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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Source: Number Of "No" Votes Coming Down, As Pelosi Changes Some Dems' Minds; Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Is Interviewed About $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill; Top Biden Officials: Feds Can't Order Vaccine For Students; Day Cares Face Huge Demand But Struggle To Find Help; Inside The Wisconsin Base Housing Thousands Of Afghan Refugees; CDC Urges Pregnant Women To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine; NFL Announces 2022 Super Bowl Halftime Show; GOP Wins Congressional Baseball Game Amid Divisions On Capitol Hill. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 30, 2021 - 17:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And she's not delaying this vote yet. In fact, she is conveying the opposite that they are moving ahead.

Now, ultimately, because she changed her tack, possibly. But there are two different realities that are emerging in the House Democratic caucus. One, on the moderate side. I just talked to Josh Gottheimer, who's a leader of that modern wing. He said that there will be a vote tonight on this infrastructure package. And he predicted it will pass.

And minutes later, I talked to Pramila Jayapal, she is the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She said there will not be a vote tonight. And if it were to come up tonight, that vote will fail.

And the reason why progressives are threatening to vote against this in mass is because they want to use this as leverage to force moderates like Joe Manchin on a larger social safety net package, something that Joe Manchin has not signed off on yet, as he has raised serious concerns about the direction the party is moving to expand health care, education, and climate change deal with a whole range of issues.

Now, earlier today, Manchin did lay out his top line, he said $1.5 trillion is the limit in which he would accept. And he said he told Joe Biden about that when I asked him about it earlier today.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: He would like to have a lot more than that. And I said, Mr. President, I understand that. It's just, you know, hopefully you can respect.

And he's always been so respectful. He said, Hey, Joe, I never actually go against your convictions. He says, I think we want all the same things. We want to help children, we want to help seniors, we want to help those -- in long term goal. We want the rich to pay their fair share, do the tax reform, I'm all for it.


RAJU: Now, Jake, another key thing that Manchin said is that this will take time to resolve all these differences, dealing with a tax code, certainly not fast enough in which a lot of progressives want. In fact, the progressives want to actually pass that social safety net package first before they agree to vote yes on that infrastructure bill that is slated for a vote tonight.

And obviously they're not going to give it a vote yes, as soon as tonight. So Jake, is still uncertain at this hour how Nancy Pelosi will bridge the differences between the two wings of a party, but she's working the phones, working the votes, and everybody's waiting on what she will say.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much. Let's discuss all this with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She is the Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Congresswoman, good to see you.

So, sources tell CNN that Speaker Pelosi is working furiously behind the scenes to try to flip progressive Democrats from no on infrastructure to yes, even though there isn't a clear agreement on the $3.5 trillion social safety net spending bill. Has Pelosi convinced you to vote for the infrastructure bill, if it comes up today?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI), DEPUTY WHIP, CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: You know, Jake I'm going to approach this differently than you are. The fact of the matter is the Speaker is working very hard. And there is nobody I know.

I have a seasoned soul around the Capitol. I was married to a master legislator, there is nobody better at legislating. She is trying to get a path to get there.

And Democrats are united that failure is not an option. He's (ph) working very hard with the White House, the President, the Senate, and members of the caucus who are united. Ninety-six percent of us are, like, wait, it's very simple, we got to have vote of these bills.

The President's vision when he ran was the bill bent better plan, and she is trying to get a path that's all of us together can agree on and vote on. And we'll see when that happens.

TAPPER: Well, that's the key, right, when, because Congressman Pocan, one of your fellow progressives told me earlier this week that he thought the vote was probably going to be in a couple of weeks, not today. Are you surprised that she has not yet postponed the vote?

DINGELL: No, I think she's on path to get there. I don't know Democrat that doesn't want to support the President's agenda. The President is now -- there are a whole lot of members. I've said this. So, I probably got in trouble yesterday.

But now I'm just saying what I said yesterday that we are in the middle that hadn't been part of any of these discussions. They wanted to know what does the President want. We all want this vision that President Biden got elected on. And the question is, how are we going to get there?

And it's not just to -- I love both of these senators. They're both my friends. But you know what, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, more than 200 of them are Democrats, and they represent constituents whose voices need to be heard, whose voices need to be heard, and who need to know what's going on and be consulted to. And that has potentially been a problem, the focus on just a few members.

But I do think that's being corrected. People are being talked to more. And there is a path that is now being pursued.

TAPPER: Has Pelosi reached out to you? Have you spoken with her today?

DINGELL: Well, I was in a leadership meeting. You know, I don't like labels the way that everybody puts them. I'm actually a member -- ii have some of my Progressive Caucus members to say, you're not a problem solver. Stop talking to Republicans. I talked to everybody.

You know the word Congress means coming together. And I have a lot of friends across all spectrums. I talk to them. I learned from them. We have different perspectives.


So, and, you know, that's what the Speaker is doing right now. She's talking to everybody, finding where that common ground is, and how are we going to make sure we have both of these bills. It's that simple.

You -- that Build Back Better is actually the vision that Joe Biden laid out. And, look, I think it's great that there's a lot of things we need in the back, but not enough. I mean, I'll start with electric vehicles. We are not going to meet the goal the president set out of 50 percent EDs (ph) by 2030 if we don't pass Build Back Better.

TAPPER: Right.

So, a lot of members of the Progressive Caucus, which you're a member of, have been saying that they want the moderates, the so called moderates to make a counteroffer that you guys are saying 3.5 trillion and this is what we want in it, give us a counteroffer. So Senator Joe Manchin, one of the moderates, said this afternoon publicly for the first time, that his top line number is $1.5 trillion.

If that were to become the Build Back Better Bill, $1.5 trillion, including all the programs you want funded, but obviously, with significantly less money, would that be OK with you?

DINGELL: Look, I'm not going to negotiate on national television. There's a lot of discussions going on, a lot of -- and the speaker's leading that. And I think that's one of the problems I probably shouldn't even be doing the show at this point already.

People are attracted, negotiate this in public. We need both bills. It's that simple. All of us.

I can't -- there are Republicans, they share the values of many things that are in the Build Back Better. Who doesn't need child care? Who doesn't, you know, who doesn't want to get the lead out of every pipe in America, after you get a study this week that shows 50 percent of the children that have been tested have lead in their blood? There are a lot of priorities we all have and we got to figure out how we're going to get there.

And Nancy Pelosi is leading us and getting us there. And we are united, that failure is not enough.

TAPPER: For Senator Sinema, it seems that the issue is more about the tax increases to pay for the agenda than it is the agenda. Anyway, I do want to ask you earlier this week, you said this was going to be a week from hell. Has it been?

DINGELL: It's been the week from hell and it continues to be the day from hell. But you know, we didn't get elected to have a cushy job, I guess. We are -- you know, more people need to be willing to come together, listen to each other.

One of the problems these days is that people don't talk to each other enough. They don't listen to each other. They don't understand different perspectives. It's been a long, difficult hard week.

You know, the old Will Rogers, people with weak stomach shouldn't watch sausage or was being made. And we have been in very complicated sausage making this week.

TAPPER: You've been calling for President Biden to get more directly involved in the process and to talk to more people beyond just Manchin in Sinema. Has he been taking your advice at all? Did he fail to make this happen?

DINGELL: You know, I'm not going to call anybody failing at anything. You know what, we're going to succeed, Jake. In the end, we will succeed.

I think you saw him go to the baseball game. We had one on one conversations with members. I know that more calls are being made.

So, you know, people want -- I do think that sometimes when we get into these kinds of some difficult moments, there's a focus on just a few members. And people forget, I call them the silent majority, except that silent majority had both, that really want to know what's going on. They want to be consulted, they represent constituents who care and want to know that their Congress person is giving the say and representing what they can.

I think that may have been an ingredient that was missing that is -- was being addressed by our leadership but needed. It's -- I think a lot of people are working hard on this path that's going to get us (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Democrat from the great state of Michigan, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

So what does this mean, this moment, for Joe Biden's presidency? We'll dig into that next.

Plus, a key tool to keep kids in the classroom is proving hard to get. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In the politics lead, to underscore just how hour by hour, minute by minute matters are in Washington right now. The White House is banking on a House vote tonight on his infrastructure bill. This after a busy week of intense negotiations.

Biden started with calls Monday with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday. It was in person meetings at the White House with Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, two key Democrats not on board with that larger $3.5 trillion bill many progressives want. By Wednesday, Pelosi and Schumer were at the White House and Biden was talking to Senator Manchin again on the phone.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House where the President's entire agenda frankly is at stake.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Biden, feverish days of private calls and meetings now giving way to a clear public reality.

MANCHIN: He's sincere, he would like to have a lot more than that. And I said, Mr. President, I understand that. It's just, you know, hopefully you can respect. He's always been so respectful. He said, Hey, Joe, I never actually go against your convictions.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Biden's sweeping policy ambition is on the brink, and must be slashed dramatically.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right now, we're clearly in the thick of it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): White House officials had four days been prepared to scale back Biden's $3.5 trillion economic and climate package. But Senator Joe Manchin is $1.5 trillion top line comes in well below what officials have been pressing for or what progressives are willing to accept. All, as a separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package hangs in the balance short of the votes to pass.


(on camera): Is the President seeking strategic value in a vote failing on the House floor?

PSAKI: Well, as Speaker Pelosi said earlier today, we're on a path to win. I don't want to even consider any other options than that.

We're working towards winning a vote tonight.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Leaving Biden, and the agenda that serves as the backbone of his presidency, at a crossroads.

PSAKI: The President, the Speaker of the House, and the leader, have more experience getting legislation across the finish line than any group of Democrat -- Democratic leaders in history.

We're in the middle of it right now. It's messy, the sausage making on Capitol Hill.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And with the need to square a $2 trillion dollar reduction in a package with clear transformative goals.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to change the paradigm, we start to reward work, not just wealth.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With sweeping proposals for universal pre-K, expanded home and child care, free community college and expanded child tax credit in the most aggressive climate proposals in history now hanging in the balance. It's ambition that is central to his view of this moment for the country.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The President of the United States, who has this vision for our country, as I've told you before, he said, I want to work on the bipartisan bill for infrastructure, but I will not confine my vision for America to what is in there.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Now faced with simply keeping negotiations alive with the barest of House and Senate majorities.

PSAKI: We would hopefully see more willingness to compromise. That's happening, too. We're hard at work. And he's been through this before. So, he's not too thrown off his game on it.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, despite a day that started with long odds in terms of that infrastructure vote, White House officials have been working behind the scenes feverishly over the course of the last several hours with their allies on Capitol Hill trying to figure out if there's some way to secure some kind of framework to unlock progressive votes for that bill tonight. I was just texting with somebody a short while ago, said they're not there yet, but they're still working, Jake.

TAPPER: They're still working.

Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with the panel. And Francesca, let me start with you. You heard Congresswoman Debbie Dingell just say to me that it continues to be the day from hell. So Joe Manchin is coming out, said, 1.5 trillion is his top line. Progressives are saying that's not good enough. So we are not going to vote for the infrastructure bill, because we want more than that for the big spending bill for social safety net programs. Do you think there's even going to be a vote based on your reporting on the infrastructure bill tonight?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, if there is a vote doesn't look like it would pass. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she wouldn't want to put a vote on the floor if they didn't think it would pass. And so we'll have to see.

But as the White House said, they're in it to win it, Jake. The question at this point is if it didn't pass tonight, or if the vote is held, when would that vote take place? And how would that affect the President's agenda?

Now, what I'm being told from Mark Zandi, who the White House often relies on for this kind of analysis, is that even if it took place in a couple of weeks or maybe even a couple months, that it still wouldn't affect the timeline or implementation of this. So they have a little bit of breathing room on this tonight.

TAPPER: So you interviewed Josh Gottheimer, who is a congressman from New Jersey, a Democrat who's one of the big moderates, pushing for the infrastructure bill to be voted on Monday, didn't happen. But tonight, and he told you that he predicted he would be drinking champagne by the end of today.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's definitely showing some optimism. Look, I mean, moderates will tell you that Pelosi made a promise to them. And I mean, she says she's a broken record, I don't bring a bill to the floor if I'm going to lose. But she also gave her word to these moderates. And that's how she got them to vote for this $3.5 trillion dollar budget.

And so, if that doesn't happen, you know, there are already threats being made and lodged across, you know, the bow behind the scenes, like what happens, do they walk away from the negotiating table when it comes to this reconciliation package?

Kyrsten Sinema has told President Biden twice, at least from our reporting, that if this, you know, goes down or gets delayed and keeps getting pushed off, that she's going to stop talking, and she's going to stop negotiating. And so, they've got to please these moderates, too.

And you know, people -- these moderates who make the point that, look, this came up for a vote in the Senate before and it failed, before it passed. So they say put on the floor, see what happens. Even if it goes down, it's not the end of the day.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, it is true that sometimes you don't have the votes until you hold the vote. And people are under that kind of pressure.

TAPPER: Sometimes, the leaders of the party will actually stop time.


TAPPER: It's magic hour.

PONNURU: Stretch out.

TAPPER: Stop times to let the vote happen the way they want.

PONNURU: But what I'm not really getting a sense of is that everybody actually is united behind what Congresswoman Dingell says, which is that failure is not an option. Sounds to me, like failure is very much an option.

There are progressives who will say it would be better for both of these bills to go down than for there not to be the social safety net bill and for the moderates to have won in this internal struggle. I think that there are moderates who are willing to say we'd rather spend nothing than spend all of these, you know, $4 trillion.

TAPPER: Paul, I believe Congressman Henry Cuellar, as a fellow Texan, right, he's --



TAPPER: So he's one of the moderates who has been pushing for this infrastructure bill. He said that if there is not a vote, quote, "It would mean that the majority, the House, the Senate, the President, all Democrats cannot govern."

Now, I don't know if he meant that if there's not a vote today, or if there's not a vote in the next week or two, he probably wouldn't expand the definition. But do you agree with the notion that if neither of these pass, that's really the death knell for the Democrats, when it comes to the midterms? And maybe even 2024?

BEGALA: If these bills don't pass, period, not today, because there's nothing magic about September, what is this September 30th?

TAPPER: Good question, I don't know.

BEGALA: Yes, I'm sorry. I'm lost.

There's nothing magic about this day. Right? I mean, they're funding the government, that is important. So, I think he's right, fundamentally, though. The Democrats, the American people in the House, the Senate, the White House, they promised to fix the roads and bridges and water systems and they promised a cheaper childcare, cheaper health insurance premiums, more help with your prescription drugs if your senior citizen.

TAPPER: Right. BEGALA: They have to deliver or they will lose and deserved to.

BADE: But the problem is they all -- these Democrats, they campaigned on different things. Democrats like to say we campaigned on, you know, with a promise to do this.

TAPPER: On the Biden agenda, right.

BADE: But you've talked to someone like Senator Joe Manchin, who in this huge gaggle, you know, a few hours earlier today was calling this bill, the height of what, fiscal insanity if you can't fund Social Security, if you can't fund Medicare right now, and you have a $20 trillion, you know, debt, why are you spending this money?

So, it's yes, most 96 percent of the Democratic Party is there, but you need 100 percent to pass this thing. And they're trying to do this in 24 hours, when the bipartisan infrastructure bill literally took months to negotiate.

TAPPER: And listen, I want to play this for you. This is a woman in Arizona who campaigned for Sinema in 2018 saying she's disappointed by the senator. There's -- they're now talking about a primary challenge to Sinema when she's next up. Take a listen.


KARINA RUIZ, ORGANIZER OF ARIZONA PRIMARY CHALLENGER: She's part of that problem and that conversation. She is talking about bipartisanship when we hear Mitch McConnell saying that they're going to stop anything that the Biden administration wants to move forward from climate change to water rights to child tax credit, like we see it in this bill.


CHAMBERS: The White House is also putting a lot of pressure on Senators Manchin and Sinema. Jen Psaki today telling reporters, literally encouraging them to go to Manchin and ask him these questions and refusing to answer on his map (ph). They see progress, Jake, is being made here.

What is their definition of progress? The fact that he said today that 1.5 trillion is what he wants to see. So, part of the White House's strategy here is literally getting reporters to go talk to them and ask them what they want.

PONNURU: Well, I think the problem is, a lot of other Democrats might not like the answers to get to those questions. I mean, Manchin, has been criticized by some Democrats for not laying out what he wants. But a lot of what he has said that he wants, he's been consistent about, and he's been talking about what he wants.

He's been saying he doesn't want the corporate tax rate to go above 25 percent. He's comfortable with capital gains going up to 28, but he doesn't want to take it any further than that. He wants means testing on all of these programs. He's got a pretty specific list of demands and has four months, and he is a vote that they need.

The idea that, that there's a lot of pressure that Democrats can put on, I just don't see what the source of that pressure is going to be.

TAPPER: I have heard that one of the reasons why Kyrsten Sinema is reluctant to support this, and we all know this, is that -- it's not so much the content of the bill, it's the tax increases to pay for it. And there are legitimately Democrats, maybe minority in the party but a legitimately delegates who think that raising the corporate tax rate beyond where it is right now could be harmful. They really actually fundamentally believe this.

But when you hear progressives talk about the Sinemas and the Manchins and the Gottheimers, they -- a lot of them say these people are corrupt, all they listen to is special interest, or they listen to is corporate America. I don't know that it's that simple. I mean, I think some people actually have different beliefs.

BEGALA: Right. I don't know Senator Sinema, I know. Congressman Josh Gottheimer very well. I worked with him for years in the White House.

He's a very principled guy. He may not agree with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, that doesn't make him a bad person or did make her a bad person. There's so much animosity, Jake --


BEGALA: -- between the moderates and the left. The moderates, I talked about them, the moderates will say, we lost a lot of good members because that defund the police nonsense. They're right. Then you talk to the progressives and they say, oh, they're all just horrible and corporate, you know, and they have to get beyond that and listen.

OK, yes, Joe Manchin is not for all the taxes, but he's for a lot of them. He wants the rich to pay more. That -- and Senator Sinema needs to know, politically, that's the most unassailable piece of this. And yes, people like free stuff.

But when you sit there and watch these castronauts (ph) flying their stupid spaceships in outer space, and my mom pays more taxes than they do, I can sell that in a campaign in Arizona senator.

TAPPER: Right. No, sure. I'm not saying that I don't agree with --

BEGALA: I don't mean you, but yes.

TAPPER: -- tax emphasis, but -- and yes, it is popular when you when you poll to raise the top tax bracket from 37 percent, what is 39 --


BEGALA: Thirty-nine point six.

TAPPER: Yes. That is -- that polls well, but it doesn't necessarily poll well in every congressional district.

I don't know Josh Gottheimer's district, I think it's fairly affluent in northern New Jersey, it might not poll well there.

CHAMBERS: Right. And there are other, and I know you're (INAUDIBLE), too. But there are other moderate members or members in swing districts who may feel the same way about this. But at the same time, there are many Democrats who are saying, if you don't move this agenda, then we will lose the midterms, we will lose the House, period.

So, the question for them becomes like, again, when would you have to get this done by for people to be able to start feeling the real effects of this in order to be able to vote for Democrats in election? And this problem they see that happened in 2008 to Barack --


CHAMBERS: -- or not 2008, 2012 to Barack Obama, is that people didn't start to feel it soon enough in order for Democrats.

TAPPER: We only have one minute, so quick, quick predictions, and I'm not going to hold you to it because I have no idea what's going to happen. What do you think is going to happen tonight, just on tonight?

PONNURU: They're not getting the vote tonight.

BEGALA: I think they'll have the vote and fail, but then they'll pass it a week or two.

CHAMBERS: If the vote is tonight, it wouldn't pass it at this point.

BADE: I think it'll be late, it'll happen and it'll fail.

TAPPER: You actually didn't make a prediction. Don't think I didn't notice there. It's very clever.

CHAMBER: If the vote is tonight --

TAPPER: It was very clever.

CHAMBERS: -- it will fail.

TAPPER: It was clever.

My thanks to the panel.

Coming up, a childcare crisis. Why so many workers are leaving childcare centers, leaving some parents without a place to send their kids. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, what will and what will not work when it comes to keeping schools open and safe during the coronavirus pandemic. CNN's Kristen Holmes watch as Biden's Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services testified on Capitol Hill today. And Kristen, let's start with what everyone seemed to agree will not work, and that is federal, that is Biden administration vaccine mandates for students.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, this has been a big question. I mean, this hearing became contentious almost immediately, which isn't surprising given that children are involved, parents are concerned. And while everyone seems to agree that they want children back in classrooms learning there are still so many questions on how to do that safely.

And one of the questions, as you raise, was whether or not the Biden administration would try to enforce some sort of federal mandate on children in schools, a very polarizing idea, like we've seen them do with workers, et cetera. So Richard Burr, a Republican, started grilling the secretaries on this almost immediately. Take a listen.


XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I am very supportive both personally and as Secretary of Health and Human Services of a school district, of a local jurisdiction, of a governor that says it is time to keep our kids in school safe, and we will therefore move towards requiring masks or vaccinations.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): But not --

BECERRA: I very much support their --

BURR: But not the federal government.

BECERRA: The federal government doesn't have jurisdiction to tell schools what to do.


HOLMES: So, support or no support, it is very clear that, one, they do not have the jurisdiction but, two, they don't seem to be doing anything to try to figure out a work around here to try to get a federal mandate in place which will make some parents very happy and others. And other teachers that I've spoken to who are hoping for more kids vaccinated in school, a little less happy, Jake.

TAPPER: And now let's go to something that both Democrats and Republicans agree on and that is the urgent need for inexpensive, easily accessible coronavirus tests.

HOLMES: Yes, the level of agreement here should show you what a big issue this is. Tim Kaine said at one point, it's the only thing that everyone on the committee agrees on is that this is a huge issue. And the Biden administration has said time and time again that it is a key component in getting kids back into classrooms. In fact, Biden included it in his six-part plan in combating coronavirus, the Delta variant when it comes to getting kids back in school.

And senators today, what we heard from them is that despite all of that, it doesn't really matter. Because right now there aren't tests available to these administrators to actually use successfully. Take a listen.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): We need to be testing almost every day or every few days.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Right now you go into the Anchorage International Airport where I get tested every time I land, and there are no rapid tests that are available. They'll say it's due to a national shortage.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): If the tests are like $1 or $2, they'll get tests to make sure they can go to work or they'll test their kid to make sure it's safe for them to be at school. But if it's $15, the willingness to regularly test yourself dramatically goes down.


HOLMES: And I do want to note that there has been $10 billion, in federal dollars, that have been designated to testing. But, again, if these administrators can't actually get their hands on tests, the money is useless, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

This goes right into our money lead because the coronavirus pandemic obviously remains out of control. And because of that, daycares cannot find enough workers to take care of children, so parents, often mothers, cannot go back to work.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich spoke with some daycare operators who are desperate to find help and simply cannot.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The challenges you're facing, hiring staff right now, how would you describe it in a word or two?




YURKEVICH (voice-over): And why is that?

PAGANO: In the past, it was can we find someone who's qualified for this position? And right now it's like, can we even get people to apply?

YURKEVICH (voice-over): These three women who run Pattycake Playhouse childcare centers in Upstate New York are dealing with the worst labor shortage of their careers. [17:35:00]

PAGANO: I've never had the turnover like we've had recently. I've never seen it like this.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): One big reason? Low pay. Wages here at Pattycake are $13 to $15 an hour. Nationally, it's 12.88.

(on-camera): Is that a reasonable livable wage for somebody who is tasked with taking care of children every day?

CONKLIN: No, it's not. Definitely not. And that's, I think, where the frustration is for us, is we see how hard they're working.

YURKEVICH (on-camera): Why don't you just raise tuition?

PAGANO: So we do raise the tuition by a small percentage each year. The parents can only afford so much.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): It's a vicious cycle. Tuition already sky high for parents directly pay staff, but centers need lots of teachers. Infants alone can require one teacher per four children. And with little to no public funding, the result is wait lists. Here, it's through the summer of 2022.

JACKSON: I feel bad because a lot of them are calling desperate, looking for childcare because they are having to go back into the workforce and I just can't -- I can't help them.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): There are nearly 127,000 fewer childcare workers than before the pandemic. Some citing COVID fears and low pay. Brianna Jenkins Williams is one of them.

BRIANNA JENKINS WILLIAMS, LEFT BECAUSE OF LOW PAY: I love working here. I just need more money.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): She was making 13.50 an hour at Pattycake.

WILLIAMS: Wasn't really making enough trying to make ends meet, you know, trying to feed my child. Make sure, you know, he had food on the table. Just got overwhelming.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): She's found a new job making $16 an hour. The decision to leave the children here was not an easy one.

WILLIAMS: Better sleep, very better sleep.

YURKEVICH (on-camera): Do you feel like the children lose in any way?

JACKSON: When they lose somebody that they trust and somebody that can care for them, and someone, you know, that is their safe space when they come to school.

PAGANO: Yes. JACKSON: So, yes, the children lose in that aspect of it. Yes.


YURKEVICH: Now, many businesses are requiring vaccines for their employees going so far as to fire those who don't comply. But at this childcare center, these owners are so desperate to find workers that they're not mandating vaccines for these workers who are taking care of children every day, because, one, they feel like they're going to lose the existing staff they have and number two, they think it'll make it much harder to find new employees to fill these critical roles. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, we're getting a first-hand look at a U.S. base housing Afghan refugees as the government scrambles to try to find more permanent housing. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead now right now, 53,000 Afghan refugees are being temporarily housed at eight military bases across the U.S., most are at-risk Afghans including those who are special immigrant visa holders who escaped Kabul following the dramatic collapse of that country and Taliban takeover triggered by the abrupt U.S. exit over a month ago. They're hunkering down waiting for a permanent and safe place to live. One base in Wisconsin, Fort McCoy which houses the biggest number of refugees let cameras inside today.

Let's bring in CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. And Priscilla, what's life like on the base for these Afghan allies?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: The way it's been described to me is like cities. There's cafeterias there's areas where they can pick up donations, recreation spaces for children, places where they can learn at one base separate from McCoy, but also where Afghan evacuees are. They split the barracks into villages, and they have their own councils and Afghan leaders who talk to military officials.

This is where these 53,000 people are waiting. They are getting processed. They are doing medical checks. They're applying for work permits. This is where they are until they can wrap all that up and be eligible for release and resettlement in the United States.

TAPPER: And you also have new reporting on what's being done to find permanent, permanent housing for all these Afghan refugees.

ALVAREZ: This is the next big challenge for the Biden administration and the refugee resettlement groups that they work with. They simply can't find housing. There's limited inventory, and limited inventory that's affordable. So, ultimately, the refugee resettlement groups will decide where these evacuees land in the United States and work with communities to get them set up.

But in the interim, they have to find those places and they're doing it on an expedited timeline. This is something that takes months to do. They're doing it in weeks. And so, the Biden administration in the interim is working with state and local governments. They're working with private sector, they're considering targeted campaigns to raise awareness.

One senior administration official told me that they want to get to the point where they can start releasing thousands of people off bases. But, Jake, a lot of work to be done before they get there.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you.

A shockingly no number -- low number of pregnant women are vaccinated against COVID even though they are more at risk to the virus. We'll separate fact from fiction with an expert next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our health lead today, the CDC is upping the urgency for pregnant Americans to get vaccinated against COVID. Pregnant patients who contract COVID are twice as likely to need a ventilator or other intensive care. They are 70 percent more likely to die from COVID, and yet only three in 10 pregnant women have been vaccinated according to statistics.

My next guest is Dr. Danielle Jones. She's an OB-GYN hospitalist in Texas and she goes by Mama Doctor Jones on social media, if you want to look for her. So Dr. Jones, I want to start with this tweet you shared earlier this month. "Delta variant in unvaccinated pregnant patients is one of the most horrifying disease processes I've ever seen. Get vaccinated", you say. You're treating pregnant patients with COVID every day, is it as bad as the statistics would indicate?

DR. DANIELLE JONES, OBSTETRICIAN-GYNECOLOGIST: Absolutely, Jake. What we're seeing right now is that patients who have COVID and pregnancies specifically the Delta variant, which is primarily what is the outbreak currently, they have about a 50 percent chance of having moderate to severe symptoms. And out of those who are admitted to the hospital, one in three will need respiratory support.

It's really, really scary. It's hitting our pregnant patients so hard. And if I could get one message out to people, it would be to get vaccinated.

TAPPER: When you talk to people who come to you with pregnancies and you're telling them to get vaccinated, what reasons might they give to resist?


JONES: You know, I understand the hesitancy. People just want to do the best thing for their baby. And this has been confusing pandemic. Medicine is scary, it changes quickly. And there's been a lot of misinformation online.

So I think most of them are just scared, and they don't know who to believe or what the correct information is. And, you know, getting the word out that the vaccines have been studied now in many pregnant patients, and that there's no increased risk of problems because of the vaccine is really, really important.

TAPPER: So let's say a pregnant woman comes to your office, she's reluctant to get a COVID vaccine. She's been told she shouldn't even take ibuprofen. She shouldn't even eat deli meat. She shouldn't even empty her cat's litter box because of risks to her pregnancy.

She might think, OK, I'll do all that. But a new vaccine seems like a much bigger risk than kitty litter. What do you tell her? How do you counsel her?

JONES: Absolutely. I hear you and I understand why it feels like that. But at the end of the day, those things don't have a benefit. So eating deli meat might be fun, but you can eat something else. The benefit of this vaccine is that it greatly reduces your risk of being admitted to the hospital because of COVID, of ICU admission, of need for a ventilator and of delivering your baby preterm.

But the risk we've looked at in many, many pregnant people at this point is very low. The vaccine is effective in pregnancy. And we have not seen any adverse outcomes related to the vaccine in pregnancy.

TAPPER: There's also this myth out there. Nicki Minaj helped with it a little bit, that getting a vaccine will cause infertility problems or other reproductive disasters. How do we know the COVID vaccine won't ultimately cause infertility since it hasn't been around that long? What would you tell somebody who asks you that?

JONES: You know, that's an excellent question. What we saw in the original studies is that there was no difference in the amount of unintended pregnancies between the vaccinated group and the placebo group, meaning, there wasn't a lower chance of pregnancy if people were vaccinated. We also have additional data now that looks at people undergoing IVF treatment, and those who were vaccinated did not have any lower implantation risks than -- implantation rates than those who were not vaccinated.

So, you would expect if this was causing infertility, that people who are vaccinated and having IVF would have lower rates of pregnancy with their procedures. And we're not saying that at all. I'm confident that this vaccine has no relation to infertility.

TAPPER: OK. Another hypothetical for you. So someone who has struggled -- because you brought up IVF -- somebody who struggled with infertility, somebody who has had miscarriages finally has a viable pregnancy. How do you assure that person, you're going to be OK, you need to get this vaccine, it will not negatively impact your baby?

JONES: Sure. So first off, I would encourage anyone who's considering getting pregnant to go ahead and get vaccinated now. We know that it doesn't lower your chances of pregnancy and you'll be protected immediately. As far as optimal timing for vaccination and pregnancy, you should be vaccinated as soon as you can.

We want to leave you unprotected for the smallest amount of time possible. And since this vaccine reduces your risk, and increases the chance that you will take home your baby and be happy and healthy alongside them, I would encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

TAPPER: So pregnant women are often told to consider the risks before any new procedure, any new medication. But if you go to sign up for a booster in Brooklyn, New York today, and you say you're pregnant, this message pops up cautioning you to talk to your OB-GYN before you come. This is from New York State Health Department, I think. And that that seems like a contrary message to what we're hearing from the CDC. Is it bad public health advice to tell someone to reconsider or talk to their OB-GYN first? Why would that pop up?

JONES: You know, we've seen this throughout the pandemic. As soon as the vaccines became available to healthcare workers, we started seeing people turn away from pharmacies, if they were pregnant. Even if they themselves wanting to get the vaccine at that point, we didn't even have that data. These are outdated practices. And they're not following the most up to date data that we have available. And I do think it is unfortunate and it should not be allowed. It's unethical to scare people away from getting vaccinated if that's what they want to do.

The data supports this CDC SMFM, which is the high risk pregnancy experts and ACOG which are pregnancy experts. They all recommend this and it is, I think, unethical for that to be a fear-mongering tactic.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Danielle Jones, thank you so much. Good to see you.

JONES: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We just learned who will be performing at the Super Bowl halftime show. That's next.



TAPPER: Just 10 minutes ago, the NFL announced the lineup for the Super Bowl halftime show and that's our sports lead today, tweeting, "43 Grammys, 19 Number 1 Billboard albums and five legendary artists on the biggest stage in Los Angeles". Those five artists, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar. That is a sweet lineup.

The 56 Super Bowl kicks off February 13th. Eagles, are you going to let me see that show?

Also in our sports lead, a little bit of baseball history today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats were trying to get caught up Wow, this is a long run (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greg Steube with the first pitch --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and the first swing, it's going to be a homerun. Steube out of the ballpark.


TAPPER: 43-year-old Florida Republican Greg Steube clearing the fence at Nats Park last night. The first lawmaker to do so since the congressional baseball game move there in 2008. Republicans nearly won the game 13 to 12, holding off a late-inning push to secure their first win in five years.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.