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Senate Dems Hold Key Test Vote Today on Election Overhaul Bill; Biden's Senior Team on Capitol Hill Today for Infrastructure Talks; Interview with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Tuesday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Morning everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

The showdown over voter rights coming to a head just hours from now on Capitol Hill. Republicans united in opposition against this. Meaning Democrat's sweeping election reform legislation is on track to hit yet another GOP filibuster roadblock.

Now, the major question for Democrats is can they get West Virginia's Joe Manchin on board with the legislation as it currently stands to show that they are united? Some Democrats are hoping it could help make their case that filibuster reform is needed now in a Senate where many of them argue minority rights have become minority rule.

SCIUTTO: Also today, President Biden's ongoing infrastructure negotiation team will be on Capitol Hill to discuss the proposal being drafted now by a bipartisan group of 20 senators, 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans but imagine this there's still major holdups.

They want both sides far apart on the crucial question of how to pay for their version, nearly $600 billion in new spending on infrastructure. CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So might I first start on the Voting Rights Bill.

It ain't going to get 60 votes, you know, you're not going to have 10 Republicans come along but will it reach that minimum threshold of getting 50? In other words, keeping Democrats together?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's still an open question. I can tell you Democrat leaders still are confident that they'll get to 50 votes but I talked to both Joe Manchin and Amy Klobuchar who's the Democratic lead negotiator about trying to get a deal that gets all 50 Democrats on board.

Last night Joe Manchin said that he was not there yet, he wanted to see what changes Democrats would ultimately make. Amy Klobuchar told me that they're still negotiating; she said the talks were happening in good faith. But ultimately even if they do reach agreement among Democrats, it's not enough to pass the United States Senate.

There will need to be 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. There aren't going to be 10 Republican votes, there probably won't be any Republican votes to move forward just to open debate here. And it remains to be seen if there are 50.

What Joe Manchin has proposed is to pair back the Democrat's sweeping election and campaign finance and ethics overhaul, instead focus on a hand full of key issues that he believes are important. Things like voter ID, expanding access to early voting, and dealing with partisan gerrymandering of House districts.

Those are things Democrats say that they are for but they still -- all weekend long they negotiated. According to Klobuchar, they tried to come up with an agreement on their side.

As of last night, they still had not had it but there is an expectation as the day goes on here that there will be the Democrats on board. And really this is just a political argument. At the end of the day, Democrats want to say all of Democrats are united and Republicans are blocking efforts to expand access to voting.

Republicans would love to get a Democrat to vote against this to say there's bipartisan opposition to what they consider a federal overreach here. So, all eyes at the moment, again, on Joe Manchin.

SCIUTTO: Nice.

HARLOW: And they -- and they really don't know, Manu? It seems like they generally -- no one knows what he's going to do except for him.

RAJU: Yes, that's the -- he is keeping his cards close. He said he wanted to see how the final language looked like before signing off on it. He has not said his position quite yet.

HARLOW: OK. You'll be there to get it first as you always do. Thank you, Manu.

RAJU: Yes.

HARLOW: President Biden's White House negotiation team is headed right there to Capitol Hill to meet with the bipartisan group of senators working on something else really critical and that is infrastructure.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you could take that line of copy there, and repeat it any day over the last several weeks, --

HARLOW: Like four years.

SCIUTTO: -- months, a bipartisan group of senators going to talk infrastructure on the Hill. So, the question is can they make a deal on nearly $600 billion in new spending? Which is at the core of this new bipartisan proposal. CNN's John Harwood is live this morning at the White House.

And, John, I mean, if they're still debating, if the Republican proposal to pay for this is to tax electric vehicles, it ain't going to happen for Democrats. And if, you know, the Democrats also don't want to index a gasoline tax because they worry about that being sort of an aggressive tax. I mean, if they're far apart on that, is there really a path here?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a path. It depends on whether there's a will to take the path. Look, we've always known it was going to be extremely difficult to get a bipartisan compromise on anything important that Joe Biden wants. And even on infrastructure, as popular as that is.

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But we're about to find out whether it's actually impossible. They ran out the string with a group of Republicans that Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia was representing a few days ago. Now you've got this group of 10 close and a larger group of 20, 10 on each side Republican and Democrat trying to come up with a package.

The amount of new spending that they're proposing for infrastructure is something the White House could accept. It's much larger than Capito was talking about. But as you indicated in the lead-in, the question of how to pay for it is very difficult. Democrats want to raise the corporate income tax, Republicans say no, that would unravel the 2017 Trump tax cut.

Republicans say raise the gas tax, tax electric vehicles. Democrats say no to that. There is a potential compromise on stiffening IRS enforcement of existing tax laws. That could find a way out. And really the question's going to be is do Republicans want to make that deal? Do they want to pull the trigger, do something that would benefit their states for sure?

But also benefit Joe Biden, and all of these things are related. You know, the president had Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Machin into the White House yesterday to talk about infrastructure. Also to talk about voting rights, and as you play out the string on these talks, on both voting rights if there's no Republican votes today.

On infrastructure if there are -- is not going to be a deal with Republicans, then you can see the beginning of an argument by the White House to try to lean on those Democratic senators to say if we can't do it with Republicans the question is do we do anything at all. That's when you get to the reconciliation fight on infrastructure. And potentially the debate over filibuster --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARWOOD: -- reform on voting rights.

SCIUTTO: It's a great question. It's really the core question here on all these proposals. John Harwood at the White House sort of helped us answer the question. Two really smart women, Margaret Talev, managing editor at Axios, and Karoun Demirjian, national security and congressional reporter at "The Washington Post". Margaret, you've been around Washington a long time, you know, answer John's question. Is there actual interest, even from a small number of Republicans to make a deal, right, given that there is a political aspect to this, imagine that, that it'll be seen as something of a victory for democratic president going into the mid-terms? Do they really want to make a deal? What guidance are they getting from their leadership?

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, you know, well, notably we have not heard Mitch McConnell come out yet and robustly --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: -- endorse the $1.2 trillion compromise that we're talking about. But I think this is really different than the voting rights expansion legislation. Primarily because infrastructure -- getting some kind of infrastructure deal benefits incumbents. And guess what, there are Republican as well as Democratic Incumbents.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: You know, the Voting Bill I think pretty clearly benefits Democrats because, you know, wage and hour workers, younger workers, voters of color disproportionately support Democrats instead of Republicans. Making it easier to vote makes it easier for those people to vote.

But when it comes to infrastructure, there are roads and bridges in red states as well as blue states. And if you have spent 20 years having infrastructure week and getting nothing, your voters start to get sick of it and say throw the bums out. So, that's part of the calculus here but those contours of the deal and how it -- how it unfolds are really still coming together.

We're hearing -- my colleagues Hans Nichols and Alayna Treene spent all day on the hill, and talking to the White House yesterday. Phrases like too big to fail or Noah's Ark --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: -- got a Republican, grab a Democrat, two by two onto the ship.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: There need -- you know, that idea that there has to be bipartisanship, the Voting Bill is a completely different story.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Right.

So, Karoun, to you. This op-ed from Senator Sinema this morning in your paper, in "The Washington Post" is important because she joins Joe Manchin explicitly, right. So, he's not sort of alone in op-ed saying never going to eliminate the legislative filibuster. But I think she poses it in a really interesting way writing, "To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For The People Act, I would ask: Would it be good for the country if we did only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections over the objection of the minority?" I mean --

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY & CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, look --

HARLOW: Go ahead.

DEMIRJIAN: Sorry, continue, Poppy, I'm sorry.

I -- well, I was just going to say that, I mean, these are kind of the philosophical -- the heart of the philosophical debate, right. People who call for eliminating the filibuster to get some of these agenda items done are kind of banking on the idea that either the public gets so use --

HARLOW: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- to it or that they -- that their party stays in power long enough that it gets difficult or awkward at least to politically roll it back so that you don't actually end up with like a ping pong volley (ph) of OK, well fine, we'll do this, you know, in one direction and then people will -- the next party coming into power will completely do the opposite and we'll be swinging like a pendulum from now until eternity.

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SCIUTTO: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: And then, the opposite of the argument is saying well that is potentially a problem that would happen. And so, we need to make sure everything has the ability of being at least somewhat bipartisan.

And I think that that is not really a resolvable debate. You have to predict the future, you have to guess what's going to come. And as you see, there's a lot of different or there's different opinions in the Democratic Party. And right now given where we are in that two very influential, powerful Democrats in the middle aren't willing to go there.

That's kind of hanging over the heads of all of these policy debates we're having right now. Because the question is, you know, when can you get compromise in general that -- between the parties in order to get things over the finish line? But can you also keep the parties together enough that the pursuit of that compromise doesn't kind of break everything up along the way? And --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- that's an issue that we're seeing on both of these issues right now.

SCIUTTO: So, Margaret, what about reducing the number of folks to make that compromise, right? I mean, this 55 vote threshold instead of 60, I mean, interestingly you've had some Democrats open to that.

I thought it was notable Ross Douthat, conservative writer at "The Times" brought that up. Does that have life as a compromise here? Or is even that too radioactive for some?

TALEV: I mean, historically there's no reason why it couldn't. It's not like that the founding fathers chiseled 60 into --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: -- the stone tablet, right, of the Constitution.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: Like, it was three-fourths until the 1970s, then it became three-fifths. So, they clearly have the flexibility and the precedent to change it. The question is, is the appetite there to do it? And, you know, Sinema's op-ed certainly suggests that it's not just the filibuster but it's 60 that she's committed to at this point. Is that a negotiating posture or is she solid?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: You know, time will tell. I do think this emphasis on whether Manchin's going to be with the 50, like, we might be overthinking it a little bit.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: Let's say he is, it still doesn't mean he's going to change the filibuster rule.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TALEV: Let's say he isn't. It still doesn't mean he couldn't change his mind. Whatever happens today may certainly send symbols and signals --

HARLOW: Yes.

TALEV: -- to progressives, to Republicans, to voters. But nothing changes after today's test vote.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: I think that's a real -- really, really great point. I think he's been very clear where he is on the legislative filibuster. But we'll see if he joins and if there's a sign of unity on other things. Thanks so much, Margaret and Karoun. We have appreciate it. Still to come, the bipartisan snag on infrastructure. Will Democrats ultimately target the filibuster to push President Biden's agenda? A key Democratic lawmaker is here.

SCIUTTO: Plus, new just alarming video evidence released indicates against the Proud Boys. Prosecutors say clearly shows their role, their planning in attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

And a spike in crime in New York, and in cities across the country. How are police on the beat handling this amid the mounting calls for police reform? My team and I we rode along with the NYPD on two busy summer nights to see them in action. We're going to show you what we found just ahead.

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SCIUTTO: We are seeing new just disturbing video released by the Justice Department as part of a major conspiracy case involving the Proud Boys and its involvement in January 6th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD PROTESTING)

UNKNOWN: Let's not (EXPLETIVE) yelled at, all right.

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HARLOW: These videos show the moments before members of the far right- wing group forced their way into the Capitol on January 6th. Our law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild has been going through all of these. She joins us again this hour, Whitney, good morning to you. I mean, this is just another first-hand look at the violence that day and preparation, really.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Prosecutors have always said that the Proud Boys and other of the -- other far-right extremist groups organized ahead of time and then executed a plan on January 6th.

This is really the first glimpse we're getting of video that shows what prosecutors say is really crucial evidence in these major conspiracy cases. So, this is a significant moment. So, you see these people gathering in front of the Capitol, these are alleged members of the Proud Boys discussing as the video says, taking the f*ing Capitol is what they say.

There's another piece of video that also illustrates another accusation prosecutors have made, which is that some of these far- right extremist groups and many rioters, actually stole police gear. Here's another piece of video showing that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(PEOPLE PROTESTING)

UNKNOWN: You stole a riot shield?

UNKNOWN: Yes.

UNKNOWN: Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILDS: You just stole a riot shield, that's what that video says. These videos are emerging in the case of Charles Donohoe, he's a man who's accused of being an instrumental leader for the Proud Boys accused of orchestrating over group chats these plans ahead of time.

And then helping the group carry out those plans on the day of the insurrection. Here is another video that really shows the -- his movements that day and the impact that day. So, here he is in this crowd of people at the edge of the Capitol. So, this was a crucial moment because here we see him in this red and white striped bandanna in this crowd that eventually forces its way through the police line.

Prosecutors say that was a pivotal moment because once that police line broke it effectively allowed all of these rioters to pour through the rest of the officers that were there trying to fend them off.

And then eventually these rioters made their way into the Capitol.

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And as we know, took over the building. So, these pieces of video are crucial in highlighting the horror of that day, the organization of that day, and then eventually the impact of that day, Poppy, and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Wow.

HARLOW: Yes. They -- it's just startling to see every time we see new video come out. Whitney, thank you for the reporting.

Meantime, the -- this story now attorneys say migrant children who are desperate to be reunited with their families in the United States are still having to wait weeks. And these temporary government-holding facilities, ones importantly that are not fit for minors.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, she's been following this and this court filing it has first-hand accounts from children going through this. What do we hear from them?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: This is really the first time that we're getting these testimonials from children at these temporary facilities. And a 16-year-old from Guatemala really summed it up. He said, quote, "Every day I feel really sad." He goes on to say, "There are some other kids who have been here about the same time as me and there is just a lot of sadness among us."

This is a boy who has been at an emergency intake site for more than 60 days waiting to be reunited with family in the United States. Now, these are facilities that fall under the Health and Human Services Department. That department is charged with the care of unaccompanied migrant children.

Now, they have facilities across the country but because of the record number of children who crossed the U.S./Mexico border along this year they had to open up temporary facilities. They're called Emergency Intake Sites. Now, attorneys have been visiting these facilities to assess conditions as part of an ongoing settlement.

And what they have found is that while conditions vary across sites, the issues still persist even weeks after these facilities have been set up. For example, they found that children didn't have much privacy, little education, they didn't -- they had limited access to showers, limited access to talking to family, and had spent days just sleeping to pass the time.

So, these children are at these facilities before they get reunited with a family or legal guardian in the United States. And what an attorney found is that the biggest stressor among them is just the prolonged time that they're spending there.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, I can only imagine. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much for staying on top of it.

ALVAREZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Biden's senior advisors, they're on Capitol Hill right now, again, trying again to iron out a deal on infrastructure. How far are Democrats willing to go to push the president's agenda through Congress? Is a bipartisan deal possible? We're going to speak with a key senator next.

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SCIUTTO: President Biden's senior team on Capitol Hill as we speak in yet one more bipartisan push for infrastructure. And yet, more snags on how to pay for it, in particular.

We're joined now by Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Wyden, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: All right. So, we are weeks into - months, really, into a quest for a bipartisan infrastructure deal, yet very basic disagreements remain, even in this bipartisan group.

Is it time for Biden and Democrats to move on to reconciliation?

WYDEN: The president is being very patient, but patience doesn't mean eternity. Now, at the Senate Finance Committee, we are working on major

policies, major initiatives to make the tax code fairer, to create incentives to reduce carbon, and we've got proposals to lower the cost of medicine.

So, we are just going to keep moving forward with those major efforts.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned, for instance, climate, you're a very vocal supporter of measures to address climate change. Yet one of the disagreements here is a Republican proposal to pay for this by taxing electric vehicles.

I -- you know, it's a non-starter for Democrats; I imagine it's a non- starter for you. Is that a signal to you that the efforts at a bipartisan agreement aren't entirely sincere or workable?

WYDEN: Well, we'll have to see what this next few days shows, but it doesn't make sense to levy this big tax on the cars of the future, particularly when the Congressional Budget Office says it will cover just a tiny, tiny percentage of the shortfall.

We have got to move on to the major issues. You look, for example, at what came out last week, the documents from ProPublica and how billionaires aren't paying any taxes. We've got a double standard on taxes in America.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

WYDEN: If you're a nurse, you're treating COVID patients, you pay taxes out of every paycheck. The billionaires get a free ride. We're going to change that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, it's the point Warren Buffett always makes, why his administrative assistant pays a higher tax rate than he, a billionaire, does.

I want to get to voting, voting rights, crucial vote today. It's not going to get to 60. There's no bipartisan agreement here. Just a question about whether Democrats stand together, one of the key questions, Joe Manchin.

I wonder, he says he doesn't know if he will vote to advance. What is your message to your Democratic colleague, Joe Manchin, today?

WYDEN: My message is the same as the one I used at my town hall meetings, and that is, failure to secure voting rights is not an option.

I'm the first senator in our country to be elected completely by mail. I'm a Democrat.

The second senator to be elected by mail was Gordon Smith, he was a Republican.

We can address these issues in a fair way.

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