Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Hails "Bipartisan Breakthrough" On Infrastructure; Families Of The Missing Ask Questions About Search Efforts; April Letter From Condo Board Said Building Damage Had Worsened; Miami-Dade Mayor: Buildings Audit In Surfside Has Already Uncovered Serious Issues; Dangerous Heat Grips The Northwest, Temperatures In Unchartered Territory. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 29, 2021 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That alone would raise $230 billion.

The point is I have never had a reputation as being someone who is out there trying to just out tax people.

Here is the deal, folks. I think it is about time there be fairness in the tax base. I don't want you paying more than your share.

But the tax cut that was passed under Trump for $2 trillion, not a penny of which was paid for, where did it go? Over 80 percent of it went to the top one-quarter of 1 percent.

I think you should be able to be a billionaire. I think you should be able to be a millionaire, but, for god's sake, at least pay, pay your fair share. Pay your fair share.

Folks, there's a lot of work ahead to finish the job I've just outlined. There will be more disagreements to resolve, more compromises to forge along the way.

But today, the American people can be proud, the Democrats and Republicans, families here in Wisconsin can be proud, Congress can be proud, because this country came together towards a bipartisan deal that a lot has to do with your state -- your Senator that delivers for everybody.

We've shown the world, and just as importantly, we've shown ourselves what American democracy can come through with. There's nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity when we come together as one nation.

Thank you, Wisconsin. Thank you all for who you are and what you do.

May God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.

Thank you, thank you.

(APPLAUSE) ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK. We've been listening there to President Biden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, speaking about his bipartisan infrastructure deal, the Jobs Plan as he was calling it.

The White House is also calling it the blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.

Now, this plan is not a done deal yet. In fact, this week you will remember that Biden was forced to walk back comments that he would not sign the bipartisan bill unless it came with a separate Democrat- backed social spending bill, but he changed his tune on that.

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the House plans to push ahead with both bills in a, quote, "rapid manner." But she cautioned her caucus to not draw any red lines on infrastructure.

With us to talk about all of this and the implications we have CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, CNN chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, CNN senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly. And CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is in Wisconsin with us.

Guys, it is great to have all of you here.

Phil, let me start with you.

Who is Biden selling this to today? I mean, polls suggest that Americans want infrastructure spending, so who was the audience he was making his case to today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Those very Americans that polls suggest want infrastructure spending, Alisyn. Obviously, there was the kerfuffle of the last days, and it was about sequencing, about how legislation moves through Congress.

They recognized it is not the road they want the president to go down, leave it to congressional leaders. Talk about the merits of what is in the proposal.

And the president did that at length, at a lot of length over the course of the last half hour. That's what you're going to see from him going forward. That's where White House officials believe his most important role is.

One other key point here, as he ticked through all of the provisions, the broader 30,000-foot idea this is what the country needs, this is what the world needs to see, that is an important component from the president.

That's something I'm told was discussed by the president in the bipartisan group behind closed doors in the Oval Office last week.

It is a key selling point for the president and for what he campaigned on, that bipartisanship is both possible and it matters.

CAMEROTA: Joe, why La Crosse, Wisconsin? Why did he go there today? JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he wanted to

reach out to blue-collar America, and this was the perfect place to do this.

Because, as you know, this speech was very much about the Biden brand talking to blue collar America.

But also I want to pick up a little bit on what Phil said there and make a finer point.

The administration was looking at the situation over the last several days and all of this talk about trying to explain what reconciliation is and whether one bill would get on the president's desk before the other bill.

As he said, that is a matter of process. The concern was about losing control of the message, losing control of what was really important for real people.

So we heard today the administration in two places, Jen Psaki on the plane when the president was coming over, as well as the energy secretary this morning on "NEW DAY" talking about ending the discussion on process.

[14:35:13]

Which is very important to this administration because, plain and simple, the process was not helping them get where they need to go.

There's also obviously a huge problem up on the Hill of keeping Democrats together while bringing along the Republicans who also see some real benefit in this bill.

The president is still walking a tight rope on this infrastructure bill -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: That leads us to Manu, this tight rope.

You know, just when he thinks he has the Republicans on board, then the progressives break off and say that they don't like this unless it is in tandem with the reconciliation process that these guys have talked about.

So where are we, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the real hard part here because in order to get something through the Senate you need to have 60 votes. It is a 50/50 Senate. That means 10 Republicans need to break ranks.

Eleven Republicans signed on to the smaller bipartisan $1.2 trillion framework Joe Biden was trying to sell in Wisconsin, but it is not clear whether or not the Republicans will stay on board through the course of the process.

In a lot of ways, what the president is trying to do is pressure those Republicans to stay on board here.

But given the push by the Democratic leaders to tie in that larger package that would -- the reconciliation package that would include all of the rest of the Democratic priorities, something they need to get the left in line, that has caused some of those Republicans to get a bit squeamish.

Some said they will vote against this, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who did sign on to the framework because he does not like the process.

But the process is key to selling it to the left.

I'm talking to also House Democratic moderates who are concerned about the process. They like this bipartisan deal and they're not so sure about the larger Democratic effort.

And they're uneasy about this going forward because the concern being it could sink both bills if Republicans revolt and people -- there's enough opposition in the narrowly divided House to not get either bill through.

So it is a major balancing act that Democratic leaders have to perform here.

We're really just beginning the process. These bills have not yet been drafted. But it is all from here until September where the sales job has to take place.

CAMEROTA: Dana, I want you to give us the political analysis but also tell us what the implications are for regular people because that's what the president was talking about.

I thought it was interesting that he is talking about well-paying jobs for working class people. I mean, that's what he is pushing.

This strikes me that this is exactly what the MAGA crowd always said they wanted, no outsourcing, no college degree needed. That's -- those are the kinds of things that they were clamoring for.

And yet, the TV station that they watch, FOX, was not carrying this. They will not be able to get information about the president's plan.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and if they do it will be probably not straight-up facts. It will be, you know, different.

But, you know, it is interesting, Alisyn, you mentioned that this is what, you know, the MAGA crowd wanted in listening to some of the former president's arguments way back when. It is also what progressives want.

I mean, it is one of those situations where, if you look at the political spectrum, it kind of meets in the middle.

The way one progressive described it to me recently, that maybe we are looking at it wrong when we look at it this way. We need to look at it this way, meaning, the wealthy and the people who are working class are just trying to make ends meet.

That is clearly what President Biden ran on when he talked about Building Back Better and Blue-Collar Joe and all of those things.

And that is what he is trying to continue to maintain in the arguments that he made around this bipartisan deal, that this isn't just about, you know, bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake.

It is not just about telling the world, as he said, that America and Washington and democracy can work.

It is about, if you are out there and you are looking for a job that can put food on the table, this bill, he argues, can help you get that job.

If you are looking for a job that can put food on the table but also not contribute to the climate crisis, this new piece of legislation or law, he hopes, can help do that.

So trying to make that connection in a clearly very scripted way by the location and the words he used was really, really the key goal here.

As everybody has said, stay away from the Washington process because that doesn't help anybody, in particular, him because he's dancing on the head of a pin right now when it comes to his party.

CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you for all of the analysis. Really helpful to have you walk us through just how delicate a dance he is actually doing.

[14:40:01]

Thanks so much, guys.

OK. Still ahead, we're going to go to the scene of the ongoing search in Surfside, Florida, where the families are waiting. And they are desperate for any information about their loved ones and if any miracle is still possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: The search for survivors in Surfside, Florida, is now in its sixth day and the numbers are unchanged at this hour. The bodies of 11 victims have been found and identified, but 150 people remain missing.

Surfside's mayor says falling debris makes searching in some areas too dangerous today.

The weather also poses a risk for rescuers. There's fear of lightning strikes as the teams move through this rubble and steel.

[14:45:04]

We are also learning about more red flags raised about the building's structural integrity before the collapse.

Less than three months ago, the head of the Condo Association Board sent a letter to residents warning that the structural damage in the building had gotten significantly worse since it was spelled out in that 2018 inspection report.

Quote, "When you can visually see the concrete spalling, meaning cracking, that means the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface."

"Please note that the scope of work in the 2018 work has expanded. The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation has gotten much worse. So extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated."

"Other previously identified projects had been rolled under the main project. New problems have been identified."

It concludes, quote, "A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by, but this is where we are now."

Just 36 hours before Thursday's collapse, another red flag. These photos were taken by a contractor who was there to service the pool.

That contractor told "The "Miami Herald" he saw cracked concrete and standing water in the parking garage.

"The Herald" points out it is still unclear if what we see contributed to the collapse.

Let's turn to CNN's Rosa Flores in Surfside where the waiting for word on survivors is agonizing.

Rosa, what is happening with the search for survivors at this hour?

ROSA FLORES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the search continues. It is a rescue effort here in Surfside.

From talking to officials they tell us there are about 800 personnel that are at this site ready to search for the loved ones of the family members that are at the Reunification Center hoping for word about their loved ones.

We understand that they are using a delayering process, they're tunnelling. They're using canines, and even drones, we've learned, to make sure that they are also taking a look at the structure and how it is moving whenever pieces of debris are being removed.

There's been a lot of concern about how these pieces have moved during the search-and-rescue effort because of the dangers that this poses for the search-and-rescue effort and for, of course, the personnel that are on the pile of rubble at this point in time.

Now, we understand that the families are still waiting for answers. They are getting briefed twice a day. We've learned that these briefings are very, very detailed. And from what we understand, there's also been a rush by local

officials to try to do something to inspect the buildings in south Florida.

The mayor of Miami-Dade saying that she is meeting with experts to make sure that she has the information she needs to make these decisions.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-MIAMI-DADE COUNTY): They will advise me on issues related to building construction, chain of custody and requirements for reporting, condominium regulation and more.

So that my staff and I can develop a set of recommendations for changes that need to be made at all steps in the building process to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Alisyn, this appears to be a wake-up call.

And from talking to some of the family members of the missing yesterday.

I can tell you that they told me that they hope that this is a wake-up call, not just to government officials but the owners of these condo buildings, to make sure that maintenance and repairs are done in a timely fashion -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, it sounds like now they're moving into overdrive on all of these things. Of course, that's a blessing, but if only it could have happened sooner.

Rosa, thank you very much.

So the Champlain Towers were built during the '80s condo boom in Miami. There are many other buildings in the area that are also in the 40-year recertification process or about to begin that.

So as Rosa was mentioning, there's a rush up and down the coast of south Florida to inspect those buildings before something like this ever happens again.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County says they have already uncovered some serious issues.

CNN's Brian Todd tagged along with one of the group of inspectors on Monday. He joins us live from Surfside, Florida.

Brian, what have you seen?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we are seeing really kind of a desperate scramble by municipalities and towns all around here, all around Surfside, north and south, to go back into these buildings.

[14:49:57]

Many of them the same age as the Champlain Towers South building, many in the same condition, and reinspect, look at every crack, every piece of exposed rebar, reinspect all of that, get those repairs done.

We were in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, yesterday at the Winston Towers Complex. We got access to the garage down there. It is this was a process that began before the collapse.

In the meantime, there's this rush to go back to these buildings, re- audit them.

The mayor of Miami-Dade did talk about one building where they already had to shut down part.

Here is the mayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVA: We're taking swift action to immediately identify and address any outstanding issues with the buildings that have not yet completed their certification process. That's our priority right now.

Just last night, our building officer notified one of those properties, a building in northeast Dade, that four balconies must be immediately closed to residents due to safety conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: It's interesting the mayor talked about the balconies in that one building because balconies that are key component of this and the structural damage.

Yesterday, at the complex at Sunny Isles Beach, we saw parts of balconies that had fallen off, pieces of concrete that had fallen off.

We were given a tour a short time ago of the Champlain Towers' North Complex, the identical building to the Champlain Tower's South Complex.

They overhauled their balconies, Alisyn, about three year ago. They ripped up the tiles on the floors of the balconies, got them out of there because they were accumulating moisture and other damage. And added to the weight of those balconies.

So balconies of these buildings, Alisyn, are a key component. They had a lot of weight and damage to the infrastructure.

CAMEROTA: I've been wondering about that, Brian. I'm glad you brought that up. There's that identical building. It was built in the same year.

Are they looking at the basement? Is that one riddled with where the problems of Champlain Towers South, in terms of leaking around the pool and all of that stuff?

Have they determined that yet?

TODD: Yes, they are looking at the basement, looking at the garage of the Champlain Towers North Complex.

I have to tell you, we were there a short time ago, about an hour and a half ago. They are focus on maintenance borders on the obsessive.

We were down in that garage. You can't see a crack or moisture. Every piece of rebar is covered. There's nothing exposed. We were on the roof, the pool deck.

That was a completely different building, apparently, from the one that collapsed.

CAMEROTA: Brian, what about the -- as you know there was this assessment. This $15 million assessment for the Champlain Towers South. That's a bitter pill for condo -- for residents to swallow.

Very quickly, what's the answer? Now they will have to pour millions of dollars in when they find destruction like this?

TODD: They will. Condo owners are the ones that have to foot the bill for this.

They did an assessment of a repair of the Champlain Towers North a couple of years ago. It would cost each resident about $100,000 to make the repairs.

CAMEROTA: Brian Todd, thank you very much for all of your reporting. It's really helpful to hear what is happening now.

OK, so still ahead, the relentless heat is baking northwest. The dangerous impact of these temperatures, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:58:14]

CAMEROTA: An unprecedented heatwave is baking the northwest. On Monday, Portland, Oregon, set an all-time record-high three days in a row, topping 116 degrees. Seattle also surpassed its hottest day in history, hitting 108.

A county in Oregon is reporting 43 emergency and urgent-care visits related to heat illness over the weekend.

Let's bring in Camila Bernal. She's in Portland.

Camila, tell us about the problems connected to the heat.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the problem is a lot of people don't have air-conditioning. You're seeing hundreds showing up at the cooling center like this behind me at the convention center. And 380 woke up here this morning. Yesterday, when it was 116, they

said 500 people were here. That's the highest number they have ever seen at any of the shelters here.

And health officials are concerned because some of the 4079 hospitals are at capacity. We were told about 100 people had to be taken to hospital this weekend for heat-related illnesses. They say that's the same number of people they see in an entire year.

They say those numbers could even be higher because they had about 500 calls to EMS. They say they've never seen numbers like these.

So they are trying to figure out how much of those emergency calls are heat related to then update these numbers. But they believe the numbers could be a lot higher.

Health officials really concerned here, especially because of the capacity at the hospitals. They say they are having to plan for future events like this one.

They say they're seeing them more and more often and the temperatures higher and higher -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. They desperately need a break.

[14:59:57]

Camila Bernal, thank you very much.

We're at the top of the hour now. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We begin with the search for survivors in Surfside, Florida.