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Biden Speaks on Infrastructure Deal; 1 Dead, 30-Plus Rescued After Building Collapse Near Miami; David Paulison, Former FEMA Director, Discusses Search & Rescue Efforts After Florida Condo Collapse; Brian Deese, White House Director, National Economic Council, Discusses Biden's Bipartisan Deal on Infrastructure. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 14:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Projections from Wall Street to the Fed, is it going to continue to grow. We're going to increase more.

And guess what? Remember you were asking me -- I'm not being critical of you all. I really mean this. Legitimate questions you're asking me.

Asking me, guess what, employers can't find workers. I say, yes, pay them more. This is an employees' -- employees' bargaining chip now. What's happening? They're going to compete and start paying hard- working people a decent wage.

And by the way, talking inflation. The overall consensus, it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down. No one is talking about this great, great deal.

So, again, if it turns out that what I've done so far, what we've done so far is a mistake, it's going to show. It's going to show.

The economy is not going to grow like it wasn't before. People aren't going to have jobs with increased pay like it was before. People are going to be out of work like it was before with no options. Unemployment's going to continue to climb. It's going to continue to go down.

If that happens, then my policies didn't make a lot of sense. But I'm counting on it now. That's what I'm counting on, it working.

I've got to get to the helicopter.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, will you travel to Florida, sir?

BIDEN: Oh, yes. I apologize. Yes, thank you.

I've spoken with -- coincidentally, the mayor of Miami-Dade was in my office yesterday, and I talked to her today. Not about that, obviously, but so I've had a large conversation with her today. And Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in that district.

We've gotten in touch with FEMA. They're ready to go. The governor is going to have to -- they're down expecting what they think is needed.

I'm waiting for the governor to asking to declare an emergency, especially once we learn what might happen with the rest of the building.

So, we are on top of it. We are ready to move from the federal resources immediately, immediately. If, in fact, we're asked for it. But we can't go in and do it.

But FEMA is down there taking a look at what's needed.

And including from everything from, if the rest of those buildings have to be evacuated as well. Finding housing for those people. Making sure they have the capacity to both have a place to shelter, food to eat, et cetera. That's under way now.

And my chief of staff has been deeply involved in this from the very beginning. We got the cabinet involved in it now in terms of dealing with FEMA. We're working on it.

I made it clear, I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we're waiting, just ask us, we'll be there. We'll be there.

So, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, what are you hoping the vice president --

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: President Biden is speaking about the tragedy in Surfside, Florida, at the tip end of this news conference.

Pretty broad here about -- still looking at the president.

He's saying more there --

BIDEN: -- (INAUDIBLE) -- what we need to do.

Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know anything on any support - (INAUDIBLE)

BLACKWELL: All right. The majority of this --

BIDEN: I've already begun the process. Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know what country they're going to move to first?

BIDEN: I don't know that. I'll be meeting with Ghani tomorrow. He'll be coming to my office. That will be a discussion. They're welcome here, just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.


BLACKWELL: I think that's it. The president there was talking about those 18,000 interpreters in Afghanistan, who helped the U.S. in the multi-decade war.

The question to bring them to the U.S. to save them from the Taliban. The president said they're welcome here just like anyone else who helped us.

Let's get to the heart of this news conference and bring in Kaitlan Collins and Ryan Nobles.

There are a lot of asterisks, and ifs, ands and buts about this deal. But let's start wit they have reached a deal on infrastructure, an important day for this administration.

Kaitlan Collins, let's start there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he was saying some of his own colleagues in the Democratic Party had encouraged him to stop working with Republicans to get to this bipartisan deal.

Essentially, saying it was time to cut bait a long time ago, as these talks were dragging on.

And he was saying that he felt like it was important to carry on talking about what getting a bipartisan deal actually means for the country.


Given, of course, it was not only something he ran on, but given how divided the country is right now.

And he was pretty blunt there saying neither side got exactly what they wanted out of this deal. But still talking about how significant this agreement is. What an investment in transportation it is.

He said the single biggest in American history. Not just talking overall, more specifically talking about Amtrak, something he's incredibly familiar with.

And the investments that this agreement, if actually passed by Congress, would make in passenger transportation like that.

I think, overall, to hear him talk about what this means and how he's not just after this bipartisan deal that they announced and he endorsed there at the White House today.

He also made news by saying he will not sign the bipartisan infrastructure package that he and his team have just negotiated if he does not also get that bigger bill. That one that we're expecting to be done through the fast-track process known as reconciliation on his desk. That is incredibly notable.

He is saying he wants that done in tandem. We've heard that from Democratic leaders. But President Biden is saying he will not sign just a bipartisan deal. He wants both of them on his desk.

And of course, when it comes to the question of that, that has been something that has been a natural ask, after they announced this deal.

Was, are you going to get progressive Democrats on board with this? Because they have been expressing some concerns about this package. It's a big package but it's not as big as they would like it to be.

And one of the most notable quotes from the president there, he said, yes, his party is divided, but he also believes they're rational. Saying he does think they're going to be successful in getting Democrats on board here.

Though, he said he's not confident yet. They haven't done the counting on that and acknowledging there's still a long road ahead.

Certainly, President Biden is feeling good about this. Given he is the one pushing for the bipartisan deal, moving ahead behind the scenes, despite criticism from people in his party, saying he did believe this is part of what they can get to.

And of course, they got at least part of the way with this today.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the ifs, ands and buts. That brings us to the ability of passing the reconciliation bill. Meaning, you need every Democratic vote, especially in the Senate, to get it through.

That, of course, takes us to Senator Joe Manchin. Here's what he said earlier about that larger bill.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): To say that one's being held hostage to the other doesn't seem to be fair to me. But they're going to make those decisions.

But we have to see what's in the other plan before I can say, oh, yes, you vote for this, you vote for that. That's not what I have signed up for.

The $6 billion price tag, that's too high for us to take on that much debt. I don't know if there's much pay fors. So I have to look at the pay fors.

If they're working outside of that envelope, they have to prove to me that the need is there. Don't worry about, throw caution to the wind and just add more debt on. I have a hard time swallowing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: So, Ryan, where does this essentially land the deal that the president just announced, much less the larger multi-trillion reconciliation bill.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, what I thought was interesting about what the president said, while they passed an obstacle, he was clear-eyed about the road ahead.

This is essentially a tension rod that the House and Senate have created trying to keep the dispirited groups on all of the game rope.

Trying to guide the bipartisan package and the reconciliation package across a very set of chopping waters to get to the finish line.

Essentially what they're going to do here, we've got a bipartisan package here, and trying to convince progressive members of both the House and Senate to vote for it.

In change for the fact that this is the only way to get the reconciliation package over the finish line. And then hope that the moderate Senators, like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to basically break the promise that they made that they're not going to vote for something that doesn't have bipartisan support.

And this does seem like a heavy lift, especially when you take in consideration the timeline of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

There's a possibility they could vote on something as early as the first week of August.

That is a very short period of time to pack so much spending in and negotiate all of these different factions amongst all these different groups to try and get something complete. But there's on missile.

And I think that's the one thing we have to take away from the last 24 hours.

Despite the president acting as though he, you know, is all sunny eyed about the way this process is going, up here on Capitol Hill, most people were very skeptical that, you know, bringing together something this complicated could actually be accomplished.

We're now starting to see them -- you know, sing a much different tune. It seems to be that this is something that's possible.


But I can't stress enough, Victor, even one little thing could, you know, send this off the rails and collapse. And see it not cross the finish line.

There's a lot of work to do before we see President Biden's signature on any piece of legislation.

BLACKWELL: And Kaitlan, the president -- go ahead. I see you want to make a point. COLLINS: I was just going to say, also just stepping back and

listening to what the president just said, talking about working with Republicans and how much he trusts this group that he was just in the Oval Office with, the group of 10 bipartisan Senators.

And he's singling out Mitt Romney saying that is someone who has never broken his word.

Saying this is a group I trust. And believes the most powerful form of currency in Washington is your word. That they are going to stick to the deal and he feels confident.

To hear the president say that, though it's not surprising for Joe Biden, specifically, is still notable, given how divided we've seen Washington be over the last several years now, not just during the Trump era, but generally.

For him to say that, it is notable, just to see them sitting in the Oval Office, coming out with smiles on their faces, talking about this agreement they've quietly been working on behind the scenes for weeks now.

It is true the White House has been more confident about whether or not this is going to actually end up here. But to hear President Biden pushing back on skeptics, but also some Democrats who do not believe working with Republicans is the best route to go here.

Basically pushing off that notion to say, no, I do trust Republicans to keep their word. And I do think this is the right path to pursue is notable.

And saying that, citing his long decades on Capitol Hill, saying that is the experience he used to get to where they are right now in this moment.

BLACKWELL: All right. A lot of very delicate variables that have to be navigated here.

Kaitlan Collins, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

NOBLES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, next, we're going to take you back to Florida where rescuers are desperately searching for survivors after that condo building partially collapsed overnight. We've got the latest for you. Standby.



More now on the breaking news in Surfside, Florida. The search is happening right now for survivors of that building collapse. One person has been killed. Others have been injured.

Let's go back to CNN's Leyla Santiago with the latest. Leyla, I had to cut you off for the president. What's the latest on

the search?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, I can tell you, we spoke to the fire marshal, and he tells us they are hearing sounds coming from the rubble from one possible individual near the collapsed garage.

The effort is there to get to the trapped persons below the rubble.

The fire marshal told us they have two teams out there, 60 people.

And the governor just finished touring the area. He said that TV doesn't do it justice. That it is much worse. That while he's still hopeful, he is bracing for bad news, given the destruction.

So, that is the search effort that is very much under way. Has been under way, since we first arrived overnight, around 3:00 in the morning, where we could see firefighters going to the balconies one by one, trying to clear the area.

So, what do we know about this building? Well, it is a condo building. It was built in the '80s. We understand that there what some sort of roof work being done.

According to the county commissioner we spoke with, she told us there was some maintenance and inspection for its 40 years' standards also under way.

This is a 12-story building with 130 units. And 55 of those units collapsed. That's nearly half the building, to put that in perspective.

The investigation is now very much under way with the central question being, how did this happen?

The governor and county and city officials have made it very clear, Victor, that this is not something that we're going to learn in the next few minutes, the next few hours or days. That it will take a long time to get to the bottom of that.

BLACKWELL: Understandably.

Leyla Santiago, with some good news that they are hearing sounds there. That's positive development.

Reporting from Surfside, thank you so much.

Let's bring in David Paulison, former director of FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also, former chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Sir, thanks for being with us.

Let's start there with that search. We know there's inclement weather coming. I lived in Florida a while. We know it comes every afternoon, this time of year. What does this search look like for the people who are trying to find


DAVID PAULISON, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR & FORMER CHIEF, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: It's going to be very difficult. The way the building came down, it's almost a pancake-type of collapse. But I'm very encouraged they're hearing some sounds.

One thing about Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, they have some of the most sophisticated equipment in the world. They're very well trained. They responded all over the world. So they've got a lot of experience with dealing with these types of collapses.

They also have a lot of experience also in helping to shore up the build and stabilize while they're doing their search and rescue. So, that's a very positive sign.

You know, we have upwards maybe 50 people missing, around that number. That will change over the next couple of day as we get more information.

But this is going to be a very difficult rescue for those still trapped, if they're still alive.


BLACKWELL: Considering how difficult it's going to be, we heard from the president just a few moments ago that federal resources are ready to be sent to south Florida if they are requested.

Should that call be happening now to get FEMA, to get those resources to that site, to that community?

PAULISON: I met with the director yesterday in Washington, D.C. She will -- excuse me. So she's ready to go. It just requires the governor to ask for assistance.

I'm not sure right now what they can provide, a lot of equipment on the ground, a lot of firefighters on the ground.

So it will be up to the local emergency manager, the local fire chief to make a decision do we need more help. I suspect in the next couple days they very well may need that.

They'll need to find housing, particularly if they have to evacuate the building next to it.

As far as heavy equipment, as far as listening devices, as far as the sophistication of the local team right now, I'm not sure what they would actually ask for at this point in time.


We know that the cause, the investigation into that is some time off, to get an answer to that.

But considering how it pancaked, I've heard from rescue experts, also architects, that there's a possibility of a sinkhole.

Considering that is a possibility, what's your concern for the other structures in the area?

PAULISON: That's one of the issues they have to look at. We haven't had sinkholes in south Florida in a long, long time that I can remember.

But there was some construction very close. They just put up a new building. Something possibly could have happened.

They're going to be looking at why did that building come down. Did something else happen? Was there something on the roof that caused it or something underneath with one of the pilings failing? All of those things they have to look at.

I agree with the people on the ground who say this is not something we're going to determine in the next couple days. This is going to be weeks, maybe months before we get a solid answer why this building failed.

BLACKWELL: Realistically, considering the weather that's coming in, the water that is flooding that scene, how long is a rescue effort sustainable before this becomes something else, becomes a recovery effort?

PAULISON: Well, I know that fire department very well, since I was the fire chief for a long time there.

They will not leave until all possible rescues have been taken care of. They will not leave until they have done the total body recovery for those who perhaps have passed away in there.

We did the same thing with the ValuJet crash. We stayed on scene until we were sure every possible body part was taken out of there. We didn't leave any stone unturned.

They will do the same thing on this building. They will be there until the bitter end.

BLACKWELL: Former FEMA director, former chief, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, David Paulison, thanks so much for your time.

PAULISON: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: More now on President Biden's announcement about a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

Let's talk about that with White House director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese.

Brian, thanks for being with me.

Let's start here with, the president says this is a massive investment in the infrastructure of this country. What's in the bill? BRIAN DEESE, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well,

this is the largest long-term investment in our nation's infrastructure in nearly a century.

It would invest in key elements of our physical infrastructure. So roads and bridges. This would be the largest investment in bridges ever in our country's history. Not just large economically significant bridges, but 10,000 bridges all around the country.

They would also invest in our modern physical infrastructure, high speed, affordable Internet to all Americans, providing clean water to all families in the country, and rebuilding our power grid, building transmission lines all across the country to facilitate the transition to clean energy.

So across the board, this is a big and bold plan, 1.2 trillion in total, and in investment across eight years.

It doesn't reflect everything that the president wanted, but it would be a very significant investment and an important step forward.

BLACKWELL: We know this is a massive reduction from what the president wanted. Ad you've acknowledged that not everything the president wanted is in it. Not everything that Republicans wanted to keep out of it is there.


What is on the cutting room floor? What didn't the president get that maybe he's going back for in this reconciliation bill that might come to his desk?

DEESE: If you look in the categories included in this framework, roads, bridges, broadband, high-speed Internet, lead pipes, the president got about two-thirds of what he was looking for.

You also heard the president say that our focus on human infrastructure and on education, on clean energy, on care for our elderly and people with disabilities.

Those are going to be core focuses of the Families Plan and the conversation that we are going to proceed through the budget reconciliation process.

As you heard the president say, he views these things as interlinked. We think they're interlinked check economically.

BLACKWELL: The White House has some red lines on pay fors. Gas taxes they were opposed to, fees for electric vehicles, taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year.

Does this cross any of those lines for the White House?

DEESE: No. The gas tax is not included. There are no fees or charges on electric vehicles. And nobody making less than $400,000 a year will pay any more as a result of this agreement. Importantly, what this agreement does do is it will make an investment

in enforcing the tax laws on the books for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

We know there's a massive underpayment of taxes, particularly for the wealthiest Americans. This plan includes a thoughtful, long-term strategy to go after that underreported income and bring it back into the treasury.

Not raising taxes on anybody, just making sure everybody pays the taxes they already owe.

BLACKWELL: That has been something that White Houses, administrations, Washington has been going after for a long time. You're using that as a primary funding source for this infrastructure bill?

I mean, isn't that kind of the -- it seems like a herring that you can't reach to close the IRS tax gap to pay for this.

DEESE: It's just the opposite. What Washington has consistently failed to do is actually provide dedicated funding to support IRS enforcement.

What we know is, if you actually provide that funding in the right targeted way, then you get $4 or $5 or $6 in return, because you get better enforcement.

Washington, for the last two decades, has consistently underfunded and starved the IRS of resources. This plan would provide those resources for the first time in a meaningful way in a generation.

That will help us chose the tax gap and help us to cover the cost of these infrastructure investments.

BLACKWELL: That seems like a very long-term commitment to get the money to pay for this infrastructure bill over the next five years.

Let me move on to, you've got, on one hand, this infrastructure deal that was reached today, the other, this reconciliation bill.

Control Room, if we have the sound from Senator Manchin, let's play that.

Because you're going to need his vote to get that reconciliation bill through the Senate.


MANCHIN: To say that one's being held hostage to the other doesn't seem to be fair to me. But they're going to make those decisions.

But we have to see what's in the other plan before I can say, oh, yes, you vote for this, you vote for that. That's not what I have signed up for.

The $6 billion price tag, that's too high for us to take on that much debt. I don't know if there's much pay fors. So I have to look at the pay fors.

If they're working outside of that envelope, they have to prove to me that the need is there. Don't worry about, throw caution to the wind and just add more debt on. I have a hard time swallowing that.


BLACKWELL: How secure is any of this if that's the answer from one of the most crucial votes in the Senate?

DEESE: This is a process. Senator Sanders, Chairman Sanders is moving in the Senate.

Likewise, the committee chairs are moving in the House, proceeding on a budget reconciliation process, which is traditionally how these issues are handled.

As you would expect in the process, there's going to be conversation and give and take.

The president has been in the middle of this. He talked with Senator Manchin today, along with other Senators as well.

A lot of people have ideas and they're going to input that into the process. And we're going to find our way forward.

What the president has made clear is he's got a full agenda, his Jobs Plan, his Families Plan. He's going to work to get those done. And he views those as interlinked. And we'll see where we go from here.

But I would just say we've made progress here. A lot of people said we wouldn't get to this point. We're going to keep making progress and we're going get both of these things done.

BLACKWELL: Do you lose Republican votes for the infrastructure bill if you move forward on the reconciliation bill, that Democrats-only bill?


As Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, if Democrats go for a high-dollar, multi-trillion dollar, go-it-alone process, then they're going to see massive resistance from Republicans.

Does that put into jeopardy what we saw today?