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At This Hour

Debt Ceiling Extension Temporarily Averts Economic Disaster; Experts See Reason For Optimism as New Cases, Hospitalizations Drop. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: All right. Right now, we are standing by with our eye on the White House. President Biden is set to deliver remarks any moment about the September jobs report. It showed 194,000 jobs added last month, but that's a big miss And as soon as the president begins, we will bring that to you.

But we're also watching Capitol Hill, where the House will vote on Tuesday -- will come back to vote on Tuesday to suspend the nation's debt limit for two months. This after the Senate passed the short-term extension last night. And when it comes to Congress, that is actually seen as something of a victory.

But even with that extension, the path forward is still not clear. This is not over. It's just now two months out another crisis, which is also putting all the focus once again on the future of the president's economic agenda.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Haley Stevens of Michigan. She's a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Thank you so much for being here, Congresswoman.

You now have a pause in the debt ceiling fight. What does this pause mean for the bigger debate amongst Democrats right now over this infrastructure deal and the massive spending bill?

REP. HALEY STEVENS (D-MI): Well, certainly, we shouldn't be playing Kabuki Theater with our economy. So, I am glad that we reached a short-term deal turning to the larger agenda. Kate, I am really fired up about getting this done and I actually belief that we have got a path to get an infrastructure deal done. Obviously, a big deal for us here in Michigan as well as a broader economic agenda that helps everyday hard working Americans who are counting and looking for some certainty from their federal government.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to your optimism in just one second, but I want to ask you really quickly about what something that happened in the Senate last night that kind of -- it speaks to the dynamics going forward, honestly, Congresswoman. Chuck Schumer really came out swinging over this momentary debt deal with McConnell in a speech around the vote. And let me play for everyone what Schumer said.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone by going through a drawn out, convoluted and risky reconciliation process. That was simply unacceptable to my caucus. And yesterday, Senate Republicans finally realized that their obstruction was not going to work.


BOLDUAN: Joe Manchin afterward, he very much clearly did not like it. He called it inappropriate, saying, civility is completely gone. This doesn't help the process. What do you say about it?

STEVENS: I think that deliberation and debate is really important. I'm a traditionalist. I long encourage my colleagues to come on to the House floor, to participate in open debate so that we can hear from one another, hear from our congressional districts, from all pockets all over this it country.

And also, look, I think what you heard from the Senate majority leader speaks to frustration. And it's the frustration that we have with those who come to Washington and want to govern and want to put their party behind the country and put the country first, certainly, that is, I think, what the majority leader was talking about. And, yes, he's calling out the Republicans who, time and time again, vote to do the right thing when it's convenient for their party but not when it's the right thing for America.

So, look, I wasn't on the Senate floor last night. I imagine it was a long evening.


And we did strike a deal. But that said, we've also got to continue to find the paths to get to solutions, and certainly that's something we have gotten done in a short window here with this potential staving off of economic catastrophe here. But we have got more things to do. I've got bills I'm working on for innovation and supply chain recovery, chip shortages that are a big problem here in Michigan. And I am reaching across the aisle. I know who I can talk to to get those things done. But I don't like it when people put their party first and that it needs to be held accountable.

BOLDUAN: Well, you also -- there's more to do is like the understatement of the century when you look at the conversation that's happening right now, right? You guys are talking about trillions of dollars potentially. Democrats are trying to work out with this big spending deal. There are understandable, real doubts that there's going to be an agreement on the bigger spending bill in time to meet this now October 31st deadline set to vote on infrastructure.

If there's no deal on this combination that's now combined again, Congresswoman, what should it mean for the infrastructure bill this time around, which I know you support?

STEVENS: Well, look, I think you have to listen to what those who are putting this vision forward from the White House have been saying all along. It's consistent with what we heard from President Biden on the campaign trail. It's consistent with what I'm hearing from folks back in my district, which are, we have got to fix our roads. We had historic, unbelievable flooding here in Michigan. We've got to do our pipes, Kate. This is a big part of the 100-year-old infrastructure that we need to modernize.

At the same time, I'm at a food bank in Northern Oakland County and I have got a woman saying, I am so ready to get back to work. I have got three kids at home and yet I'm at $15 an hour and I can't get anyone to watch my kids for under $16 an hour. We're off balance. We are in the 21st century. We have got to support hard working families and pay a path for them to succeed.

I am sick of it. I talk to small businesses every single day who have got open jobs, amazing jobs, innovative jobs, and yet time and time again, they just hear from people, I can't make this work because I can't figure out what I'm doing with my kids. I can't find that affordable day care. What if somebody gets sick and what am I going to do?

The American people are supportive of our build back better agenda. And so this is why, in terms of our legislative process, I told my colleague, I told my constituents, I'm in the coalition of the willing. I'm in Washington as a member of Congress to get things done and to deliver alongside this president.

BOLDUAN: You have a very hard job in front of you. Let's see what the next -- I'll just say the next 24 hours even brings because it changes so much. Congresswoman, thank you very much for coming on.

STEVENS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us, as vaccine mandates appear to be working, the high-stakes lawsuit that will decide whether some health care workers can claim religious exemptions.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, positive signs that the U.S. may be turning a corner on COVID. The nation now averaging less than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day for the first time in two months. And the number of people hospitalized with COVID is now at the lowest it's been in that same time, leading the surgeon general to say this.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Certainly, cautiously optimistic. And I think whether or not we see another surge of the virus depends in part on what we do to really accelerate vaccination rates. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now, President Biden is now calling on more businesses to issue vaccine mandates, just as the federal judge is considering whether New York State can enforce a vaccine requirement on health care workers who claim religious exemptions. A ruling is expected no later than Tuesday.

Joining me now is Michael Dowling. He is the president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in the state of New York. Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

I want to ask you about these promising trend lines that we're seeing in the pandemic, but, first, Northwell made headlines this week in announcing that it has fired 1,400 employees who refused to get vaccinated against COVID. But you can put it in another way, that that is less than 2 percent of your workforce. That's a huge amount of people taking part in the vaccination program. What has been the impact on the health care system?

MICHAEL DOWLING, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NORTHWELL HEALTH: Well, everything was functioning normally. We have not had to curtail any services. We do Sunday (ph) services. And that was our goal from the beginning. It was not to disrupt patient care, and we did not. Everything is working very, very, very smoothly. And, again, I'm so grateful to all of our staff that actually decided to get vaccinated.

And I just want to clarify one point. I mean, did not fire people. People decided that they did not want to comply with the mandate. So they decided not to work at Northwell, and that's the way I look at it. But, overall, we're doing quite well and we did not have to disrupt any services. All is good and positive.

BOLDUAN: Are you filling those positions or are you just able to function without those positions being filled? I mean, are you finding enough vaccinated people to fill in where people have left? Where are these positions?

DOWLING: Well, we face the vaccination issue. So, wee required all new employees to be vaccinated. And we hire over 200 people a week. This week alone, we hired 220 people. So, we have no problem getting employees. And we have had no problem with employees being willing to be vaccinated. So, we have that influx of new individuals who want to work here and meet the mandate. And we obviously deploy staff across the organization. We do all the time, et cetera.

So, because we're so large and we're also integrated, we were able to accommodate this, as I said, without any disruption.


And so, again, this is a credit to the staff. And I just want to say thank you to all of the staff that are working so hard to make sure we treat patients the right way and maintain the goal of safety. It's all about safety and protecting people and protecting the public. And that's why we're in the business that we're in. BOLDUAN: And Northwell is uniquely symbolic when it comes to the pandemic and vaccinations. You were at the center of the first wave, obviously, in New York has such a big health care is system, but one of your nurses in your hospitals was the first person in the United States to get a COVID shot. I remember this moment so vividly. And still, I was struck thinking the same health system, there's hundreds of her colleagues decided that they are it obviously not in the job anymore because they didn't want to get the shot. How do you make sense of it, Michael?

DOWLING: Well, obviously, people have a right to choose what they want to do. I mean, I wish that these people decided not to -- I wish they had decided to stay with us. They are good employees. They did very good work during all of the last 18 months. But they have a choice and they made a choice.

And, obviously, we continue to educate and it is possible, quite frankly, that some of those people will now reconsider since the mandate applies every place across health care in the region, that they will reconsider and say, maybe I should think about getting vaccinated. And if that's the case, we will entertain that. We will meet with them. We will interview them. And we will welcome them back subsequent to that interview.

So, the COVID debate, we've been going through phases here. This is just another phase. But we have got to keep in mind that the vast bulk of people complied and the vast bulk of people wanted to do what's right, and that's what it is we have got to focus on. So, it's a little bit disconcerting but understandable.

BOLDUAN: But, I mean, the bulk, 98 percent of employees were right there taking part and got vaccinated, another sign that mandates do seem to work.

On the overall trends of COVID, you have cases, hospitalizations, deaths down, the daily case rate down under 100,000 for the first time in two months, the surgeon general saying that he is cautiously optimistic. America is turning a corner, I'll say, hopefully for good this time, though we don't know. Is that what you're seeing?

DOWLING: Yes, we're emerging from it, hopefully. But we have got to be alert, we've got to be aware and we just cannot declare complete victory yet. But if we continue the trend we're going on and we promote the vaccination and more people get vaccinated, yes, we will come out of this fine. We, today, for example, have only 220 COVID patients in all our facilities. A year ago, we had almost 4,000 in all of our facilities as inpatients. And the numbers are coming down slowly.

So, yes, we're in a good place. I mean, the attitude is good overall. There's a lot of positivity. The employees, the morale is high. So, yes, I think there's opportunity for confidence here. We should be confident but always be a little bit aware and alert because you could get a surprise. And we should not allow ourselves to be surprised again.

BOLDUAN: Or complacent ever again. Thank you so much, Michael Dowling. I really appreciate it.

DOWLING: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Prince William and Prince Harry lost their mother, Diana, at a very young age, as we all, of course, know, but she still has a huge impact on how they interact with the rest of the royal family, with the media and on their charitable work.

The new CNN original series, Diana, takes a look at her enduring influence. Here's CNN's Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If Diana's marriage to Prince Charles was fairy tale, then Meghan's to Prince Harry was even more so. American, biracial, divorced and already successful in her own right, Meghan single-handedly modernized the British monarchy just by being who she was. but like Diana, Meghan wasn't ready or willing to accept the scrutiny that came with the role.

DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: I seem to be on front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience.

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I know there's an obsession with how things look, but has anyone talked about how it feels, because right now, I could not feel lonelier.

HARRY, DUTCH OF SUSSEX: And when I'm talking about history repeating itself, I'm talking about my mother. When you can see something happening in the same kind of way, anybody would ask for help.

FOSTER: Harry has blamed the media for his mother's death. He scarred himself by the constant invasions of privacy into his childhood. His mother was acutely aware that she was the most famous woman in the world. She couldn't control that, but she learned to turn it to her advantage and use it as a force for good.

In William and Harry, she instilled a sense of empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, secretly sneaking them out into homelessness shelters.

DIANA: Everyone has the potential to give something back if only they had the chance.

FOSTER: In Lesotho, Prince Harry co-founded a charity to support children living in extreme poverty or with HIV/AIDS, causes close to Diana's heart. The foundation, Sentebale, named in honor of her mother translated at forget me not.

In 2018, Harry followed in Diana's footsteps, walking the same path through a minefield in Angola. Like Diana, the Sussexes left their senior positions and are carving their own paths. Meghan may never have met her but one person she remains close to in the U.K. was a close friend of Diana.

MEGHAN: One of the people who I reached out who has continued to be a friend and confidante was one of my husband's mom's best friends, one of Diana's best friends, because it's like who else could understand what -- what it's actually like on the inside?


FOSTER: Max Foster, CNN, London.


BOLDUAN: You can watch this all new CNN original series, Diana, premiering Sunday night at 9:00 P.M. only on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Inside Politics with John King begins after this break.