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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: Biden to Speak After Touring Storm Damage in NY, NJ; Interview with Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey; U.S. Surpasses 40 Million Total Cases, 4 Million in Last 4 Weeks; Texas Passes Voting Restrictions; COVID Booster Shots; Biden Speaks After Touring Damage Caused by Ida in Northeast. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: The president bringing compassion and a pitch. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

This hour, President Biden expected to speak in New York City after getting a look at the record-setting deadly flood devastation across the region. He says it should be a wake-up call for Congress.

Could the cover charge for that last bash of the summer be a COVID surge? The warning as vaccinations continue with a sluggish pace in the U.S.

Plus, the Taliban firing warning shots as women join protests on the streets. And these are the same people announcing a new government today.


HILL: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Erica Hill in for Jake Tapper.

We start today with our national lead. At any moment, President Biden is expected to speak after touring storm damage in New York and New Jersey. The remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 50 people in the Northeast. You see him here earlier today in New Jersey.

This afternoon, President Biden pointing to the recent string of extreme weather as a sign that climate change is already here, and also using that opportunity to pitch his massive infrastructure plan as necessary to combat climate change.

But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, a battle is raging inside his own party on how to get it done.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden offering hugs and compassion, surveying storm damage today.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank God you're safe. ZELENY: A week after Hurricane Ida's deadly wrath struck New Jersey

and New York. A first-hand look at neighborhoods devastated by floodwaters where residents are still sorting through what's left of their ravaged homes.

BIDEN: The losses that we witnessed today are profound. Dozens of lost lives, homes destroyed.

ZELENY: The president using the visit to make the case for his infrastructure bill and his broader economic agenda, including measures to fight climate change.

BIDEN: Global warming is real, and it's moving at an incredible pace. We've got to do something about it.

ZELENY: From wildfires in the west to epic rains in the Midwest, to storms in the south and beyond, the White House says one in three Americans live in counties impacted in recent months by severe weather. A sign the president said climate change must be taken more seriously.

BIDEN: Every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather. And we're now living in real-time what the country's going to look like. And if we don't do something, we can't turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse.

ZELENY: The White House is pressing Congress to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure, along with the sweeping $3.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's social policy programs, including climate measures. Yet, the legislative path for both Biden priorities is uncertain, with Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin and others raising objections to the price tag on the bigger bill.

When asked how he intends to get those Democrats on board, the president struck an optimistic tone as he left the White House.

BIDEN: The sun is going to come out tomorrow.

ZELENY: The administration also grappling with another crisis, the stubborn fight against COVID-19. The president is set to address the delta variant and new government actions in a speech set for Thursday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, telling CNN today more local mandates are needed.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There are going to be sports events, travel events where the rule is going to be if you want to participate, you get vaccinated. If not, sorry, you're not going to be able to do it.


ZELENY (on camera): And the president just moments ago arriving in Queens to look at flooding damage. He will be delivering remarks momentarily, again, making the pitch for his infrastructure bill and climate change legislation. Erica, this is all coming really at the same time where this is a

critical challenge for this administration, their biggest push to Congress -- Erica.

HILL: Yeah, certainly, Jeff Zeleny with the latest for us from the White House, Jeff, thank you.

CNN's MJ Lee is in Queens where President Biden, as Jeff noted, will speak at any moment.

MJ, what are you hearing from people on the ground there?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, people on the ground here, Erica, are just devastated. This is an area Queens, New York, that was hit so hard by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. This is where multiple people died because they could not get out of their basement apartments fast enough as the water flooded in.

And if you walk around this area, you see the signs of devastation everywhere. There are just piles of trash, of furniture, moldy carpet. You see that construction is already well underway as people try to fix their homes.

One man that we spoke to who says his basement was completely flooded, completely wrecked talked about why the timing of this has been so especially devastating for the community here.

Take a listen.


MATT GUZMAN, QUEENS RESIDENT: Everything got destroyed, literally everything. This whole weekend we've just been taking stuff out of the house and putting it into the alleyway.


Literally there's nothing left.

Our community is so numb, we got hit by corona crazy this neighborhood. I mean, not too long ago we had a freezer taking bodies away from the hospital. So, at this point, we're kind of just emotionally numb. And it's like at this point the tragedy is people losing their lives.


LEE: Look, he says he is thankful that everyone in his family has been safe. But when he thinks about just everything that they have lost, he is at a loss for words, Erica?

HILL: Yeah, I'm sure. Did they have any thoughts on what they want or even need to hear from the president today?

LEE: Well, look, we know and we got a preview of this both from the president himself and his aides that he is going to talk a lot about climate change. The folks that we have spoken to today, they all did say that they believe this kind of thing will happen again and again because of climate change. I think for the immediate future, they're worried about just fixing their homes, getting everything out of their basements and figuring out how they are going to pay for this.

But, yeah, I think going forward there are going to be policies that they are interested in hearing about, both from their local governments and on a federal level, people talking about how the sewage pipes simply just ran over, that they think that unless these infrastructure problems are dealt with, this kind of problem is going to continue. One man said that when this is all over, he is going to sell his house because he is not convinced that this isn't going to happen again -- Erica.

HILL: Yeah, I know that's the concern I've heard from other people within the region too, when is this going to happen again.

MJ Lee, thank you.

Joining me now on the phone, Democratic governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy.

Governor, good to have you with us.

You met with the president earlier today. You know, you told folks in some of the counties in your state that are not part of this major disaster declaration that they should use state resources until, and I'm quoting you here: Please god they get designated as a disaster county.

Did President Biden give you any assurances, Governor, that more counties -- currently six are covered in New Jersey -- could be added to that initial declaration?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Good to be with you, Erica.

It was a very successful visit by the president and the FEMA administrator, among others. No commitment, but FEMA literally is on the ground in four or five other counties as we speak. And they have an overwhelmingly compelling case to be included in this major disaster declaration.

But, again, the president has been there from moment one, and I have every expectation that he'll continue to be there for us. And God knows we need it. We saw some awful devastation today.

HILL: The pictures, I think, even as awful as they are, don't begin to do it justice when you see it in person. But I wonder, you said there's no commitment. Are you disappointed at all that you didn't get a commitment? What exactly do you need? How many more counties need to be added?

MURPHY: Yeah, there's a process. The reason I'm not disappointed is they've been mighty good on their commitment so far, number one. And, number two, there's a process that FEMA has to go through. And they're going through that process as we speak.

And there's probably another four or five counties that deserve to be on that list. And they're in most if not all of them today, and again, I -- we have a great relationship with FEMA. The president has been terrific. And God willing, this will come out in the right place.

HILL: So it sounds like you're confident that could happen fairly soon. I know you've also talked about the importance of shoring up infrastructure for any future storms. Some of those projects, as you will know, could take years.

People need help right now as we just heard from MJ Lee in Queens, including people like Cesar Garcia. He and his family they lost their home in Dunellen, New Jersey.

Here's what he said earlier.


CESAR GARCIA, HOME INHABITABLE AFTER FLOODING: It's sad to be your home -- this is the only place that I have. So, me and my kids, we don't have no place to go.


HILL: He said he has nowhere to go. There are some benefits I know available now. Mayor Bill de Blasio, as you know, in New York City, has said he is going to send teams do are to door to make sure everyone signs up.

Are you going to do the same, make sure people are getting everything that they can?

MURPHY: You bet. And you hear stories like that.

I've now been in, I don't know, ten or so communities. I've spoken with dozens of mayors. I've spoken with scores of individuals who've been impacted. So, it's a crushing life-altering event, and enough already.

We know this is happening with increased frequency, increased intensity. We need a new playbook. But we will be there.

But my message has been to everybody: this road will not be short. Unfortunately, it'll be long to get back on our feet, but we will stay with you every step of the way and we'll make sure everybody gets exactly what they deserve coming to them.

HILL: I mean, how long do you think?

MURPHY: It'll be -- it'll be a while, Erica. I mean, this is -- you've got -- we had a very good roundtable discussion today with the president. It's not just the financial resources. It's things like supplies, like lumber where we already had a global shortage, getting cars replaced again where we had a shortage.

This is not going to be overnight.


But the message I've shouted out, the president clearly as well, is we're going to be by your side and we will be shoulder to shoulder with you until we're back on our feet.

HILL: You know, we've heard from folks both in New Jersey and New York. I've heard specifically from people in New York where I live that the flash flood warnings felt inadequate.

Do you think enough was done to warn people that this flash flooding was coming to give them enough time to get out safely?

MURPHY: Listen, when you've lost 27 lives and we still have four missing, we have to -- we have to review every element of our process. We had a National Weather Service call at 10:00 a.m. that day. We activated our county emergency and state emergency functions at noon. We held a press conference at 1:00. We put out many -- both tornado warnings and flash flood warnings, social media.

We threw a lot at this. But when you've lost 27 lives, you've got to look in the mirror and ask yourself what else needs to be done. And we will do just that.

HILL: I know you've been warning today about more rain in the forecast, possible flooding tomorrow.


HILL: How do you prepare for that when it's still saturated in many areas?

MURPHY: You betcha. That's the issue. The ground is saturated. Trees are loose.

And I don't think tomorrow, as I sit here at this time, is going to be at the level of last week, please God, but we are trying to do everything we can to both assess how serious it is and give people ample warnings to do the right thing, including, sadly, we had an overwhelming amount of those 27 losses of life were from flooding and folks in cars.

And so staying off the road in a serious storm is always good advice.

HILL: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, appreciate you taking the time to join us, thank you, and keep us posted on any further assistance.

MURPHY: I will. Thanks for having me, Erica.

HILL: A total lack of compassion for grandparents, for the most vulnerable today. Details about another case of shocking neglect after nursing home evacuees were crammed into a warehouse, several of them died.

And a warning that winter is coming, this time courtesy of the delta variant. What Dr. Fauci says we all need to do to prevent another very painful surge.



HILL: In our national lead, thousands of people across the hurricane disaster zone in Louisiana endure another sweltering day without electricity, the state is also facing growing scandals involving neglect and deaths of the elderly in the aftermath of hurricane Ida.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in New Orleans.

So, there are now two separate incidents, one involving nursing home patients who were moved to a warehouse, and also now the discovery of bodies in some apartments in a senior living complex in New Orleans. What more do we know about that?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. In fact, Erica, two bodies were found inside of the building you can see behind me here.

Look, what's going on with that particular circumstance here in New Orleans, and we're dealing with rain while we talk here, is the fact that there were a number of apartment buildings that specifically had a senior clientele. The city knew about this. And after the storm, they began to get worried when they didn't hear much information coming from those apartment complexes. So, Friday, they sent out teams to search and literally put eyes on the people living there.

And what they found were horrific conditions in which many seniors had been living under extreme heat, they had no electricity. Some of them had died as a result of either the machinery they needed, the oxygen generators or just simply because they couldn't get access or cry out for help. And there were five total bodies that were recovered on that search.

Then you have the separate incident, which is the warehouse. This is where seven nursing homes evacuated about 800 to 840 of their senior citizens and placed them in a warehouse about an hour north of New Orleans. That was before the storm.

A nursing home and a warehouse are two very different things. And shortly after those people got into that nursing home, you realize that the suffering was very prevalent. And some of the calls that were coming in to 911 from those people read like this: Patient gasping, having trouble breathing. Person that's having seizures, diabetic patient has not eaten due to not having any supplies. Stroke patient lying on the floor being treated poorly. There were other reports of, in fact, deaths. In fact, now, seven deaths have been attributed to seniors being literally warehoused. Terrific conditions the state investigates.

HILL: It is just awful to think about. Meantime, it's been more than a week now since that storm hit. I know we see you in the rain there, hear a little thunder in the background. But you're also dealing with a heat advisory. Today in fact much of

the area is. And there are still so many people without electricity, more than 400,000. What more do we know about efforts to restore power today?

SAVIDGE: Well, if I look at the good news, the good news is that most of the city of New Orleans has had the power restored or will have it restored by the end of the day tomorrow. There will be a few pockets. But otherwise the city's pretty good.

It's outside of that. It's the other parishes, those that were hardest hit by the storm, and also those that are more remote where their communities are more remote. Getting to the damaged equipment in some cases it's going to require electrical teams to get on air boats and get out into the swampy areas to try to restore. And that's why that work is projected in some cases to take to maybe the end of the month, Erica.

HILL: End of the month. It's tough to hear.

Martin Savidge, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

There are new questions about just what is considered to be full regimen of the COVID vaccine. So, could you need a fourth or even a fifth dose?



HILL: In our health lead, experts are bracing for another COVID surge after the long holiday weekend and with more schools back in session.

But as CNN's Nick Watt reports, Dr. Anthony Fauci says if we, quote, do the right things -- do things right, rather, there won't be a dramatic decrease. This as the nation just logged 40 million total cases since the pandemic began.


FAUCI: Right now, we are in outbreak mode.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four million new COVID-19 cases reported in just the past four weeks.


FAUCI: It could go either way, and it's up to us.

WATT: So, this is an inflexion point as temperatures drop and millions of kids venture back inside classrooms.

FAUCI: If we do things right, we hope that we don't see much increase at all. We've got to get the school system masked.

WATT: But, remember, there are politicians and parents fighting that simple logic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are all demonic entities. You are going to be taken down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am, you already had your first warning and this is your last. She cannot speak anymore.

WATT: Meantime, nearly 100,000 Americans are in the hospital fighting this virus. The vast majority unvaccinated.

DR. LANCE VANGUNDY, EMERGENCY ROOM MEDICAL DIRECTOR, UNITY POINT HEALTH, IOWA: Sad and sometimes demoralizing. I'm not judging patients for making that decision. I really want to empathize and try to understand why they're afraid of the treatment because what they really need to be afraid of is the virus.

WATT: Idaho planning to ration care some places due to a beds and staff shortage. The governor calls this an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state.

FAUCI: We have about 75 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated. If we get the overwhelming majority of those people vaccinated, we could turn this around.

WATT: In more than half of states, there is a little dip in average daily cases right now. Will that hold? Last year, there was a post- Labor Day bump.

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, PROVIDENCE HEALTH SYSTEM: We are having to prepare ourselves for having yet again another surge.

WATT: This Labor Day weekend scenes like this, football fans packed in the stands in Alabama which has the lowest vaccination rate in the land. In South Carolina, which has the highest infection rate in the land. And in Georgia, where near record numbers are already in the hospital.


WATT: So, I just told you about the deteriorating situation in Idaho. And we just saw those crowds in Alabama and Arkansas. Well, the U.S. military just announced it is going to send 60 medical personnel to those three states to help -- Erica.

HILL: Nick Watt with the latest -- Nick, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, a lot of folks traveled as we know, despite that CDC warning. People getting together for Labor Day. As of today, pretty much every school almost is back in school across the country. And we also just learned that kids now account for more than one in four of weekly COVID cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. I mean, I don't think there is a way to put the genie back in the

bottle at this point. But correct me if I'm wrong.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORREPSONDENT: No, I think you're right. I think that the idea that this virus is here to stay is becoming something that I think most scientists sort of believe at this point. It's a very contagious virus. There are remnants of the 1918 flu virus that are still around more than a hundred years later. And COVID is one of these viruses that we're going to have to learn to live with for some time.

It's an uncomfortable conversation, Erica. But I think the real question is not so much is this virus here to stay, it is. But what are we willing to tolerate in terms of its impact on us. You know, when it comes to flu, tens of thousands of people still die of the flu every year. Only half the country gets a flu shot, for example, every year.

There are -- there are several things which you've talked about for more than a year now, Erica, which could make a difference obviously in terms of really reducing the impact overall.

Getting vaccinated, we talk about that all the time. A quarter of the country, eligible adults still not vaccinated.

Wear the right type of masks. There are certain type of masks that are going to be much more protective.

Ventilation, making sure you have enough ventilation indoors is really important. Get testing when you can.

And reassess your risk. You got to reassess your risk in different situations depending on what's going on. A big crowded indoor setting, it should surprise no one now that that would be a riskier situation than a less crowded outdoor setting.

HILL: Yeah, we have learned a lot. But the question is how many of us are actually putting that knowledge to use at this point.

GUPTA: Right.

HILL: You know, This morning Dr. Fauci said that a third dose of the COVID vaccine could perhaps just be part of a full vaccine regimen. Here's a little more.


FAUCI: It looks very much like it isn't as if two doses of a vaccine are failing. It's that the proper regimen will very likely, as we look back on it months from now, will be that three doses it really what you should be getting of an mRNA.


HILL: The reality is, and we've known this from the beginning, you have been very clear, Sanjay, that we're all learning about this as we go. The science keeps changing. So, yes, there could be an annual booster even.

But would it help in some cases to be maybe less definitive in some of these things? Because we know so much could still change.

GUPTA: Yeah, I think -- I think that's right, Erica. That's the thing about science. You know, it does change. You have to present it with humility and sort of concede that we are learning as we go along. Sometimes, people expect science to be like math, two plus two is always going to equal four.

It does change. I think the thing that's been confusing about the boosters is that we were told initially that, take these two shots, if it's an mRNA vaccine, separated by three or four weeks, and if we see evidence that people are getting sick and hospitalized or even dying that have been vaccinated, that would be a signal that a booster would be necessary.

So what we're really hearing is two messages. One is that the vaccines continue to work really well. On the other hand, you might need a booster because there's some evidence that maybe they won't -- they may wane in terms of their protection over time.

What I'm now hearing, as I talked a lot of scientists over the weekend, is that a booster was probably always part of the equation, even though that was not communicated.

And take a look at other adult vaccines, Erica. A lot of people are familiar with these vaccines. Most vaccines actually do get a boost. You look at the herpes -- the herpes vaccine, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, they all get one, sometimes two boosts down the road. So that is a common thing.

I think what's been confusing is, that was not communicated with this particular vaccine up front. I think most people thought two and done. And now it sounds like, from what Dr. Fauci is saying, a booster is going to be recommended. We will hear from the FDA and the CDC on this.

That's who needs to weigh in. We haven't heard officially from them yet.

HILL: Yes.

And that meeting, I think, is September 17. So, we have a little time as we wait for that in terms of Pfizer as a booster. Meantime, there's a new Gallup poll that shows more Americans now disagree than agree that President Biden has communicated a clear plan when it comes to COVID-19.

We have talked about this a lot, that mixed messaging, the confusion that really has plagued the pandemic response in this country from day one.

Do you think that can be fixed at this point? Is there a way to message better from here on out?

GUPTA: It's tough.

It's really hard, especially when you have a shifting sort of landscape. And it's tough, I think, for anybody to communicate definitively at a time when things may change.

What I would say is that I think if you accept this notion that we are going to have COVID, COVID is here to stay, then I think really defining what success means I think is going to be really important.

And I know that this is one of those things where we still need to get a vaccine authorized for kids. We still -- we -- obviously, I think everyone agrees that hospitals cannot be overwhelmed. I mean, that's just ridiculous what's happening these hospitals. Patients who have nothing to do with COVID aren't getting care because of this. That is not a tenable situation. That is not a life with COVID.

But what is a successful society that has to now live with this pathogen? I think we have to define that. And I think that's going to be something that we hopefully will hear a little bit more about from the president when he speaks tomorrow on this.

But also going back to these things like boosters, the career scientists leading the way on this, making sure they're the ones speaking out, as opposed to this being seemingly entangled in politics, I think, is always going to be important.

HILL: Yes, it's certainly is.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

GUPTA: You too, Erica. See you.

HILL: Any moment, President Biden will speak after touring storm damage here in the Northeast. And we're going to bring you those remarks live.

Plus, the Taliban announcing members of their new government in Afghanistan, but there is something that is glaringly missing from that event.



HILL: With the stroke of a pen and new voting restrictions now official in Texas today.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas.



HILL: Governor Greg Abbott there signing the states Senate Bill 1 this afternoon.

Among the changes with that bill, no more drive-through or 24-hour voting in Texas. There are new limits on early voting hours, new I.D. requirements for mail-in voting, as mail-in voting applications can no longer be sent out unsolicited.

The new law is one of several of the Republicans have used in recent months to cement their conservative leans.

Let's discuss.

So, as we look at this, in addition to this voting rights bill, of course, in recent weeks, Texas Republicans have added controversial laws on abortion guns, school lessons on race in history, even the national anthem.

Texas has been a pretty red state for generations. But with so much talk about how Texas is becoming more diverse, Bakari, more purple, these legislative moves are really a hard turn to the right.

So how effective could this new law be in keeping Texas red?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first and foremost, I think that the correct word to use when describing the Texas legislature is draconian at best.

They're taking Texas and the Southern part of this country back to 1940s, 1950s, when America wasn't so great for people of color in this country. I think you're going to see individuals rise up in the next election cycle in Texas.

But with this new election law in place -- and this is where Democrats have to begin to step up their game. For far too long, we haven't been caring about judgeships. We haven't been paying attention since Barack Obama's time to state legislatures.

And now you see Republicans reaping the benefit of their majorities and sometimes supermajorities in state legislatures, particularly throughout the South.

HILL: In signing that voting bill, Governor Abbott was asked about his state's six-weeks ban on abortion and why a rape or incest victim should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Here's his response.



ABBOTT: It doesn't require that at all, because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.

So, for one, it doesn't provide that. That said, however, let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime. And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.


HILL: We are going to shift gears here, going straight to President Biden speaking in New York.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- with me to see and talk to the people who have been devastated, just talk to them.

None of them were shouting or complaining. Every one of them were thanking me as if it was something special -- I mean it sincerely -- that I was here and hoped that we'd be able to do something.

This is America, where I am standing right now. These are the people--


BIDEN: -- whether it was in Scranton or Claymont or anywhere around the world, the country, who built this country.

And it's about time we step up. They're always the first ones that are hurt and the last ones that are helped. But that's not going to happen this time. The group I have standing with me led by Chuck Schumer and your -- Congresswoman, is this your district?


BIDEN: Oh, it's Grace's district.


BIDEN: I want to thank her personally for her gumption, the way she's fought and hollered and fought so hard for all the people in this alley. I really mean it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. But that goes for everybody here.


BIDEN: And, look, folks, I want to thank governor for -- and Leader Schumer and Kirsten -- I shouldn't -- I should say Senator Gillibrand, and Congresswomen Meng and Maloney and Meeks and Mayor de Blasio for being here.

You know, it's not -- how can I say this? Sometimes, some very bad things happen that have a tendency to bring out the best in a people and a country.

And I think what people are seeing across this country, from the wildfires in California in the far West, which I'm heading to in a couple days, all the way to down in Louisiana in the Gulf, where I was a couple days ago, to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a lesser extent, Delaware to a lesser extent, and New York, people are beginning to realize this is much, much bigger than anyone was willing to believe, and the whole segment of our population denying this thing called climate change. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.



BIDEN: But I really mean it.

Sometimes -- my mother used to say, out of everything bad, something good will come of it if you look hard enough for it. Well, I think we have all seen, even the climate skeptics are seeing that this really does matter.

And it's not just whether or not people who are just trying to get by in these homes in these alleys here, working their butts off, do well. It's people in high towers along the shore who find that, as this rain and all this change takes place in the groundwater, the buildings are actually beginning to tilt, 100-story buildings. This goes so far beyond what anybody is willing to speak to up to now.

We just finished surveying some of the damage in the neighborhood here in Queens. And earlier today, we were in the Raritan Valley in New Jersey, which also got badly, badly hit.

Walking these neighborhoods, meeting the families and the first responders, seeing how folks are doing after this destruction and pain and another devastating storm, is an eye-opener.

The people who stand on the other side of the fences who don't live there who are yelling that we are talking about interfering with free enterprise by doing something about climate change, they don't live there. They don't live -- they don't understand.

And, last week, right here, in so many other communities, these waves crashed through the streets here, testing the aging infrastructure and taking lives.


More lives were taken here than down in Louisiana.

Let me say that again. They had over 20 inches of rain. They had 178- mile-an-hour winds, gusts. And more lives were taken here than down in Louisiana.

And you know, you all saw the harrowing images of stories and families trapped in flooding basements and struggling to survive. Well, you didn't have to -- you just go along this valley. I'm sure the press has done that.

My message to everyone grappling with this devastation is: we're here, we're not going home until this gets done. I really mean that. We're not leaving. We're going to continue to shout as long as it takes to get real progress here. Folks -- and we have to take some bold action now to tackle the accelerating effects of climate. If we don't act -- now I'm going to be heading, as Chuck knows, as the senator knows, I'm going to be heading from here to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP meeting, which is all the nations of the world getting together to decide what we are going to do about climate change. And John Kerry, the former secretary of state, is leading our effort, putting it together.

We are determined, we are determined that we are going to deal with climate change and have zero emissions, net emissions by 2050. By 2020, make sure all our electricity is zero emissions. We're going to be able to do these things. But we've got to move. We've got to move. And we've got to move the rest of the world. It's not just the United States of America.

And so, folks, this summer alone, communities with over 100 million Americans -- 100 million Americans call home -- have been struck by extreme weather. One in every three Americans has been victimized by severe weather. The hurricanes along the Gulf, the East Coast, up through this community. And I saw the human and physical cost firsthand, as I said, in Louisiana.

But, Governor, you called Phil Murphy -- Governor Murphy -- so many leading with urgency and action are saying, "Enough, enough." And there's not a single request I'm aware of -- there may be something -- that we haven't signed off on, that we haven't signed off yet.

And here's the deal: the New York Fire Department, the New York Police Department, the Sanitation Department and other first responders, they're leading with incredible, incredible courage. Two linemen have been killed in trying to make sure we have --


And, folks, the evidence is clear. Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here, it's not going to get any better. The question: Can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.

And when I talk about building back better -- and Chuck is fighting for my program, for our program on the Hill -- when I talk about building back better, I mean you can't build to what it was before this last storm. You got to build better so that if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage. There would be.

But that's not going to stop us, though, because if we just do that, it's just going to get worse and worse and worse, because the storms are going to get worse and worse and worse. And so, folks, we've got to listen to the scientists and the economists and the national security experts. They all tell us this is code red.

The nation and the world are in peril. And that's not hyperbole. That is a fact. They've been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we're living in it real time now.

We can look around the wreckage and the ruins and the heartbreak from so many communities to feel it. You don't understand, you can feel it, you can taste it, you can see it. Precious lives lost in Louisiana and New Jersey and New York. Families living in shelters, subway stations flooded, decaying infrastructure pushed beyond the limits, lives and livelihoods interrupted once again.

We're working closely with the governors and mayors and members of Congress and community leaders.

On Sunday, I immediately approved the disaster declaration of Governor Hochul to rush federal assistance to where it was needed -- here. FEMA --


FEMA's working intensively with state and local officials, assessing the damage and mobilizing resources.

One of the things I want to thank Chuck for, as leader of the Senate: He has helped mobilize state, local and federal. When they're all working together, that's when things happen positively.


The Health and Human Services secretary is working with the state to ensure folks on Medicare and Medicaid get the emergency care they needed. They're going to make sure it's equitable so that the hardest hit, including lower-income folks, communities of color and the elderly and the most vulnerable, get help and get it first. They are the ones in the greatest need.

And there's much to be done in working around the clock in all these critical needs and areas.

Look, I say to anyone who can hear this if this is broadcast: If you need help, please go to Or call 1-800-621- FEMA, 1-800-621-3362. We can get you help now. We can get you help now.

And I know these disasters aren't going to stop. They're only going to come with more frequency and ferocity. As I said, I'm working in Congress to pass two important pieces of legislation that this man here is honchoing through the Congress for me.

The bipartisan plan to modernize our physical infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our power transmissions, our distribution lines. How many bridges I just went through in New Jersey that had been overflowed by the river? The river's gone higher than the bridges, having done damage to them.

My Build Back Better plan with key investments to fight climate change, cutting emissions and make things more resilient. Each dollar we invest, every dollar we raise a city block by two feet, flood-proof power stations, sanitations, reduction in the buildup of kindling in our forest, installing electrical lines underground rather than overhead -- saves us six dollars for every single dollar we spend to do those things. Because the next time disaster strikes, the flood is contained, the fire doesn't spread as widely, and power stays on. Not to mention those investments save lives, homes and create good-paying union jobs.

I hosted 56 heads of state in Washington. And I pointed out, we're talking about climate change, and I said I think of one word when I think of climate change: jobs. Good-paying jobs. Each of these things requires a good-paying job, not $7 or $12 or $15, but $45, $50 an hour plus health care. That's what is needed.

And so, folks -- and also, Wall Street, not too far from here, acknowledges that if we spend the money on these things, we're going to grow the economy, increase employment.

You know, the fire in Oregon sent smoke all the way to the Atlantic. A storm in the Gulf, as you have now figured out, can reverberate 10 states away. Supply chains and crop production get interrupted, driving up costs, devastating industries all over America. This is everybody's crisis. Everybody's crisis.

And let me just say, again: The fact is that the damage done on the West Coast, which I'll be heading to, they've already burned 5 million acres to the ground. That's bigger than the state of New Jersey, if I'm not mistaken, 5 million acres. And you see it by the smoke that ends up coming over the East Coast.

Folks, we're all in this. It's about time we stopped the regional fights and understand helping somebody make sure there's no fewer fires in the West warrants helping people in this alley make sure they're not flooded.

And by the way, it's not just the flooding. I'll end with this -- not just the flooding. Flooding ends up overrunning sanitation systems. And it causes disease. People get sick, and it's serious, serious business. So we've got a lot of work to do.

Again, it's good-paying jobs. We can put the economy back on a path to real growth. But in the meantime, we're going to save a whole hell of a lot of people's lives, and we're going to save a whole hell of a lot of money.

God bless you all. Let's get this done.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Mr. President, look at that nice kid with the American flag. Say hello.

BIDEN: How are you, pal?

SCHUMER: What's your name? You can't hear him.

BIDEN: How old are you?



BIDEN: You're getting old.

And, by the way, the neat thing about America, every time we end up with a problem going into a serious circumstance, we come out better than we went in. That's because we're so diverse. That's America. Be proud of it.

Thank you. And don't jump.


All right.

SCHUMER: Great job.

BIDEN: Thanks.

HILL: You've been listening there to President Biden. President Biden speaking in Queens, New York, planked there by Senator Schumer and Governor Hochul. He'd just been touring damage in Queens, storm damage in that area, after touring damage in New Jersey earlier in the day. The president both when he spoke in New Jersey and in New York pointing to that storm damage is a clear sign that climate change is here using opportunity as well to push his infrastructure deal as necessary to combat that climate change.

As we look at this, Jeff Zeleny, looking at what he was addressing in terms of the damage there, he talked so much about his plans for climate change pushing his infrastructure plan. It's a lot of policy talk. Not as much talk about the victims of the storm in terms of personal stories. It's an interesting choice, I think, Jeff.

How is -- how is it sitting?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that the president is trying to seize this opportunity to make the bigger point that something does indeed need to be done for climate change. He'll be traveling to California early next week as well about the wildfires there. So, certainly, he and the White House say that one in three Americans live in counties where there has been devastation in recent severe weather outbreaks. So, he's using this as a point.

But there were several personal private moments where he talked to that young boy standing on the balcony of his home there. We saw the scenes earlier in New Jersey. So, definitely a balance between policy and the personal. But the president is making clear this is a code red moment in his words. So they are trying to use this to push policy as well.

HILL: Yeah. Look, you can't ignore the fact that this is climate change, this is here to stay. The weather is extreme. The infrastructure is a mess and needs work. Those are all the facts, right? MJ, you're there on the grounds in queens. A short time ago you shared

with us a gentleman who said he wanted to sell his house after what was left because he's so concerned about it happening again.

Did folks on the ground there who suffered these devastating losses hear what they needed or wanted to?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Erica, this kind of a trip is a tradition for the president of the United States. It is an unfortunate tradition that when this kind of extreme weather event happens, the president goes to the ground, meets with community leaders, meets with the folks who have been affected. And it is a way for him to show and to tell these people that he can see them, that he wants to bring help to the ground.

But I think you raise a really important point for all the talk about climate change legislation and dealing with that. A lot of the folks we talked to, they are looking for immediate, immediate help and they are just not sure that they are going to get it any time soon.

HILL: And that is a tough thing.

Ana, do you think Biden did his job as consoler in chief?



LEE: You know, he said himself --

HILL: Ana, go ahead.

NAVARRO: You know, look, I think this is something that Joe Biden does very well, and most of us even sitting at home watching these scenes from all over the country have been struck by the level of catastrophe that's going on all over. And I think, you know, his compassion, what he brings is something very unique to him.

And I've got to tell you as somebody who lives in Florida, a place that's affected by hurricanes like this and by storms like this, how important it is to see your federal, state, and local governments working together in conjunction. How different a scene this is from what we saw in Puerto Rico under President Trump throwing paper towels, the indignity of doing that and the way that he treated them.

So you want all Americans treated the same, treated with compassion by the president.

HILL: Bakari, I'm going to give you the last word here.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, today was about tangible solutions. You stated something at the beginning, Erica, that not too many people, that there's a still a fight unfortunately.

Climate change is real. It's not a hoax perpetrated by anyone else. And the fact that the president has to reinforce that is a sad commentary. But real relief looks like policy. It looks like the infrastructure bill, it looks like tackling climate change, and those are the solutions that people want to hear, and that's what he brought today.

So, did he answer their call? He did. And he did it in a way that only Joe Biden can do it.

HILL: Bakari Sellers, Ana Navarro, MJ Lee, and Jeff Zeleny, thank you all. Thanks to all of you for joining us this hour on THE LEAD.

Our coverage continues in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.