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Senate Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill Along Party Lines; CDC Still Finalizing Guidance On What's Safe For Vaccinated Americans; Migrants Increasingly Crowd Texas Shelters, Hoping To Gain Entry To U.S. Under President Biden; House Passes Bill Named In Honor Of George Floyd; Lebron James Joins Fight Against GOP- Led Bills Which Would Make It Hard To Vote. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired March 6, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Let's begin with our breaking news.
Money on the way for struggling American families and for small businesses hurt by the pandemic. The U.S. Senate pulled an all-nighter to finally pass President Biden's massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill doing so just on straight party lines. All Senate Democrats voted to pass it and every Republican in attendance voted to shoot it down.
Now, this bill includes $1,400 stimulus payments for a majority of Americans, meaning if you are a family of four making $150,000 or less, both parents will receive $1,400, so that $2,800 and then $1,400 per child for a total of $5,600.
Again, that's for a family of four. Here's President Biden shortly after the bill passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promise the American help was on the way. Today, I can say we've taken one more giant step for delivering on that promise -- that help is on the way.
This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the American people who desperately need the help. Many who are lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, will I lose my job, if I haven't already, will I lose my insurance, will I lose my home? Over 85 percent of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: We have just this in. Former President Barack Obama applauding his former vice president, Obama tweeting: Elections matter and we're seeing why. Congratulations to the Biden administration and to the American people on a COVID relief bill that will improve the lives of families across the country.
Our congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill.
And, Jessica, the Senate passage that was the major hurdle, the president's relief plan had to clear, but it wasn't easy, and there was some horse trading in the final hours. What happens next and when will Americans see those payments?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ana, those are the key questions now. So, now, the bill is going to go back over to the House. We know that the vote for that is set on Tuesday. So they're going to move pretty quickly here.
Once that passes the house and just passing those changes that the Senate made, so that was on eligibility of who's getting the stimulus checks, some changes to the unemployment benefits and then also the $15 minimum wage we talked about, they removed that from the bill.
So, once the House signs off on that and passes it, it goes to President Biden who will sign it into law and from there, expecting to get it in a matter of weeks once that is signed.
This is a massive bill, $1.9 trillion. It touches almost every aspect of the American economy, in addition to those direct payments to individuals. We're talking relief for small businesses, schools reopening, funding for that. That's the nation's distribution of those vaccinations. It extends the child tax credit which is aimed at lifting millions of children out of child poverty in this country.
So, again, it is quite wide in terms of what it is going to be targeting and what it's going to be doing. Just a little bit ago, a Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer defended the fact that it was passed 50-49 right down those party lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I hope it will make bipartisanship more likely when we say we want to do it with you, but if we can't, we'll do it without you, now they know -- now they know we mean it and we know we're capable of doing it.
So now, maybe they'll say they'll come together. Look, again, the bottom line, when Trump was together, Democrats didn't fold their hands and say no. Now, Biden's president, we hope they won't continue to do the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Now, as the Senate looks ahead, of course, President Biden eyeing a massive infrastructure package he continues a recovery package, this being the rescue package. So, there's much more work to be done in the Senate, of course. There always is.
And, Ana, everyone was following this, ultimately, passed after hours here at the Senate working into the night overnight and then into the morning with what's called a vote-a-rama after it was delayed for nearly 12 hours as Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as they work to make sure he would support the Democratic amendment surrounding unemployment benefits. He ultimately did. It moved forward, but then they had the vote-a-rama, voting on various amendments all throughout the night that with that final passage coming just a little bit ago.
But, Ana, again, this is a major victory for President Biden to see this legislation now clear the Senate, backed the House and ultimately, it is coming for his desk -- Ana.
CABRERA: Which he hopes to have by the end of the week. Thank you, Jessica Dean.
Now to the White House and CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns.
Joe, the president just spoke a short time ago after his COVID relief bill passed directly on party lines and you asked him specifically about that. What did he say?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a victory lap as you know so he was trying to keep it upbeat.
But also made it very clear that he was pushing Republicans, pressuring Republicans and said Republicans came very close, at least some of them did to supporting the bill, probably the significance is that Joe Biden says he's not done with this yet. He's going to continue to try to restore bipartisanship to Washington, dc which will likely be a challenge. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Why don't you think you could get a single Republican vote, and what was the drama of the last 24 hours including what Senator Manchin, tell you about the next four years?
BIDEN: It's going to be good. I'm going to succeed. We're going to succeed moving forward.
Look, the American people strongly support what we're doing. That's the key here. And that's going to continue to seep down through the public, including from our Republican friends. There is a lot of Republicans that came very close and had a lot of pressure on them. I still haven't given up. I'm getting this through (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: in his remarks, took a little bit of a shot at Donald Trump without mentioning his name saying that he, Biden, has been trying to get rid of the battling on Twitter but interesting enough, just a while ago, President Biden tweeted himself basically the top lines on that speech from the White House saying when I took office, I promised help was on the way. Thanks to Chuck Schumer and others. We've taken one more giant step toward delivering on that promise and he also said he'd like to see this bill through the House real soon.
Back to you, Ana.
CABRERA: Joe Johns at the White House for us -- thank you.
Now, this bill also included funding for testing, for vaccines. On the medical front right now, the U.S. we're learning could reach herd immunity by late summer. Just through vaccinations. This is according to a new CNN analysis looking at the current pace of about 2 million doses administered per day.
And joining us now is Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and cofounder of getusppe.org.
Dr. Ranney, herd immunity by late July, meaning roughly 70 to 85 percent of the population is protected to suppress the spread of this virus. Is the end of the tunnel at that moment? Is that when things will go back to normal?
MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Yeah, every single week that passes, Ana, every week that we get more vaccines in arms, that end of the tunnel gets a little bit closer. It's tough to say today, is that going to be in June and July and August, but it is coming. When we reach herd immunity, then we reach the same point we're at with measles or polio, where, yes, the disease is out there but the average person doesn't have to worry about it on a daily basis.
And even if you haven't been vaccinated yet, you trust enough people around you have been vaccinated. That you're going to be safe.
I think that we're probably going to be there July or August, but there's a few unknowns still out there to keep me from wanting to put a firm date on when we're going to get there.
CABRERA: So far, nearly 30 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That's about one in 12 people right now, and yet, there's been no guidance from CDC about what these people can or cannot do, what they should or shouldn't do. It was supposed to be released this week. But the CDC director said this is complex. It will be released soon.
What are the top questions you've been getting from people as more and more are getting vaccinated and what are you telling them?
RANNEY: So I've been getting a few big questions. The first is, can I go and eat in restaurants? The second is, can I hug my grandkids or my nieces and nephews or my parents?
To the first question about can you eat in restaurants, my answer is not yet. The level of community spread of COVID is still too high, but you can eat inside your house with other people who have also been vaccinated. So, you can start socializing with people who have been vaccinated even if they're not part of your household.
To the second question, I say, you know what, if you haven't hugged your grandkids in a year, even if they're not vaccinated, if you are two weeks status post that second vaccine for Pfizer or Moderna, or if you're a full 28 days status post the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, give them a hug. You know, maybe have them wear a mask, but it has been a year and that's an awfully long time and you're going to be okay.
CABRERA: Oh, gosh, I can't wait to hug my family.
Do you worry though that the longer, you know, these folks go without guidance, they'll take matters into their own hands about what they should or shouldn't be able to do?
RANNEY: I do worry and we've seen this trouble over and over throughout the COVID pandemic. I think it's important both as public health professionals for us to be giving one coherent message and it's also important for us to get that message from the government. I really like to see clear guidance from them on what they're recommending people do or don't do with vaccines, and I hope they give the guidance in a way that acknowledges, again, our humanity.
The fact that we are not meant to stay alone, we all sacrificed so much this year to protect our communities.
But these vaccines really are a way out and I hope that the CDC provides us with that path forward.
CABRERA: There's still a very inconsistent handling of restrictions when it comes from state to state. Some states are loosening, some completely abandoning the COVID restrictions. There are at least 16 states without mask mandates right now. Texas is 100 percent open.
New York City is going to reopen movie theatres at 25 percent capacity, Connecticut is fully reopening. Some businesses like restaurants, others are going to be staying closed like bars or those that those that just serve drinks for example.
There's been a lot of controversy over whether it is too soon for this. What, if any, kind of restrictions do you think are appropriate to roll back right now?
RANNEY: Well, so let me be clear on what's not appropriate to roll back, what is not appropriate to get rid of is a mask mandate. We have study after study after study showing that counties and states with mask mandates do so much better in terms of number of COVID cases and hospitalizations and counties and states without mask mandates.
Right now, when we are in a race against time between the vaccine and the variant, having uniform mask wearing is the best protection that we have.
And if we roll back those mask mandates too quickly, we risk seeding the variants across the country and heading into yet another surge this spring, which would be so unfortunate because the end is so close.
CABRERA: And places like Texas and Mississippi, which are among those getting rid of the mask mandates that have 12 percent testing positivity still at this moment.
Dr. Ranney, appreciate the conversation and the guidance as always. Thanks.
Coming up, more and more migrants arriving at the southern border. We will take to you a shelter in Texas where many are crowding in, including a lot of children.
CABRERA: Under the Biden administration Central American migrants are now much more hopeful of gaining entry to the United States. Now, as a result, they are flowing to the southern border in greater numbers, especially unaccompanied minor children.
So as some officials worry about this new crisis in the making CNN's Ed Lavandera has more on the challenges posed by this new reality.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week, Father Roy Snipes has welcomed about 100 migrant families a night to seek shelter in this south Texas church, overflowing from another shelter down the road.
No longer are migrant children being separated from their parents. These families are allowed to wait in the United States for their asylum cases to be heard in court.
We met 21-year-old Kenia, the shelter asked that we protect her identity. She left Honduras two weeks ago with her son and crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. a few nights before.
Why did you decide to come now?
KENIA, MIGRANT (translated): The truth is I've been waiting. I've heard that there is now a better opportunity to get in.
LAVANDERA: Many migrants are still being turned away at the southern border, but the growing reality for the Biden administration is that there's a perception in Central American countries ravaged by crime and natural disasters that it's now easier to make the journey north and cross the border.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insists this isn't a crisis but a challenge.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are working as hard as we are not only in addressing the urgency of the challenge but also in building the capacity to manage it and to meet our humanitarian aspirations in execution of the president's vision.
LAVANDERA: The numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border is growing. In January, Customs and Border Protection reported about 7,500 families were taken into custody and 5,800 unaccompanied children.
During a major surge exactly two years ago, Border Patrol encountered 5,500 children in one month.
The Department of Health and Human Services told facilities to open bed space for minors to pre-pandemic levels, which is just under 14,000. There are now about 7,700 children under HHS care and the concern is that number will rise quickly in the coming weeks.
REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): The way we're going I think it's going to become a crisis.
LAVANDERA: Now, some Texas Democrats are warning the Biden team about what's unfolding.
CUELLAR: They seem to be on a mission, with all due respect, to start releasing and show that they're compassionate. I want to be compassionate but I also think people should be compassionate to our communities on the border.
LAVANDERA: At the same time, activists are also pressuring Biden to undo what they see as damage from the Trump administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are willing to give them a break in the beginning but I think that break will soon be over if they don't move very quickly.
LAVANDERA: In the South Texas shelter, several migrants told us they saw many children traveling to the border alone.
How old were these children that you saw?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Eleven, 12, 13, 14 years old.
LAVANDERA: They would act like they were part of a family to protect themselves?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Si.
LAVANDERA (on camera): The Biden administration says it's trying to create a far more humanitarian approach to its U.S. immigration policies and that's why they're urging migrants in Central America that now is not the time to come.
But the situation is quickly changing and even the administration supporters are urging the president to act fast before there is yet another full-blown immigration crisis on the border.
Ed Lavandera, CNN.
LAVANDERA: Joining us now, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, Julian Castro. He's also a former mayor in the border state of Texas.
Secretary Castro, good to have you here. Thank you very much.
First, your reaction to the Biden administration asking border facilities to now open up to pre-pandemic levels given the extraordinary number of migrant children traveling to the U.S. alone.
JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Well, look, I'm happy that Joe Biden has chosen to go in a different direction from Donald Trump.
Donald Trump and his administration exercised severe cruelty. Donald Trump showed a dark heart when it came to immigrants.
And Joe Biden is trying to make sure that we manage our border with common sense, that we do it effectively and that we do it compassionately, particularly for children.
My hope is when it comes to unaccompanied minors that the administration is going to invest in the resources at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement so that they can find these host families because usually an unaccompanied minor is coming because they have a relative here and the process is that you want to find that family as quickly as possible and vet them quickly and then move that minor on to that family instead of detaining that minor in one of the facilities that they've usually been at, whether here in Texas or at homestead in Florida or other ones.
That is my hope. I will say, Ana, that I do think that it has to be managed well. I also believe that this idea of somehow this is a crisis that we can't manage is completely off. I agree with Secretary Mayorkas that this is a challenge that can be managed.
We're not breaking any new ground here. This is not unprecedented. We've seen this before. However, the right wing likes to stir up a hysteria about folks that are rushing the border. You know, we can handle this.
And the difference between the Biden administration and the Trump administration is that the Biden administration, as people have seen with the vaccine distribution, is actually a competent administration. And so I have confidence that they can handle this.
CABRERA: But has the Biden administration given a green light to migrants to come to the U.S. right now?
CASTRO: I don't believe so. I believe that the reason people are coming is the reason that they came two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago, because of the conditions on the ground in Central America. What this administration has done, which is what we should be doing, is say, look, we're going to work with these countries in Central America so that we change those conditions on the ground, so that we make it safer and provide more opportunity for people to actually be able to stay in their home country.
If your mother or father, you think about it for a second, who would want to subject themselves and their child to a thousands of miles long journey to another country if you could have safety and opportunity, the food you need, the basic necessities, where you're at?
That's what Joe Biden and his administration are trying to accomplish with those countries. And it's something that Donald Trump should have been working on during the four years of his administration.
CABRERA: You talk about the difference in approaches. I spoke with the new DHS secretary shortly after he was confirmed, Alejandro Mayorkas, and he got emotional talking about -- or just recalling what he heard on those tapes when families were being separated. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What was it like for you on a personal note to hear the cries we all heard on the tape of the children who were being taken from their parents and their family members?
MAYORKAS: Ana, I am a father p I am. I am a husband. I am a son. I am a brother. I have not heard before a pain as acute and heartbreaking as that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Do you feel like he is the right person for the job?
CASTRO: He is. He has the experience. He gets it. He knows that fundamentally these folks are human beings that we need to treat like human beings.
And I agree with him. I still remember that tape of the little girl from 2018 crying out for her father. That's seared into my brain. And I think that's the case for a lot of people no matter what your background is.
So it's something to be pleased with and something to celebrate, frankly, that this administration says these are human beings, we're not going to treat them with this kind of cruelty that the Trump administration did and that they have people with the expertise and the know-how like Secretary Mayorkas and his staff that can actually manage what's happening at the southern border.
Again, this is not unprecedented. We have dealt with this before. They can manage this. That's what they're doing.
CABRERA: He was the deputy DHS secretary in the Obama administration at the time there was an influx in unaccompanied minors in that administration. I believe it was 2014 or 2015.
Let me ask you about this bubbling controversy with Texas Governor Greg Abbott stalling the federal efforts to get coronavirus testing for migrants but then blaming migrants coming into Texas for spreading the virus.
As someone who is from Texas, do you have any reason to believe his claim?
CASTRO: The governor has shown himself to be untruthful and also incompetent. Unfortunately, this is a governor that has received widespread criticism from the left and the right, from everyday Texans because of his incompetence during the winter storm. So what does he do?
He tries to distract everybody by saying there's no more mask mandate and also that businesses can open up to 100 percent even though Texas had the highest number of new coronavirus cases during this past week and we have right now about 7,500 new coronavirus cases every day. When he admitted last May that he had made a mistake in opening up bars too quickly, we only had 5,000 cases per day. So if it was a mistake back then, it's a bigger mistake now.
The other thing that he did is knowing that it's a mistake, knowing that we're going to see this surge in coronavirus infections he says, oh, well, the problem is that we have undocumented immigrants that are being let in and they're the ones spreading it. That's totally untrue and it's --
CABRERA: But should they be tested? Should those people, those migrants who are coming in, you know, they're being detained and some are being released, should they be tested? And is that the responsibility of the Biden administration?
CASTRO: Of course, they should be tested. And the vast majority of them are being tested. It would be helpful if the governor would actually allow the state to participate in this so that more of them could get tested more quickly.
But here's the thing, Ana. As I think you all have noted, very, very few of the people who have been released have actually been found positive with the coronavirus and the vast majority of those who were found positive actually did -- they were told, look, you're positive and they took the precautions.
So, this idea that somehow undocumented immigrants are spreading the coronavirus in Texas, that is not true. The bigger problem is that this governor lifted that mask mandate that was effective, he opened up the businesses to 100 percent. Together those things are going to cause a much bigger problem than anything he's talking about.
CABRERA: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, thank you very much for being with us.
CASTRO: Thank you.
CABRERA: Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd. What can we expect? Cross-exam with Elie Honig is next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: His death sparked nationwide calls to overhaul policing and address racial justice.
And this week, the House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at preventing police misconduct that Democrats named in honor of George Floyd. The George Floyd Justice Policing Act now heads to the Senate.
And supporters of this bill say it would improve law enforcement accountability and work to root out racial bias in policing.
Just moments ago, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee spoke alongside Floyd's family and several civil rights attorneys highlighting the bill's importance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I don't want anyone to assume that the people who stand here today -- I'm their lawyer today -- have any angst or anger against the cops of defund.
We're about the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. The United States Congress heard that the voices were crying out as we passed this bill. That's what this is about.
And so very briefly, what I will say is that we did something unique. We had a hearing last year. We passed the bill last year in the midst of the outcry of the Floyds.
But how kind they were to embrace others in pain right while they were in pain. The Breonna Taylor case. Her family was in pain. They're still crying. Jacob Blake's family. He lived but he is paralyzed. And was simply trying to protect his children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That brings us to our weekly "CROSS EXAM" segment with CNN legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, Elie Honig, who is here to answer your legal questions.
Elie, on Monday is when jury selection is set to begin in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who is charged with Floyd's death.
One viewer wants to know: How can the parties select an impartial jury in a case that has gotten so much media attention?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ana, how do you pick a fair and impartial jury in a case that everybody has already heard of.
I've tried a few cases that were in the media. Not like this one. And I'll tell you, it's not easy but it's also not impossible.
The first step in any trial is the jury selection process. Lawyers call it voir dire.
What happens, the judge will ask any potential juror first: Have you heard anything about this case? Everyone will say yes. And then the judge will ask whether anyone has formed opinions beforehand about the case.
Now, as the judge goes through the process, he can remove any jurors who he believes are biased.
And the parties each have a certain number of what we call jury strikes where they can remove jurors who they believe may not be impartial.
The goal here is not to find 12 jurors who have never heard of this case. That's probably not possible. The goal is to find 12 jurors who can hear this case fairly and based only on the evidence in the courtroom.
It's not a perfect system. There's no perfect system. But it generally works and it's the best system that we have.
CABRERA: I want to turn to the investigation into the Capitol Hill insurrection.
We know federal investigators are now looking at records of communication between members of Congress and that pro-Trump mob to see if lawmakers helped aid this attack.
Another viewer asks this question: Can members of Congress be held legally responsible if they communicated with rioters who stormed the capitol on January 6th?
HONIG: Yes, they can. Of course, it depends on what the substance of those communications were.
At a minimum, this raises some tough questions. What were elected members of Congress doing communicating with rioters in the days leading up to January 6th?
Now, this investigation is going to be basically a two-step process.
First of all, the FBI can figure out fairly easily by looking at cell phone records who was talking to who and when and approximately where.
And the second part is the FBI needs to figure out what was being said. Now, that's a little trickier but it's still doable.
First of all, the FBI reportedly has several cell phones from people they've arrested. They can do a forensic search on those phones and can look for emails and texts and social media. Then they can also go out and interview members of Congress and rioters and ask what was said when you spoke with this person on whatever date.
If it turns out members of Congress encouraged or gave advice to the rioters, then, yes, those members of Congress absolutely could be criminally liable as well.
And finally, remember, Merrick Garland, who will soon become the attorney general, vowed during the confirmation hearing that he would follow all leads on this case, no matter where they go.
CABRERA: We also learned this week that the House Oversight Committee issued a new subpoena to former President Trump's long-time accounting firm, Mazars.
And one viewer wants to know: Will the House be able to obtain Donald Trump's tax returns? And if so, can those returns be released publicly?
HONIG: Yes, so it's important to understand that there's two different cases here.
One is the criminal grand jury subpoena that was issued by the Manhattan district attorney. That one is over. The D.A. has the tax returns but we're not likely to see them for a long time, if ever.
The second case of the subpoena from Congress, this one is still in the courts. But now the landscape has changed because Donald Trump is no longer president.
Congress was arguing before, well, we need these returns, in part, because he's the sitting president and we need to know what he's up to. And the president was defending himself by saying, yes, but you're harassing me with a subpoena because I'm sitting president.
Now neither of those arguments apply anymore. So the landscape has changed.
When will we see those public returns? Well, if Congress wins in court -- and that could take a few months -- we could see them as soon as Congress decides to put them out there. Knowing Congress, that will probably be just about right away.
CABRERA: It is a long process, always.
CABRERA: Thank you. Elie Honig, good to see you.
Coming up, on the sidelines of the NBA All-Star Weekend, LeBron James is focused on one thing -- voting rights. I'll talk to someone helping King James and his mission, former NBA all-star, Caron Butler.
NBA Star LeBron James joining the fight against Republican-led bills aimed at restricting voting access. James, along with his organization, "More Than a Vote," have a new national ad campaign called "Protect our Power."
Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA ALL-STAR: Now look at what they're trying to do.
Using every trick in the book.
And attack the democracy itself.
If they saw what we're capable of, and they fear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: There are more than 250 bills in 43 states designed to limit voting rights. No surprise, these restrictions disproportionately impact people of color.
Let me bring in two-time NBA all-star, Caron Butler, who is part of this "More Than a Vote" movement.
Great to have you here.
Caron, this ad we just saw will play during coverage of the all-star game in Atlanta this weekend. And in it, we heard LeBron say they're trying to silence us because they know what we are capable of.
Is that how you feel?
CARON BUTLER, TWO-TIME NBA ALL-STAR: Absolutely. I think it's powerful for him to recognize the moment and be present in the moment, just like he is in every sports outing that he has been as long as he's been in the association, and even as an amateur player.
He understands his platform. He understands the significance of the moment. And him leading by example, and all of use, on our respected platforms, are doing the same.
We're recognizing that, just like last year, inside the NBA bubble, so many isms that was going unrecognized and unheard and untalked about. We wanted to shine light on it. That's what we did.
Black Lives Matter. Being on the floor of the NBA finals and throughout the NBA playoffs. And something further than symbolic recognition.
And now taking it a step further on the biggest stage. We have NBA all-stars here in Atlanta. And guys are taking it upon themselves, not just LeBron James, but so many others, putting it to the forefront and bringing it up and talking about it. CABRERA: Let me just talk specifically about some of the measures that
have been brought before state legislatures.
They're in Georgia, specifically. The executive director of "More Than a Vote" calling Georgia ground zero.
Let's look at the law that just passed the state House. It would limit access to drop boxes, eliminate non-excuse absentee voting, which, by the way, has been in place since 2005 in Georgia. But also require more voter I.D. And it would limit weekend early voting days, among other things.
The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, whose life work has been about advancing voter rights, said what is being proposed harkens back to the Jim Crow era.
Do you see these changes impacting black and brown voters more than white voters?
BUTLER: Absolutely. And I think it's beyond the state of Georgia but that's where it starts.
When you get a predominantly red state that turned blue -- and big up to Stacey Abrams for doing her groundwork and legwork and so many others out there and getting the momentum going in the right direction.
And it's not telling you who to vote for but just having the right to exercise your right is extremely huge.
We're talking about old Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, and now Jim Crow in the suit and tie. Where it's just blasphemy to see some of the things happening in front of our eyes. And we have so much at stake right now.
We are the new ancestors. We're able to control a lot of things. And it's up to us to continue to push the right message.
CABRERA: Can you explain, though, why these measures would disproportionately impact people of color?
BUTLER: Well, when you think about the voter suppression in its entirely, I speak on not just Georgia but the state of Wisconsin, where we had PCs out there, that people rally around and they try to suppress the vote out there, discouraging people to even go and still give hope for elected officials.
Public transportation not being available. People don't have access to certain things. So to early vote, to fill out absentee ballot. And not be able to do that is just -- I mean, it's crazy.
You're trying to practice social distances when you think about COVID and all of those things. You know, having people do things safely. Make that process as smooth as possible. And not be able to do that, that's just crazy to me that I know so
many people are really trying to suppress the vote.
CABRERA: You were praising Lebron James for using his platform, his celebrity, his power to raise awareness and to really fight for voting rights.
Michael Jordan was famously criticized by some at the height of his popularity for steering clear of politics.
So what do you make of LeBron James going in the other direction and taking on these causes as the top star of his era? And what kind of power do you think he has to influence this issue?
BUTLER: I think he has a great deal of power and influence. When you look at him as a commodity and an entity of his own, his influence on social media and he's about what he says he's about. He's a mirror image of those things.
But it didn't start with him. It started with guys as far as going to the Cleveland summit.
When you think about the great Jim Brown and Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, and all of those great individuals, guys that stood on amazing platforms in their respective sports and they risked it all.
And now we have access to so many more things now and we have larger platforms. And it would be a shame for us, LeBron on down, to not maximize our platforms and stay on the right side of justice and move the needle forward.
You know, people from all different walks of life, but specifically black and brown people.
CABRERA: Caron Butler, I really appreciate your voice and your perspective. Thank you for coming on.
BUTLER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
CABRERA: Up next, brand-new pictures from Mars where the rover has now started to drive around. Much more just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Check this out. This is really cool. A NASA rover taking its first drive on Mars. We have a photo of the NASA rover's wheel tracks on the red surface of Mars.
A NASA engineer saying the rover's first 33-minute test drive on Thursday went incredibly well. This is the first of many milestones for NASA's mission after the rover's successful Mars landing on February 18th.
The rover is expected to go on drives averaging nearly 700 feet or more as it explores Mars the next couple of years.
Meantime, it's been nearly one year since COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect across our country. And as we marked that anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at a quarantine of another era.
The new CNN short film, "APOLLO 11: QUARANTINE," provides a revealing look at the three-week quarantine astronauts, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, were under after their history making trip to the moon.
Here's a preview here's a preview.
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CABRERA: Got to love that old footage.
Be sure to tune in tonight. "APOLLO 11: QUARANTINE" premieres tonight at 9:00 here on CNN.