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Voting Rights Legislation; Supreme Court Rules on Student Athlete Compensation; Gun Violence; Air Travel Picking Up. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us on NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is good to be with you.

Now, across the country, we are seeing, of course, more reopenings after the pandemic, the end of it, we hope. There are some obvious reentry challenges, though. Today, President Biden is meeting with his Treasury secretary, the Federal Reserve chair, to talk about the nation's financial systems, as some economists are sounding the alarm on inflation and supply chain shortages.

CAMEROTA: The airline industry is seeing record rebounds in ticket sales. And that should be good news, but it's not, thanks to staffing issues and pilot shortages, now American Airlines having to cut almost 1,000 flights from its schedule to try to manage the sudden demand.

BLACKWELL: And while emergency rooms are seeing fewer COVID patients, they're seeing more victims of violent crime.

Nine states are struggling with the aftermath of mass shootings over the weekend. In the past six months, the U.S. has seen close to 300 incidents in which four or more people were shot.

CAMEROTA: So, let's begin with

So, let's begin with CNN's chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

So, Kaitlan, the Biden administration says they are trying to get the country back to where it was before the pandemic. But, as we have just laid out, so much has changed since the pandemic. And so we can't just flip a switch and go back to normal. So what's the Biden team trying to do now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right,. And that's the concern facing them is, this is something that's unprecedented that they are trying to navigate their way out of.

And so you are seeing the economy recovering, but it's not recovering for everyone. And there are concerns that maybe there are certain targets here or certain methods of action that they're taking that could eventually hurt them in the long run. And there are a lot of unknowns that they're dealing with.

So this meeting that President Biden is hosting today with these financial regulators is happening behind closed doors. We're not actually going to see them have this meeting. But we do know they have a lot of topics on their agenda to get to, talking about the state of the current economy, but also climate change inclusion and several other fronts that they're going to have to face as Biden enters this part of the presidency, where he's not just focused on vaccinations and that aspect of the pandemic.

It's also much more focused on the economic aspect of it. And one person he is meeting with today is Jerome Powell, who, of course, is the Fed chair. This is the first time that they have actually met in person in this meeting, this closed-door meeting that is happening today. And it also comes as President Biden is preparing to meet this week with lawmakers.

We're not sure exactly which day, but Jen Psaki, the press secretary, did just tell reporters in the briefing that he will be hosting lawmakers this week to talk about what they want to do with infrastructure, because what he is dealing with now is a new hurdle that's facing him, as you're seeing that infrastructure package gain steam on Capitol Hill, that bipartisan proposal.

But it is now also taking shots from liberal progressives who are saying that they don't like the way that plan looks. And their concern is that they get those moderate Democrats on board to vote and pass this plan, and then they're not going to be on board with a massive reconciliation plan down the road.

That's a $6 trillion plan that would involve Democrats only getting it passed. So there are a lot of hurdles facing the White House as President Biden is going into this meeting and having this meeting with these financial regulators here today.

BLACKWELL: A struggle to balance it all out. We will see if they make some progress.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Now we are seeing a big spike in air travel, of course, as more Americans are venturing out of their homes.

CAMEROTA: The TSA announcing more than 2.1 million people passed through domestic airports yesterday. That's the highest number since March of last year.

But American Airlines is canceling flights. And the CEO of United is warning about a potential pilot shortage.

CNN's Pete Muntean is following all of this for us.

So, more people want to fly, Pete, fewer flights, staffing shortages. How's all this impacting travel? PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit of a perfect

storm, Alisyn.

Passengers are going to be really surprised by this, because airlines have been surprised by the sheer volume of people coming back to air travel in a really big way.

You mentioned the TSA numbers, 2.1 million people passing through security at America's airports just yesterday. That is the highest number we have seen since March 7 of 2020, the fifth time this month that we have seen a number higher than two million. And that's so significant because that number about 75 percent of where we were back in 2019 pre-pandemic.

But some airlines are struggling to keep up here. American Airlines said it had to cancel 6 percent of its flights on Sunday, about 188 flights in total. And now it's taking this one step further, a bit of a proactive measure. It says that it's dealt with weather issues, staffing issues, issues with its mechanics.

So it's canceling about 1 percent of all of its flights into mid-July. It's about 50 to 80 flights each day. All airlines are dealing with this in some way.

This is what United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said about this:



SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: There probably is going to be a pilot shortage here in the United States.

MUNTEAN: Why? Why do they expect that?

KIRBY: The military produces far fewer pilots today than they did in the Cold -- Vietnam and Cold War era. And it's hard to become a pilot, a commercial airline pilot, on your own if you're not going through the military.


MUNTEAN: Back to American Airlines for a second.

It is trying to rebook people as early as it possibly can, giving them a lot of notice, maybe putting them on an early flight or a later flight, usually through a major hub like DFW, where there are a lot of flights already.

You could be entitled to a refund if the delay is really extreme, but a lot of growing pains here, as airlines struggle to get back to normal with all these people coming back to travel.

CAMEROTA: Pete Muntean, thank you for laying it all out for us.

Let's turn now to violent crime and the wave that is gripping this country. We have seen back-to-back weekends where multiple states have reported an uptick in gun-related deaths and armed robberies.

BLACKWELL: Now, we know two of the victims this weekend children, at least two of them, one 10-year-old and a 15-year-old.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is here now.

Every incident is different, of course, we know, but what did law enforcement agencies see across the country this weekend?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, again, another weekend where we're seeing multiple people shot in multiple incidents, meaning that they're -- these are considered mass shootings, because more than four people are shot in these incidents.

And these are at parties, at gatherings, large gatherings. Law enforcement is continuing to see this high number of people shot. And what's usually happening here is this -- these could be at a party and there's a fight. And then what happens is the fights that escalate and then people pull out guns and start shooting at each other.

The problem, though, for law enforcement right now is that there are just too many illegal guns across the country on the streets of every city in this country. And that is something that law enforcement is grappling with, because of the changes in how they police and how they confront people and how they track some of these criminals has so much changed.

They're now trying to come up with new methods to try and track some of this gun violence. So, so far, when we look at what we have seen this year, in 2021, 300 mass shootings, 10 since Friday, and we have seven killed since Friday and 45 injured.

And, sadly, what we're seeing, guys, is that kids are getting caught in the crossfire in many of these incidents. In that Dallas shooting, where you mentioned the 10-year-old and the 15-year-old, that happened in Dallas. It was after midnight at a party. Two groups started fighting. They then go outside, and then they start shooting at each other.

And then, sadly, kids are getting caught in the crossfire. Important to keep in mind that, in talking to law enforcement officials, they're seeing that a lot of these shootings are not just random students. These are people who either know each other or gang members or at a party something escalates.

So what they're trying to do now is trying to infiltrate some of these groups, trying to find out, how are they getting guns? How are guns getting into their hands? And that is the biggest issue right now for law enforcement is to try and get these illegal guns off the streets.

CAMEROTA: Now, we're going to be talking to the police chief of Baton Rouge coming up, because that's where a toddler was shot, caught again, like you say, a stray bullet, caught in the crossfire.


CAMEROTA: This was over Memorial Day. And he's just said enough is enough. And so we just want to know, then what?

What's his solution when enough is enough?

BLACKWELL: Yes, because we have heard enough as enough from law enforcement before. What now is that the rest of that?

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.

All right, so the Supreme Court just came to a unanimous ruling against the NCAA that will have a big impact on college athletes and their ability to get compensated. Coming up, we will speak to the attorney who represented a lot of those plaintiffs.

CAMEROTA: And the Senate is set to take up and elections reform bill, voting reform, that has a high chance of going nowhere.

Former President Obama weighing in on this entire debate.



CAMEROTA: A big decision by the Supreme Court today that could transform college sports.

BLACKWELL: So, the court voted unanimously that student athletes can receive significant compensation in education-related payments. Huge blow to the NCAA, which has long held that student athletes must maintain amateur status, even as college sports rake in billions of dollars a year.

With us now is Jeffrey Kessler. He represented a group of the athletes who sued the NCAA.

Jeffrey, thanks for being with us.

First, the implications of this. Before we get to the portion of the students being paid or compensated through endorsements, what does this mean for your clients?

JEFFREY KESSLER, ATTORNEY: So it means that the athletes will be able to get hundreds of millions of dollars today in additional education- related benefits, things like graduate school tuition, study abroad, computers, tutoring, vocational school, achievement awards for their academic progress, all things which help them to pursue their education.

CAMEROTA: And so, to be clear, this isn't cash or salaries that they will be getting. You're saying it's just education-related.

Because the lawyer on the flip side, Mr. Seth Waxman, who represented the NCAA, says: "Whatever their labels, these new allowances are akin to professional salaries. If you allow them to be paid, they will be spending even more time on their athletics and devoting even less attention to academics."


Now, of course, the Supreme Court justices rejected that argument, but is there a valid point there?

KESSLER: So, the Supreme Court rejected that 9-0.

There are not a lot of 9-0 decisions on the Supreme Court. I think that argument goes in the trash heap of legal argument, in terms of where we are today. And, yes, under this decision, if an athlete -- if the school wants to, and an athlete achieves an academic benchmark, like, let's say, a 3.0 GPA or graduates, he can get $5,900 in cash right now today every year.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you about the response from the NCAA.

They say that the NCAA still is free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits. Is that not an out then for the NCAA to determine that some of the things you named are not included, are not covered as part of that definition of things that the students could now receive?

KESSLER: No, everything I named is written into the court order.

And so they cannot mess around with that. What they could do is help define whether there are other educational-related benefits that should also be permitted, or even possibly ask the court to further clarify what is an education-related benefit?

But, no, they cannot take away any of the benefits that the court has already ordered.

CAMEROTA: So, what does this mean? What are the larger implications of this for student athletes and beyond?

KESSLER: So, the larger implication is that the NCAA is subject to the antitrust laws, just like any other business.

And what that means, for example, they're about to adopt new rules to allow athletes to sell their names, images and likenesses to sponsors or video games or social media or autograph sessions. And if they put unreasonable restrictions on that, they are going to lose again.

So, they have to understand now that they have to comply with the antitrust laws, and not just look for ways not to comply.

BLACKWELL: So how close does this put those students to actual payments, to endorsement deals? We know that Congress then has to make that the next step as it relates to endorsement deals. Some states have spoken on that. How far do you think the students are?

KESSLER: I think it's going to happen July 1. As of July 1, a number of state laws already guarantee it. And I think the NCAA is going to have to relent and permit all of its schools to now allow this.

CAMEROTA: It was interesting to hear Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in his reasoning of his decision, basically said, no other company would have been able to get away with this in America. You can't not compensate -- you can't make billions of dollars -- oh, OK, I will read it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we've got it.

CAMEROTA: "Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate."

I mean, it sounds simple, the way he lays it out, but it's gone on for so long.

KESSLER: It's taken a long time to get here. But those are welcome words.

The athletes have understood this for a long time. And understand this is life-changing for these athletes. Many of these athletes are people of color. They come from communities where the opportunity to earn some of these revenues they're generating, some of these benefits, some of the education-enhancing opportunities, they are life-changing and critical. So we couldn't be happier.

BLACKWELL: All right, we will see how it's implemented.

Jeffrey Kessler, thanks so much for your time.

KESSLER: Thank you very much. My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: So, former President Barack Obama with a new warning that Americans cannot -- quote -- "take our democracy for granted."

He's pointing to the January 6 insurrection as a reason to support the voting rights bill that the Senate is expected to vote on tomorrow. We will go live to Capitol Hill for a status report on where this is.



BLACKWELL: Well, it looks like the Senate Democrats' plan to reform voting rights is headed to a dead end. There's not enough Republican support when a bill comes to the floor of the Senate tomorrow.

They're expected to reject a procedural vote on the For the People Act. Now, that's this elections bill that does a list of things, automatic voter registration, stops states from restricting mail-in ballots. You see the list. Now, the bill is a response to the attack that many say is happening on voter access across the country.

CAMEROTA: More than 14 state legislatures have passed laws restricting voter access, all based on the myth that the 2020 election saw significant voter fraud or was somehow stolen from Donald Trump, who lost by more than seven million votes.

And voting rights are not the only critical issue at a make-or-break point this week.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us from Washington.

So, Ryan, there's also police reform, there's infrastructure also up against these stated deadlines. So where are we?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, there doesn't seem to be very much progress in any of these arenas.

And let's take voting rights first. This bill is going to come to the floor of the Senate tomorrow, as you guys mentioned, in a procedural form, and there's just not the 60 votes to move voting rights forward. There's just no Republican support at this point.

You need 10 Republican votes to pass anything in the United States Senate right now. And Republicans are not only resistant. They're actively working against this voting rights legislation.


So, the question is, what do Democrats do after the fact? It seems as though they have Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia on board. So that means they have all 50 Democrats. What White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki just said about an hour ago is that they're going to take a step back and assess what their next options are.

Well, that means they're going to have to have a conversation about the filibuster and breaking up the stranglehold that Democrats have on the Senate process in passing something with only 50 votes.

And the White House has said that they're open to some reform in that arena. That, of course, has been a big roadblock for Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and some other members of the Democratic Senate. That's voting rights.

Where there is a little bit of an opening on those other two matters that you guys talked about. And that's infrastructure and police reform. There are still active negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in both those arenas. And on infrastructure in particular, there does seem to be some optimism from both Democrats and Republicans and the White House that this $1 trillion deal that was hatched by a bipartisan group of senators could have the opportunity to be passed.

And, in fact, some of those senators are going to be at the White House later this week to talk about it with the Biden administration. If the president puts his stamp of approval on it, that could mean we are really heading down the road of something being passed.

So, right now, it's just a matter of negotiations continuing. Some look a little bit more promising than others. But, ultimately, Victor and Alisyn, it's either about finding 10 Republicans or finding a way around it through breaking up the filibuster.

CAMEROTA: Ryan, thank you very much for explaining all of that to us.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's also the managing editor of Axios. Margaret, great to see you, as always.


CAMEROTA: I mean, look, as important as police reform and infrastructure are, it feels as though nothing is as important as voting rights, after we saw what happened in 2020, where President Trump tried to strong-arm secretaries of state into overturning their state's election results for him.

So if we don't make progress on voting rights, it just feels as though that puts democracy, frankly, in the balance. So what's going to happen?


At this point, unless there's a change to the filibuster, even the Manchin compromise, this more scaled-back version of expanded voting rights, is not going to happen. And this are -- these are more basic things like making Election Day a holiday or having two weeks' worth of an early voting period.

But, look, here's what's at stake, if you are just a regular voter in America, whether you're a Republican, Democrat, neither, sometimes both, whatever, obviously, this matters to you because it impacts your ability to vote.

But the two parties see this very differently. When you look at the election results, there's no doubt that having kind of, ironically, more access to the polls because of COVID made a difference in turning out states like Georgia, places where Joe Biden ended up winning by about this much, which is why, politically, this is so vital to Democrats and, politically, why Republicans are so dogged to block it.

So the two parties feel there are real partisan differences on the implications of what happens here. And that's really where the rubber meets the road on the filibuster, because, look, we're seeing in state after state after state, in red states, this effort for state legislatures and governors to dial back those voting rights expansions, to make it more difficult to vote in some cases.

Why does this all matter? Because of redistricting after the census. There's a real battle for about the next decade's worth of political control at stake here. That's just the hard political fact of the matter.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we have heard that Democrats want to show that they're unified behind this. But what's the virtue of unity if you're not going to do anything to actually pass the legislation?

Let's move on to infrastructure here. There are several sectors. You have got the bipartisan group of senators. You have got the Problem Solvers. You have got the go it alone. Do we know in which direction the White House thinks they are going to go, where they're going to put the weight of the presidency to try to get one of these through?

TALEV: Look, they're pretty pragmatic about the numbers.

And the numbers say that that bipartisan group, the Manchin, Sinema and handful of Republicans, is the way a deal happen. So where are they going to put their weight? On convincing progressives that it makes sense to go along with this greatly scaled-back version of infrastructure, it's like a quarter what Biden and his party were originally trying to do, and let them fight another day on the separate track for the rest of the money.

Can they pull it off? Probably. I think probably. It's easier than then voting reform right now. But, look, there's a lot of -- there are a lot of what-ifs that need to be answered.

And Biden and his team need to satisfy progressives inside their party that, if they don't block this from happening, they will be at least rewarded with the ability to make their point again and again and again to try to message the benefits