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At This Hour

Senate Passes $3.5 Trillion Budget in Latest Win for Biden; Texas Judges Rule Against Gov., Allowing Mask Mandates; Federal Government Sends Hundreds of Ventilators to Florida; Soon: NY Lt. Gov. to Hold News Conference After Cuomo Resigns. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 11:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

A big win. The Senate advancing a massive budget blueprint overnight, a victory for Joe Biden.


But it's a long road ahead still.

The school mask battle. New rulings in Texas allowing local officials to go around the governor as more hospitals report alarming numbers of COVID cases.

And on the brink, the Taliban seizing Afghan cities at a shocking speed. New warnings that the Afghan government could be on the edge of collapse.

We do begin with new developments on two fronts. First, President Biden banking a second big win in less than 24 hours. The Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint early this morning. What could end up being a sweeping package, vastly expanding the nation's safety social net. It would be targeting climate change, education, health care and more.

This latest win for the president comes hours after the Senate also approved the long-negotiated bipartisan infrastructure bill. More on that in just a moment.

But there are also several new developments on the pandemic. Texas Governor Greg Abbott suffering a major legal setback after two judges ruled that school districts can require students to wear masks in class, at least temporarily. And a new national study shows a majority of American parents support mask mandates in schools for the unvaccinated, but more than half of the parents polled say they are against schools mandating vaccines.

Let's get to it, starting with the overnight drama in Washington. President Biden's agenda also getting a big boost today.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.

CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House for us this hour.

Manu, what is the path forward now after passing the infrastructure bill and the blueprint for this much bigger bill expanding the nation's social programs?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a difficult road ahead. Right now, it's in the House's hands.

Now, remember, the budget blueprint that passed the Senate in the early morning hours, 4:00 a.m., after 14 hours in the senate, that's a blueprint. Both the House and Senate need to approve the blueprint before they can move forward on binding legislation. So, the house is coming back august 23rd to pass the blueprint.

Afterwards, House and Senate leaders, the Democrats along with the rank and file will get behind closed doors and finish noting and drafting this massive expansion of the social safety net, $3.5 trillion, dealing with climate change, immigration, health care, a whole host of issues, paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

But to get this passed, they'd have all 50 Senate Democrats on board and also have it pass the House. All 50 Senate Democrats -- all 50 Republicans plan to vote against this. This can't be filibustered in the Senate, meaning they can get it through if 50 Democrats along with Kamala Harris break the tie.

But today, this morning, Joe Manchin laid out what he said are serious concerns with the price tag of this proposal. He joins Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who has also concerns with the price tag. Manchin is also concerned about the climate change provisions that are central to what a lot of liberals, particularly in the House want.

So, what does it all mean, Kate? It means there's a lot of negotiations that need to be had. They need to placate moderates like Manchin and Sinema. They need to get it through and have it into law that they hope by September or October, and also that separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan that passed the Senate that Pelosi will not move forward on until the Senate passes the larger Democratic-only plan. So, a lot of issues that they have to negotiate here. Can they get there is still anyone's guess.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, as my daughters would say, easy peasy lemon-squeeze is what you laid out, Manu. No problem.

John, this is -- I kind of see this as something slightly more than halfway there. The road could get longer in the long slog ahead. How big of a win is this moment for Joe Biden right now?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Significant, Kate. He's given himself a chance to succeed. As Manu indicated, long road to go, I wouldn't even say they're halfway there yet. However, they have gotten these two tracks in alignment in a way that

makes it possible for them to get to the finish line. Obviously when you have extremely narrow majorities in the House and the Senate where there's, in fact, zero margin for error, you've got to balance all factions.

They have 19 Republican votes for the bipartisan infrastructure bill yesterday. That's a significant investment. More than $500 billion in roads, bridges, broadband, that sort of thing, an upgrade in the economic infrastructure of the country, and they've got all 50 Senate Democrats behind that reconciliation bill, $3.5 trillion. Massive social benefits for poor, struggling, working class families to try to lift them up, free community college, universal preschool, thousands of dollars in aid for parents with children, dental, hearing, vision coverage under Medicare.


All these benefits are things that appeal to Democrats. So they've got to negotiate, balance out, deal with fears of inflation that people like Joe Manchin have expressed. So far they've passed the test they needed to put them in this position and the Biden White House has good reason to feel optimistic today.

BOLDUAN: And, Manu, just touching on -- when you need all Democrats to vote together in order to get something through, that empowers every single Democrat. One Democrat could doom this moving forward. But the focus does remain on Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

When Manchin says he has serious concerns about the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, after he's voted to begin putting this all together, knowing the number was going to be $3.5 trillion, what does this mean? Is this just his opening salvo? Can you take us inside?

RAJU: Yeah, look, there's going to be a lot of posturing among a lot of different members, not just the moderates like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Yesterday the progressives said they would withhold their support for the bipartisan infrastructure plan if that larger Democratic-only bill does not include their priorities.

What does that mean? The priorities to win over Joe Manchin's support, if they pull back those priorities, will the folks on the left say we're not going to vote for this? That's going to be a question for the leaders to balance here.

Ultimately, the message you're hearing and you will hear from Democratic leaders publicly and privately is unity. That's what Chuck Schumer has implored on his members, he's told me, told others, he's said if we don't stand together, everything will collapse. Can that message prevail? That's also a question.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and a lot of focus now on Joe Biden and what significant critical role he's going to have to play in holding that unit together if they're going to get it done.

Guys, thank you very much. I appreciate it. To the latest on the pandemic. The debate over mask mandates is

playing out in court. Two separate rulings in Texas are clearing the way for local authorities to enforce mask mandates rebuking Governor Abbott's efforts to ban those very orders. The rulings come, also, at a really troubling moment.

Surging delta variant is overwhelming hospitals across the state. The numbers just show it.

CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's live in Houston with the very latest. Ed, what are you seeing there?


Well, it is an open revolt against the governor's executive order of banning a mask mandate. This revolt is coming from school superintendents in the largest cities in Texas as well as county officials. You're looking at Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio. It's in several different stages at this point.

But school superintendents are pushing mask requirements now as schools are on the verge of opening next week in most places across the state. County officials in Dallas and San Antonio won two legal victories yesterday.

They requested a temporary restraining order against the governor's executive order banning mask requirements. It's a temporary legal verdict. It will continue to be hashed out in courts next week.

Quickly San Antonio schools and county officials implemented a mask requirement for anyone entering government buildings and school property as well. And all of this comes as the hospitalization situation continues to worsen across the state. More than 10,000 people hospitalized because of COVID.

We have not seen numbers that high since the worst days of the pandemic back in late January, and there are just over 320 intensive care unit beds available at this point according to the latest data from the Texas Department of Health.

So, this is a very urgent situation. And in many areas across the state, according to state health officials, there are single digit number of ICU beds available for patients in need of critical care.

All of this is a very intense situation. The governor says that he continues to back up the idea that a mask mandate is not needed at this point. He's urging personal responsibility and urging people to get vaccinated -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Ed, thanks so much.

Let's go to Florida where the federal government has sent 200 ventilators to help with the spike there.

Yet the governor, Ron DeSantis, he says he doesn't know anything about that. CNN's Amara Walker is live in Ft. Lauderdale. She's joining us now for

more on this.

Amara, what's going on there?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, so, let's start with what we know right now. A health administration official tells CNN, this is from my colleague Kaitlan Collins reporting, 200 ventilators were spent to Florida earlier this week from the Strategic National Stockpile along with 100 high-flow nasal cannula kits. That's what we're being told.

Now, is it possible that Governor Ron DeSantis is unaware these supplies are sent? Anything is possible. It would be surprising considering the fact that we saw governors, especially during the height of this pandemic, deeply involved in coordinating supplies from the federal stockpile.

I want you to listen now to Governor Ron DeSantis addressing questions about this request.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I did not know about that. I have not heard about that, so I have to check to see whether that's true or not. We have -- I would honestly doubt that that's true. I'll look. We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the department of emergency management. I have not had any requests across my desk. I have not been notified of that.


WALKER: So that was on Tuesday. And these ventilators, Kate, are being sent amidst a dramatic surge in Florida. Right now, Florida is seeing the second highest rate of new COVID cases per capita. Also when it comes to hospitals, the numbers are quite concerning. Florida has one of the highest rates of hospitalizations in the country.

Also, according to the Florida Hospital Association, nine out of ten ICU beds are currently occupied, and this is as of last week. I should also mention school districts, at least three of them, are now defying the governor's mandate prohibiting mask mandates, including Broward County Public Schools.

Orange County is requiring masks but allowing parents to opt out. We're hearing that 4 percent of parents opted out of their kids wearing masks which started yesterday -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Amara, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, as kids head back to school, as Amara is talking about, a new survey shows a complicated picture of how parents feel about masks and vaccines. The number may surprise you. That's next.



BOLDUAN: A new national survey this morning shows a majority of parents want mask requirements at schools, but the situation is complicated. Here are some of the findings. 63 percent of parents polled support mask mandates for unvaccinated students and staff.

But when asked if COVID vaccines should be required for in-person learning, 58 percent of parents of children ages 12 to 17 oppose a requirement, and 47 percent of parents whose children are eligible to get the vaccines say their kids have already gotten the shot or plan to soon.

Yet one in five say they definitely will not get their kids vaccinated.

Joining me now, Dr. Peter Hotez. He's a co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital.

It's good to see you again, Doctor.

What does this polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation tell you?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, I think it's really important to look at when that survey was done. I don't think it was done very long ago. To me it looks like it was encompassing the last two weeks of July.

You might say, well, what's changed? What's changed is now parents are fully understanding the public health impact of the delta variant. They are now learning if they're staying in touch with the news, the big massive surge in pediatric hospital admissions, pediatric intensive care unit admissions. That's all come to light really in the last two weeks.

So I'm guessing, purely a guess, that if we were to repeat that survey now, we would start to see some shifts and parents would realize how serious this delta is. Because the old narrative out there was just worry about older individuals, the kids and young people will do fine. It's simply not true. That's the reality.

And now, we're dealing with the fact that schools are opening here in the south during the screaming level of transmission from Texas all the way to Florida and everything in between. It's hard to see how this goes well given how low the vaccination rates are among adolescents.

That's where the bottom falls out. You only have 20, 25 percent of the adolescents vaccinated in this part of the country compared to over 70 percent in places like Vermont and Massachusetts, and that's a game- changer.

BOLDUAN: And things are changing quickly. You make a great point. I mean, you are in Texas. Just look in Texas. The Dallas County judge, he has said that in the 19 counties surrounding the Dallas region, only two pediatric ICU beds are available. And this gets to your point which is the delta variant is a game-

changer. There's still so much that we don't know. But from what you're seeing as a pediatrician, what is the delta variant doing to kids?

HOTEZ: Well, we also have -- it's muddied a bit by the fact that we also have co-infections and infections with another virus pathogen known as respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, which was really unusual to see at this time of year.

BOLDUAN: My daughter was diagnosed with it two days ago.

HOTEZ: Yeah, it's sweeping through the country in the summer which we really haven't seen for quite some time. That in itself is an interesting aspect of this whole pandemic.


But the fact that now COVID is sweeping through the kids and causing serious illness, I don't think it's selectively targeting the kids? I think what's happening is when you have areas of low vaccination, delta really can accelerate and the force of infection is huge. What happens is it creates a firestorm where everyone is unvaccinated starts getting -- is at high risk of getting infected including the kids, and they're getting swept up in this virus storm, and that's why we're seeing the children's hospitals and PICU admissions.

There's only one way to manage this, and that is to demand that everybody in a classroom is masked and everyone who walks into that school who is vaccine eligible is vaccinated, parents, anyone over the age of 12, teachers, staff, bus drivers. That means vaccine mandates.

People aren't happy about it, but we have to make priorities in this country. At some point somebody has got to say what's our most important thing? If it's to do in-person learning, that's what we have to do.

BOLDUAN: Another thing that I know you have been trying to push back on for a long time is misinformation, which continues to be a huge problem. The latest example, Senator Rand Paul. He was just banned from YouTube for spreading misinformation about masks.

One of the lines that YouTube points to in why they put this ban in place, they cite, he said most of the masks you get over-the-counter don't work. They don't prevent infection.

How much damage is this doing?

HOTEZ: It's huge. It's not just senator Paul. It's other members of the senate, Senator Johnson has been out there putting out disinformation, members of the House of Representatives. If you remember the horrible CPAC conference where they said vaccines are no longer than a political instrument of control and children and kids and young adults don't need masks. Just take care of yourself and go to the gym, not recognizing that's not a substitute for virus neutralizing antibodies. So, this has been a coordinated disinformation campaign coming from

Congress and the conservative news outlets. There's a reason the south is unvaccinated. That has a lot to do with it.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Dr. Hotez, thank you.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, soon, we'll hear from New York's next governor, the first woman to lead the state at the very same time the legal problems are not going away for the soon-to-be former governor of New York.



BOLDUAN: Soon, we will hear from the next governor of New York, the first female governor of the state after Andrew Cuomo announced he is resigning in two weeks. The outgoing governor is still facing investigations and possible impeachment over sexual harassment claims reported by 11 women. In one of the most shocking ends to a political dynasty in American politics.

Joining me now are: CNN political commentator Errol Louis. He's a political anchor for Spectrum News. And also, with us is civil rights attorney and advocate Nancy Erika Smith.

Errol, can you speak to the significance of Cuomo's disgraceful end? After decades of dominating here and nationally, now he's out. The state's first female governor, Kathy Hochul, is about to step in.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, it really is extraordinary. This is a political dynasty. If you include Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo taken together, one of them has been on statewide ballots since the mid 1970s. So this is very, very significant.

Andrew Cuomo is the dean of governors. There's no governor serving anywhere in the country that's been there longer than he has, which is over a decade. For it to end so quickly when just last year he was riding high, regularly on national television, talked about a presidential candidate, much like his father was. For it all to end so quickly is really quite extraordinary.

BOLDUAN: Nancy, I want to play one of the moments from Cuomo's announcement, really just about 24 hours ago, where he's explaining himself and he talks to a generational shift, as he calls it.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): In my mind, I've never crossed the mind with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate, and I should have. No excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Nancy, what do you think of his resignation, that announcement, what he said and what it says about where we are as a country?

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND ADVOCATE: Well, what he said is false in three ways. One, sexual harassment was always wrong, and lots of men have known that for a very long time, for many generations. Lots of men did not sexually harass women.

But since 1986, the United States Supreme Court also said that it's illegal. That's 35 years ago.