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Soon: Senate To Vote On Moving Forward On Coronavirus Stimulus Package; Massachusetts And Michigan Issue Stay-At-Home Order; Tensions Very High Over Coronavirus Stimulus As Clock Ticks; Aides: Donald Trump Itching To Scale Back Social Distancing After 15 Days; Senate In Standoff Over Coronavirus Stimulus Talks. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I am John King in Washington. This is CNN's continuing Special Coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic. States acting on their own now to try to mitigating the explosion of cases, just now getting some help from the federal government, the country at a tipping point.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This week is going to get bad. We really need to come together as a nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think people are taking it seriously?

ADAMS: I think that there are a lot of people who are doing the right things. But I think that unfortunately we are finding out a lot of people think this can't happen to them.


KING: The United States just a week ago, only a few thousand cases. Now look number of deaths are also raising exponentially, hospitals running out of everything they need to treat and to test patients doctors and nurses pleading for help, pleading for supplies. Massachusetts and Michigan now in the last couple of hours becoming the ninth and tenth states to issue a stay-at-home order.

The Governors there are closing all nonessential businesses. Several other major cities are doing the same to try to blunt the virus. All this is the markets react, the Fed stepping in today with an unprecedented step to try to calm investors and the Senate also trying to get involved in helping the economy with a massive stimulus bill.

Senate right now returning to session one item front and center for their attention, a massive stimulus package with the price tag around $2 trillion, we expect to hear from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer as the Senate comes into session momentarily. First let's bring in our Kaitlan Collins at White House and Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill. Manu, let's start with you. Overnight negotiations Mitch McConnell still blaming the Democrats for lack of a deal Democrats blame McConnell saying this is pro-corporate doesn't do enough for workers. The Treasury Secretary trying to fix it where are we?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Intense negotiations happening all morning long. Secretary Mnuchin of the Treasury has been meeting with Chuck Schumer as well as Eric Ueland at the top of White House official. They have been shuttling back and forth between Schumer's office and the Vice President's ceremonial office here in the Senate.

As they continue to work the phones and talk to the Senators now also Mnuchin meeting with some key Democratic Senators who were not in the leadership Mark Warner of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio as they try to cut a deal to the Democrats liking Democrats are concerned about some of the language in the bill namely how to deal with funds that would go to distrust industries?

Democrats are criticizing that proposal. They're arguing restrictions you needs have to more restrictions--

KING: Manu, I'm sorry, the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is speaking now on the floor of the Senate about the stimulus deal. Let's listen.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Best resources to our healthcare heroes and American workers and families. Democrats and Republicans sat down together we crafted this version of a proposal together. This compromise package would push tens of billions of dollars to hospitals to healthcare providers. It will send a direct check to millions of American households.

It would massively expand unemployment, insurance and those crises. It would stabilize industries to prevent mass lay-offs and crucially it would deliver historically relief to small businesses to help main street employees from being totally crushed, crushed by this pandemic but yesterday when the time came to vote on these urgent measures our Democratic colleagues shows to block it.

So why are the American people still waiting? It is a good question to ask. I hear the markets are not doing well today. They're like to ask the question of us. Why not move? Why are Democrats filibustering the bipartisan bill to help write?

An appropriate question to ask this morning as the country waits on us. So let me give the American people a taste of the outstanding issues we woke up to this morning. Here are some of the items on the Democrats wish list over which they choose to block this legislation last night.

Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy provision to force employers to get special new treatment to big labor. And listen to this new admission standards for their - are you kidding me?

This is the moment to debate new regulations that had nothing whatsoever to do with this crisis. That's what they are up to over there. American people need to know it. Democrats won't let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get the dust off the Green New Deal.


MCCONNELL: I would like to see Democrats tell New York City doctors and nurses who are literally over run as we speak that they are filibustering more funding and more masks because they want to argue the airline over their carbon footprint?

I'd like to see Senate Democrats tell small business employers and their states that are literally being laid-off every day. That they are filibustering relief that will people on the pay roll because Democrats' special interests friends want to squeeze employers while they are vulnerable squeeze these employers while they are vulnerable.

I would like to see Senate Democrat tell all American seniors who are seeing their hard earned retirement savings that literally melt away. As the markets attracted or their worse month since 1931. That they're continuing to holdup emergency measures over tax credits for solar panels. Tax credits for solar panels.

Even with the Federal Reserve announcing even further extraordinary steps today. The markets are tanking once again as I said because this body can't get its act together. The only reason they can't get its act together is right over here on the side of the isle.

So these are just a few of the completely non-germane wish list items that they are rallying behind preventing us from getting this emergency relief to the American people right now. An 11th hour - Democrats decided more important than Americans' paychecks and personal safety of doctors and nurses.

So remember what one of Speaker Pelosi's top Lieutenants in the House said just a few days ago and this is a direct quote. "This is a tremendous opportunity to restrict things to fit our vision." That was the Democratic whip in the House just laying it out there reminds me the definition of Washington gaffe.

When a politician in Washington tells you what it really means. And we heard something similar here on the Senate floor just last night here was one of our Democratic colleagues, "How many times are we going to get a shock a $1 trillion plus program" right there on the floor last night?

I don't know how many trillion plus packages we are going to have. In other words, let's don't waste this opportunity to take full advantage and get our whole wish list done. They ought to be embarrassed, Mr. President in fact, I heard from some of them who are embarrassed.

Talking like this is some juicy political opportunity. This is not a juicy political opportunity. This is a national emergency. We have days of productive bipartisan talks to get to this point. Senate Democrats down to Senate Republicans in negotiated furiously to get to this point. The bill now contains a huge number of changes that our Democratic colleagues requested including major changes. We were this close, this close. And yesterday morning and Speaker of the House flew back to San Francisco and suddenly the Senate serious bipartisan process turned into this left episode of super market sweep unrelated issues left and right.

I will tell you what will lower our carbon footprint Mr. President, if the entire economy continues to crumble with hundreds of thousands of more Americans are laid off because Senate Democrats won't let us act. That'll lower our carbon footprints all right. They'd be seeing American outside of Washington knows this is no time for this nonsense.

A Surgeon in Fresno, California says "We are at war with no ammo. We are at war with no ammo" that's a Surgeon in Fresno and intensive care nurse in New York City says if we don't get the proper equipment soon, we're going to get sick.


MCCONNELL: Democrats are filibustering more masks and aid for hospitals. Every day more Americans wake up to the news that their jobs are gone. Their jobs are gone. Democrats are filibustering programs to keep people on the payroll and they're filibustering a hug expansion of unemployment insurance which they themselves negotiated and put into the bill.

Hundreds of dollars extra per week for laid off workers on top of existing unemployment benefits and Democrats are blocking it this got to stop. Today is the day it has to stop. Our country is out of time.

When the Democratic House passed their phase two bill even though Senate Republicans would have written it very differently we spend it through the Senate and passed it quickly without even amending it.

I literally told my colleagues to gag and vote for it for the sake of building bipartisan momentum because Republicans understand their national crisis calls for urgency and it calls for bipartisanship. It is time for that good faith to be reciprocated. It is time for Democrats to stop playing politics and step up to the plague.

The small businesses in their own states deserve it and their own state's emergency room doctors deserve it. Their own state's emergency room doctors deserve it. Their own constituents who have lost their jobs deserve it.

In my home State of Kentucky, the Governor has effectively paused commerce across the state and our unemployment system crashed due to demand. Kentuckians need help now and we are not alone. I've heard the police from healthcare workers in New York and Seattle and I've listened to the small business owners crying out in Brooklyn and Chicago. That is only one side to understand that this is urgent.

Why are these hard hit cities, our own Senators are happy really to keep this slow walking going on in definitely? Is that really something these folks on the other side are comfortable with, in definitely slow walking all of this?

How can how half the Senate are not raised to the occasion at a time when everybody else in the country is pulling together? They are pulling us apart. Examples are all over the country that we ought to look to. The healthcare heroes, to neighborhood volunteers to national industries everybody is unifying and pitching in, what about here in the Senate?

It is time to get with the program, it is time to pass historic relief that we have built together. The country does not have time for these political gains. It needs progress. So we are going to vote in just a few minutes. I assure you Mr. President the American people will be watching.

KING: The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just finishing a speech where he rallied against Democrats blaming Senate Democrats with the help of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding up a $2 trillion stimulus plan.

Mitch McConnell is saying and we expect to get the Democratic response momentarily from the Democratic Chuck Schumer. McConnell saying that this bill was being held up because of unrelated issues, he said Democrats are insisting for example for tax credits and solar and wind energy and new protections for labor unions in the United States and new emissions standards for the airline economy.


KING: Mitch McConnell saying "Are you kidding me?" He called it a left wing episode of super market sweeps and said the American people and the American economy demands swifter action by the Senate.

Again we are expecting the Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to come to the floor momentarily. We have with us Kaitlan Collins -- Chuck Schumer now coming to the floor of the United States Senate to give his response, let's listen.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. President. Well, every time we hear the Majority Leader come out it is a partisan scream. Well, I am in my office with the President's Secretary of Treasury, the President's congressional liaison getting things done.

We Democrats are trying to get things done and not making partisan speech after partisan speech. Now in the past 24 hours, we got word that a member of this chamber, Senator Paul has tested positive for Coronavirus. And the husband of another member, Senator Klobuchar also tested positive, he's in the hospital.

I want to let them know both of them that the Senate is thinking of them and praying for their speedy recovery as we are for tens of thousands of American families who are confronting the same situation right now. Whether you are afraid for sick family member or older relatives in the hospital or struggling without work, income or the knowledge of when your isolation might end, our thoughts are with you right now. These are trying times for all of us but the scorch of this disease will pass and the American people as always will prevail. As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States eclipses 35,000, the Senate continues to negotiate what will likely be the largest emergency funding bill in American history.

As I've mentioned we have had almost continuous discussions with Secretary Mnuchin. He left my office at about 12:15 last night and was there at about 9:00 this morning. The White House Congressional Liaison Eric Ueland has been in and out of the office as well.

We are very close to reaching deal, very close. And our goal is to reach a deal today. We are hopeful even confident that we'll meet that goal. We have been working on a few outstanding issues that are no surprise to everyone.

From the very beginning Democrats have insisted on a marshal plan for our medical system. More money for hospitals, community health centers and nursing homes and urgent medical supplies like gloves and masks ICU beds testing kits ventilators and PPEP.

Since our negotiations, the numbers have gone up dramatically because the hospitals, our healthcare workers need the help. We are fighting hard and making progress for funding for states and local governments.

They are propping up local care networks virtually on their own. Their revenues are dramatically declining many towns and villages across America the smaller ones in particular might be going broke pretty soon if we do nothing.

If we can help the big corporations, we can help our local towns and villages and the taxpayers they represent. On unemployment insurance, the bill has moved in the direction we've outlined. The original bill had the unexpanded employment benefits lasting only three months. We need to make it longer because the dislocation caused by this crisis will not be over in 90 days.

People who lose their jobs need help. But is says to every American who loses his or her job the Democratic plan that is now in the bill that you will get your full pay from the federal government.

You can be furloughed by your employer, that means you will keep your benefits health and otherwise, and it means that you will be able to come back in the business you have to leave we can reassemble itself quickly after God willing this crisis ends.

The bill still includes something that most Americans don't want to see. Large corporate bail out and almost no strings attached. May be the Majority Leader thinks it is unfair to ask protections for workers and labor to companies that are getting hundreds of billions of dollars. We think it is very fair to ask for those. Those are not extraneous issues. That's a wish list for workers and nobody else.

And so we are looking for protection. We are looking for oversight.

[12:20:00] SCHUMER: If this federal government is making a big loan to someone to big companies, we ought to know it and detail it immediately of the bill that was put on the floor by the Republican Leader, said no one would know a thing about those loans for six months at least.

In those so-called bail-outs, we need to protect workers, the workers those industries employee. We have been guided by one plan, workers' first. That's the name of our proposal. The bill needs to reflect that priority.

Now, we are working on all these items in good faith as we speak. We hope and expect to conclude the negotiations today. This vote in the Senate is no surprise is about to take a nearly repeat of a vote that failed last night.

Leader McConnell continues to set arbitrary vote deadlines when the matter really important is the status of the bipartisan negotiations. So let me be clear, the upcoming procedural votes are essentially irrelevant. The negotiations continue no more than 30 feet away from the floor of the Senate in our offices where the real progress is taking place.

Once we have an agreement that everyone can get behind, we are prepared to speed up the consideration of that agreement on the floor. So I am going to get back to negotiations. We all know time is of the essence. The country is facing the twin crises in our health care system and in our economy.

We have an obligation to get the details right. Get them done quickly. That does not mean blindly accepting a Republicans only bill. That was the bill we were given. A lot of things we did even know about Saturday. That means working to make this bill better.

Better for us small businesses and better for our working families and better for our healthcare system. Democrats, will not stop working with our Republican counter parts until we get the job done. I will continue to update the Senate on the progress of our negotiations.

KING: Senator Chuck Schumer speaking there just moments after the Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blame Democrats, Chuck Schumer the Democrat saying no, he will call that a partisan speech and he said he's actually working with the President's team as we speak. He said he interrupted those negotiations to come to the floor for that update.

Let's go straight back up to CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Finger pointing Manu, we are in the middle of a pandemic we're also in the middle of an Election Year that cannot be forgotten. Mitch McConnell going to the floor saying Democrats are trying to add an extraneous items and Schumer is saying actually I will get this done by the end of the day. Calm down.

RAJU: Yes. And it was notable that Chuck Schumer indicated that the vote that is going to happen at 1:00 is in his view irrelevant because he said the real negotiations are happening in his office. So what that essentially means, is that the vote that is going to happen at 1:00 to move forward on this proposal probably is going to fail if they don't reach a deal by one.

But he said even if it fails again no worries because the negotiations are happening between him and Secretary Mnuchin of the Treasury Eric Ueland of the White House. And he said they are very close to a deal. And he says once there is an agreement between the administration and him and presumably Mitch McConnell, too. That's when he would agree to speed up consideration for a final vote.

So essentially he would allow this measure, if they do get a deal to move to a final vote as soon as today. So he says even if this fails, we're still going to get this done. Now he did indicate a few outstanding issues dealing with funding for hospitals and he said changes to the unemployment insurance program and dealing with how industries were seeking money and how that program would be structured?

So there is still seems to be some outstanding issues and he said but he contended they're very close. Now one other dynamic too John, is that - copy of the bill that the House Democrats are circulating and that Nancy Pelosi the House Speaker plans to offer herself a competing bill, the stimulus measure competing from the one that is being negotiated in the Senate.

So the question now is that if Senator Schumer does reach a deal with the administration and does agree to allow this bill to move forward and that it passes the Senate will Nancy Pelosi also agree to let that Senate bill to pass the House and let it go into law very quickly.

That's still an outstanding question or that she will push forward on her own proposal and that could lead to protracted negotiation for some times. So it is uncertain how the - what the end game is looking like here?


RAJU: But Chuck Schumer sounding optimistic of a deal even as Mitch McConnell says the Democrats are trying to push their liberal agenda into this measure and so we'll see how it day plays out? But a lot of negotiations ahead as the Democrats are optimistic that a deal can be reached here in the Senate John.

KING: And the Washington wrinkling, you can see the market is down 560 points right now. They were down much more earlier in the day coming back a little bit. We'll see some times the in action or a vote in Washington can affect the financial markets the political climate as well.

To Kaitlan Collins at the White House Kaitlan, the President obviously has his people involved in these negotiations trying to get a big stimulus bill that he thinks is critical to put some juice back into the economy a safety net under the economy and at the same time he seems to be agitating according to the reporting of you and your colleagues.

Agitating thinking one week from today we hit the 15-day mark of those 15-day recommendations from the White House, and it sounds as if the President thinks 15-days might be enough.

COLLINS: Yes. And that's the question because that is not what we've been hearing from health officials. So that's really been you know the main focus of why the Treasury Secretary has been the one leading these negotiations talking to Chuck Schumer as Manu was pointing out several times yesterday because they're hyper-focused on the economy and the economic stand point here.

And now the President seems to be operating under this idea that potentially these guidelines that he put out and that he fronted himself may have done more harm than good and now he seems to rethinking them.

There is a question of what exactly he is going to do a week from today when they are supposed to issue new guidance about those restrictions because they were very clear to say this is for 15 days. Here is how we think you should operate now we'll likely up this another time in 15 days but now that's seems to be coming under question, John.

And the reason that it is so significant is because the people on the President's own task force, the health experts the scientists don't think seem to be navigating that they think that is the smart way to go from here.

Dr. Fauci is probably the most recognizable face who's been pushing this, actually pushing for more restrictions internally. He's sort of making the argument it is better to be safe than sorry here and then of course you saw the Surgeon General earlier this morning on NBC saying it is going to get worse this week and it is going to look pretty bad.

So they do not seem to be favoring any kind of easing restrictions here. But the main reason the President who wanted to do that is because he's worried about the economic blow that having these people stay home and having these guidelines about not having too many people in one place has caused.

So that is what they're rethinking right here. The question is really going to be a fluid one of which side prevails and of course that all goes. They're waiting to see when this bill is going to happen because we should note this deadline that we had today by this legislation was self-imposed by the Treasury Secretary.

The reason the market are reacting is because they saw him tease a potential deal today. And of course now that's open the question of when we're going to get that.

KING: Big question mark. We'll continue to watch Manu Raju on the Hill and Kaitlan Collins at the White House, appreciate that. Come back to us when you hear more about any of these big developments. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of course he is our CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent.

Sanjay, the President put these 15-day guidelines in place. You've heard Dr. Adams on television today, he is not only speaking to the American people he is trying to speak what we called the audience of one here Washington.

He knows the President watches a lot of television. The guideline says don't be in crowds of 10 or more people, they're due to expire a week from now. Are we at a point where we can let them expire or do they need to be extended?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look I think that some may say that they can be expired but that doesn't mean they should expire. I think that even when the 15-days went into place some time ago, the thought was even at this point that was going to possibly get even more stringent after two weeks not be relaxed.

That's from conversations that I had with public health officials sort of wanting to ease things a little bit. There is another prevailing group of public health officials who believe it should have been more stringent from the start but you know obviously that didn't happened. These were just recommendations that were made and states around the country have sort of adopted their own recommendations.

One thing to keep in mind, John, is that and you know and we've talked about this but we are looking at a lag time here right? Between the time someone gets exposed to the time they actually develop symptoms and then the time they get tested, it could be up to a couple of weeks. So it is kind of like looking at the light from a star, right?

I mean, we know that light started a long time ago. We are just now seeing it and the same thing with what's happening with Coronavirus. So if anything, we are still even with increased testing, we are still not getting the complete picture and by all accounts the numbers are going to increase.

So what trigger and what reason would people have to say okay, now it is time to relax as the only measurable that we really have show things going in the other direction. I don't think that is permanent by any means but as we've talked about if you don't apply these social distance mechanisms early, diligently, consistently and honestly, they're just not going to work as well.

So this idea sort of being uneven state to state and recommendation to recommendation just does not make sense John.

KING: Right. I don't think it makes sense from a medical standpoint and it also can be very confusing from a political standpoint. You were trying to get people to have the discipline to social distance to isolate to be more careful.