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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Meets with Key Dems at Crucial Moment for His Agenda; Rep. Marc Pocan (D-WI) is Interviewed About the Infrastructure Deal; Biden Administration Scrambles to Contain Border Fallout; Authorities Search For Brian Laundrie; U.S. Daily COVID Deaths Top 2,000; Moody's: Debt Default Could Bring "Cataclysmic" Economic Impact. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: These next few hours could make or break the Biden agenda.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden stepping in hoping to bridge the differences between Democratic progressives and Democratic moderates as his multi- trillion-dollar agenda and even his presidency hangs in the balance. We'll talk to one of the progressive lawmakers headed to the White House next.

Crisis and confusion after the Biden administration said it was sending most migrants back to their home country. CNN is now learning homeland security is letting some into the U.S. What's really going on at the border?

Plus, it is now officially a homicide investigation. Gabby Petito's fiance remains missing. Today an underwater dive team joined the search as we get new clues about the couple's final days together.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start with our politics lead today. Within minutes, a White House meeting that could determine the fate of nearly the entire Biden domestic agenda. Right now, President Biden is playing host to key Democratic moderates in both the House and the Senate. And after that, he'll meet with a group of progressive Democrats who have made it clear, either both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget bill will pass in tandem, or neither will.

In just moments, I'll speak to one of those progressive Democrats about what's at stake here. More than $4 trillion worth of Biden priorities from investments in roads, bridges and public transportation to child care benefits and expansion of Medicare.

Our teams are covering every angle of the story. We're going to start with CNN's Phil Mattingly with a closer look at why President Biden believes he's uniquely situated to strike a deal.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With its legislative agenda teetering, the White House has called in its most powerful weapon, President Biden.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're in the -- in a pivotal period of our negotiations and discussions.

MATTINGLY: Biden hosting a series of meetings with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers today. First with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, then with groups of warring moderates and progressives, all critical players in the intraparty combat that's broken out.

PSAKI: He sees his role ad uniting and as working to bring together people over common agreement on a path forward.

MATTINGLY: It's a battle that's pushed Biden's sweeping dual-pronged $4 trillion domestic agenda to the brink of implosion. The meetings marking the most intensive personal effort deployed by Biden, a 36- year Senate veteran.

Today, Democrats face a legislative pile-up of epic proportions. Less than a week from a House vote promised to moderates on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): There's no one better than Speaker Pelosi at getting votes. I'm optimistic that we'll get it done on Monday.

MATTINGLY: With progressives threatening to tank that bill if there's no pathway on the second $3.5 trillion economic and climate package.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Half our members, more than half our members, will not move the bipartisan bill without the reconciliation bill being passed.

MATTINGLY: All as the government barrels towards a shutdown on September 30th.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Simply put, Republicans are trying a dine-and-dash of historic proportion.

MATTINGLY: And with unified Senate Republican opposition, the looming threat of a catastrophic default in October.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The debt ceiling will be raised, as it always should be, but it will be raised by the Democrats.


MATTINGLY: Jake, White House officials have always planned to deploy the president in the most personal of fashions when it got to a critical moment of his agenda. That's certainly where they are right now and Democrats I've been speaking to all day, most universally welcome his involvement.

One thing, one Democrat I was texting with said it's about time. There's a recognition things have gotten very bad right now and they need to find a pathway forward, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live on Capitol Hill for us.

Ryan, give us a reality check. Where do things stand at this moment?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as Phil mentioned, a number of meetings at the White House today. One has already wrapped up with the legislative leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, and they both have arrived back here to Capitol Hill and they are painting a optimistic picture. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling everybody that they are still on schedule and that everyone is calm and everyone is good, and Schumer echoing those same comments. They feel as though they are headed in the right direction.

But the reality here is that neither of them can articulate an actual path forward. How they can get over this impasse that would have them voting on the bipartisan infrastructure deal on Monday and then still finding a path towards passing that much broader $3.5 trillion broader human infrastructure plan.

So that's part of what these conversations are about here at the White House tonight. It is interesting, Jake, that the president is not meeting with those progressive Democrats and the moderate Democrats at the same time but instead doing it in two separate set of meetings that could be an indication of his plan here and how he plans to go forward. But there's no doubt these conversations are going to be crucial as to whether or not this agenda passes or fails.

TAPPER: Ryan, one of the Biden bipartisan agenda items he was hoping for was policing reform. But it seems as though, as of today, it's dead.

NOBLES: Yeah, that's right. The negotiators have backed away from the table. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Karen Bass from California on the House side, they have been huddling for months, trying to come up with some sort of police reform act that both Republicans and Democrats could vote for. At least enough Republicans in the United States Senate to vote for and they just could not come to an agreement.

It seems as though one of the major sticking points is whether or not the qualified immunity statute would -- qualified immunity would be a part of this statute. They just could not come up with an agreement on that point. Now both sides say they'll continue working toward finding some sort of police reform in the future but this group that's negotiating, they are no longer talking, Jake, and that is a huge blow to the Biden agenda. This was a big priority for the president. TAPPER: All right. Ryan, thanks so much.

Here to talk about all of this, Democratic Congressman Marc Pocan of Wisconsin. He's part of the House Progressive Caucus. He's going to meet with President Biden in the next hour.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

If the bipartisan infrastructure bill comes up on Monday and the larger budget deal has not already passed, will you vote no to kill the infrastructure bill?

REP. MARC POCAN (D-WI): Thanks for having me, Jake.

I think as we've said all along in the House, these two bills are going to move together. So I don't anticipate there will be a vote set up for failure, but I know there's myself and 50 members who would vote no if we can't get the entire Biden agenda done. It's really important that we do that, and I think that's what we're working towards.

TAPPER: You know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports passing the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation deal. So what does it matter if infrastructure passes first? I mean, that does have bipartisan support.

POCAN: Yeah, I think the problem is there's a few folks in the Senate who have been a little bit less clear that they're committed to seeing the bigger bill get done, and these are twin bills. But much like the movie "Twins" with Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, we look at one bill as a little bigger. And I think the best way to ensure that is to do like Speaker Pelosi said. We're going to vote on these two bills together.

So, we're really standing behind the president and getting his agenda done and hope that everyone will join us to get these two bills done together as we've said for months.

TAPPER: Is there anything's that president Biden could say to you or offer to you that would convince you that it would be okay to let the infrastructure bill pass first?

POCAN: Yeah, my guess is he's really working on the folks that are maybe more hesitant to get this done.

I mean, we completely have his back. We've already gone from his request of $6 trillion, compromised down to $3.5 trillion, and I don't think that you can go much farther without making sure that we want to make sure people get child care, universal child care. We want to make sure we have community college available for everyone.

We want that tax break for families, via child tax credit. We want to make sure people have paid leave and Medicare is expanded just like the president does. And the best way to ensure all of those things happen is to take both these bills up together. It will create millions of jobs and that's ultimately what the president wants. That's what we want.

And I think, you know, it really will happen. It's just a matter of a few people are just going to have to, I think, come around to the fact that everything that's in these packages is good for their constituents. They need to be here on behalf of their constituents, not the special interest here in Washington.

TAPPER: To play devil's advocate for a second. You are a progressive from a safe district in Wisconsin. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are moderates and they're from states where a Republican is just as likely to be elected as a Democrat -- more so in West Virginia for Manchin. And they just don't share the same views of this budget bill that you do and that progressives do.

From their point of view, you're forcing them to do something that they don't think is right for the country and you are holding a hostage in something the -- you know, that has bipartisan support.

POCAN: Actually, I would say that the president's proposal is exactly what their districts need. I don't think there's anyone in Arizona or West Virginia that doesn't need child care to be possible. That doesn't need a tax break for average working people who have children, who doesn't need an expansion of Medicare. So, all of those are going to benefit their constituents.

I think the problem is here in Washington a lot of special interests don't want to pay their fair share to get these things done and they get in the ear of some members. We have to remind people who elected them and who they serve. If we do that, I guarantee Joe Biden is doing the right thing for the country.


We're having his back on getting those things done and they, too, can make sure their constituents benefit from these very proposals.

TAPPER: So, you don't think it's that Senator Manchin or Senator Sinema or Congressman Gottheimer, you don't think it's that they have issues with all the spending and deficits and some of the other items in the $3.5 trillion bill. You think it's that special interests are telling them what to do?

POCAN: Well, there are no deficits in these bills. It's completely paid for, right, by people who make more than $400,000 a year and by corporations that either don't pay taxes or hide their money overseas. So, clearly, those are the interests that are somewhat concerned and trying to get to members and we hear it as well in our district. There's some folks, those special interests are talking out loud.

But for the average person, that's -- they're going to see their costs lowered. They're going to get a tax break. They're going to have millions of jobs created. Many that are tackling climate change, and it is paid for. So there's not a deficit to be worried about if you're one of those people.

You should be worried about whether or not you're delivering those very benefits to the people in your districts or whether, you know, big pharma and other special interests are going to win. I would err on the side of my constituents if I was them.

TAPPER: Have you talked to any of the leading moderates like Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey to try to find a compromise or to tell him that you think he's under the control of special interests?

POCAN: Yeah, I think they just have to take a look at what they're hearing in their district. I can assure you what they're hearing is people in their district who want these very things and I think if they actually look at the reasons they came to Washington, they'll come around to this.

But don't forget, Monday is a very arbitrary date. If it takes another week, even another two weeks to get this done right, we're all working together. I don't think this is a battle, again, among moderates and progressives. This is a battle to make sure that we get the president's agenda done.

It's a good agenda. The American people are going to benefit from this and it will be paid for. It's just those special interests are in the way of get this done and we're going to defeat the special interests.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Marc Pocan of Wisconsin, thanks so much for your time today. I hope you have a nice meeting with President Biden.

POCAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thousand of migrants still gathered at the border. Where will they go from there? That's next.

Plus, how did police let him get away? The urgent search for Bryan Laundrie as Gabby Petito's death is officially ruled a homicide.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, you are looking at lines of law enforcement vehicles in Del Rio, Texas, today, trying to create something of a makeshift barrier to stop people from crossing the Rio Grande River to get into the United States illegally. Right now, thousands of mostly Haitian migrants are camped out in Del Rio hoping to seek economic and political refuge in the United States.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was grilled by lawmakers over the Biden administration's plan to contain the crisis. He said they're addressing it with tremendous speed and force.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is following the story.

And, Priscilla, you are getting new details about how the Biden administration is actually going to ramp up deportation flights?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: That's right. They are working toward as many as seven flights a day to Haiti. And they're also speaking with Brazil and Chile in attempts to possibly repatriate Haitians to that -- to those countries where many of them came from.

But we should note, Jake, that Democratic lawmakers, allies of the president condemn these actions. They have grilled Mayorkas and said we should be treating them humanely and not return them to a country rattled by a quake and politically unstable because many of these migrants haven't been to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.

TAPPER: They've been living in South America, a lot of them. One of the other things that's interesting about this is, yesterday it seemed as though the Biden administration was making something of a show of saying that they were sending these Haitian migrants back to Haiti. But you're learning from the department of homeland security that actually there are quite a few of them that are allowed to leave this area and enter the United States.

ALVAREZ: More than 1,000 have been released into the United States. So typically these might be migrant families who are seeking asylum. When they are permitted into the United States, they still have to go through immigration proceedings. They'll get a notice to appear at an immigration office.

But to your point, these are short-term measures that the administration is taking. It does not address the long-term issue, which is how do you address not only migrants from central America, flows we've been talking about for months, but also those coming from south America and this -- and in this case, Haitians.

TAPPER: All right. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Matt Rivers. He's in Mexico right now right across the border from Del Rio, Texas.

And, Matt, you are literally watching as migrants are crossing the river behind you.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right, Jake. There's this rope you can see that goes to a post on the other side here to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, just across from the United States. You can see what we're seeing here over the last few hours that we've been here are people who are actually staying in the camp, in Del Rio on the other side under that international bridge. They are coming over here to Mexico because it's a little easier to get supplies. Things like clothing, food, water, just up the river bank from where we are, there's some volunteers serving chicken and rice to people here.

What's happening is people are coming across. They use this rope. They cross the Rio Grande behind me. They get their supplies and essentially cross back across the river. It's not easy. But it's something that we've been seeing dozens of migrants do over the past few hours that we've been here. In terms of the choice that these Haitian migrants have to make,

essentially it's, do they go to the United States which just west of where we are right now is that bridge, that International Bridge where the camp is. Those people are being allowed to cross. Border patrol agents in line and go back to the camp.

On the Mexico side, there's a park just beyond our camera here and Haitian migrants, some of them are staying there.


Jake, the question for these migrants is, do they go to the U.S. where they get let into the U.S. as Priscilla reported, or run the risk of being deported back to Haiti, or they come here to Mexico where they're facing the exact same situation? Some are being transported to southern Mexico if they have asylum status in Mexico. Others are being put in detention centers and run the risk of being deported. That is the questions that are facing so many of these Haitian migrants to go to that side or to stay on this side? Very difficult situation.

I'll end here by showing you this sign that's been here for a few days that Haitian migrants wrote. We need help, President Joe Biden. Treat us like humans. Stop departing Haitian people. We don't have food. A very difficult situation here for these migrants along the U.S./Mexico border -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Matt, how are so many of these migrants able to get to the border so quickly?

RIVERS: This is an open question. Literally yesterday, we were on the southern Mexican border between Mexico and Guatemala. Normally, what we've been seeing over the past few years going back to the Trump administration is relatively robust enforcement on the part of the Mexican National Guard. Not just letting migrants come straight north without the use of smugglers or illicit activities. What we've been seeing, what we've been hearing, talking to people here in Mexico, is that a lot of these Haitian migrants, thousands of whom arrived within one week of each other here on the border were able to freely pass from southern Mexico up here to the border.

We've asked the Mexican government how exactly did that happen when we've clearly seen images over the past few weeks of Guatemalans, Venezuelans, Hondurans not being able to make that same journey and yet thousands and thousands of Haitians have been able to make that journey? We've asked the Mexican government why that is. We asked the immigration institute here.

They specifically told us they don't have comment on that issue but that say question here in Mexico and one that is going to be discussed in diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States. How is it that all of these migrants came here, thousands essentially all at the same time, in what immigration activists in Mexico tell me is a situation they have never seen before.

TAPPER: And, Matt, correct me if I'm wrong but some of these migrants from Haiti came from through South and then Central America. And some of them left Haiti more than a decade ago after the earthquake and have been living in south America.

What are the migrants telling you about why they are making the trip right now to try to get into the United States?

RIVERS: Well, what we have heard from government officials, Jake, and if you talk to Haitian migrants here, the vast majority left Haiti years ago after the 2010 earthquake, after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and often the route as you see Haitian goes to South America, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile. Over the last year when all those economies shut down from the pandemic, many decided, look, we don't have any more work. Let's start to move north going up through Colombia, Darien Gap, the mountainous into Panama, up into Central America, eventually arriving here.

Many of these people have been walking for months. And, Jake, when you consider that just six weeks ago Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, the people that are here right now are not the people who were displaced from that earthquake. They haven't had time so these kind of scenes will absolutely, or at least there's a very high chance, will be repeated at some point in the future because all of these thousands of people who were displaced after this most recent earthquake, tropical storm, political violence, after Haiti's president was assassinated, all the turmoil there, those people, it will force some people to migrate. And they'll eventually come here.

It's kind of remarkable when you think about it in that situation. And it gives you a reminder of how difficult the last decade-plus have been for the people of Haiti.

TAPPER: All right. Matt Rivers in Mexico for us -- thank you so much for that reporting.

Appreciate it. Coming up -- it's a number we've not seen in months. The U.S. is averaging more than 2,000 deaths every day from COVID-19. That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, right now, the CDC's top doctors are poring over data that will affect everyone 65 and older who got the Pfizer vaccine. But the ball is in the FDA's court. After last week's FDA advisory board decision that booster shots should be approved for older Americans. Now it's the FDA itself, not just the advisory board that needs to make the final decision before an extra dose will be okayed to go into arms.

And as CNN's Nick Watt reports for us now, some health care workers are still refusing their first shot.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In North Carolina, dozens of UNC health employees have resigned rather than get a COVID-19 vaccine. LAURIE SCHERBEKOW, UNC HEALTH NURSE: It absolutely is about our

freedom. You know, we should have the freedom to choose.

WATT: Meantime, in the ten least vaccinated states there they are in red, the COVID-19 death rate was four times higher this past week than in these states. The ten most vaccinated. Wyoming just activated the National Guard to help an overcrowded hospital.

In North Dakota, the school board member is now facing a recall after winning the push for masks in schools. She's a pediatrician.

: Masks are one way of a layered approach to help us keep kids in school and even if it's unpopular, I'm always going to try to advocate what's best for children.

WATT: A mask war update from down in Texas.


A couple with an immunocompromised kid at home went out for dinner. And?

NATALIE WESTER, MOTHER: Our waitress came up and she basically said: "You are going to need to pull your mask down, take it off, because this is a political situation. But the owner here doesn't believe in masks. And there's a strict no mask policy here."

WATT: So they had to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent my money on this business. I put my blood sweat and tears in this business. And I don't want any masks in here.

WATT: In Florida, the mask-wary governor just announced his new surgeon general.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We feel that Joe is just the right guy for the job.

WATT: Last week, he wrote that the public mask-wearing has had, at best, a modest effect on viral transmission.

Not true. Studies show the effect is significant.

Meantime, the nation's average daily death toll just topped 2,000 lives last a day. Hasn't been that high in more than six months.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNIST: We are going to be living, because of some people's hesitancy to take vaccines, at a plateau, hundreds of people, maybe even 1,000, dying on a daily basis for the foreseeable future. And, by that, I mean a year or two.


WATT: Now, Jake, during that CDC meeting you just mentioned, we heard from one of the leads of the vaccine effectiveness team, who said that, yes, during this time of Delta, the protection against infection given to us by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is waning.

And for people 65 and up, they have seen significant declines. But, as you mentioned, we are still waiting for the green light probably from the FDA for those third booster shots for people in that older demographic -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, so many 65 and up are now waiting to hear from the FDA and the CDC this official go-ahead to booster -- to schedule their booster shot. Why shouldn't older adults just go get that extra dose right now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's a safety issue. I think, ultimately, this is going to get authorized for people 65 and older.

I think the big question is, will it be even a larger group of people that ultimately get authorized? So I don't think it's a problem. And, obviously insurance issues, whatever aside, it shouldn't be a problem for people that go get shots. And there's plenty of shots available.

So I think the case really has been made for people over the age of 65. What I do want to hear from the CDC is to better define who's at high risk for severe COVID. What are those conditions that are going to put you at high risk? And we should hear that from the CDC.

First, the FDA has got to authorize it and then the CDC will formally recommend it. Let me just show you, Jake. Again, we have talked about this, but the hospitalizations overall, the data that's always been so important to me is, who are these people that are in the hospital in terms of overall vaccination status?

We know the vast majority, 95 percent, are unvaccinated. That's always -- we always got to remember that part of this whole dialogue. But if you look at the flat line at the bottom, the vaccinated, who are they, the vaccinated that had such severe breakthrough infections landed them in the hospital?

And we know, which is, the 65 and older do make up the vast majority of people who are in the hospital there. I think 70 percent or so the people who are in the hospital and slightly higher percentage for those who are dying of this disease, despite having been vaccinated. It's 87 percent.

So that's pretty well determined. I think it's now just a question of formality, Jake.

TAPPER: So you just heard in Nick's piece about the health care workers, I think, at the University of North Carolina that are refusing to get vaccinated.

This is something that we have seen across the country, a minority, but not a small minority, of health care workers refusing to get vaccinated. You're still a practicing surgeon. I don't know if you encounter this where you do surgery, but what's the deal? Why are there health care workers, a significant percentage, refusing to get vaccinated?

GUPTA: Yes, I had a long conversation with our chief medical officer about this just a couple days ago.

It's -- there's lots of different reasons. I mean, one is that it's pretty reflective. It's a large sector of society. It's pretty reflective of the rest of society. So if you got about 20 to 25 percent just sort of very, very dug in on the vaccine hesitancy, you see that reflected among health care workers as well.

I do think that the argument often is, well, you're a health care worker, therefore, you should know, you're immersed in this place of healing, and, therefore, you would be more likely to get vaccinated.

Well, I think they're subjected to some of the same bad information that other people are subjected to. And also not all health care workers are taking care of patients directly. It's a large term, large population of people that work in hospitals. I think that if you start to say, well, out of the people who actually interact with patients, what percentage of them are vaccinated, it's much higher than health care worker hesitancy overall.


TAPPER: The U.S. seems to be facing a rather uniquely American problem. We have lots of vaccine supply and not enough vaccine demand because of all the concerns and skepticism about the vaccines.

For most of the rest of the world, the dynamic is the complete opposite. They have a lot of demand and not enough supply. Some people might look at the move to share doses with the world that President Biden is now talking about doing even more of and think, why share those dose doses when more than 70 million Americans still need to be convinced to get their first shot?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, as it turns out, if you just do the math, you can do both.

I mean, because the United States purchased 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine alone -- and that doesn't even account for Moderna, hundreds of millions of doses in J&J. So there's a lot of vaccine. I mean, as you point out, the real problem is convincing people to use it here.

But even if everyone did -- all those people that we're talking about got vaccinated, and you rolled out the boosters, as we were describing, there's still plenty of vaccine in the United States.

So, on top of that, 500 million doses have been committed, we're already committed to the world and another 500 million doses were committed. So now you have over a billion doses going around the world. It's still not enough. I mean, that's the thing. If you look at

vaccination rates in this country, compared to the rest of the world, as you point out, in the United States, it's a demand issue, whereas, in the rest of the world, it's a supply issue. You got 22 percent of the population that's eligible that's unvaccinated.

But if we gave those billion doses to the rest of the world, there are -- about 32 percent of the rest of the world is vaccinated right now. It would help, but it's not going to solve the problem. It's going to take a while to get that 32 percent number to the 70 percent number that President Biden and the WHO talk about for the middle of next year.

But as you point out, Jake, we can't get to that number in this country, despite the fact that supply is not an issue.

TAPPER: One of the three pillars of Biden's global plan to fight COVID is to rebuild health care systems and health infrastructure.

What could the U.S. health care system do better to prepare for the next pandemic?

GUPTA: I think this is the topic I have been thinking about the most.

I mean, at its core, you're asking a question about, how do we convince a large society, a large country like this to invest in preparation, which is always hard, pay a lot of money for something that may or may not happen, that you cannot really see or feel until it does happen.

It's challenging. It's challenging in our individual lives to do the right things in terms of our health. It's challenging at a societal level as well.

But I think there's some specific things. What we learned is that, if a pandemic happens, all of a sudden, everybody in the world wants the same things, the same reagents, the same swabs, the same supplies, the same PPE.

If you're going to be truly ready, you're going to have to probably verticalize and have a lot of that stuff within the country already. Spend money on things that you may never use. It's a hard concept, but I think that's part of being prepared.

And, also, I would say testing. Even now, nearly two years into this, Jake, I remember talking with you about testing in the spring of last year.


GUPTA: It was like, we're not doing enough testing.

We're still not doing enough testing.

TAPPER: Right. GUPTA: We never really had eyes on this problem. Even the numbers I'm

giving you are based on modeling data sometimes, because we don't know the actual denominator of what we're dealing with in this country.

So I would put those two things at the top of the list.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

Be sure to check out Sanjay's new book, "World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One." That's going to come out October 5. We will talk to him about it when it comes out.

Coming up: The search intensifies. An underwater dive team is now on scene, as authorities continue to comb a reserve looking for Gabby Petito's missing fiance.



TAPPER: In our national lead: A dive team is now involved as the FBI asks for the public's help in the manhunt to find Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie.

A corner confirms that Petito died by homicide after her remains were discovered Sunday in Wyoming. And a search for Laundrie ramps up 2,000 miles away in Florida. Laundrie told his family he was going to a 25,000-acre wildlife reserve just south of Tampa. That was last Tuesday.

And, as CNN's Leyla Santiago reports for us now, that essentially gave him a four-day head start on these efforts to track him down.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More teams joining the search for Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie.

New today, a highly specialized group of divers at the 25,000-acre Carlton Wildlife Reserve.

KAITLYN R. PEREZ, SARASOTA, FLORIDA, COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: They dive down where you and I can't see anything at all. And they utilize technology and other special equipment to help them get down deep into really deep bodies of water.

SANTIAGO: The multiagency operation taking a methodical approach.

JOE FUSSELL, NORTH PORT POLICE DEPARTMENT: We are trying to cover every acre in this reserve. I tell you, these guys, our law enforcement partners, they're motivated and they're hungry to find Brian Laundrie.

SANTIAGO: Police say Laundrie's parents claim they last saw him over a week ago, when he told them he was heading to the reserve. A neighbor told us she saw Brian after he returned home alone. KARYN ABERTS, NEIGHBOR: Saw him and the family in the neighborhood out in the front yard.

SANTIAGO (on camera): And how would you describe them?

ABERTS: I thought it was just, again, a normal -- they were going for a walk kind of thing, so never thought anything about it.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The initial determination for the manner of Gabby Petito's death, homicide. The FBI now asking the public for assistance.

Some tips to the FBI proving valuable. A second person says he witnessed a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie on August 12 and gave a handwritten sworn statement, saying, in part: "They were talking aggressively at each other, and something seemed off.


At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone. I think the male took the female's phone. It appeared he didn't want her it in the white van. And from my point view of, something definitely didn't seem right.

Another witness, Jessica Schultz, a woman who was camping in Wyoming says in a TikTok video that she alerted the FBI when she spotted a white van suspiciously parked for several days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some friends and I were camping from the 22nd to the 29th. We all independently noticed that van parked there. And I noticed it particularly because I had seen it trying to park, and also because it wasn't actually parked in a designated spot. I figured they'd get booted by the people that patrol the area. But the van was there for several days and nights and did not get booted.

The weirdest part of that was, was that there was no indication that there was anybody actually at the van.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And Jessica Schultz declined to comment to CNN. The FBI also declined citing privacy on this report. Jake, we've been here all day and we certainly are seeing quite a bit of resources coming into this reserve.

The crews here are using very methodical approach, a grid system in which they're using that to use the process of elimination. While they try to find where Brian Laundrie is they're trying to answer at the same time where he is not -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Leyla Santiago with another sad report. Thank you so much.

Coming up -- a showdown on Capitol Hill that could have a real impact on your life. We'll explain the potentially cataclysmic consequences. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: Topping our money lead. A showdown to Capitol Hill will decide whether or not we experience a cataclysmic market meltdown according to Moody's. Republicans are refusing to vote to raise the limit on federal borrowing, the debt ceiling, despite having done so under President Trump and despite the fact the overwhelming majority of the debt was accrued before President Biden.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today saying that this is a Democratic problem.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We all agree America must never default. My advice to this Democratic government, the president, the House and the Senate, don't play Russian roulette with our economy. Step up and raise the debt ceiling to cover all that you have been engaged in all year long.


TAPPER: CNN's business reporter Matt Egan joins us now live.

Matt, walk us through what happens if the U.S. government were to run out of cash and begin defaulting on its loans.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Jake, simply put, it would be a nightmare. Here's why: The federal government spends more money than it actually takes in. Now we can debate the merits of that, but the debt ceiling doesn't actually authorize any new spending. It just lets the government pay the bills for what they've already agreed to spend. This would be like racking up a ton of credit card debt and then just ignoring it and letting it sit there. That's not going to end well, of course.

Except in this case, the pain would be spread throughout the entire country if not around the world. The moody's analytics put out this report and estimate if the U.S. defaulted and there was a prolonged impasse, nearly 6 million jobs would be lost. The unemployment rate would jump to 9 percent. The stock market would plunge by one-third, $15 trillion in household wealth would vanish.

Moments ago, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, he warned that a default would cause severe economic damage and he said that no one should assume that the Fed or anyone else can blunt the damage to the economy or to the market. So that means if the unthinkable actually happens here, the Fed may not be able to come to the rescue.

TAPPER: And beyond the potential 6 million job loss, where will Americans feel the real-life impacts of this crisis the most?

EGAN: Well, Jake, no one would be spared. Obviously, if the markets tanked, that means that retirement plans, college savings plans, 401(k)s, investment portfolios would all get crushed. Millions of people's nest eggs would shrink overnight.

Also the cost of borrowing would go up. Not just for the federal government which would be really bad, but on everything. Mortgages would become more expensive. Car loans would also get more expensive. Taking out a loan as a small business would also rise. So, all of those issues.

But don't forget that countless people, they rely on the federal government having cash for payment. And if there was a default, the U.S. would have to delay payments on everything from paychecks to federal workers to Social Security, also Medicare benefits.

Now, no politician wants to be held responsible for a disaster like this. That's why investors do expect that Congress is going to do the right thing here, eventually. But, Jake, the closer they get to the cliff here, the greater the chance they go over it, even if they didn't mean to.

TAPPER: Matt Egan, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, live on the ground in Del Rio, Texas, where thousands of migrants are still gathering.


What comes next for them? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, President Biden urgently meet with key Democratic lawmakers to try to reach a deal to pass his agenda to save his presidency.

Plus, back to work but nowhere to send your baby or toddler. A shortage of workers leading to a child care crisis in the U.S.

And leading this hour, we're live in Del Rio, Texas, where a different crisis is unfolding. Thousands of people, mostly Haitians, waiting at the border to be processed by U.S. officials.