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Florida Building Collapse; President Biden Touts Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thank you for sharing a little bit of your mom with all of us and for joining me today.

Be sure to tune in. The all new CNN film "Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story" premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm off for a few days. So I will see you back here next week.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @AnaCabrera.

The news continues now with Alisyn and Victor.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off.

We are following a lot of breaking news this hour.

Up first, we're expecting to hear from President Biden on this bipartisan infrastructure deal that has just been reached. We, of course, will take that live as soon as that starts.

We're also following the urgent search for survivors in South Florida, after a building collapsed. One person has been killed. Many others have been injured.

Now, the rescue operation has been going on now for more than 12 hours. And we want you to look at the screen. This is the surveillance video that happened at the -- it was capturing at the moment. This is 1:30 in the morning Surfside, Florida, 55 units of a condo complex pancaked.

You saw that first section. And then now the second section goes down a few seconds later. You can see a huge portion of this building is now gone. Local officials and the governor, they gave an update a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES BURKETT, MAYOR OF SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: And we rang the alarm bell.

And Mayor Cava sent the cavalry, as did the governor. And that has made all the difference in the world. They have got resources like you can't believe here. We have got the dogs. We have got the equipment. And we're going to do our very best to save as many people in that pile of rubble as we possibly can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: A county commissioner told CNN that 51 people are unaccounted for. She says it's possible they could be on vacation or simply away from their home.

Rescue teams saved 35 people from this 12-story building, another two from what was left. One of those was a 10-year-old boy. And a man who found him told CNN that he first heard someone -- someone yelling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLAS BALBOA, FOUND 10-YEAR-OLD BOY: I could begin to hear him clearly and see -- and hear by his voice that he was a little boy, couldn't have been more than in his preteens.

So, then I saw -- I saw an arm sticking out of the wreckage. And he was screaming, "Can you see me?" and whatnot.

So, we started to kind of climb up to him to try and see if we could get him free. But it was too heavy, too much rebar, stuff like that. It was going to take quite a bit of effort to get him out. But he was just screaming: "Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me."

And so we wanted to stay with him, make sure that we got fire and police over there. So, I was able to signal a police officer using the flashlight of my phone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: CNN's Leyla Santiago has been on the scene since before dawn.

Leyla, we know this is very early in the investigation into what caused this. What's the latest now on the search and that investigation?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with the search, Victor,.

We just spoke to the Florida fire marshal. And he just said to us that the teams that are searching on the ground right now over that rubble and debris...

BLACKWELL: Leyla, I have to interrupt you.

We are going to the White House now. This is President Biden on this infrastructure deal reached by a bipartisan group of senators. Let's listen. JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon.

If you hear a little noise in the background, it's because I'm supposed to get on a helicopter to head to North Carolina, which I'm doing going to be short -- right after this.

And the vice president, though, want to lay out what we just settled, at least for the moment, with our friends, the bipartisan group of senators.

I have said many times before there's nothing our nation can't do when we decide to do it together, do it as one nation. Today is the latest example of that truth, in my view.

I'm pleased to report that a bipartisan group of senators, five Democrats, five Republicans, part of a larger group, have come together and forged an agreement that will create millions of American jobs and modernize our American infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world and own the 21st century.

I want to thank them for working together and for raising their ideas and concerns with me and with the vice president, as well as with our jobs Cabinet, Secretary Buttigieg here -- good to see you, Mr. Secretary -- Secretary Fudge, Secretary Granholm, Secretary -- there you are.

Got to make sure -- I thought everybody was on this side. I was going to...

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Secretary Raimondo and Secretary Walsh.

I also want to thank Senator Capito for her earlier work in the infrastructure. We didn't reach an agreement earlier, but she tried her best to get something done. I'm sure it helped produced the final agreement we had.

[14:05:11]

Now, the fact is, investment in jobs and infrastructure have often had bipartisan support in the past. Matter of fact, when I first got to the United States Senate, it was probably the least difficult thing to do, was pass infrastructure plans.

But, even so, it's been a very long time since the last time since the last time our country was able to strike a major bipartisan deal on American infrastructure, which is so badly needed, I might add.

We have devoted far too much energy to competing with one another and not nearly enough energy competing with the rest of the world to win the 21st century. The investments we will be making as a result of this deal are long overdue. They will put Americans to work in good- paying jobs, repairing our roads and our bridges. They will deliver high-speed Internet to every American home, bringing down the price that people pay now for Internet service. And they will close the American digital divide, as been driven home

by everybody mother and father with a child at home during the COVID crisis that is, thank God, abating, and kids not being able to be in school.

This is going to put plumbers and pipe fitters to work. It's going to replace 100 percent of the nation's lead water pipes, so that every child and every American can turn on the faucet at home or at school and drink clean water in low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by lead pipes and the consequences of that.

This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country building transmission lines, upgrading the power grid to be more energy-efficient and resilient and extreme weather -- to be able to sustain extreme weather and the climate crisis.

It also builds our natural infrastructure, our coastlines and our levees to be more resilient as well. American workers will be installing electric vehicle charging stations and undertaking critical environmental cleanups.

This bipartisan agreement represents the largest investment in public transit in American history, and I might add that the largest investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak. You all know I have nothing but affection for Amtrak, having traveled over a million miles on it, commuting every day. But it's a big deal.

This agreement is going to create new financing authority that's going to leverage private capital and infrastructure and clean energy projects. It will provide folks with good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced, the kind of jobs is that provide middle class -- a middle- class life, with a little bit of breathing room, a little bit of breathing room for American families.

My dad used to say, being in the middle class is being able to take that extra breath. I mean it sincerely. Think about it. Think about all the people who can't take that breath, that only -- have no margin for error.

And we're going to do it all without raising a cent from earners below $400,000. There's no gas tax increase, no fee on electric vehicles. And the fact is, we're going to help ensure that -- we're going to make sure that everybody in America is in a position to be able to do what need be done.

And so what I -- because -- let me be clear. We're in a race with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century. They're not waiting. They're investing tens of billions of dollars across the board, tens of billions.

I just came back from Europe meeting with the G7, as well as with NATO, as well as with the E.U., and as well as with Mr. Putin, all separately. There's massive investment going in the -- among the autocrats. One of the underlying questions is, can democracies compete with

autocratic enterprises in the 21st century? And this is a big move toward that, being able to compete. We have to move and we have to move fast.

And this agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things. These investments represent the kind of national effort that throughout our history has literally -- not figuratively -- literally transformed America and propelled us into the future, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System, investments that we made together that only our government was in position to make.

Now we're poised to add a new chapter in that American tradition.

Let me be clear. Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal. That's what it means to compromise. And it reflects something important. It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus.

And it's time a true -- this time, a true bipartisan effort, breaking the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place, prevented us from solving the real problems facing the American people.

[14:10:10]

This deal means millions of good-paying jobs and fewer burdens felt at the kitchen table. And across the country, there will be safer and healthier communities. But it also signals to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can deliver. And because of that, it represents an important step forward for our country.

I want to be clear about something else. Today is a huge day for one- half of my economic agenda, the American Jobs Plan. It delivers clean transportation, clear water and clean water, universal broadband, clean power infrastructure and environmental resilience.

And these areas invest two-thirds of the resources that I proposed in my American Jobs Plan, two-thirds of what I call for out there.

But I'm getting to work with Congress right away on the other half of my economic agenda as well, the American Family Plan, to finish the job on childcare, education, the caring economy, clean energy tax cuts -- clean energy and tax cuts for American families and much more.

For me, investment in our physical and human infrastructure are inextricably intertwined. Both make us better off and stronger. The case for these investments is clear. Economists, left, right and center, independent Wall Street forecasters, they all say that these kinds of public investments mean more jobs, more workers participating in the labor force, higher productivity, and higher growth for our economy over the long run.

Both need to get done. I'm going to work closely with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to make sure that both move through the legislative process promptly and in tandem -- let me emphasize that -- and in tandem.

We need physical infrastructure, but we also need the human infrastructure as well. They're a part of my overall plan.

What we agreed on today is what we could agree on, the physical infrastructure. There was no agreement on the rest. We are going to have to do that through the budget process.

And we need a fairer tax system to pay for it all. I'm not going to rest until it all -- both get to my desk.

And lastly, I know there are some of my party who discouraged me from seeking an agreement with our Republican colleagues, who said that we should go bigger and go alone.

To them, I say this. I have already shown, in my young presidency, that I'm prepared to do whatever needs to get done to move the country forward. That's what I did with the American Rescue Plan, which was $1.9 trillion.

And let me say this. When we can't -- we can find common ground, though, working across party lines, that is what I will seek to do.

The reason why is because broader support for a proposal has -- the broadest support a proposal has in Congress, the strongest its prospects for passage. Working together when we can allows us to make bipartisan process whenever possible, without foreclosing the right end and the necessity of moving forward on a major -- on a majority basis when we are at deep odds with one another, so-called reconciliation progress -- process.

And for the deal being announced today, there's plenty of work ahead to bring this home. This is going to require hard work and collaboration. The committee chairs and the ranking members are going to play a major part. There are going to be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to be forged along the way.

But this group of senators and all the American people can be proud today, because we have reaffirmed once again that we are the United States of America. There's not a single thing beyond our capacity that we aren't able to do when we do it together.

I know a lot of you in the press particularly doubt that unity is possible, that anything bipartisan is impossible. It's hard, but it's necessary, and it can get done.

So, I want to thank you all, and God bless you.

And now I will take a few questions before the helicopter leaves without me from the press.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, what assurances do you have at this point that you have sufficient Democratic support both in the Senate and the House to move both on this bipartisan deal and on the reconciliation package?

BIDEN: You always ask me those things. Nobody knows for certain.

It's your job, but you know it's not a reasonable question. And the reason I say that -- I may -- being critical -- the idea of my telling you now that I know what every senator, how they're going to vote is just not -- I don't know that.

I do know that among the roughly 20 bipartisan group of senators and congress -- senators that I met with -- well, only 10 were here today, but that group, that we had an agreement.

[14:15:08]

For example, for -- they talk about, well, why would Biden compromise?

Well, when's the last time -- if you had asked me whether or not I'd be able to get passenger rail service, $66 billion worth, largest investment ever since Amtrak came about -- I asked for 90, and got $66 billion.

Talk about public transit, $49 billion, $49 billion for public transit. When I raised that before, somebody looked at me like, where have you been, Biden? You have been spending too much in China or something. I hadn't been to China.

Electric buses, $7.5 billion, I asked for 15. I couldn't get all of it, but we compromised. Electric infrastructure. That is charging stations along the roads. I got -- I asked for 15, I got 7.5. These are significant down payments on things that we finally got after negotiations, skillful negotiations on the part of my Cabinet and my team led by Mr. Ricchetti.

And so, when you ask me what guarantee do I have that I have all the votes I need, I don't have any guarantee. But what I do have is a pretty good read over the years of how the Congress and the Senate works.

And the idea that we're not going -- because someone's not going to be able to get every single thing they want, they're going to vote against some of the things I just named, with nothing in here that's -- quote -- "bad" for the environment, bad for the economy, bad for the transportation, is unlikely.

But I can't guarantee it. You know that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President, talk a little more about your interactions with Republicans specifically. You said earlier: "They have given me their word. Where I come from, that's good enough for me."

To skeptics in your own party, what is it about the conversations you have had recently with Republicans that gives you so much hope?

And, secondly, you had said earlier you might have more to say about the situation (OFF-MIKE) South Beach in Miami. I'm just curious...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Well, I'm going to stick to -- I will at the end answer yourself South Beach question.

But let me -- so we have some coherence here.

Number one, I have worked with a lot of these people who are in the room. I know them. Everybody knows -- and you guys know -- when certain senators tell you something, they mean it. And others, you take -- you discount.

Where I come from in my years in the Senate, the single greatest currency you have is your word, keeping your word. Mitt Romney's never broken his word to me. The senator from Alaska and the senator from New Hampshire, they have never broken their word -- from Maine -- they have never broken their word for -- they're friends.

And so the people I was with today are people that I trust. I don't agree with them on a lot of things. But I trust them when they say, this is a deal, we will stick to the deal, just like I doubt whether you will find any one of them say they don't trust me when I said, OK, this the deal on these issues. This is a deal we will stick with.

But, for example, there's -- and I made it clear today, there's other things in the environment I want to get done. I think we should have the $300 billion tax credit for dealing with the environment. It will be giant tax cuts for corporations, but it will also be a giant move toward weatherizing every building in America and all the things we need to do.

So, there's things -- and so when I said we agree, I'm not going to go back and renegotiate the Amtrak piece. But I am going to fight for trying to get $300 billion more for tax credits for the environment. That's about the best that I can answer the question.

Yes, ma'am.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President (OFF-MIKE) My question is on the timeline.

There are families who are looking at this (OFF-MIKE) wondering when that help is coming. (OFF-MIKE) Can you say anything more about that? And what does this signal for future deals? There's still things like voting rights and policing reform that are not able to get bipartisan deals.

What does this tell you? What did you learn in talking to Republicans about what will happen in the future?

BIDEN: Let me take -- you asked three essay questions, and legitimate question. But you asked three of them.

The first one related to what again? QUESTION: The first one is on the timeline.

BIDEN: Timeline.

QUESTION: When (OFF-MIKE)

BIDEN: And you said the people are waiting for relief.

QUESTION: Yes.

BIDEN: I got them $1.9 trillion in relief so far.

They're going to be getting checks in the mail that are consequential this week for childcare. A lot has been -- happened already, number one.

Number two, I'm going to fight like heck to get them the rest of what I think has to be done on education, for example. My proposal was in the Family Plan early education and free community college. I'm going to fight like the devil to get that done. But it's not going to be with Republican help.

[14:20:07]

I'm going to have to get every Democrat and do it through reconciliation, if it gets done. So, that's number one.

I think -- based on my being out in the street and polling data, I think the people who need the help the most trust me to be fighting to get them the help they need. They know who I am. And they know my record.

With regard to the issue of what about voting rights, voting rights is maybe the most consequential thing. I think what -- I'm going to be going around the country, spending time making the case to the American people that this just isn't about showing an identification that this is who I am when I vote.

This isn't just about whether or not -- excuse me -- you can provide water for someone standing in line while they're waiting to vote. This is about who gets to judge whether your vote counted after it's been cast. Think about it.

Up to now, every state and the federal government has assumed that there would be officials who were appointed and/or elected in states where the election commissioners bound by an oath that they would uphold certain requirements to make sure the vote was honest and fair.

What these guys are trying to do now, in rough approximation, is say that, if we don't like the way the vote turned out, and we control the state legislature, we're going to say the vote didn't count, and we're going to recount.

That's never happened before. It's wrong. Who in God's name, as my mother would say, died and left them boss? Your vote has to count when you cast it. There's a lot of ancillary pieces of this legislation that I strongly support. I strongly support the idea that there's no -- there's no private -- if I had my way, there'd be no private contributions to see who gets elected -- how much money you raise.

If I had my way, and I think it's really important that every Election Day would be a day off, because people can't go to -- people who work certain shifts can't make it to the election. I would make sure there's automatic registration when you turn 18.

That's what I think everybody thinks this fight is about. It's a worthy fight. But it's much more profound than that. It's about saying that the legislature in Georgia could decide, and as a Republican legislature, you know, on reflection, we don't think that election was fair. We're going to vote to say it didn't count.

It's just simply wrong. It's wrong. And, in my view, it borders on being immoral. This is the sacred right to vote. As John Lewis said, it is the, the, the most important right you have.

And so I'm going to be making the case across the country, and, as best I can, to seize over time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said you want both of these measures to come to you in tandem. Did you receive any assurances that that will happen? And how do you anticipate -- what will you do...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: I control that. If they don't come, I'm not signing. Real simple.

So, what I expect, I expect that, in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill, as well -- the infrastructure bill -- as well as voted on the budget resolution.

And that's when they will -- but if only one comes to me, I'm not -- if this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you support, then, Speaker Pelosi's stated plan to hold the bipartisan deal in the House until the Senate also passes reconciliation? Do you support that sequencing on her part?

BIDEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) same page about the reconciliation package.

So, by moving forward with this two-track system, aren't you putting the bipartisan bill in jeopardy? BIDEN: Sure. The bipartisan bill was -- look, the bipartisan bill

from the very beginning, it was understood there's going to have to be the second part of it. I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest I have -- that I proposed.

I proposed a significant piece of legislation in three parts. And all three parts are equally important.

And, by the way, my party -- you keep -- everybody tells me what my party is: My party's divided.

Well, my party is divided. My party is divided. But my party's also rational. If they can't get every single thing they want, but all that they have in the bill that -- before them is good, are they going to vote no? I don't think so.

[14:25:00]

QUESTION: Mr. President?

BIDEN: Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you -- 48 hours ago, it seemed like this deal was kind of in a rough place, or didn't necessarily have a path forward.

What clinched -- what changed the dynamic that you saw? And, also, would you be willing to put a debt ceiling increase in either of the two vehicles you're talking about?

BIDEN: There's probably going to have to be a debt ceiling. Whether it's included in either these bills is not relevant. It depends on what the leadership in the House and Senate thinks how they should proceed, number one.

Number two, you notice I didn't have that bleak view you all had. You said, 48 hours ago, it didn't look good. It looked good to me 48 hours ago. It looked good to our team 48 hours ago; 72 hours ago, it looked good too, wasn't there yet.

But you guys know me too well. And I'm going to drive you crazy the next four years, because I'm going to tell you the truth as I see it. I know the Senate and the House better than most of you know it. I have been -- my whole life, that's what I have done.

Doesn't mean I'm going to turn out to be right all the time. But I'm not going to negotiate with the press while I'm negotiating with the -- and privately with my colleagues.

And these are really tough decision senators are going to have. I don't in any way dismiss what Senator Murphy says about the environment. I don't dismiss it at all. I just remind them, I wrote the bill on the environment. Why would I not be for it?

The question is, how much can we get done? And the bottom line is, when all is said and done, does what you agree to preclude forever you getting the things you really want? Well, I'm not for that. I'm not going to vote for one of those deals.

Secondly, do you get all of what you wanted, or do you come back and fight another day? I have been president about 150 days. I think we have done fairly well so far, not because of me, but because the way the system works.

So, it's not -- I mean, I know that doesn't answer any of your questions about, can you tell me when, how are you going to do?

I just feel that the best way to get a senator or congressperson who supports the essence of what's already there, but says they don't have enough of what's there of other things, the best way to get that message across is go to the constituents and say, here's -- here's what's on the table. Do you think your senator or your congressman should vote for that?

So you campaign. The campaign doesn't stop. The partisan piece stops in terms of, I'm against Charlie Smith or Harriet Wilson. But that doesn't stop. I mean, that stops, but what doesn't stop is just saying, you're -- it's like on -- last example I'll give. I promise I won't do this to you again.

But remember, in 2018, everybody said, well, we're going to lose -- the Democrats going to lose the House and Senate. They're not going to make -- the House -- not going to make gains.

And I went into over 60 congressional districts. I didn't go after the individual congresspersons who were against making sure that we kept the Affordable Care Act. But I went to their constituents and said, the Affordable Care Act is really important.

We had a large crowd show up. I would say, here's why I think you should do it. That's why, if I were you, I'd take a look at Charlie Smith says and Harriet Wilson says. He's for it. She's not. Or she's for it and he's not.

And guess what? We won, what, 40-some seats? So it's not just convincing this particular congressperson. It's making a rational case, if you can, in their communities why this is important to get done.

And I think the fact that I didn't get everything now, at this moment -- for example, a lot of our housing pieces didn't get passed. We're coming back at it, though. We're coming back at it. We're going to make the case.

And if I make the case to the public at large -- the one thing I can say for all of you, you do accurately report what I say. The problem is, I disappoint you, because I can't answer all your questions and negotiate with you before I negotiate with my colleagues.

But I really think we -- the public understands, and they're seeing. The proof is in what's happening.

It's now projected our economy is going to grow above 7 percent this year. Projections from Wall Street to the Fed, this is going to continue to grow. We're going to increase more.

And guess what? Remember, you were asking me -- and I'm not being critical of you all.

[14:30:00]