Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Kids Ages 5 to 11 Receive First Dose of Pfizer COVID Vaccine; U.S Supreme Court Hears Biggest Gun Rights Case in a Decade; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Adds Paid Family and Medical Leave Back to Spending Bill. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Breaking news, a major turning point in the fight against the pandemic. Children ages 5 to 11 are getting their first COVID shots today after the CDC authorized the Pfizer low- dose vaccine for 28 million kids in this age group.

Joining me right now is Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the CDC, now the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I was just smiling, Dr. Besser, because in that video, one little kid getting a shot, there is another child in front like wildly clapping in excitement for him. And it's just like kind of encapsulates how a lot of us feel right now because you and I have been talking about this big step for a year. I mean, I just made an appointment for my child. What does this moment mean?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, Kate, I'm a general pediatrician and it gives me a feeling of relief, a feeling of joy, the idea that 28 million children have the opportunity to be protected against COVID and those around them to be protected from them as well, that just gives me a sense that we are on the way out of this, and I think for a lot of families, for a lot of parents and for a lot of young children.


It will be that emotional relief as well that this is something they no longer are going to have to worry about in the same way.

BOLDUAN: My child has never been excited about getting a shot. This will be the first and last time probably. You've talked, though, about conversations you've had the patients and parents and that many parents aren't ready to take their kids for a shot yet. Do you think they will eventually get there? What will make the difference, Dr. Besser?

BESSSER: Well, you know, I think that it's really important to give parents space, to ask their questions in a very respectful way. It's quite understandable. There is a lot of parents like you, who are racing to get appointments, want to get there right away. We need to make sure everyone who wants a vaccine is able to get that as soon as possible.

But for those who want to wait or those who are concerned, listening, addressing questions with honest factual information, not overselling, not badgering, creating space, and that's, I think, is what is going to lead a lot of parents to gain comfort with this and I think, hopefully, to decide to vaccinate their kids.

BOLDUAN: It's not only getting the shots out there, making sure that there are appointments available, it's not just that part of it, it's also about getting shots to the kids who are hard to reach, right? It's getting the kids whose parents can't take off work to get to an appointment that, you know, is at an inconvenient time during the work day. How do we get that part of it right?

BESSER: Yes, I mean, that's critically important. You know, COVID has not been an equal opportunity virus. It's affected some communities harder in particular black and Latino and indigenous communities. And just like adults, we've seen higher rates of hospitalization in those communities among children. People who work in jobs that pay minimum wage are much less likely to be able to take time off work. And so we, you know, I would love to see that change but that's a longer-term goal.

For now, we need to make sure in addition to the regular office hours that are available for vaccination, there is evening clinics, that there is weekend clinics, that their pharmacies have this. And the plan that the Biden administration has ruled out is working to do that. But we need to make sure that the data are being checked so we can identify communities that are having challenges in getting vaccine and that additional efforts, intentionality can be addressed so that everyone who wants the vaccine can get it.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Besser, it's good to see you, thank you.

BESSER: Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: A programming note for all of you. CNN is teaming up with Sesame Street again for a town hall for kids and families. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Erica Hill will be joined by Big Bird, Elmo, Rosita for an important conversation on the ABCs of COVID vaccines. It airs Saturday morning 8:30 only on CNN.

Coming up, still for us at this hour, we're going to go live to the Supreme Court where justices are hearing arguments right now on a major gun rights case. Details, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the biggest gun rights case in, really, more than a decade. It centers on a New York law requiring residents to prove a special need for self-protection in order to carry a concealed handgun in public.

CNN's Jessica Schneider, she is live at the Supreme Court with much more on this. Jessica, what are you hearing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you know, this case could have big implications for gun restrictions all over the country. This specifically concerns a New York law in which licenses people can get to carry concealed weapons outside the home. Six states actually have laws similar to New York's. That could be affected depending on the outcome of this case right now.

And this is a case that these two men who were denied the licenses they sought, they brought this case all the way here to the Supreme Court. They say that this New York law that demands that they have proper cause in order to get their license to carry their guns outside the home. They say that it is just too restrictive, that it violates the Second Amendment.

It says that the people seeking these licenses must show a specific and special circumstance why they need this license for self-defense. Well, their lawyer has argued that the text of the Second Amendment specifically talks about bearing arms, and that means that people should be able to carry weapons into public places.

Well, we've also just heard from the New York solicitor general who focused on the text and the history and the tradition of the Second Amendment, saying that officials have long restricted where people can go if they are carrying guns. Take a listen.


BARBARA UNDERWOOD, NEW YORK SOLICITOR GENERAL (voice over): In total, from the founding era through the 20th century, as least 20 states have -- at one time or another -- either prohibited all carrying of handguns or limited in populous areas or limited it to those with good cause.


New York's law fits well within that tradition of regulating public carry.


SCHNEIDER: So, the big question is can this New York law stand. And, Kate, if the justices here, a conservative court, if they rule that this law cannot stand, it will have ramifications for gun laws all over the country. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Jessica, thank you so much for that update.

Coming up still for us, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats adding programs back into the spending bill to try to strike a deal. There are breaking details. We're going to take you to Capitol Hill, next.


BOLDUAN: Big news on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just added back in paid family and medical leave, added it back in to the big spending bill. Democrats say they want a deal by Thanksgiving. But how does Pelosi's moves this morning change things for Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin? Let's go there.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with this breaking news. What does this mean? What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a major shift by Nancy Pelosi. She had said for months that they wanted to move a bill that would be exactly the same in the House that could pass the United States Senate. But the bill that she is now moving forward would include four weeks of paid family leave. That is opposed by one key Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin, who told me just moments ago that he opposes including that provision in this package.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I want to speak on the message that was sent. I just think the message that was really sent, if we're going to do something, let's take time to do it right. Let's make sure that people know what's in it, and I've said that before. Sometimes -- and it's not intentionally the game has been played. It's where the system is very convoluted. People need to know that what we're getting, what you're going to expect, how much you're going to pay for it, I could go on and on and on.

But we're talking about revamping the whole entire tax code. That's mammoth, totally. We've had no open hearings. You haven't been able to sit and listen to a hearing. None of us have. And the people definitely are scared to death.

REPORTER: Some Democrats think they should move faster though. That's their --

MANCHIN: I understand that, and I really do. We just have a different disagreement on that.

REPORTER: So, it's your position that paid leave, there is n place for it in the reconciliation bill?

MANCHIN: I just think it's the wrong place to put it because it's a social expansion. And right now, I've said very clearly that social expansion, especially on any of these, when you have deficits, you're looking at insolvencies, such as in Medicare and social security, and those are lifelines to people in most rural states, but definitely in West Virginia. That's their lifeline. And now we're talking about expanding something we can't even pay for now. They want to keep what they have.

And I think those are all aspirational. Let's get our financial House in order and then be able to tackle all of these. REPORTER: In Virginia, the independents swung to Glenn Youngkin compared to 2020. What does that say about concerns you think voters might have about inflation or the scope of the things you've been (INAUDIBLE), some of the things you've raised?

MANCHIN: You can read so much into all of that last night. I mean, I think it should be a call to all of us. We just have to be more attentive to the people back home. And I've been trying to do that from day one and I've been saying this for many, many months, people have concerns. People are concerned. They're very much. And for us to go down a path that we've been going, they were trying to accelerate it and it has been slowed down, I think that we need to take our time and do it right.

So, you can read anything you want out of it, but the bottom line is we have a divided country that needs to be united and you can't unite it by just on a one-party system.

RAJU: Do you think the White House has been listening to that message?

MANCHIN: I hope so.


RAJU: So, different messages that key members are taking from the results of last night. Joe Manchin saying right there, take our time. We need to take our time and understand how significant this expansion of the social safety net is, not necessarily on the same timeframe as other Democrats that are saying the results last night show we need to deliver and deliver right away. We can't take our time any longer.

And hung up in all this too, Kate, is the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that has been awaiting action in the House for months. Manchin reiterated his calls for the House to pass that, but that, of course, is tied to the fate of the larger bill.

So, still as the Democratic leaders are trying to get votes on both this week, they're still struggling with their strategy, their tactics and the policy divide making it unclear how this plays out. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much for that.

Joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

So, I want to ask you first on what Speaker Pelosi, this change in strategy this morning, adding paid leave back into the package. Is the strategy now to put this on at Joe Manchin's feet? Because he's already said and said again he doesn't support having paid leave in this bill.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON (D-TX): Well, I'm ecstatic, Kate, and thank you so much for having me. I spent yesterday sending messages to the White House, chief of staff, and to our senators expressing my interest. I am very glad of the work that Senator Gillibrand has been doing. [11:55:00]

I am a strong advocate for the family paid leave, and the reason, of course, is the American people are strong advocates. Over 82 percent of African-Americans in particular support the family paid leave.

How are we, a civilized country and a leader in climate change, as the president is speaking in Glasgow, and we cannot compete internationally on how we treat our people, our citizens, fellow Americans who are desperately in need of taking care of family members?

So, I believe this is an important step forward. I also believe in Senator Manchin's call for clarity. We'll provide clarity given an opportunity to read the text and understand the bill, but I think this bill is a seismic change as social security was with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Medicare was for President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It is long overdue for us to respond to the social changes of America.

BOLDUAN: And you want to move forward with this even if you know that it's not going anywhere in the Senate?

LEE: I won't buy into that because I will ask the question -- I heard Senator Manchin say, think of the folks back home. And if he's thinking of the folks back home and he's thinking of folks outside of the boundaries of West Virginia, he will find that the folks back home need childhood education, pre-K, three to four years old, that they need an expanded health care plan and they need the opportunity to be able to take care of those who are homebound and give professionalism to those essential workers that we depended on particularly during the pandemic.

Let's understand what it means to look back to the friends and families back home. And I think once this comes to the doorstep of the United States Senate, I'll ask them the question whether they will vote against America because that's what their vote will be.

I am willing to engage with Senator Manchin, as many of us have done, and to let him peruse the text, look at the issues dealing with the tax reform. I think the Ways and Means in the House had it right. We had the right pay-for, and all they have to do is accept that pay-for that dealt with minimum tax that would not tax anybody --

BOLDUAN: So, Congresswoman, is it a little bit -- and I can't think of a better way to say it, so I'm just going to say it. Is it a little bit just calling Joe Manchin's bluff, putting it at his feet and saying, now it's up to you to either vote against this?

LEE: No. I think what it is is working with the other body and 50 senators. And there are 50 senators there, we need 51, and, obviously, that plan is moving forward, but 50 senators need to engage in their caucus with a very astute majority leader, Senator Schumer, and recognize that their responsibility is not to one or two but three or four. It is to the American people, and I respect them all.

So, let's show them the text, Kate, let's show them the text, let's show them how it will be paid for and let's see how we can work together to move forward.

BOLDUAN: Is this addition and change a reaction to the losses, like in Virginia last night?

LEE: Well, the good news is we haven't lost in New Jersey. We're still holding on there with a great governor, and we hope that that will see that governor re-elected. And as it relates to Virginia. I've looked at that. I'm not a Virginian. I was there on Sunday talking to a lot of good Virginians. And they were excited about their candidates and excited about the future of Virginia.

I really define Virginia as a case that was about local issues. Those were about parental issues, and, unfortunately, racism raised its ugly head and the Republican candidate used it very aptly. He followed the Trump playbook, used race and get a win. That's very sad. I'm not going to tie that to Democrats or anything we did here in Washington, I'm going to tie that to continuing to try to work to promote the beloved community Martin Luther King and John Lewis talked about.

But getting back to the bill -- go ahead. Yes, Kate, sorry.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry, just with the time we have, but is the move this morning on the Hill a reaction to the loss in Virginia last night?

LEE: Kate, I don't think it is. As I said, I was on the family paid leave speaking about it, raising other issues. Many other members were on this case. And as I understand it, the speaker has always been a champion of paid leave and was just trying to consider how best to handle it. And I'm very grateful that she has seen a way to handle it.

As I said, I was using my communication skills and texting everyone yesterday to see, do we have any hope for that? Other members were doing so as well. So, I just think that we've come to a point where we recognize the enormous popularity of paid family leave that the American people, Republicans and Democrats, have.

And, you know, this point about the social versus --

BOLDUAN: Real quick, I know we need to go, and I'm getting yelled at by the control room.


You don't see lessons learned other than you need to dig in more. You don't see you needing to rework your strategy after last night's loss in Virginia?

LEE: Quick answer to your question. I see an opportunity to stay the course which is the president's agenda and engage everyone that we can and I believe that we will come together to vote on behalf of the American people. We now have a just a little bit more time and I hope all the Senators get their questions answered and there's clarity.

BOLDUAN: Thank you Congresswoman for your time.

JACKSON: Thank you Kate. BOLDUAN: I appreciate it. "Inside Politics" with John King starts now.