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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With New York Congressman-Elect Jamaal Bowman; Interview With Missouri Congresswoman-Elect Cori Bush; Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 27, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): End in sight? The coronavirus vaccines are here.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I strongly recommend that, when the vaccine becomes available, to get vaccinated.
BASH: But, as cases continue to spike across the country, is the worst behind us or still to come? I will speak exclusively to Dr. Anthony Fauci and leading Governors Gretchen Whitmer and Larry Hogan next.
And burn down the house. President Trump sows more chaos on his way out, pardoning loyalists, vetoing legislation and going after leaders in his own party.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): There is a real, real danger of this whole thing falling apart.
BASH: Has he taken his fury too far?
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger will be here to discuss.
Plus: joining the Squad. New progressives are about to take power as a middleman moves into the Oval Office. Will they be able to work together to help hungry and jobless Americans? I will speak to two newly elected Democratic members of Congress, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, ahead.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper, in Washington, where the state of our union is, as we close out 2020, dropping the ball.
Unemployment benefits have now lapsed for millions of Americans, as a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill is sitting in limbo at Mar-a- Lago, $600 checks to Americans not signed, sealed or delivered, with no clarity from the White House or Congress on what happens next.
As most Americans spent the holidays at home due to a worsening coronavirus pandemic, shaken by the still unexplained explosion in Nashville that authorities say was intentional, the president seems completely uninterested in governing. Instead, he is spending his time golfing, pardoning loyalists, complaining that his wife hasn't been on the cover of fashion magazines, and spreading more dangerous lies about the election he lost.
Meanwhile, president-elect Biden is warning of very dark days ahead, as the coronavirus continues to surge; 120,000 Americans spent their holidays in hospital beds. And coronavirus vaccines are only beginning to offer some protections against the virus.
Joining us now is a leading member of the Coronavirus Task Force, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and also an incoming chief medical adviser to president-elect Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning, Dr. Fauci.
First, you had a big birthday on Christmas Eve. Happy birthday to you.
FAUCI: Thank you, Dana. I appreciate it. Yes, thank you.
BASH: So, I want to ask about the vaccine that you have received. You receive the first dose in the past week. You did it in public, along with other health officials.
I know you said you were feeling fine initially. At this point, is that still the case, or have you had any side effects?
FAUCI: No, absolutely.
The only thing I had was about, maybe six to 10 hours following the vaccine, I felt a little bit of an ache in my arm. That lasted maybe 24 hours, a little bit more, then went away.
And completely, other than that, I felt no other deleterious type of effects. It was really quite good. It was even as good or better than an influenza vaccine, so nothing serious at all.
Perhaps, when I get the boost, I might feel a little achy, because the immune system will be revving up even more, but I will be getting that in about three weeks.
BASH: I want to ask about something that president-elect Biden said this week.
He said, the darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us.
Dr. Fauci, as you know, over 100,000 of our fellow Americans spent their holiday hospitalized with COVID-19. And we're averaging nearly 200,000 new cases, more than 2,000 deaths each day.
Do you agree that the worst is still yet to come? FAUCI: I do, Dana.
And the reason I'm concerned and my colleagues in public health are concerned also is that we very well might see a post-seasonal, in the sense of Christmas, New Year's, surge, and, as I have described it, as a surge upon a surge, because, if you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we have experienced as we have gone into the late fall and soon-to-be-early winter, it is really quite troubling.
You mentioned the numbers yourself, quite correctly, when you're dealing with a baseline of 200,000 cases, new cases, a day and about 2,000 deaths per day, with the hospitalizations are over 120,000, we're really at a very critical point.
If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post- seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for the good, warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it's very tough for people to not do that.
FAUCI: And yet, even though we advise not to, it's going to happen.
So, I share the concern of president-elect Biden that, as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse.
BASH: Well, I want to ask you about travel.
According to AAA, as many as 85 million Americans were expected to travel over this holiday. More than 1.1 million people were screened at airports yesterday.
So, what should we expect in terms of a post-Christmas COVID surge when you look at those numbers?
FAUCI: Well, again, there's no guarantee it'll happen, but there certainly is a danger of that.
When you travel -- you see pictures on the TV screens, Dana, of people at airports crowded in lines, trying to stay physically separated. But it's so difficult to do that. And that generally is followed, when people get to the destination they want to be, that you're going to have mixing of household people at a dinner or at a social function.
Those are the things that naturally happen. And as much as we advise against it, nonetheless, it happens. And that's one of the reasons why we're concerned about that being a real risk situation for the spread of infection.
BASH: Let's talk about some of the solutions in terms of coronavirus.
You acknowledged to "The New York Times" that you have moved the goalposts in terms of what it would take to reach so-called herd immunity in the United States. Here's what you said. You said: "When polls said about -- when polls said only about half of
all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, I can nudge this up a bit. So, I went to 80, 85."
And then you go on to say that it may be as high as 90 percent.
So, my question is, why weren't you straight with the American people about this to begin with?
FAUCI: No. No, actually, Dana, I don't think it can be interpreted as being straight or not.
We have to realize that we have to be humble and realize what we don't know. These are pure estimates. And the calculations that I made 70, 75 percent, it's a range. The range is going to be somewhere between 70 and 85 percent.
The reason I first started saying 70, 75, I brought it up to 85 -- that's not a big leap to go from 75 to 85 -- it was really based on calculations and pure extrapolations from measles.
Measles is about 98 percent effective vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is about 94, 95 percent.
When you get below 90 percent of the population vaccinated with measles, you start seeing a breakthrough against the herd immunity, people starting to get infected, like we saw in the Upper New York state and in New York City with the Orthodox Jewish group, when we had measles outbreak.
So, I made a calculation that COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is not as nearly as transmissible as measles. Measles is the most transmissible infection you can imagine.
So, I would imagine that you would need something a little bit less than the 90 percent. That's where I got to the 85.
But I think we all have to be honest and humble. Nobody really knows for sure. But I think 70 to 85 percent for herd immunity for COVID-19 is a reasonable estimate. And, in fact, most of my epidemiology colleagues agree with me.
BASH: Yes, of course. Nothing is exact.
I guess my question was about polling. It's -- it seemed, in that quote, to suggest that you were basing your -- your recommendation on polling and what people could accept. Is that not what you meant?
FAUCI: No, I mean, it's a bit of that.
I want to encourage the people of the United States and globally to get vaccinated, because, as many as we possibly get vaccinated, we will get closer to herd immunity. So, the bottom line is, it's a guesstimate. I gave a range. And I use
any discussion like we're having now, Dana, to encourage people to get to that goal of 70 to 85 percent of the people vaccinated. That's where we really want to be.
BASH: OK, and just to put a button on it, no sugarcoating, you're saying 75 to 80 percent is the goal, in your view, as of now...
BASH: ... based on what you know, when it comes to herd immunity, not 90 percent?
FAUCI: Right. Right. Right.
BASH: OK. Thank you so -- and one more question. When? When does that need to happen, in your view?
FAUCI: Well, if you look at the logistics of it, Dana, right now, we're going through the priority groups. We started with health -- front-line health people, people who are on the front line taking care of patients.
Then you get to people who are in a difficult situation, namely, people who have underlying conditions, essential people in society.
And then you go down the line. Once you get there, what I call open season, namely, when anybody who is anybody -- you don't have to be a priority person -- should get vaccinated, I think we're going to get there probably end of March, beginning of April.
So, if we start vaccinating the general population in April, from a pure logistics standpoint, it's probably going to take several months to get those people vaccinated that would get us to the 70 to 85 percent group.
I think that's going to probably be by the middle to the end of the summer, so that I hope, I hope that, by the time we get to the fall, we will reach that critical percentage of people that we could really start thinking about a return to some form of normality.
BASH: I want to ask about what's going on in the U.K. and South Africa, where health officials say that new coronavirus variants there appear to be more transmissible than the current strain, and that the U.K. strain may be potentially worse for children.
You said you're assuming that these variants of the virus are already here in the U.S. How worried should Americans be?
FAUCI: Well, I mean, obviously, this is something we always take seriously and concerning, whenever you get a mutation.
But I think the American public needs to remember and realize that these are RNA viruses, and they are continually mutating all the time. Most of the time, the mutations don't have a functional significance. But every once in a while, when you track it, you see something that gives a hint of or maybe even a reality of a higher degree of transmissibility.
The U.K., our British colleagues, have looked at it. We're looking at it intensively now. Does it make someone more ill? Is it more serious virus, in the sense of virulence? And the answer is, that doesn't appear to be that way.
The other issue is that, does it escape the protection that's induced by the vaccines that we're currently using? And, according to our British colleagues, that does not seem to be the case.
Having said that, you take something like this very seriously, you follow it very carefully, and you make whatever adjustments you need to do, based on the data as it evolves.
BASH: So, you feel confident in what you just said that the U.K. officials are saying, that, so far, it appears that the vaccines that we have are strong enough to deal with this new variant?
FAUCI: That's what they are telling us. But we're going to be doing the studies ourselves. We're getting isolates of it, making combination of viruses, to be able to directly test, getting sera from people who we have vaccinated, and see if it still neutralizes this new strain, this mutant strain that's coming from the U.K., as well as from South Africa.
There's a similar, but not entirely the same type of mutation that we're seeing in South Africa.
BASH: Dr. Fauci, the U.S. will now require travelers from the U.K. to test negative before arriving in the U.S.
But that policy doesn't go into effect until tomorrow. And we have known about this new virus variant in the U.K. for a couple of weeks. Was it a mistake not to implement this rule before the Christmas travel boom?
FAUCI: You know, Dana, I'm not going to say it was a mistake or not.
Obviously, I think the move to put some form of restriction on travel -- and restriction could either be blocking out travel completely, which the decision was made not to do that. But I think it's prudent and a good idea to do some form of testing, and not let somebody on the plane from the U.K. unless they have a documented negative COVID- 19 test.
So, I agree with that. I mean, you could argue about the timing, whether it should have been done a few days before.
BASH: You previously said you thought the vaccine would be available to most Americans by April.
But, to date, just 1.9 million Americans have gotten the vaccine. That's well below the 20 million the administration said would be vaccinated by the end of the year.
So, does that change your timeline?
FAUCI: No, Dana, it doesn't.
And the reason it doesn't, first of all, there very likely is many more people have been vaccinated, but not recorded as being vaccinated up to now.
Of course, obviously, when you compare two million to 20 million, that's -- that's a big difference. But whenever you roll out a large program that's a comprehensive vaccine program with a brand-new vaccine like this, in the beginning, it always starts slow, and then starts to gain momentum.
And I'm pretty confident that, as we gain more and more momentum, as we transition from December to January, and then February and March, I believe we will catch up with the projection, that, by the time we get to April, mid, late April, whatever, that you're going to get to the point where you will have taken the high-priority people and already accounted for them, and then anybody can wind up getting vaccinated.
BASH: Somebody who has not gotten vaccinated is the president of the United States.
Now, I know you have said that he should wait 90 days to get the vaccine because of the monoclonal antibody treatments that he received back in October. But, by our count, it's been 86 days since he received that treatment. So, should he get vaccinated in the next couple of weeks?
FAUCI: Well, I mean, the decision of whether or not he gets vaccinated is up to him and to the White House physician, who is a person I know is a very competent physician.
My recommendation -- and I have said this before -- is that I would get him vaccinated. He is still the president of the United States, a critical person. I recommended that Vice President Pence get vaccinated. And he did. I was there with him when he got vaccinated.
So, my recommendation for the president remains the same. But the final decision, obviously, Dana, is up to him.
BASH: I want to ask, as we end this, and end this horrible year, about 2020, about the fact that it has been so difficult for all of us.
You are no exception. You are -- seen to many as a superhero, but you are a human being. And you have been working nonstop since all of this began, communicating with the public, trying to get a handle on this pandemic, in terms of the science.
So, how do you keep yourself going in the face of all of this death and disease? FAUCI: You know, Dana, it's really just focusing on the enormity of
the problem and the fact that I do have a role in the response to this problem. And whenever that happens, you have got to focus like a laser beam on what the goal is, to end this terrible outbreak that we're going through.
And I don't really -- you don't have time for feeling sorry for yourself that you're tired or that you feel like you just got to suck it up, as it were. I use that because that's what it feels like sometime. But that's what you do.
You have got to realize that here we are in this country and in this world, with so many people who are suffering and dying from this terrible scourge that we're under. So, let's just get it over with.
And when you do that, you just focus and go for it, and everything else becomes secondary.
BASH: Well, that's very good advice. Certainly, health care workers are doing that in hospitals across the country as we speak.
And we appreciate your service. Happy birthday to you. And you have got a lot of work ahead in the Biden administration in 2021 and beyond.
Thank you, Dr. Fauci.
FAUCI: Thank you, Dana, for having me. Appreciate it.
BASH: And some governors are wondering when they will get the coronavirus vaccine doses they were promised.
Two governors key in the effort to vaccinate the nation, Republican Larry Hogan and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, join me next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
2020 has in many ways been the year of the governor, with many of their news conferences becoming national events and much of the COVID response left in their hands, with a president sitting on his.
Now they are making key decisions about the vaccine, including who will be vaccinated first.
Joining us now is the Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, and Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan.
Thank you both for joining me this morning.
To you both, governors played a major role, as I just said, in the response. I don't need to tell either of you this. So, particularly given the lack of the comprehensive federal plan,
this was really -- the ball was really in your court. So, looking back at the last year, do you have any regrets about how you handled it or decisions that you made? Would you do anything differently, if you could?
And, Gretchen Whitmer, I'll start with you.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Sure.
So, I think, if anyone is being honest as a leader in this moment, if we could go back in a time machine, with all of the knowledge we have accumulated, would we make some different decisions? Absolutely.
The fact of the matter is, COVID-19 has been a novel virus, for which we have learned an incredible amount in the last 10, 12 months in this country. We have been nimble. And the governors across this country, Republican and Democratic, have been leading the way to keep people safe.
In the early days, we didn't know that a mask was the simple, most important tool that we would have throughout this -- throughout this experience. We also know that nursing homes are uniquely vulnerable. We followed CDC guidelines along -- at the beginning, but, of course, that's changed, and so heavily on the front lines.
So, certainly, if we could go back now with everything we know, we would probably all make some different decisions. But following the science, I think, has served the state of Michigan well, and I'm grateful for the incredible experts we have.
BASH: Governor Hogan?
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, first of all, let me just say I'm really proud of all of my colleague governors all across America on both sides of the aisle, because you're right, Dana.
We did step up. And we were on the front lines throughout this pandemic for the past nine months. And, unlike Washington, where we see so much divisiveness and dysfunction, the governors didn't always agree, but we sure did try to come together and help one another throughout this crisis.
And I was very proud of the job that Governor Whitmer did and many of my other colleagues all across the country. The National Governors Association, we had 50-some calls with all the governors and with the president or vice president, the Coronavirus Task Force, and other calls just between and among governors.
And we were all trying to figure this thing out as we went. And we have all made very difficult decisions. And we continue to make very difficult decisions.
And I would agree with Governor Whitmer. I'm sure, if you go back through the nine months and the hundreds of decisions we had to make quickly, that you might find some things you could improve. But, overall, I think I think we have done a good job.
I'm pleased with where we are right now in our state, where our positivity rate is better than 45 other states, and people seem to be happy with the actions that we have taken.
And you do, as you said, both said, you have -- your jobs are not done at all. And the big thing you're dealing with right now and will be in the coming year is the vaccine rollout.
And, Governor Whitmer, you publicly called out the Trump administration last week over lower-than-expected vaccine supplies. I want our viewers to listen to what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITMER: I still cannot get a straight answer out of the Trump administration about why Michigan, like many other states, is receiving a fraction of the vaccines that we were slated to receive.
Where are our doses? What is holding them up? When can we expect them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, since then, General Gus Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, publicly apologized. Moncef Slaoui said they're working on smoothing out the delivery issues.
So, Governor Whitmer, are you satisfied with that?
WHITMER: Well, it's moving in the right direction.
And, frankly, it was nice to see some accountability and some acknowledgement that there are -- that there are some issues, and they are coming from the Trump administration.
So, my goal is not to assuage blame. My goal is to simply get these vaccines, so that people can be safe. And that's what's driven every decision that we have made.
And, like Governor Hogan said, I mean, the nation's governors have been largely working very closely. I know Michigan's not alone in being shortchanged on the vaccines and not having an understanding or explanation of why.
And I also know that we are -- we are all trying to build up an incredible undertaking here to get the people of our states vaccinated, so that we can eradicate this horrible virus. And we're making great progress. But we need the federal government to do their part and to get out of our way, so that we can get this done.
BASH: And, Governor Hogan, when president-elect Biden takes over on January 20, should the federal government play a larger role in the vaccine distribution? Or is that not something you want to see as a governor, especially a Republican governor?
HOGAN: Well, look, let me just go back to what Governor Whitmer just said.
I -- look, I have been -- never hesitated to criticize the administration when I thought they were getting something wrong or not getting things done. And there was a little bit of slip-up in communication. And we're maybe not getting these out quite as fast as we had hoped a week or two ago.
But it is a hopeful, positive sign here at the end of the year that we -- Operation Warp Speed was a big success. And the fact that we're getting these vaccines out is a really positive thing. And we're all going to work through the details. I'm sure there's going to be other hiccups as we go along. But it's a -- it's a great positive thing, and it's going to get us back on track.
I'm hopeful that the Biden administration is going to continue on that and continue to work with us. It's going to be a cooperation that -- with people at government at all levels. And it's going to be the federal, state and local governments, along with our hospital systems and our private sector partners, getting people vaccinated.
Right now, we're focused on our front-line health care workers and our residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. But, as we start to go through this larger and larger vaccination of the population, as the production ramps up, it's going to take all of us doing everything we can.
And this is going to be the most major undertaking of the entire virus so far.
BASH: And, Governor Hogan, just staying with you, something very much related to this vaccine effort, something that will help fund it is this $900 billion bill that's sitting in Mar-a-Lago, and the president is threatening to torpedo.
It's a big coronavirus relief package. And what he is saying is, Congress should amend it and dramatically increase direct payments due to Americans. Do you agree with the president? Should those payments be increased, or should he just sign it now?
HOGAN: Well, so first of all, I think that, if the president thought that that was the case, he should have weighed in eight months ago. We have been fighting for this since March or April -- or at least eight days ago, and not after they finally reached agreement.
But, sure, I mean, we have been pushing for a larger relief bill, both Governor Whitmer and I both. The NGA, all the governors were pushing for help for state and local governments, which we're still not getting in this package. We'd like to see more help get out to the struggling small businesses and the folks that are unemployed and need this money desperately. But this took a long time, eight months of dysfunction and
divisiveness in Congress. There's plenty of blame to go around. But now we have reached an agreement at least on something. It's not enough, but it's a step in the right direction.
And we need to get it done. The paycheck protection plan ran out in July. Tomorrow, unemployment benefits run out.
So, sign the bill, get it done. And then, if the president wants to push for more, let's get that done too. Let's work together in a bipartisan way. It'd be a great way for him to end the administration.
BASH: Governor Whitmer, you're nodding, not surprisingly.
WHITMER: I mean, Larry Hogan said it well. He's the -- was the head of the NGA. He's the one that convened all of our early meetings. He has been on the forefront on behalf of all the nation's governors.
And while he's not our chair at the moment, he speaks, I think, in a way that resonates with all of us. He's absolutely right.
Sign the bill. Get some relief to people. We have hundreds of thousands of people in my state who are at risk of losing their benefits today because of the Trump White House not signing this bill. The president needs to sign it.
And if he really believes that we should get up to $2,000, which I have firmly believed for a long time, he should get back to Washington, D.C., and get that piece done as well. '
To you both, and I will start with you, Governor Whitmer, let's end on a positive note, looking ahead to 2021. What are you most optimistic or hopeful about?
WHITMER: Every month of 2021 is going to get better than the last. We will have a new administration sworn in at the end of January.
They will be guided by science. They're going to work with states to make sure that our vaccine dissemination goes as smoothly as possible. Vaccines will become more and more plentiful. The weather will start to heat up. And I really believe 2021 is going to be a great year for Americans everywhere.
BASH: Governor Hogan?
HOGAN: Well, 2020 was such an incredibly difficult year for everyone. And I think we'd all -- all just thank God that 2020 is coming to a close.
I am hopeful that 2021 is going to be a better year. I think the distribution of vaccines, getting our populations vaccinated, keeping them safe, and trying to put an end to this virus once and for all, and returning our economy, getting our small businesses back on track, putting people to work -- I mean, we have still got some dark days to go through, unfortunately.
And it's not going to turn around overnight, but '21 is going to be a better year for all of us. We're going to come out of this stronger and better than ever before. We have just got a little more work to go to get us there.
BASH: Governor Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat of Michigan, it is nice to see you on together, working together in so many ways. It is, I'm sure, something that people are very heartened to see.
And thank you so much for everything in 2020. We will be back with you in 2021, for sure.
WHITMER: Thank you.
BASH: And a Republican lawmaker saying President Trump is trying to burn the place down on his way out the door. Will millions of struggling Americans suffer the consequences?
Congressman Adam Kinzinger joins me next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
President Trump's demand for more direct payments to Americans, in reality, is leaving them with nothing at all.
A $900 billion coronavirus relief bill is sitting in Mar-a-Lago, as his attention is focused on pardoning loyalists and spreading conspiracies about the election. It's all leaving Republicans in Congress in a very tough spot, forced to decide whether they will help Americans or the man who is still the head of the party.
Joining us now, one of the very few House Republicans willing to speak truth to power, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning, Congressman.
BASH: So, let's start with that bill that the -- that is sitting in Mar-a-Lago.
The House will vote tomorrow on President Trump's -- excuse me -- start with the veto of the defense bill, rather. The president -- the House will vote on that tomorrow.
The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has indicated that many House Republicans won't vote against the president, even though they supported the bill the first time. My question to you is, do you think the votes are there to override
the president's veto on this multibillion-dollar, highly bipartisan defense bill?
KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly hope so.
This is something we have done for 50-some straight years. It was vetoed for nonsensical reasons, this whole Section 230, which has nothing to do with national defense or the NDAA. Somebody just got in the president's ear and convinced him.
And so we had way more than two-thirds votes to pass this. I don't understand. I could not justify if I voted for this bill and then voted to sustain the president's veto, instead of override it. I do not know how you justify that, besides saying, I'm just going to do what the president wants.
This is a great bill. This goes after China, Russia. It does a lot to shore up our cyber-defenses, which, as we have seen, are extremely vulnerable.
To sustain the president's veto, after you voted for this bill, I just don't understand.
BASH: You don't understand, but are you confident that enough of your fellow Republicans will have the same mind-set?
KINZINGER: You know, I hope so.
I don't want to say I'm confident, because it's just -- we're in such a time that I just have no idea right now. But we passed with a significant amount of votes. There is some flex to lose some people that voted for it that don't vote to override the veto.
I just -- that would be a tough one for me to explain. I just don't know how you do it. So, hopefully, we can still get it overridden.
BASH: OK, so let's talk about the stimulus bill that President Trump is demanding Congress revise to increase the size of stimulus checks to $2,000.
Again, your leader, Kevin McCarthy, he blocked an effort by Democrats to do just that earlier. Senate Republicans have said that number is a nonstarter.
Meanwhile, unemployed Americans lost benefits as of last night because President Trump has not signed the bill. So, what do you think is going to happen next?
KINZINGER: So, this just shows the chaos of the whole thing.
I was on a call with Secretary Mnuchin. And he had talked about getting to this point, having negotiated, presumably, on behalf of the president of the United States. That was his person at the table.
[09:40:05] They came to an agreement. I mean, none of us totally like the bill. It's the nature of legislating. You're not going to end up with anything perfect.
But we passed it because this was the agreed-upon number. It's what the president negotiated. And then for him to come out and say, now I'm going to veto it for the $2,000 checks, fine. If you want to make it $2,000 checks, negotiate that from the beginning.
Let's have the discussion after this bill is signed, because, right now, we're at a point where people are left out in the dark. But to play this old switcheroo game, which is just kind of like, I don't get the point. I don't understand what's being done, why, unless it's just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election.
Otherwise, I don't understand it, because this just has to get done. Too many people are relying on this. We have worked hard. We should have had this done a lot earlier. And now to be put in a lurch, after the president's own person negotiated something that the president doesn't want, it's just -- it's surprising.
But we will have to find a way out.
BASH: And when you walk down the street in your district, you talk to your constituents, who undoubtedly need help, and ask, where are their checks, where is -- where is the relief that you, Congressman, voted for, what do you say? How do you explain what the president is doing?
KINZINGER: Well, I say what I just said.
The problem is, in this day and age, the president can get on Twitter or make a statement, or the -- certain people can, and it just seems like it's all Congress' fault.
Look, Congress ain't a pretty institution, trust me. Negotiations between people and sides that have far disagree -- big disagreements, it always ends up with something that's not pretty. But the bottom line is, that's the process of negotiating.
And then, at the end, to say, OK, we have gotten to this after all this negotiation, now I'm just going to veto it and leave everybody in a lurch, the president then needs to put out his option.
The other thing he's done is conflated two totally different things, the COVID bill and then the omnibus bill, which is just general government spending. This is money that would have been spent whether we had COVID or not. It includes things like foreign aid.
But to then say that we're giving money to other countries in the COVID bill is disingenuous. And it totally conflates two different issues. But -- and it doesn't do a service to the American people to explain what's going on and how these things are different.
BASH: I want to look ahead to January 6, when the Electoral College results will be before a joint session of Congress. President Trump and Vice President Pence met with some Republicans at the White House this week. A number of Senate Republicans, some House Republicans haven't ruled out contesting at various points the election results. What do you expect to happen?
KINZINGER: I expect there will be a little chaos.
This is a scam, though. I mean, to explain to people that somehow Congress can overthrow the certified results of every state, that we can change an election outcome, when there was not a single court case that had any legs -- I mean, even if you believe that somehow the courts were inept in this whole process, if somehow you believe that this whole election was stolen, the reality is, there is no impetus to overthrow an election, even if you want to, and there's no ability to overthrow an election, even if you want to.
And so all that's being done is, certain members of Congress, the president, et cetera, and like -- quote, unquote -- "thought leaders" on Twitter are getting retweets, they're getting followers, they're raising money on this scam.
It is a scam. It is going to disappoint the people that believe this election was stolen, that think this is an opportunity to change it.
But, instead of being disappointed in the people that led them on this grifting scam, they're going to somehow try to convince these people that it was, I don't know, what's the new word, the RINOs in Congress or something like that, and not the Constitution that prevents this from happening in the first place.
We talk about the Constitution. We have to follow it. And I'm sorry if that doesn't mean that the outcome was what you wanted.
BASH: Well, you have talked about some of the things that have happened.
We have heard and seen a lot of crazy things coming from the White House in the last couple of weeks, pardons for allies, including Roger Stone and Paul Manafort. We have seen and heard talk of declaring martial law, baseless allegations of a stolen election, as you were just talking about, mixed signals over military funding and COVID relief.
But the president still has more time left in office. Are you actually worried about what he and people who support him still might do?
KINZINGER: I don't know about worried.
I'm concerned to an extent about January 6, because, if you convince people that Congress can change a legitimate election, and everything was stolen, and there's a deep state slash/QAnon theory driving this, which is that it's satanist pedophiles that run the government, you could see people being driven to violence. So, I'm concerned about that.
In terms of anything else, look, the guardrails of the Constitution are there. In terms of martial law and the military, for instance, which has been discussed, the Pentagon and the military wouldn't implement that.
As a lieutenant colonel in the military, I know that I can't follow through on an illegal order, even if it comes from the president. So, I'm not concerned to that level.
But with the concern I have right now and why I have been so outspoken is, I grew up as a Republican because I believe in smaller government and strong national defense. And that's being destroyed by conspiracies right now and anger.
And I really do worry about the future of my party.
BASH: Well, we're definitely going to have a lot to talk about when it comes to the future of your party ahead in 2021 and beyond.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.
KINZINGER: Yes, great. It's good to be with you.
BASH: And up next: joining the Squad. How will a new wave of progressive lawmakers work with President Biden?
Two members of the new generation of Democrats join me next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
The Democrats' majority in the House will be smaller, but more progressive, in just a few days. How will they work with a president from the old guard of the party?
Well, joining us now is -- are two members of the incoming Progressive Caucus, congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman of New York, who defeated a 16-term incumbent Democrat, and congresswoman-elect Cori Bush of Missouri, who defeated a 10-term incumbent and is now going to be Missouri's first black female member of Congress.
Thank you, and congratulations to you both.
Congresswoman-elect Bush, let me start with you.
Democrats, as I mentioned, they have a very slim majority in the House and may not win the majority in the Senate. So, you're coming in as newly elected progressive Democrats. How are you going to balance that agenda with the realities of divided government? Do you feel confident and comfortable with the notion of compromising?
CORI BUSH (D), MISSOURI CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: You know, I don't think that it's about what we would consider -- quote unquote -- "compromise."
I -- my first priority has to bring -- has to be to bring Saint Louis to the table. I'm bringing Saint Louis to Congress. And I'm doing it as the politivist, activist. I'm not taking that off of my -- off of my shoulders. I'm the activist and the politician.
So, I'm using what I learned on the streets of Ferguson and every other -- every other protest, every other movement I have been a part of, that moxie, that desire to apply pressure, that -- being bold and fierce, bringing that to Congress, making sure that our -- the voices of regular people, and bringing grassroots organizers, bringing the people that are actually on the ground doing the work, bringing that to Congress, and making sure that that voice is heard.
I feel like that is something that is -- that we're not seeing enough of. So, that's what I think that has to happen. When we talk about compromise, how can you compromise if you don't -- if you're not one of the people that know exactly what's happening on the ground in our communities?
I'm someone that's been there. I know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck, to live unhoused. I know what it's like to live uninsured. And so that is what I bring, my lived experience.
BASH: And, congressman-elect Bowman, you are pretty outspoken in the fact that you support the defund police movement, and you call out your fellow Democrats who do not.
So, how are you going to put that into action when you are a member of Congress, actually legislate those ideals?
JAMAAL BOWMAN (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: So, to piggyback on what Cori just mentioned, our job is to meet the needs of our constituents, period, point blank.
We have 30 percent poverty rates in different parts of my district. Our schools are underfunded. People are struggling to put food on the table and to keep a roof over their heads. I have had two police- involved shootings in my district over the last year.
So, as we talk about defunding the police, we're talking about reimagining public safety, reimagining public health, taking a holistic approach to legislating to truly meet the needs of the constituents in my district. That is the bottom line.
So, we cannot compromise when it comes to, what are the needs of the people in my district? People are hungry. People are homeless. People are jobless. Poverty rates are way too high. And my fight in Congress is going to be with the people of our district to make sure we deal with those issues explicitly and directly, without compromise.
BASH: I want to ask both of you about the bill that's sitting on President Trump's desk or with him in the golf cart at Mar-a-Lago.
Congresswoman-elect Bush, I will ask you first, do you support what passed, including the $600 direct payment? I know you said it's not enough. But is that OK for now?
BUSH: When we think about what's OK, $600, why do we treat our people like that? We want to toss some crumbs and then ask -- and hope that people are loyal.
You know, why are we -- why is that even a question to give people $600? Two thousand dollars is not enough. We're talking about, we haven't had -- some people didn't even see the $1,200. But for those that did, it's been months. And so when we talk about giving somebody $600, that's a slap in the face to people who are suffering.
And let me tell you, when you're hungry, you're hungry all day. That's an every moment, every hour feeling. And it does something to you.
BASH: So, is President Trump right not to sign it?
BUSH: President Trump -- you know what? The fact that he cares more about Twitter and what Twitter thinks about making sure that people have food, that's what we should be talking about.
Trump is -- Trump not signing it, it shouldn't be necessarily about the money. But I agree with the $2,000. It needs to at least be $2,000. So, he needs to talk to his Republican buddies and say, give the people the money. Come on, Mitch. Where's the money? Do that now.
But, instead, he's too busy worried about making sure that his friends get off, getting his friends out of prison. What we need to be doing is making sure that those homeless, those 40,000 homeless veterans have a place to go. That's what we should be doing.
We should be looking at cutting that Pentagon budget by 10 percent, like it has been proposed, to make sure that our veterans get the resources and our communities get the resources they need. That's what he should be doing right now, not worried about Twitter.
BASH: Congressman-elect Bowman?
BOWMAN: So, the House passed the HEROES Act several months ago, and we were talking about $1,200 checks, I believe, at that time.
We need to be at $2,000 per month to meet the needs of the American people, bottom line. We need to continue the $600-per-week unemployment insurance.
The president is just posturing. He recently suffered a malignant narcissist's harm by losing the election. He continues to go to court to try to overturn the results. He continues to lose. And now he's posturing to make himself -- to bring himself back as the hero of the American people, asking for $2,000.
Mnuchin negotiated on the president's behalf for this $600. So, initially, the president was fine with that. And now he's trying to switch it up. He's the embodiment...
BASH: So, real quick, do you think that Speaker Pelosi made a -- made a mistake in agreeing to this?
BOWMAN: The American people need relief right now. So, this bill was what we were able to come up with at this moment. But we need to go right back to the table to give people more in terms of relief.
The president is the embodiment of everything that's wrong with this country. He's a privileged person who rose to power as a reality TV star. And now he's trying to drive this country into chaos. I can't wait for him to be out of office.
BOWMAN: And the number -- and the number one thing is, we got to win those two Senate seats in Georgia, so we could take Mitch McConnell's power, so that we can properly govern for all the American people.
BASH: And real quick, before I let you both go, something looking ahead at that you're both going to have to vote on, which is the speaker of the House.
Congresswoman-elect Bush, will you vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker?
BUSH: What I'm going to do is make sure that the voices of the people of Saint Louis are heard and that we have what we need.
And so you will find out then.
BASH: That's not a yes.
BUSH: I'm working with my community. I'm working with my community.
And, congressman-elect Bowman, will you vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker?
BOWMAN: So, you will find out when my vote is tallied, and, again, organizing with our community to figure out what's best.
BASH: I'm just curious, why -- what does that mean? When you said organizing with our community, I mean, what do you want to hear from them, real quick, in order to make your decision whether Nancy Pelosi should be the speaker?
BOWMAN: So, for me...
BUSH: I think that...
BOWMAN: Go ahead, Cori.
BUSH: Go, Jamaal.
BOWMAN: No, for me...
BOWMAN: Go ahead.
BASH: We're almost out of time, actually.
So, just give me a 10-second answer.
BUSH: ... Jamaal.
BOWMAN: We got to bring HR-40 to the floor for a vote. We need reparations for the African-American community.
BOWMAN: We need a federal jobs guarantee. We need Medicare for all.
BASH: Thank you.
Thank you so much to you both. Congratulations. Merry Christmas. Appreciate it.
BUSH: Thank you.
BOWMAN: Thank you.
BASH: And thank you for joining us not only today, but over the course of a year that was truly unforgettable, no matter how much most of us want to forget it.
It has been a year of loss, loved ones, jobs, beloved traditions, but we have seen the best in our country shine too.
2020, we're now blocking you on our phones. Here is to a much happier and healthier 2021.
And our coverage continues on CNN next.