Republicans have been so quick to crow, and as Scott said, be delighted, Americans across the political spectrum, middle and low-income Americans recognize that it's President Biden who is actually fighting for them, trying to bring some relief.
So, I actually think this is going to be a really important point of contrast for the president and for Democrats going into 2024.
BLITZER: What do you -- how do you see it, Scott?
JENNINGS: Well, Republicans obviously didn't agree with what President Biden did here, and they were informed about whether this was constitutional by Biden himself who said on CNN at his Town Hall meeting in 2021, he didn't have the power to do it, and Nancy Pelosi said, he didn't have the power to do it. And he does in any way it end to Supreme Court says, you didn't have the power to do.
And so for the average Republican out there, it's like, well, you knew it was unconstitutional and you did it anyway. So, they see this as a bit of a trap or this is a political tactic to try to use it in 2024.
I actually think a lot of Republicans are sympathetic to student loan borrowers but they're also sympathetic to the Constitution. And the way Joe Biden should try to solve this problem in their minds is try to pass the law and not bypass the constitutional boundaries that are put around the presidency and given to the Congress.
BLITZER: I'll let Karen respond. Go ahead, Karen.
FINNEY: Well, but, again, they did try to pass laws and it was Republicans in Congress, with a little help from a couple of Democrats, but we didn't have the Republicans vote to actually pass measures to help bring student relief.
And so, again, all these decisions taken together, this is huge point of contrast between who Democrats are fighting for, who this president is fighting for, are we expanding the circle of opportunity or are we making it further out of reach with each of these decisions?
BLITZER: All right. Karen Finney, Scott Jennings, guys, thanks very much.
Coming up, we'll go live to Ukraine, where a top intelligence official now claims Russia is plotting to assassinate the mercenary chief behind the weekend rebellion.
Plus, a damning U.S. State Department report details the failures behind the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Ukraine's top spy says, the exiled chief of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is being targeted for assassination by Putin security services.
Our Chief International Security Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Kyiv for us. He's got details. What else can you tell us about this claim from Ukraine's military intelligence chief, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Kyrylo Budanov, his job is to, not only know what the Russians are thinking and saying amongst themselves but also too to sometimes feed information out into public space that will cause Russians to be deeply uncomfortable.
But whatever the truth of the claims he's made today, it makes people acutely aware that we don't actually know where Yevgeny Prigozhin is at the moment. And it possibility is the case, that he is indeed in Belarus. That was where he was supposed to go in a kind of exile that was brokered in a deal by the Kremlin and Lukashenko, the president of Belarus. He was supposed to move himself and his fighters to that neighboring country of Russia.
But we've seen data from planes that are affiliated with him traveling between Moscow, St. Petersburg and Minsk suggesting possible movement or so, unverified photograph so someone who looks like him getting out of a helicopter, affiliated with him in St. Petersburg.
So, his whereabouts still unclear, and this is not a guy who's been publicity shy over the past months. And the fact Prigozhin is still moving around, it seems, or at least accepting publicly that he's gone along with the deal, that will make Putin nervous and leads many, I think, to feel that this idea, the FSB trying to assassinate him, might have some credibility behind it, but it also remind us too why did they not act before the plot and why indeed, if he's not going along with the deal, hasn't he been publicly arrested, Wolf?
BLITZER: Important and serious stuff. Nick, what's the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine like tonight?
WALSH: Yes. We've seen five lives lost through shelling in various parts of Ukraine by the Russians, said Ukrainian officials in the past 24 hours. But, possibly more notably, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has talked about increasing defenses in the north of the country.
Now, that periodically has happened since the start of the war, where they fear there might be an increased threat from Belarus, that neighbor of Russia we were just talking about.
But this might be a reflection of Ukrainian and indeed NATO concerns, that if Wagner is indeed moving to Belarus, and we've heard indications that Prigozhin might go there but also, too, he might be followed by his fighters and part of the deal was him suggesting he might be able to get some kind of legal ability to function there as a mercenary group, but that may internally to Wagner pressure from the north down towards Kyiv.
Important to put the context here, though, that Ukraine is always passing around misinformation at times to try and keep its enemy on the wrong track, but still interesting development here particularly in how it relates to the future of Wagner, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh in Kyiv for us, thank you very much. This note to our viewers, coming up on Erin Burnett Outfront, Erin is live in Kyiv in talks with soldiers who trained in the U.S. on how to shoot down incoming Russian missiles and they're now fighting in Ukraine.
That's coming up at 7:00 P.M. Eastern right after The Situation Room.
More news we're following right now in The Situation Room, the U.S. State Department releasing a long-awaited report detailing the deadly and rather chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
CNN's Kylie Atwood is joining us from the State Department. She's getting more information. What can you tell us, Kylie, about the latest findings?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, these findings really paint a picture of flawed preparation for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by both the Biden and the Trump administrations, saying, quote, during both administrations, there was insufficient senior level consideration of worst case scenarios and how quickly those might follow.
And then it also details an inability particularly of the Biden administration to put into effect processes that would actually enable that withdrawal to happen in a swift way. You know, they are critical in this report of President Biden's withdrawal timeline, saying that the withdrawal timeline for the military, the quick retrograde created challenges for the State Department, also saying that the non- combatant evacuation operation that was stood up at the Pentagon didn't have a clear lead at the State Department coordinating with them. There wasn't someone on the seventh floor here at the State Department, which is where the secretary of state sits, who was the person in the lead in terms of coordinating the crisis response to this situation.
And it also paints a picture of just how the inability to put these processes in place actually impacted Afghans and U.S. allies. And I want to read to you a quote from the report detailing that, saying that senior administration officials had not made clear decisions regarding the universe of at-risk Afghans who would be included by the time the operation started, nor had they determined where those Afghans would be taken. They added significantly -- that added significantly to the challenges the department and DOD faced during the evacuation. So, of course, it's clear that there was a lot of confusion because of the lack of adequate planning that was put into place.
And I do think it's important to note, Wolf, that the Biden administration there's been a lot of questions about when this report was going to come. They release a classified version to the Hill earlier this year and we're just getting this classified version of it on the Friday before 4th of July, the State Department not answering questions about the process that led to the timing of when this is coming out. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, Thank you.
Just ahead, we'll check in on the July 4th holiday travel rush here in the United States, as U.S. air travel hits numbers not seen since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
BLITZER: After a frustrating week of cancelations and delays, the busiest air travel day since the COVID pandemic is under way. Tens of millions of Americans also expected to hit the road for the July 4th holiday weekend. CNN's Pete Muntean has the latest.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Chicago to California, July 4th travelers remain undaunted after thousands of trips melted down this week. United Airlines canceled the most flights of any carrier accounting for 40 percent of all cancelation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a bit ridiculous, and I'm hoping that my bag is here.
MUNTEAN: United says, it's grateful to its customers who endured a lot of disruptions. Many became separated from their checked bag. United now acknowledges its operational issues after CEO Scott Kirby, put the blame on FAA air traffic controller shortages in New York.
United workers, who are stranded with passengers across the country, are pushing back.
SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: It is ridiculous to say that this is only the FAA.
MUNTEAN: The good news, says Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, is that cancelations are down compared to last year.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: There need to be more resources for air-traffic control, but it is important for airlines to create enough cushion and resilience in the system.
MUNTEAN: Despite delays, Friday stands to set a new post-pandemic record for air travel. The Transportation Security Administration says it will screen 2.82 million passengers nationwide, rivaling an all- time record set in 2019.
ANDREW GROSS, AAA SPOKESPERSON: It's going to be big this year. MUNTEAN: Though the majority of travel this holiday will be by car. AAA says in total 50 million people will travel 50 mile or more, the highest in 18 years. A gallon of gas costs an average of $1.30 less than a year ago, the second biggest one-year drop in more than three decades, one silver lining on the roads after struggles in the skies.
GROSS: Be prepared. Expect delays, expect cancelation.
MUNTEAN (on camera): The numbers are already huge. At the world's busiest airport in Atlanta became even busier on Friday morning. Over a period of five hours, they screened a whopping 31,000 people at TSA.
This rush though is far from over. The TSA says, when it's all done, it will screen a total of 17.7 million people at TSA checkpoints nationwide, that includes next week when everybody begins coming home, the next big test for airlines. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pete Muntean over at Reagan National Airport, just outside Washington, thank you.
Coming up, a high-profile Democrat weighs in on the new rulings by the Supreme Court. Congressman Adam Schiff joins us. That's next.
BLITZER: Tonight, key Democrats are warning that today's two major Supreme Court rulings will have serious consequences.
We're joined now by the House Judiciary Committee member, Adam Schiff. He's a Democrat from California. He's also a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
I know you say the Supreme Court --
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Wolf, good to be here.
BLITZER: You say the Supreme Court opened the door to more discrimination, your words, with today's ruling, limiting LGBTQ rights. What are you bracing for?
SCHIFF: Well, I'm bracing for the loss of more rights. Sadly, this is a court that's not conservative court, not in a legal sense. It is a partisan court, a reactionary court. A partisan -- you know, a conservative court would have some respect for precedent. But this court doesn't.
And the decision that rolls back LGBTQ rights, particularly, means that, what, employer accommodations and others may now on their websites decide to say, if there is lodging, say, well, we don't feel we ought to lodge people who are same-sex couples or we're going to have our lodging only available to people of a certain color or not mixed race couples.
So it opens the door, I feel, dangerously to discrimination. It's one of the reasons why, in addition to the rollback of reproductive freedom, that I think the court needs to be expanded. It was stacked effectively by Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump, in order to un-stack it and restore balance. I think we need to expand the size of the court.
BLITZER: I want to turn to the student loan ruling, the decision that came down today. I want you to watch how one official from the committee for a responsible federal budget reacted. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC GOLDWEIN, SENIOR VP & SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: The president made an empty promise that he couldn't keep, using authority he didn't have. This plan is costly, it adds to inflation, which means it's adding costs for 87 percent of Americans. It's regressive. Most of the benefits go to the top half of the public. And again, Congress has the authority to spend, not the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, did President Biden, Congressman, make an empty promise?
SCHIFF: No, he didn't. I certainly was among many who called on him to try to forgive student loan debt. And I called on him when the decision came out today to use other statutory means. I'm glad he is doing exactly that to fall through on that campaign commitment. There are millions of young people mired in debt. They effectively have a first mortgage before they have a mortgage on a home.
And the result is that it puts a chill on the economy, it curbs what young people can do with their future. They can't pursue the career path that they might choose because they can't afford to. And it has untold negative consequences on our economy.
And these same voices that are attacking the Biden administration for trying to lighten the load of students, they were fine to accept PPP loans, business loans. They were fine with debt forgiveness of businesses. But when it comes to young people trying to get a higher education, apparently, no, they would say the administration doesn't have that power. They're very selective in what they decide the president can do and cannot do.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're keeping a very close eye on the tense situation right now in France amid a violent backlash to the police killing of a teenager near Paris.
BLITZER: In France right now, tens of thousands of officers are mobilizing amid another night of violent protests. Public transit shut down nationwide as officials try to restore calm to several major cities.
CNN's Melissa Bell has the latest on the angry backlash to the police killing of a teenager this week.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another night of anger on the streets of France. The name of 17-year-old Neal killed by a policeman on Tuesday now a rallying cry. The debate around race in France is a difficult one to have.
DANIELE OBONO, FRENCH PARLIAMENT: The problem is on the political side, there is still reluctance to acknowledge this reality. It's systemic impact.
BELL: Within the protests, the names of other people whose deaths, many linked to police violence over the years, names like Adama, Bouna, and Zyed.
The French foreign ministry denying allegations of systemic police racism or discrimination from the U.N. commissioner of human rights.
By Thursday night, some 40,000 police including elite SWAT teams tried and largely failed to bring order to the streets.
PROF. MAME-FATOU NIANG, CARNIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: This area has an overwhelming population of Black and Brown and wrestled of this colonization that are still being policed the same way colonial areas were policed from Algeria to Senegal to Indochina, Vietnam, et cetera.
BELL: As the eyes of France follow the fight for justice for Nael, there is little sense so far that this is the country's George Floyd moment of reckoning.
OBONO: The government is still very unwilling to address it. So they will say it's one bad apple and one accident, but they don't want to see the biggest problem.
BELL: France's leaders quick to call for calm and offer their sympathies to Nael's family, but no mention of racism. Yet in the protests, the question has also become about what it means to be French and equal before the law.
NIANG: In America, once you're born in America of immigrant parents, you are first-gen American. In France, you are born the fourth or fifth generation of your parents of immigrant origin, you are fifth generation immigrant, sixth generation immigrant.
BELL: Frustrations and anger that, for now, show no signs of dying down.
BELL (on camera): It is some 45,000 policemen that have been mobilized onto the streets of France this Friday night, Wolf, to try and keep the peace, although already the anger is palpably out there. It is on Saturday that we expect the biggest unrest, that will be the funeral of young Nael and a protest that's being planned not just in central Paris, in Place de la Concorde but actually on the Champs-Elysee -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Melissa Bell in Paris, thank you.
The academy award-winning actor Alan Arkin has died, his family announced today. Arkin wore many hats during his career that spanned over seven decades. He was a singer, an actor, a director with works that earned him Emmy, Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG award nominations.
Alan Arkin was 89 years old. Our deepest condolences to his family. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.