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At This Hour

House Passes Bill to Avert Shutdown and Suspend Debt Limit; Biden & Macron to Speak Today For First Time Since Sub Dispute; President Biden Convenes Virtual COVID Summit at White House. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 11:00   ET


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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

On the brink. President Biden's agenda in serious danger today.


The president is bringing lawmakers to the White House to iron out disagreements within his own party.

DHS is releasing Haitian migrants into the United States despite repeated claims they're being immediately deported. New reporting on the border crisis ahead.

And the FBI now asking for the public's help to find Gabby Petito's fiance after her death is ruled a homicide.

Thanks for being here.

We begin with a make-or-break moment for Democrats, and the president's agenda, and reality that the U.S. appears to be careening toward a government shutdown and default in a matter of days.

Last night, the House passed a bill to keep the government running and also avoid running up against the country's debt ceiling. But over in the Senate, Republicans are at adamant they will not support that measure, insisting that Democrats would have to do it alone, a position that that is not only hypocrisy in action but pushing the country to the brink once again. Much more to come on that.

Also this, all of this is coming as a standoff is happening between liberal and moderate Democrats and it is threatening to derail the bipartisan infrastructure package and the much bigger $3.5 billion budget deal that liberal Democrats want so bad. In just hours, the president is going to be hosting Democrats at the White House to try to iron things out. Biden touts that he knows how Capitol Hill works better than anyone, but does he know what to do with this mess before them now?

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill tracking all of this.

Manu, where are things this morning?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a very precarious state. Things could collapse. It requires both sides to get together on the Democratic side, the moderates and progressives, to get behind roughly $5 trillion in spending. There are a lot of things they're divided on. That is one issue.

Then a separate issue, avoiding a financial catastrophe. There's no signs yet of how that will actually occur because the two sides, Republicans and Democrats are in a game of chicken about over raising the national debt limit as well as avoiding a government shutdown by September 30th.

What Democrats like Elizabeth Warren are making very clear to me, they say the Republicans need to join them and vote to raise the debt limit noting it was Republicans who raised the debt under Donald Trump and they joined them to suspend the debt ceiling. They're calling on Republicans to do it this time as well.


RAJU: If you have no choice, why not just --

SEN. ELIZABETHE WARREN (D-MA): What is no choice? Why aren't you asking Republicans about this?

RAJU: Well, we are. They're saying they're going to block -- they're going to block it this week.

WARREN: For what reason?

RAJU: You know the reason -- you've heard the reason. But I'm asking you --

WARREN: No, actually, I haven't heard the reason.

RAJU: They said they're not going to do it with everything happening on the Democratic agenda. If they're going to vote against it, don't you guys have the obligation to raise it on yourselves?

WARREN: So, I'm asking -- are we hostage to Republicans who are threatening to blow up a part of the economic system because they want to do that for politics? That's just not where we should be as a nation. None of us were elected to come here just to cause trouble so that the Republicans can get re-elected.


RAJU: So, the procedure here is important, Kate, because what the Democrats are pursuing is a measure that would require 60 votes in the Senate to raise the debt ceiling. That means 50 Democrats, ten Republicans. Republicans saying they won't give them ten votes, they say Democrats should use a procedure to allow them to improve it with Democrats alone. That procedure takes two weeks to do. They need to raise the debt limit by mid October. They don't want to raise the borrowing limit. You're seeing what's happening here, a slow moving train wreck.

Concerns about not getting out of this and uncertain what will happen in the days ahead -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I still do wonder how politically toxic it is to take that vote. I don't know if anyone has lost an election because they voted to raise the debt ceiling. We'll see though.

Good to see you, Manu. Thank you so much.

The stakes couldn't be higher for President Biden. As I mentioned, the president is going to try to break the stalemate, bridge the divide between Democrats on a separate issue, hosting key Democrats in the oval office later today.

CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House with more on this.

John, who is going to be here and what are you hearing from the White House about this meeting?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Everybody is going to be there at some point during the day. You've got leadership, Pelosi and Schumer will be there, senators at various points of the spectrum will be there, and you've got a contingent of House members including the symbolic leaders of the two factions, Josh Gottheimer on the moderate side, Pramila Jayapal on the progressive side.

And just to extend that analogy that Manu was making about the game of chicken, you've got multiple factions of the Democratic Party speeding in cars, heading right at each other at 80 miles an hour.


If nobody turns the wheel, they're going to collide, and all the Democrats are going to get blown up by this, politically, economically, legislatively, every other way. So Joe Biden's task here is to try to get those members to turn the wheel, avoid that collision and keep his agenda on track. You have the infrastructure plan, the reconciliation plan.

It is a huge test of the skills that -- whatever skills he's accumulated in that half century of political life, he'll rely on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, their ability to manage, cajole their caucuses to do that.

But this is the moment. We've all been expecting this at some point during the year, ever since they passed that COVID relief plan very rapidly with a unanimous Democratic vote, no Republican help. We've been anticipating a moment of decision for Democrats, and that moment has now arrived. We're going to see whether Joe Biden's got the skill over the next week or two or three to pull this off.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, John. Thank you so much.

All right. Joining me right now is Democratic congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Mr. Chairman, I think I have 20 years here. Let's run though this

because there's a lot we can get through.

First and foremost, the deadline set as September 27th to vote on infrastructure. Right now you definitely don't have the votes. Can you just tell everyone now that there will not be a vote on this on Monday?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): I can't say definitively, but I think it's looking more and more like that would be the case.

BOLDUAN: I think -- I think if you're a betting man, it would be a safe bet to make.

I also heard you say yesterday you still believe both bills are going to get done. Let me play for you what the leader of the progressive caucus just said on CNN.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Other people are willing to crash the entire Democratic agenda by refusing to come together on the reconciliation bill which was the promise that was made. So, I want to be very clear, we're the only people in the room right now that said we want both bills done.


BOLDUAN: Jayapal is ready to place blame. Progressives are threatening to sink the infrastructure bill over reconciliation, leaving a real possibility Democrats get neither and nothing. Do you accept that as a realistic possibility now?

YARMUTH: I really don't. I actually think that, in my conversations with both progressives -- and I am a progressive -- and the moderates, that everybody shares the goals of getting both of these packages done. The moderates definitely want access to child care and pre-k education and paid family medical leave and community college. The moderates want that as well.

So, I think ultimately, as I've been telling them for four months, and my job has been herding Democratic cats. I said you can posture all you want and you should because you can stand up for your principles and priorities, but you're all going to vote for this.

By the way, have you met Nancy Pelosi? Are we going to get it done next week? No, there's virtually no chance of getting it done next week. We don't have a deadline on this. Somehow the issues are getting conflated a little bit in terms of the pressure.

But the 27th date was an agreement that was made with the moderates to get them to vote for the resolution. I really don't know where their leverage is right now because, again, if they vote -- if they say, well, we're not going to vote for the big package if we don't get our vote on the 27th, they're going to have a long time to stew on that. I think one of the other things is, all the things in the bigger package, the build back better act, are extremely popular with the public. Ultimately, I think that's why we'll get these done.

BOLDUAN: So, Josh Gottheimer, one of the moderates you're talking about and one that Pramila Jayapal called out, he was also just on CNN with my colleague Jim Sciutto, and he said -- his words are it makes no sense to vote against an infrastructure bill that does so much and has so much bipartisan support. Do you agree with that?

YARMUTH: Yeah, I agree with that. I wouldn't vote against it.


BOLDUAN: This is why I feel crazy -- why people are right to feel crazy that this is going on on Capitol Hill. You agree but we don't agree.

YARMUTH: No, I agree that I would vote for that and that Josh is right, this is a bill worth passing and we ought to pass it. I think, by the way, the progressives by and large feel that way, too. They want to make sure the moderates are on board to vote for the larger package.

Again, I think they are. In my conversations with the Blue Dogs and the New Dems, those moderate groups, they didn't push back at all on the $3.5 trillion package.


Some of them thought it should be less money and some were concerned about the debt, but they all wanted to do it. Ultimately, I think right now Speaker Pelosi has to negotiate -- basically negotiate her way out of this arbitrary September 27th vote. I think she'll be able to convince both sides that there really is a lot of good faith being shown, both by the moderates and progressives.

BOLDUAN: On the other problem before you, the debt ceiling and averting a government shutdown, the house passed a bill on both last night. Mitch McConnell has said Democrats will need to figure out a way to handle this on their own in the Senate.

Democrats did help Republicans to raise the debt ceiling three times under Trump. I want to play what McConnell said back in 2019.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We'll never have America default. We raised the debt ceiling because America can't default. That would be a disaster.


BOLDUAN: A disaster. And so, now, what do you say?

YARMUTH: He said that the other day. We definitely have to raise the debt ceiling but Republicans aren't going to do it which basically is saying we're going to vote to default. I mean, that's what he and 45 other Senate Republicans have said. They're not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling which means they're voting to default.

I don't know who is going to cave on that side in the Senate, but I suspect that there's some members now like Senator Kennedy from Louisiana who are saying, wait a minute, this is not the sword I want to fall on.

BOLDUAN: But one is not ten, right?

YARMUTH: One is not ten, that's right.

BOLDUAN: We're almost out of time. Just to be fair, since you're always candid, or at least pretend to be with me, the Democrats could raise this -- the Democrats could raise this on their own without Republicans?

YARMUTH: We can pass a reconciliation motion. It would take several weeks to do that, to get it through both houses. We don't know if we have that much time.

And also, I don't think we want to turn it into a partisan exercise either. It's not good if only Democrats raise the debt ceiling. We need this to be a bipartisan effort. Mitch has turned it into a partisan one.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, thanks for your time as always.

YARMUTH: OK. Kate, good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Developing this hour, President Biden will be speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron today. This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but it is because it's the first time since this big diplomatic blowup over the U.S. submarine deal with Australia.

Let's get over to CNN's Cyril Vanier. He's live in Paris with more on this.

Cyril, the French government hasn't been mincing words up to this point.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: No, absolutely. France has been seething, up to the highest levels of state. One thing that's noteworthy is French President Emmanuel Macron has not directly spoken about this issue since the crisis erupted a week ago. He has been waiting for this phone call with Joe Biden that is expected to happen imminently.

Now, the French, quite unusually, have set a very high bar for his phone call. Let me read you a quote from the French presidency. It sets the tone.

It says: We expect our allies to recognize that the exchanges and consultations that should have been conducted were not, and that this poses a question of trust from which we must now draw all the consequences.

So, France essentially expecting Joe Biden to acknowledge that he mishandled this, the way he handled the French was wrong, which is not something you ordinarily do going into these phone calls, least of all with the most powerful man in the world, the U.S. president. That's what the French want to do, that and concrete actions, not just words. They say that's the price of their continued partnership with the U.S. -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Cyril, thank you so much for that.

Coming up for us, the FDA could green light booster shots as soon as today.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us next.



BOLDUAN: All right. Let's go over to the White House right now. President Biden is convening a virtual coronavirus summit right now. Let's Listen.

BIDEN: As I said yesterday that the United States, nothing is urgent than all of us working together to defeat COVID-19, and that world is going to be much prepared for future pandemics. We have to do both.

To some, it's about supercharging efforts in three key areas. Vaccinating the world by dramatically ramping up vaccine production, donations, delivery and administering the vaccine, which is a logistical challenge. Addressing the oxygen crisis in many hospitals around the world, making other treatments more accessible and increasing the ability of public health tools like masks and tests. And Building Back Better so our global health security infrastructure is more resilient than it is today.

We've all suffered. The United States has lost more than 670,000 of our fellow Americans. Worldwide the death toll is above 4.5 million people, 4.5 million people. This is a global tragedy.

We're not going to solve this crisis with half measures or middle-of- the-road ambitions. We need to go big and we need to do our part, governments, private sector, civil society, leaders, philanthropists. This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis. The good news is we know how to beat this pandemic, vaccines, public health measures and collective action.

During the first eight months of mice presidency, we've worked aggressively to get Americans and the world vaccinated. As president of the United States, my first responsibility is to protect the American people, and I'm proud we've gone from 2 million Americans being fully vaccinated when I talk office on January 20th, to 182 million and counting today in America. But we also know that to beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it

everywhere. I made and I'm keeping the promise that America will become the arsenal of vaccines as they were the arsenal for democracy during World War II. We've already shipped nearly 160 million doses to 100 countries, more than any other countries combined. America's donations of half a billion Pfizer vaccines through COVAX that I announced before the G7 summit in June have already begun to ship.

Today I'm announcing another historic commitment. The United States is buying another half billions of doses of Pfizer to donate to low and middle income countries around the world. This is another half billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year. It brings our total commitment of donated vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated.

Put another way, for every one shot we've administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world. I want to thank Pfizer and its CEO and chairman Albert. Albert has been a good friend and has been helpful. They continue to be partners and leaders in this fight.

The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations. We need -- as we're doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges.

That's why today we're launching the E.U./U.S. vaccine partnership to work more closely together, and with our partners in expanding global vaccinations. As we do so, we should unite around the world on a few principles, that we commit to donating, not selling, donating, not selling, doses to low and lower income countries and the donations come with no political strings attached.


And that we support COVAX as the main distributor for sharing WHO- approved vaccines and we fight vaccine disinformation and exercise transparency to build vital public trust in these lifesaving tools. It's also important that we are working toward common goals and targets so that we can measure our progress and hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Secretary of State Blinken will be convening foreign ministers later this year to check on our collective progress. And I propose we come together for a second virtual high-level conference in the first quarter of 2022 to keep our efforts fully aligned. Another goal is globally increase manufacturing capacity, enhancing transparency so vaccine production and distribution is predictable and coordinated. In fact, an important part of the reason the United States is able to make these big historic donations is because we've worked with U.S. vaccine manufacturers to accelerate the manufacturing rate and production. And now we're working quickly to scale up vaccine manufacturing in other countries around the world so they can manufacture as well.

We're working with partner nations, pharmaceutical companies and other manufacturers to increase their own capacity and capability to produce and manufacture safe and highly effective vaccines in their own countries. For example, our Quad partnership with India, Japan and Australia is on track to help produce at least 1 billion vaccine doses in India to boost the global supply by the end of 2022. We're providing financing and helping strengthen manufacturing in South Africa and produce more than 500 million doses of J&J in Africa for Africa next year.

Next, we also know from experience that getting those vaccines into people's arms may be the hardest logistical challenge we've faced. That's why we need to significantly step up our investment in helping countries get shots in arms. Today the United States is also announcing that we're providing an additional $370 million to support administering the shots and delivery globally. We'll be providing more than $380 million to assist in the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, to further facilitate vaccines in regions with the greatest need. While vaccinating the world is the ultimate solution to COVID-19, we know we have to act to save lives now.

That's why the United States is providing nearly $1.4 billion to reduce COVID-19 deaths and mitigate transmission through bulk oxygen support, expanded testing and strengthening health care systems and more. We're going to help all of us build back better by supporting the establishment of a financial mechanism for global health security. To simply state it, to prepare for the next pandemic because there will be a next time. We all know that. Vice President Harris will be speaking more on this issue later today.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the leaders from the private sector, philanthropy and civil society who are here today. Governments can do a lot, but we cannot do everything on our own. We've asked our non- governmental partners to take up the call for new actions that will solve the core challenge of making vaccines available to everyone everywhere, solving the oxygen availability crisis, financing health security and more. And I'm grateful -- I'm grateful for their leadership.

Let me close with what I made clear yesterday at the U.N., we can do this. This is within our capacity. We know what needs to be done. We just have to make the choice to do it.

Now, the leaders on the screen I see here today I know have made that choice. I think they know we can do this. I promise you, the United States will continue to lead, will continue to drive historic commitments in vaccine donations, 1.1 billion and counting, so we can defeat COVID-19 together. And we'll continue to invest in creating a future of true global health security for all people. That is a big, big goal we have -- we should have.


We're going to lead with the power of our example. And we're not going to stop. But the only way to get this done is for everyone everywhere, for all of us to step up which I'm confident you will.

Now, I'd like to turn this over to Ambassador Thomas Greenfield of the United Nations. I want to thank everybody on the screen I can see here.

BOLDUAN: So, we have been listening to President Biden speaking at the opening of this virtual COVID summit he's convening with world leaders, kind of in the margins of the U.N. General Assembly this week.

We'll continue to monitor that. In the meantime, let me bring in CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, on some of what we learned right there. The announcement that was expected as you laid out, Sanjay -- the United States will be donating to countries in need 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Is it clear what kind of impact that has on the global stage? The need is so great we know.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, the need is obviously tremendous. You start thinking about two doses of each of these vaccines, and you're trying to -- the goal was, as President Biden has talked about, get at least 70 percent of the world vaccinated. You're talking some 10 billion doses roughly that would be needed around the world.

Let me show you sort of where the world is compared to where the United States is. We know here in this country, in the mid 50 percent range are fully vaccinated, whereas, when you start to look around the world, it's closer to 33 percent of the world being vaccinated. In the United States the problem is more demand. They have supply but not much demand. For most of the world, it's the reverse, a lot of demand but not enough supply. It will make a difference. You can get a sense of the scale of what they're trying to talk about here, these mass world vaccination programs, they're audacious. The thing about it is, you've got to make the vaccine, but then you've got to distribute it to some pretty hard to access areas around the world. Then you have to have people over there that can give the shots. Remember you need personnel, who can do that work as well. You have to build up infrastructure which I think the president is talking about. From a public health standpoint, it's -- I think it's the most audacious task we take on as a world.

BOLDUAN: One thing you just mentioned, having the right people, the right storage, the right chain of custody, infrastructure in place in some of these countries, is a real problem. Someone was talking to me about that just recently. It's not just landing at an airport with a whole bunch of Pfizer shots, Moderna shots or whatever. It's a lot more than that.

The president also said these doses will be shipped by this time -- I assume he meant all these doses, shipped by this time next year. You think about all that is needed and all that can happen in one year. The administration has faced criticism, Sanjay, that they have done too little and moved too slowly in trying to help the world, even though the United States is doing more than other countries.

Do you think that is legitimate criticism?

GUPTA: I'm not sure I think it's legitimate criticism. I think it's a very tough intersection of the science of the vaccines and the ethics on it. You know, Arthur Kaplan is somebody that we talked to a lot on our air, an ethics guys, he gave a metaphor, which I don't think a perfect metaphor, but it's like on airplanes, you're told if oxygen comes down, you put the oxygen on yourself before you do others so you can be sure -- we've got to make sure we're getting vaccines to the people around the world who need it the most certainly.

So while 70 percent of the world's population is the goal, we know from lots of discussions, even recently, who are the most vulnerable populations, people of a certain age, people with certain pre-existing conditions.

So is it enough? No. Can it come fast enough? Know. We keep hearing we need to get to 80 percent in this country soon in terms of vaccinations whereas we only see about a third of the rest of the world vaccinated. As the virus spreads even in other countries, the possibility -- not guarantee -- the possibility that mutations occur that could be problematic increases.

So, it's not just a sort of humanitarian act. There is a real consequence if some of these other variants emerge around the world and subsequently find their way to the United States. So, it's not enough, but the United States, as you point out, is doing more than the rest of the world. For every one shot administered here, three shots going around the world. You've got to make sure in the interim places have enough oxygen, enough PEE, enough treatments to help keep people alive during that time period as the vaccination programs continue.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.