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WH: Biden Remains Opposed To Ending Senate Filibuster; Texas To Lift Mask Mandate This Week Despite CDC Warnings; House Of Representative To Vote On Relief Bill Tomorrow. Aired 09:30-10a ET

Aired March 8, 2021 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well this morning, there is growing pressure from progressive end of the party, of the Democratic Party to end the Senate filibuster as the future of President Biden's legislative agenda hangs in the balance.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Now the White House says the President remains opposed to striking down the 60 vote threshold for legislation. CNN's Dana Bash joins us now. I mean, this may sound like political inside baseball to some of our viewers. At the end of the day, though, just try to be, you're not going to get the 60 votes.

Where are you going to get 60 votes on, right, in the coming months, in the Biden term, you know, that requires 10 Republicans to come over short of that. What can Biden do without it, right? I mean, even on infrastructure, right, which we think is the great unifying issue. Manchin is like, you know, unless it's -- unless taxes or paying for it, I ain't going to vote for it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No, that's exactly right. The short answer to your question about what can get 60 votes is virtually nothing.

And that is why during the Democratic primary season in 2020, as the Democrats were picking their nominee, the whole discussion about a filibuster, as in the weeds, as it may sound to some is so critical, because people who have been engaged in politics just, you know, rank and file regular voters, they have come to understand the notion of the filibuster, because it does mean whether our President's agenda is blocked or not, period.


BASH: And so what Joe Manchin said over the weekend was quite interesting. And that is rid of the filibuster. He is open to changing the filibuster. And I'm a senior Democrat in the Senate saying that discussion is real. And that means that having the traditional filibuster, Poppy, you're too young to remember this. But Jim --

HARLOW: Thank you.

BASH: You're welcome. Mr. Smith goes to Washington. Everybody should watch that, where Jimmy Stewart was on the Senate floor for hours and hours. That was how a filibuster works. And now senators take the easy way out. So part of the discussion is if making senators feel so, you know, pain and actually talking for hours, if they want to try to stop legislation.

SCIUTTO: Dana, by the way, if you're suggesting I was alive when Mr. Smith go to Washington came out in the 40s, I take issue with it.

BASH: I -- you and me, I put you and I in the same category, because I'm guessing we're of the generation where our parents made us watch that movie.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's right.

HARLOW: -- weighing in on this conversation. We're both young and beautiful in my mind. You are. Manchin, his tone and word change matters, especially for a guy -- to eliminate the filibuster. Isn't eliminating the filibuster just -- rigging in becoming more divided, becoming more partisan, and it only works for your team when you're a guy or gal is in the White House?


BASH: That's such a great question. I mean, yes, the short answer is yes, of course it is. But it -- but the other side of that coin is it's recognizing the reality of the world that we're in. And that is that, you know, it is very divided. And it is very, very hard to get anything done.

Now, if they just change the filibuster, and they don't completely eliminated or keep it the way it is, one could argue that maybe that could force compromise after, you know, the person, the senator who's filibustering just is too exhausted and says I need to sit down. Maybe that would force compromise that is the way it happened in the movie.



BASH: And that is the way it happened in the -- in times before senators started taking the easy way out and just saying we need 60 votes, and that is that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I think there was a West Wing episode about that too. More recently, if you want to call that up --

HARLOW: I was alive for that. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: That's still streaming. There is discussion of a third option, if you want to call it that. And that is a carve out in the filibuster just for the Voting Rights Act in H.R.1. You have James Claiborne, you know, suggest that this weekend, because Democrats see that as existential, right, in light of all these voting restrictions getting passed right now. Is that a genuine option, a realistic option?

BASH: It's possible James Claiborne, I love it, he is -- he loves to float trial balloons. And this was a really interesting one. You know, it's unclear how the Democrats if they chose that would navigate the rules just to make it, you know, kind of a one-time deal. It is possible. Basically, these are rules that they decide on their own so they can make their own rules, as we've seen before.

But on that H.R.1, what I find is fascinating, just because you mentioned I have to say is Republicans are saying that they're opposed to it because they say that the federal government shouldn't be too involved in state election law. These are the same Republicans, many of them, who signed on to Supreme Court case where they said that, you know, all these states signed on to the same case saying that the election was fraudulent, which wasn't true. I mean --

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. And, you know, a number of them, you know, like in Texas say try to override laws in another state, you know.

BASH: That's what I mean. That's exactly what I was referring too.

SCIUTTO: The ultimate, yes, exactly. The ultimate --

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- you know, breach of states rights, if you want to call it that.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, always good to have you on.

BASH: Good to see you guys.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. We'll talk about Meghan and Harry next segment --

BASH: Please.

SCIUTTO: -- with you.

HARLOW: Thanks Dana.

SCIUTTO: Well, it was a big week for Texas as the state begins to roll back coronavirus restrictions, including the mask mandate. One city already warning of a so called mask off party that local leaders say could become a super spreader event. We've seen this before. We'll have more on that next.



SCIUTTO: The governor of Texas is ignoring the CDC and its guidelines and lifting the state's mask mandate on Wednesday. Restaurants, bars, and sporting venues will also be allowed to reopen at 100 percent capacity without masks. Goodness, that's going to have an effect. Experts warn that lifting those restrictions could further the spread of COVID-19 quickly.

HARLOW: Well, let's go to our colleague, Polo Sandoval, he is live for us in Texas this morning. What's the reaction? I mean, are Texans worried? Are they happy? Are they scared?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of both guys. And especially when you consider this event that has been promoted at a bar in the city of Houston, Texas, the Concrete Cowboy, they have multiple locations across the state.

But it's really the one in Houston that's been promoting this so called mask off party that's scheduled for Wednesday to mark the end of that mask mandate here in the Lone Star State as well as the essentially the reopening of the state as well, which was announced by Governor Greg Abbott just last week. That has -- is drawing a lot of criticism and also some calls for that cancellation of that event, including by state lawmakers that call this not only dangerous but of an irresponsible event as well adding to that chorus of critics also -- who is condemning this saying that it's essentially premature.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: We don't have businesses and neither does it have businesses when you have these masks of parties, or you have promoters bringing the events to Texas that they could not hold in their own state. We are not the dumping ground. We're for events that will put Texans in danger and cause people to lose their lives.


SANDOVAL: And we should note, the Concrete Cowboy Bar did remove that promotional flyer online. We have reached out to them repeatedly for comment to try to find out if that's still set to move forward and are yet to hear back, Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Polo, thank you. Let us know when you do hear back. We appreciate the reporting from Texas.


We'll head on this International Women's Day as Americans await a new round of relief, signs of another stunning set of disparities in the workforce, jobs for women particularly women of color -- as they are for white men and white women. We will ask the U.S. Secretary about it ahead.


HARLOW: Well, as soon as tomorrow, COVID relief could head for a final vote in the House and will help, help will be on the way for tens of millions of Americans after it's signed by the President. Women, particularly women of color have been hit the hardest in this pandemic on the job front. So on this International Women's Day, it is only fitting that we directly ask the White House how they plan to help those women out of this crisis.

Let's bring in for her first interview on CNN since being confirmed as the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo. Madam Secretary, thank you and good morning.

GINA RAIMONDO, U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Poppy, great to be with you.

HARLOW: A million more women than men on this pandemic and for black women it's even worse, it's twice as many in terms of job recovery than this has been solved for black women than for white men, white women and black men. Can you tell me beyond the American rescue plan? Does the Biden administration have a plan to directly get those women not only economic aid to hold them over but actually back to work?

RAIMONDO: Yes, absolutely. It's a top priority. The President is very clear that he believes in the dignity of work. And the dignity of work is everybody willing to work hard ought to be able to get a decent paying job where you can lift yourself out of poverty. And the fact of the matter is, just like you said, women have been hit extra hard in the pandemic, women of color doubly so. And they're struggling.

And so the American rescue plan is historic into working women and families, particularly the child. It is -- it's historic and its magnitude and covers kids all the way up to 17 years old. We have to get our children back to school, which will enable moms to go ahead and get back to work. And we have to be there with rescaling and retraining efforts, because a lot of these women who've been put out of work, need different skills in order to be able to work in this new economy.



RAIMONDO: But anyway, we're going to be there for them, absolutely.

HARLOW: I think you're pointing to a really important thing. And that is permanent job thing after this pandemic. I mean, the University of Chicago says 40 percent of the jobs lost in this mean ever coming. Brian Deese told me this just a few weeks ago.


BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: There are a number of job categories that may -- there may be permanent job loss, there's also the fact that women and parents are being hit particularly hard.


HARLOW: So I wonder on the whim -- the parents, the women, the moms front, you're a mother, you've got two kids, I've got two kids at home, we're both lucky to have jobs. Does the Biden administration support what has become known as a Marshall plan for moms? There is a Senate resolution right now that just came up last week on it. And the Marshall plan for moms would actually include direct payments to mothers whose paid labor in the workforce has been replaced by unpaid labor at home. Do you guys support that?

RAIMONDO: So again, let's focus on the American rescue plan, which is --

HARLOW: Right. I respectfully, Secretary, but this -- I mean, that not only has this been proposed and gained some momentum, it was brought up by Senator Klobuchar as a resolution -- if you guys think that's an necessity, direct payments to moms at home, outside of the American -- replicate what you're already doing.

RAIMONDO: The point is that that I was going to try to make is there a direct payments in this rescue plan. And the administration is committing -- committed to doing whatever it takes to lift moms out of this pandemic. Moms are the ones who've been teaching their kids at home remotely and trying to hold down a job.

Moms are the one who -- they've been the heroes here. They've been teaching kids at home, nurses, care workers, nursing home workers. And President Biden is committed to doing whatever to pull them out of the pandemic and get them retrained and reskilled for new jobs. So yes, every, you know, it's all on the table is the answer.

HARLOW: Yes. That's interesting. OK. Let's talk about the strength of the dollar. And it might sound wonky, but I think it's really important just for people to understand, a stronger U.S. dollar makes exports more expensive. "The New York Times" reported last week that the Biden administration has brought in some top economists who are worried about the dollar strength and who are studying, potentially weakening it. I just wonder, do you support any move that would weaken the dollar? Would that help American manufacturing?

RAIMONDO: No, no. I mean, obviously, Treasury Secretary Yellen is the expert on this. But a strong dollar is good for America. I also believe we have a huge opportunity to bring back more manufacturing. And that will be a priority of mine as Commerce Secretary. We need to be making more in America, making electric vehicles here, making semiconductors here, and training in more advanced higher tech, higher priority of the President. And then that will be a priority of mine.

HARLOW: You have been a centrist for a long time, the importance of it. You've said there's not a lot of political reward for it. In 2019, you told "The New York Times" Democrats have become the party that is antibusiness. We need to be the party of work. I wonder if you still think that's the case, about the Democratic Party. And if you do, what you think the consequences of that are for American jobs?

RAIMONDO: So this is one of the many reasons I admire President Biden, which is he knows that what we need to do in public service is to deliver for the American people. And primarily, that means delivering decent, high paying jobs with benefits for every American. And that's something I think we need to agree on. If it requires compromised forward, then that's what we are going to have to do. Yes, I believe firmly in the dignity of work. By the way, that's part of the reason I want to create more manufacturing jobs. There's something special about spending your day making things and making a decent living doing it.

So you're going to see this administration, focus like a laser on getting Americans back to work and on making sure that work pays and is dignified and doing that in a bipartisan way because we need to get things done for America.


HARLOW: On paying people, I know you've long been an advocate of a $15 minimum wage. And I know you're on the way there in the next four years in Rhode Island. But if I could just ask you, Joe Manchin has a lot of power in the Senate right now. And he's just -- he's not there. He reiterated that to Jake yesterday. He sees more like $11 being palatable. Do you think aeration to find some number between 11 and 15 to push early on the, it's $15, an hour or nothing? But what would be best for the most American will be?

RAIMONDO: For me, 15. Again, we ought to be able to agree on the basic premise that you shouldn't work full time and be in poverty. And we have to get ourselves to 15. So I know we have some more work to do. I know that there are some, you know, small businesses who are concerned about that. The President's proposal is to phase that in. But I don't think we should shy away from it. Because back to the point, work should pay, work should be dignified.

Also, the majority of minimum wage earners in America are women, predominantly women of color. So if, you know, what we're talking about today with who's been hardest hit, you know, these are the women who are working in our nursing homes, taking care of our elderly moms and dads for 11, $12 an hour and it's time -- they deserve better. They deserve a raise and they deserve the dignity of work with a decent paycheck.

HARLOW: Secretary Gina Raimondo, it's good to have you. Congratulations on your confirmation, and we hope you'll come back soon.

RAIMONDO: Definitely. Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you. We'll be right back.