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Senate Votes to Move Ahead on $1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal; Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) Discusses Infrastructure Deal, Trump Threating to Primary Republicans If infrastructure Deal Passed, Rising COVID Cases and Vaccinations; Never Revelations on Trump's Election Lie. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: CNN chief congressional, Manu Raju, joins us on the Hill.

What happens now, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The big question on Capitol Hill right now is, when will the legislative text be released of this $1.2 trillion bill?

This bill would strengthen lots of money into roads, bridges, rural broadband. Would pay for this in a variety of ways, including redirecting already enacted COVID relief money.

But what does it look like? The bill text has not been released as they've haggled over finalizing a lot of legislative language.

That is so critical. Because ultimately, this is what could become law. Because once this bill text is finalized, it will be offered on the Senate floor to amendment.

It could be changed by -- if a Senator offers an amendment, it can change the language here. But the hurdle is high to clear to change the language.

Likely, they need 60 votes to do that. The Democrats, maybe 10 Republicans.

But it's very unlikely core elements of the bill will be changed. That means the actual language will be essential to determining the success of this proposal.

Assuming this gets released, today, maybe tomorrow, the Senate is expected to be in for at least part of the weekend.

It could be on the Senate floor for potentially a week, maybe even longer depending on how long Senators agree to have -- offer amendments and depending on you that process playing out. But assuming the bipartisan coalition plays together, they could push

it through the Senate and into the House where progressive Democrats have raised concerns about the language and about, in their view, it does not go far enough.

So a lot of questions here, Ana, about how this ultimately plays out, whether Democrats get on board.

And then there's the larger $3.4 trillion Democratic plan that they're still trying to get their caucus behind.

So a big question still for the Biden agenda -- Ana?

CABRERA: Manu Raju. Thank you for the update, Manu.

Joining us now, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Senator, thank you for making time for us.

You were one of 16 Republican Senators who just voted to proceed on this next step on the $1 trillion infrastructure package.

That's despite threats by former President Trump. Despite this earlier comment from your GOP leader, Mitch McConnell. Listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): One-hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration.

What we have in the United States Senate is total unity, from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz, in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.


CABRERA: Now, that was May. McConnell voted to advance this infrastructure package as well. So apparently, bipartisanship is alive.

My question is, how did you get to a yes? What has changed?

SEN. DAVID CRAMER (R-ND): Yes. Important, because I happen to be the ranking member of the EPW Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

So the base of that -- the service-transportation part of this is our bill. It's a bill that passed out of our committee unanimously.

It has things that Democrats like. Things that Republicans like. Things that I think most Americans like.

That's the basis. I've had a pretty good working knowledge of the fundamentals. And then there's things in the energy title.

For me, it was preserving. Not so much of getting things in the bill, but the permitting reforms.

Like one federal decision in the service-transportation piece, the permitting council, and the rest of it.

And then making sure that the funding formula of 90/10, 90 percent going to states, 10 percent competitive grants.

Those things protect rural America and recognize that there are a lot of long roads that don't have a lot of people. That's worked for transportation funding for the last several decades.

Those were the things I insisted on. And being paid for.


CRAMER: And so far, all that standard has been met.

CABRERA: And I understand that this is still being written. It's expected to be about 1,000 pages this bill. So there are a lot of details.

Is there anything that, if included in this bill, would make you vote no in the end?

CRAMER: Well, there's not. Not what I know of. And so that's an important point. That's why it's so important to get the bill text dropped into the bill as an amendment and we get on the amendment.

Because there are a lot of members who haven't seen as much as I have. They're perhaps on other committees. I think the more they see it, they'll like it.

The members find things we haven't thought of that should be added. If they can get 59 of their closest friends to amend the bill.

But really, I think this has been constructed in a way, the way I think people expect sausage to be made in Washington. Long, laborious, hard negotiating across the table. And then a lot of it through the committee process.

And most importantly, that it's paid for, that it doesn't add to the debt but actually adds to not just economic growth but job creation, an asset that has, at the end of it, the profitability of the supply side of the economy as the main purpose.


All of these things push against inflation.

And, yes, Joe Biden gets a little win out of this. But like I always like to say, not every win requires a loser.


CRAMER: I think this is a situation where there can be a lot of winners. We have to look for more opportunities like this. CABRERA: I think the American people will be encouraged to hear what

you're saying right now.

Yet, you have former President Trump threatening to primary Republicans if this package is passed.

Are you afraid of retaliation by Trump or your party?

CRAMER: Well, you know, when you're in this job and you're confronted with tough decisions and you do the work, the study and sit through the hearings and negotiate, and then the people you answer to are the voters back home.

And I appreciate President Trump. I understand some of his frustration.

I think the context that a lot of opponents to the legislation is that we just spent so much so quickly in the last year and a half, and I agree with all that.

But I think this particular bill -- and I would just remind people that Donald Trump proposed a much larger infrastructure package than this one.

I would have loved to have made the first CARES Act an infrastructure package. I think that would have been a better way to stimulate the economy, pay people to work than not work. But that didn't happen. Now we're given this opportunity.

My responsibility, frankly, is to the people of North Dakota. I think that this is an appropriate next move in that process.

CABRERA: I do want to ask you about COVID as well as the cases are spiking and we're learning more about the threat of the Delta variant.

Mitch McConnell, your Republican leader there in the Senate, he's working very hard to get people vaccinated in his state. Even doing radio ads.

What's your message to people who are unvaccinated in your state, North Dakota?

CRAMER: So my message is that inform yourself. Self-governed people can be self-informed. There's no shortage of information. Talk to your doctor. And then make the decision that you think is best for you.

I personally believe that there's less risk in being vaccinated than not being vaccinated. But I understand a lot of people don't agree with me.

Some medical professionals don't agree with that necessarily because they haven't seen how the vaccine is going to play out over the long run.

I think it's really important to, again, for self-governed people to get informed and make the decision they think is best for them and their family.

CABRERA: The infectious disease experts, the people who have studied vaccines, developed vaccines, not just this one but over decades, like Dr. Fauci, are saying there's nothing that should give people pause when it comes to safety and efficacy with this vaccine, both the mRNA as well as the J&J.

Have you been vaccinated?

CRAMER: So I made a promise to my good friend, Lauren Fox, if I ever reveal my vaccination status, it will be to her first, Ana. And I mean that sincerely.


CABRERA: She's my colleague. She's my colleague.


CAMEROTA: We're all part of the same team here. Why don't you tell us? What helps to be secret on this?


CAMEROTA: So the goal is to save people's lives. You're the leader. You're the leader in your state of North Dakota.

More than 15,000 people, sadly, in your state have died from COVID right now. Do you want them to get vaccinated? And can you lead the way?

CRAMER: Well, let me put it this way. I think you have more regard for my opinion than the people of North Dakota. I have a great deal of regard for their opinions.

And I just think this is a health-care privacy matter that they have to work out for themselves.

And I understand why they might feel differently than I might feel about the efficacy of the vaccine. Again, this has only been out a short time.

And honestly, the messaging from Dr. Fauci and others that are supposedly experts has not been clear or consistent. That only adds to people's, I think, anxiety about things and their distrust.

And then there are some people who are naturally inclined to be skeptical. I understand that.

But all that said, you know, there's a lot of information out there for people to get.

I would encourage people to talk to your doctors and get the best advice you can from him or her.

CABRERA: OK. Why can't you encourage people to get the vaccine? I get the "talk to your doctor, do your own homework." But you've done your homework.

CRAMER: And I believe that there's -- I've done mine for me. But not everybody is me.

And this is a great free country that's built on the exceptional concept of self-governance. I, frankly, think that the heavy-handed of government is something that most people -- many people, I should say, reject. That's part of the problem.

I think when you let people take their time and make their own decisions and not impose or imply that somehow you're a lot smarter than they are --


CRAMER: And I'm elected to the Senate. I'm not a virologist.


CRAMER: I urge them to talk to the experts.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like you got vaccinated, correct me if I'm wrong.

But I appreciate you taking the time.

Senator Kevin Cramer, thank you for being with us.

CRAMER: Stay tuned to Lauren. She'll let you know at some point maybe.


CABRERA: OK, I'll anxiously await.


CAMEROTA: All right. Thanks again.

CRAMER: You bet, Ana.

CAMEROTA: Coming up, newly released notes just revealing now how far former President Trump was willing to go to try to overturn the 2020 election results. New information from a phone call, coming up live on the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: A new example emerging today of then-President Trump ignoring all known facts and trying to cancel out the election he lost.

This time, the person being pressured was none other than the president's incoming acting attorney general.

According to the Justice Department, the notes of a December phone call, Mr. Trump told the nation's top lawyer, quote, "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me."

Again, and this can't be stressed enough, there's no evidence of widespread election fraud or corruption.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst, David Gergen, a presidential adviser to four U.S. presidents.

David, we know Trump tried to pressure state and local officials as well as his vice president and members of Congress, so I guess this isn't surprising.

But what do you make of it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it sort of fills in the rest of the picture.

He sunk to the lowest depth we've ever imagined with regard to Congress, with regard to state officials and local officials, and now with regard to his own appointee as attorney general.

Who knows what's going to come next?

I do know that we have all the information we need to understand and have clarity on one point. He is willing to do whatever it takes. Even a coup. Whatever it takes to get power.

And he has not left the stage. He's waiting eagerly, anxiously to get back on the stage, and will sit his circus --

CABRERA: I mean, thank goodness the then incoming acting attorney general didn't follow Trump's direction.

GERGEN: Yes, absolutely. I agree.


GERGEN: And the fact is this attorney general, represented Trump in many ways. He was something as something of an ally.

But nonetheless, thank goodness for people to stand up to him. He haven't had many this this dirty episode. But at least this attorney general said no.

CABRERA: And it's important we continue to dig on this just to make sure --

GERGEN: Yes, absolutely.

CAMEROTA: -- the American people have all the information in front of them as, again, he could come around and be on the ballot in 2024.


CAMEROTA: David, I want to ask you about our top news today on COVID. Just before the 4th of July, President Biden declared independence from the coronavirus. It was such welcome news at the time. Pandemic fatigued nation, we

were desperate to return to normal. And now normal seems so far away.

How much does that what appears to be premature celebration hurt the White House's credibility to lead and demand more sacrifices now?

GERGEN: Well, you know, we went through this with George W. Bush in the war against Saddam when he went out to the carrier with the great big sign behind him, "mission accomplished," accomplished.

And we were nowhere close to mission accomplished. It hurt Bush badly in the polls.

I think Biden will pay some price on this. But in Biden's case, at least we know that the variants are evolving. You know, the facts are changing on the ground.

And so whatever he says may be good today, but not good tomorrow, because the very nature of this. So I think people tend to give him a break.

I think the real test is, can he get enough people vaccinated to bring this under control?

And I believe he's going to ultimately have to go to mandatory vaccinations so that every American, just as we have in the past with measles or polio, we went to mandatory vaccinations. We're going to need to do that again.

The president is not there yet. But I think what's breaking now and what we learned today, the new report that came out today, that the disease is highly transmissible.

That -- and a big survey on the Cape Cod, that three quarters of the people who came down with COVID in the month of July, three quarters of the people who came down with it had been vaccinated.

So we have a lot of work to do.

CABRERA: And in that one cluster there --


GERGEN: Yes. And there are other clusters.

CABRERA: Yes. Absolutely.

David Gergen, it's nice to see you on this Friday. Thanks for spending time with me.

GERGEN: Thank you so much. Good to talk with you.

CABRERA: Likewise.

[13:49:37] Coming up, a nail-biter ending for Team USA's women's soccer. All amid the backdrop of a still raging pandemic. The latest from the Tokyo Olympics next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: Broadway shows are back on, but you're going to have to be vaccinated and mask up to go to the theater. All Broadway theaters will now require proof of vaccination for all audience members, performers and staff.

There will be a few exceptions to Broadway's vaccine rule. Children under 12 and those with religious beliefs or medical conditions will be allowed in without shots.


Now amid the Olympic games, the Japanese prime minister has extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka until August 31st. Infections are just expanding at unprecedented speed. Despite this, the games are proceeding.

And today, the U.S. women's soccer team beat the Netherlands in penalty goals. And they now advance to semifinals with a chance to go for the gold. Good luck to them.

And thank you so much for being with me. Happy Friday. I'll see you back here on Monday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

And the news continues with Alisyn Camerota next.