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Senate Fails to Break Gorsuch Filibuster, Republicans Going Nuclear; Nunes Stepping Aside in Russia/Trump Investigation; Trump to Meet with Chinese President. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ALAN FRUMIN, FORMER SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN: -- the precedent from 2013 and possibly the precedent that's about to be accomplished here. That could be vitiated, wiped out and nullified by unanimous consent. It would also be possible to actually --


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me interject. The only reason I'm interrupting is to go to the Senate floor and listen to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, right how. Let's listen.



Mr. Bennett?


Mr. Blumenthal?


Mr. Blunt?


Mr. Booker?


Mr. Bozeman?


Mr. Brown?


Mr. Burr?


Mrs. Cantwell? (SHOUTING)

BOLDUAN: Right now, I need to check in with folks who are watching the Senate floor. They're now moving to a roll call vote. We're going to wait and see exactly which roll call vote they're on. There are many steps in the process. I don't want to speak out of turn.

While I wait for that news, is Gloria with us now?


Alan is with us, former parliamentarian for years, Gloria, and he said this is a sad day for the Senate. How important is this day? What does this mean, from your view?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALAYST: Well, I think it, first of all, shows that there's no way around the kind of partisanship that we live with every day. The Senate was supposed to be a very different place from the House, supposed to be the place where you could get bipartisan majorities and bipartisan legislation worked out because you did have the filibuster. Now, that we see what is going on here, started in 2013, when Harry Reid said I'm sick of the Republicans blocking all of Barack Obama's judicial nominees, and so what we're going to do is get rid of the filibuster for judicial nominees, except for the Senate. Everybody knew that was a slippery slope. Here with are in step two of this. And we are going to see now the filibuster is going to be eliminated for Supreme Court nominees in the short-term what this means for judicial nominees is that they're going be more ideological since they only have to be approved by a majority.

The question that I, have and maybe you can answer this, the question I have is, is this a slippery slope that then leads to the fact that legislation will only need majority approval, and then the Senate will be exactly the same as the House of Representatives, which we all know is not well known for getting things done in Congress.

BOLDUAN: Alan, what's your view on that? Do you think this opens the door to that? Is that a fear of yours?

FRUMIN: It is, in fact, a slippery slope, but a political and procedural slippery slope. I'm obviously more competent to talk about procedure. The manner in which it appears to be established if it uses the same construct Senator Reid used in 2013, that construct with an appeal from the correct ruling on the chair, but an appeal that cannot be filibustered because of the circumstances by which the appeal takes place, that construct can be used to change procedure at any time on anything.


FRUMIN: So procedurally --

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

FRUMIN: Procedurally, this certainly opens the door, procedurally, to fly down that slippery slope to do away with filibusters on everything.

BOLDUAN: Gloria, you know this, George Washington once told Thomas Jefferson that was why the Senate created. It was in order to act as the saucer to cool the tea. That saucer, cool the hot tea that is coming over from the House. Essentially, in order to slow things down and have a conversation defined bipartisanship. With this change, is bipartisan zip dead in the Senate.

BORGER: I think it's been dead for a long time. That's why we are where we are unfortunately. I think there's not a lot of institutional love or respect that there used to be. And I believe personally when you pass large pieces of legislation, you want to have a bipartisan by in, and that was the problem with Obamacare, which passed very, very narrowly as we all know. And, you know, Medicare was passed in 1965, I believe, it was by around 70 votes in the Senate or more. It had a bipartisan buy in. When you do things that are huge consequence to the country, it's very helpful to have both sides have so much stake in it. That doesn't happen anymore. This is just reaffirming in a way where we are in our politics in the country. I don't think it's a great thing. It is an acknowledgment that nothing can get done on a bipartisan basis.

[11:35:07] BOLDUAN: If the will is not there, it surely won't now, once they change the rules.

Guys, thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: We're keeping an eye on the Senate floor. In the middle of several procedural steps to get to the vote on the nuclear option. We're going to watch this and bring you the moments as they play out.

We're also following this. President Trump preparing for monumental meeting at Mar-a-Lago, hosting the president of China. Yes, same president of China President Trump blasted repeatedly from the campaign trail.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They think we're run by a bunch of idiots. And what's going on with China is unbelievable.

Not only now have they taken our jobs and our base and our manufacturing, but now they're pulling us down with them.

China, what they've done to us is the greatest single theft in the history of the world.



[11:40:23] BOLDUAN: Breaking news from the Senate floor. The Senate has wrapped up now that first important vote, the vote tally was 55- 45. With that, that means the Democrats have successfully filibustered President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. This, of course, is because Republicans needed 60 votes. That's why we talk of the 60-vote threshold to break the filibuster and move on. Traditionally, that is where the process would end. That is not happening this time. That's why this is making history on many fronts.

Let me bring in a panel to discuss, Abby Phillips, CNN political analyst; Kevin Madden with me as well, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist with years of experience on Capitol Hill; Brian Fallon, years of experience on Capitol Hill as well, CNN political commentators joining us now. And CNN's chief analyst, Gloria Borger, back with us.

So, Gloria, we don't -- they wrapped it up one step down. And important step down. And now what?

BORGER: Well, now McConnell is going to use the nuclear option and so they're going to get Gorsuch approved by a simple majority. I have to say this is symptomatic of the way the Congress has been so partisan. It means that they can't get anything done on a bipartisan basis, not only for a Supreme Court nominee, but on everything else as well. I think it's a problem that Senators know it's a problem. Lots, like John McCain, says you're a stupid idiot if you vote for this, but he's going to vote for it.


BOLDUAN: That's a hard one to wrap your mind around.

BORGER: It's a hard one, but what he's saying there's no other way for us to get Judge Gorsuch approved. There were days Democrats and Republicans used to meet to figure out a way to get filibuster-proof margins for big pieces of legislation. My question is, now that you've done it for the Supreme Court, are you going to start doing it on legislation, and is this the slippery slope that leads to a change in the very nature of what the Senate is supposed to be.

BOLDUAN: Kevin, both sides point the finger at each other. Republicans say they got to point because no one has filibustered in decades, so this is forcing their hand. Democrats saying you're changing the rules, this is the math of the Senate, it's your fault you're going to break the rules because you don't like the math. Who is more to blame here?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You can trace this all the way back -- the history is important. You can trace it back to as far as back at 1987 when partisanship over Supreme Court nominations with the then-nomination of Judge Robert Borke to the Supreme Court introduced this type of atmosphere. Then you fast forward to 2013, this was exactly what Mitch McConnell and other Republicans warned about when Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option for federal appellate judges and cabinet nominees.

Gloria is right. The main point is we are passed -- we're past the point of no return when it comes to the tradition, collegiality and the cadence of the Senate. I think, you know, we don't really know yet who is going to pay a big political price here. One of the advantages the Republicans have is the Republican's base may fight a little bit harder when it comes to judicial nominations, and it figures much more prominently in their support for their party. And also, the profile of Judge Gorsuch, one who was seen as a very fit jurist, who did very well in his hearings, I think that may help with a lot of voters out there watching, watching this process overall.

BOLDUAN: Brian, you were there working for Chuck Schumer in the leadup to what happened in 2013. Is this all your fault.



BOLDUAN: Brian, I'm not cutting you off. I think there's a technical issue with your mic. Let's get that all figured out.

Abby, let me move on to you.

Susan Collins -- there have been efforts in the past, when this has been threatened, Senators have come together and reached a compromise and held this off. Figured out another way to get around, another way to avoid this. Susan Collins said she spent all weekend trying to successfully find a compromise. Why do you think they couldn't figure it out this time?

[11:45:03] ABBY PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's interesting. The women of the Senate have a long history of trying to come together and making something work at the last minute. It does seem very much like Democrats, in particular, are in a really tough spot with their base. They're trying very hard to appease the folks who, especially the ones who need to go up for re-election next year, who cannot sort of leave their base hanging and cave on such an important issue like the Supreme Court.

I think at the end of the day, Gorsuch is someone who seems like a qualified person. I think we have to think about what is going to breakthrough to the American public. This filibuster fight is not going to breakthrough. The idea that Gorsuch is a mild manner jurist is probably going to breakthrough more. It will be not -- the breakdown of Senate is not going to be the bottom line we get out of this whole experience. And ultimately, going forward, it will be the Senate and their ability to get things done that ends up kind of on the chopping block as a result of this.

BOLDUAN: Let me move on to the other breaking news we've been following throughout the hour. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, announcing just a little while ago that he is stepping aside, at least temporarily, from the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling into the election. This has been a question for a long time, but just now, today, this morning, he says it's become -- they say it's become a distraction. He's stepping aside.

Kevin, would he have done this even though we heard from the House speaker that he has full confidence in Devin Nunes. Wants him to be chairman. Thinks it was a move because it was a distraction. Would Devin Nunes have made this move without pressure from the House speaker?

MADDEN: Well, I think the pressure came from a much larger audience inside the congressional Republican conference. It was becoming increasingly clear that Chairman Nunes was becoming a distraction. He had become a news story of himself during this whole process. And I think what many congressional Republicans want is this to be moved off of the front page. And when you think -- when you look how ambitious their agenda is, when it comes to everything from tax reform to infrastructure, the fact they're talking about this Russia information and Chairman Nunes' role in it was increasingly becoming an obstacle that they wanted out of the way. I think there was internally some pressure from congressional Republicans.

BOLDUAN: Brian, I think we've got the mic problem fix. The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, he called this a fresh start. Does this effectively quiet all the calls coming from mostly Democrats for an independent investigation?

FALLON: No, I don't think so, but I do think you're going to see most of the attention move to the Senate where you see some bipartisan approach taken by the two heads of that committee, Senator Warner, the Democrat Senator, Burr, the Republican. They had a joint appearance last week actually that was reassuring in terms of bipartisan approach they're taking in their investigation. For better or worse, even with Nunes gone, the credibility of this House Republican-led investigation is pretty much shot. I think the Senate is probably the best opportunity we have for a credible outside investigation.

BOLDUAN: Gloria, was what does this mean for Chairman Nunes? He is still the chairman of the committee. Is that a challenge though?

BORGER: Yes, it's a problem. Look, I think Devin Nunes is in a bad position for a couple of reasons. One is he told Paul Ryan that his source was a whistleblower. Paul Ryan talked about whistleblowers. Suddenly, we cover in fact his sources were probably at the White House. I think what you see here is the Devin Nunes may have been set up by the White House in all of this, and that he ends up looking bad. He takes the fall. It has hurt him and his credibility tremendously within his own committee, and perhaps even with Paul Ryan. I don't know the answer to that specifically. I know they're very -- they're very good friends, but I do think that Devin Nunes handled this badly. And if he was used by the White House, it certainly isn't helping him.

[11:49:26] BOLDUAN: A lot more to come on that.

Great to see you all. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it

Coming up for us, President Trump's big meeting with the president of China. It all goes down this weekend at Mar-a-Lago. Where will the come out on trade, defense issues, and the huge question about North Korea. They're meeting later tonight. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: Keeping an eye on the White House right now. In just a few moments, President Trump and the first lady will be heading to Florida where they will be hosting the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at the Mar-a-Lago resort. It will be President Trump's first meeting with the Chinese leader, though then-Candidate Trump had plenty to say about China throughout the election, basically none of which was complimentary.

CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is live in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A lot riding on this meeting. A lot of high expectations of this meeting. What are you hearing, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you're hearing is you're hearing senior administration officials trying to tamp down expectations for this high-stakes meeting between President Trump and President Xi down here in Mar-a-Lago. It's going to start later this evening when the two sit down for dinner.

But you're absolutely right, Kate, because of that tough talk that you heard from the president as a candidate during the campaign, there are all of these expectations that President Trump is going to come in and sort of throw down the gauntlet and engage in some very tough negotiations with the Chinese president. But what we're hearing from senior administration official officials is that you may not see a whole lot of that.

The president was asked about this on another network this morning, and here's what he had to say.


[11:55:18] TRUMP: It's going to be interesting. Nobody really knows. We have not been treated fairly on trade for many, many years. No president has taken care of that the way they should. And we have a big problem with North Korea. We're going to see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The hope to get them to bring leverage on the issue in North Korea?

TRUMP: Well, we'll see what happens, Pete. But I'll tell you, we'll be in there pitching and I think we'll do very well.


ACOSTA: You're seen the White House sort of back away from the president's promise to label China currency manipulator on day one of his administration. They're now just reviewing all trade relationships across the world, including that one with China.

And on top of that, Kate, in terms of other big issues here, you have the North Korea issue. You saw the president make those comments over the weekend, well, if China won't help us with North Korea, we will do that on our own. But I heard from an official yesterday, who was saying, listen, that missile test you saw from North Korea the other day was that not that menacing after all. It splashed into the ocean some 55 seconds after takeoff. So this is going to be a delicate discussion. But at this point, it's really just setting the framework for future discussions and this may not bog down into some nasty rhetoric from both sides, not at this point yet. There's too much at stake to get to that point this early on in the relationship -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: We shall see.

Jim, great to see you. Thanks so much.

Keeping an eye there. We're also getting live pictures from the Senate floor, keeping on there, where they're going through procedural moves right now, changing the rules is where this is headed to push through the president's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, to get him confirmed to the court. This is history in the making. We're following that right after the break.