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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Key Measure Of U.S. Inflation Rises To A 39-Year-High; Supreme Court Keeps Texas Abortion Law But Says Providers Can Sue; COVID Hospitalizations Increase 40 Percent Compared To Last Month; Mexico Truck Crash Leaves At Least 55 Migrants Dead, 100+ Injured; GOP Lawmakers In Flood-Prone Districts Vote Against Funding To Fix It. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 10, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: His remains will go to his Kansas hometown for a public viewing and service and then to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: All right. Have a great weekend everybody else. I'll see you on Sunday. See you all Sunday.



I said it.

BLACKWELL: All right.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: For THE LEAD with Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper.

The last time this happened, "Thriller" was a brand-new hit.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The pandemic era price hike squeezing your budget. What the key economic number at a level not seen in almost four decades. But there may be some relief in sight.

Plus, the Supreme Court doesn't block Texas' restrictive abortion law but it will allow legal challenges to proceed. And now, President Biden is reacting.

And rising hypocrisy. A look at the Republican lawmakers blocking efforts to fix flooding problems as the sea swallows parts of their districts.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper today.

And we start with our money lead and an economic record the United States did not want to hit. Data out today shows a key measure of inflation climbed to a 39-year high last month. Simply put, Americans are paying a lot more for everyday goods than they were at this time last year.

Gasoline prices up 58.1 percent. Energy costs 33.3 percent higher. And groceries an increase of 6.4 percent.

President Biden this afternoon saying he thinks we're at the peak of the crisis right now and that lower prices are on the way.

But as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, this new date creates a major roadblock for the rest of the president's economic agenda.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every other aspect of the economy is racing ahead. It's doing incredibly well.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden trying to highlight the positive as a complicated picture of the economy emerges.

BIDEN: But inflation is affecting people's lives.


MATTINGLY: Inflation hitting its highest point since 1982. A surge in consumer demand continues to run headlong into pandemic-driven supply constraints, rising 6.8 percent in November from the year prior. Prices were up 0.8 percent from October, ticking down slightly but still marking an alarmingly rapid pace.

White House officials keenly aware of what was coming and moving to counter the numbers before they were released.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: That data is, by definition, backward looking and so, it won't capture some recent price movements, particularly in the area of energy.

MATTINGLY: Pointing to an array of positive economic signals from easing shipping bottlenecks to gas prices that have dropped an average of 9 cents from the month prior, to broader metrics like robust job, wage and economic growth.

DEESE: The strength of our labor market and the strength of wage increases and the steps that we've taken to try to provide some relief to American families position our economy and American households uniquely well to address what is a global issue around price increases and the context of supply chains.

MATTINGLY: But the progress undercut by a political reality apparent in poll after poll. One President Biden himself has made a point to acknowledge in recent weeks. BIDEN: It's not enough to know that we're making progress. You need

to see it and feel it in your own lives.

MATTINGLY: And creating a real potential roadblock for the $1.75 trillion cornerstone of Biden's domestic agenda. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a critical holdout has for months pointed to inflation as a primary driver of his reluctance to support the bill. And as Democrats push toward Senate consideration of that bill, Republicans directing a political maneuver aimed squarely at Manchin's spending concerns, releasing a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill if its spending provisions were extended for a full ten years.

Finally, it would add $3 trillion to the debt. Democrats casting that aside as a political ploy, noting it's an analysis that reflects an imaginary bill.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not about the existing bill. Anybody is debating or voting on.


MATTINGLY (on camera): But, Pamela, the reality is while the economy and what that means for Americans is top of mind for White House officials, so is really an audience of one, and that is Senator Joe Manchin. President Biden himself says he will be talking to Senator Manchin early next week, obviously a critical moment for his domestic agenda, a critical vote for that agenda.

Asked by our colleague Kaitlan Collins if he thought Senator Manchin would be on board for that domestic agenda, Biden said he simply didn't know yet -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Phil Mattingly, we shall see. Thank you so much.

And, let's discuss.

Greg, I'm going to start with you to put this economic picture into perspective for us. You have President Biden saying he thinks we're at the peak of the inflation crisis.


Do economists agree with that?

GREG IP, CHIEF ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Broadly speaking, yes. The inflation rate at 6.8 percent is probably going to be lower in the coming year. We've already seen oil and gasoline and natural gas prices come off their peak. So we'll get some near-term relief from that.

The debate isn't over whether it's coming down. It's how far does it come down. There are reasons to believe it could be quite elevated a year from now.

If you look at underlying drivers, they're not going in the right direction. For example, all those ships off of the coast of California. That tangle line is now stretching out across the entire Western Pacific. So, those shortages.

We've still got real shortage of workers. Eleven million, near a record 11 million jobs going begging right now. Unable to find people to fill those jobs.

And one of the slow-moving but very large forces for inflation is housing. Housing prices are up 14 percent in the last year. That is bit by bit finding its way into shelter.

So I think that while the news won't be as bad as it is this month, it doesn't get a ton better for quite awhile.

BROWN: And let's look at these numbers from a Monmouth poll out this week, Navin. It says being able to pay their bills is the second biggest concern facing American families right now just behind COVID. Right after that, 14 percent of Americans say inflation is their biggest worry.

And that's a main point here because the Biden administration can point to all the data it wants but what matters ultimately is the consumer, the typical American and what they are experiencing and feeling in their perception, right?

NAVIN NAYAK, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: I think that's absolutely true. I think that's what Democrats are trying to say when they make the case for Build Back Better, which is costs are going up. Some of these costs have been long term trending, right? I hope that, in fact, the data today makes the case to Democrats, and particularly one Democratic senator, that this is more reason to pass Build Back Better.

The bill would cap seniors' prescription drug costs at $2,000. That's an average savings of $4,000 for a senior. The bill would cut child care costs by $8,000. These are real savings for families.

And the average American family doesn't parse this out. They've got one budget. One set of bills and if one goes way down because of what Democrats have done, I think the motivation should increase as a result of what's going on here because it's Democrats being responsive to the fact that Americans are cost sensitive.

BROWN: The flip side of that is that the U.S. has already pumped in $3 trillion into the economy already. What would this extra nearly $2 trillion do at a time when inflation is so high?

MONA CHAREN, POLICY EDITOR, "THE BULWARK": Right. And that's the worry is that the -- and actually voters think that the federal government is responsible for the inflation that they're seeing in fuel prices and in food prices. One-third are saying they're buying less meat than they normally would because of this. It's very much affecting people's lives.

I would say, though, in response to what Greg said earlier about this is probably peak inflation for this year and it's going to trend down. If it does, great. But if it doesn't, Biden just gave everybody a sound bite that's going to come back to haunt him with him saying, I think we're at peak inflation and they're going to replay that a million times if it fails to come down. So, that's a vulnerability.

There are things he can do. He can cut tariffs. He can increase legal immigration so we don't have such a labor shortage and goods can actually move and we can have truckers, you know?

So if I were the Biden -- giving the Biden administration advice, it would be do the actions that you can do. That you know can fight inflation rather than focusing just on the Build Back Better program.

BROWN: But the reality is, Joe Manchin, the key vote they need, is focused on inflation in terms of how he's going to vote, right, Margaret? You know, it does raise the question whether this is the nail in the coffin.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course. And I think like, look, Pam, I think what I am hearing is not so much is Build Back Better dead, but is Build Back Better going to pass by the end of this year? This makes so much harder. And what does Build Back Better look like? How much does it have to be dialed back or reframed?

Manchin has absolute complete control over that and then in the end, so do some of the House progressives who have said if it's not enough, we're not going for it.

I think even if there's a case to be made that you need more than ever politically, it's probably difficult. Look, practically speaking, the supply chain problems, inflation matters to Americans in terms of what can you buy, can you pay your heating bills? Politically, perception is what matters.

And there's often a difference between perception and reality and we're already seeing that in some of this polling. Republicans saying that they are experiencing this in a much greater level than Democrats.

CHAREN: Well, that's very much partisanship speaking, don't you think?

TALEV: And it has to do with queuing as well, and with media queuing and how this is discussed, where you are consuming your news, where are you discussing your views about life on social media, and what is your echo chamber? And this is a real challenge for Biden.


BROWN: How much power does the White House have over the inflation and the crisis right now? I mean, you know, you had mentioned, Mona, some things they can do but how much can they really move the needle.

IP: It's very little. There are little things they can do like, for example, releasing oil from the strategic reserve. That's one of the reasons oil prices are coming down. They're trying to loosen regulations to get some of those cargo ships offloaded faster. They've talked about speeding up apprenticeships and other things to get more drivers into trucks. But honestly, this is a job for the Federal Reserve. They are the ones

supposed to be in charge of inflation. If Joe Manchin has an issue with inflation over the next few years, he should be addressing those concerns to the soon to be reconfirmed Jay Powell, chairman of the Fed.

BROWN: All right.

NAYAK: I really do think that for the average American, it is -- inflation is obviously, a macro economic thing. They feel it in their day-to-day, but it's about their cost. And I think the worst thing Democrats could do is nothing to actually show Americans they're trying to address their costs.

CHAREN: Also, it's ironic because Biden had -- his theory was, we're going to help the pocketbooks of Americans and that's how we're going to win back some of those working class voters that we've been losing to the Republicans. But according to this Monmouth poll, 46 percent of Americans blame the federal government for their pocketbook issues. So, and when they are blaming the federal government, that's Democrats in charge right now.

So it's actually, so far, I mean, they have time to turn this around, but so far, they're doing the opposite of what they hope.

BROWN: I want to talk about something else before we let you go. And that is former president Trump now accusing former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being disloyal for congratulating Joe Biden on winning the presidency. Trump telling Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, quote, it was early, okay?

Let's put it this way. He greeted him very early, earlier than most world leaders. I have not spoken to him since. F him.

Excuse my Trump re-enactment. I'm not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not very good at all --


BROWN: He went on to say, quote there was no one who did more for Netanyahu than me. There was no one who did for Israel more than I did. And the first person to run to greet Joe Biden was Netanyahu.

Clearly, SNL will not be hiring me to do the Donald Trump impersonation but I want to get your reaction to this because we also want to note, Netanyahu was not the first to congratulate him. He waited a couple of weeks to call him after the election, calling Biden. So what do you think, Mona?

CHAREN: Oh, my gosh. We should be used to this now, but we're still not. The fact is, for Trump, there is absolutely no understanding of the way international relations work, right? I mean, Netanyahu was leader of another country whose relations with the United States, not Trump, are his main concern, right? If Trump is no longer the president, he has to have good relationships with the next president. But for Trump, everything is personal. He's like a mafia boss. And

it's like you disrespected me and so now you're over.

And, by the way, if Netanyahu grovels and comes back with Trump then they'll be good again.

BROWN: Right.

CHAREN: But it is -- it is just this complete disconnect with this man about the way the world works. And he brings his own really sick mafia approach to relationships that ought to be professional and run by international rules.

BROWN: Yeah --

TALEV: This is my colleague Barak Ravid.


TALEV: Listen to the podcast, if you read his new book.

But look, if Bibi Netanyahu were the governor of Georgia, Donald Trump would be running a primary candidate against him with a full endorsement. Bibi Netanyahu was looking for a way back into political office in Israel and Donald Trump is still very popular in Israel. He's leaning into this to try to block Bibi's resurgence and it tells you everything you need to know about how he views foreign relations and personal relationships.

BROWN: Right, fascinating interview. We'll definitely check it out.

Thanks so much, everyone. Appreciate it.

Well, the Supreme Court keeping the Texas abortion ban in place but giving opponents a small opening to stop it. Our legal experts break it down, up next.

Plus -- COVID getting much worse in one part of the country, including one state which has seen an 88 percent jump in people hospitalized.



BROWN: In the politics lead, President Biden is, quote, very concerned, according to the White House press secretary, after today's Supreme Court opinion allowed Texas to keep its abortion ban in place for now. That law stops women from getting abortions after six weeks, when many don't even know they're pregnant.

But as Jessica Schneider reports, the justices also gave opponents a sliver of hope.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big day for abortion at the Supreme Court. The justices leaving in place a controversial Texas law that bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected around six weeks. Anti-abortion advocates are celebrating.

JOHN SEAGO, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, TEXAS RIGHT TO LIFE: The court has allowed the Texas law to stay in effect for 101 days now. And we're very confident that it's going to stay in effect.

SCHNEIDER: While the Supreme Court did not step in to block the law, it did rule in favor of abortion providers saying they can sue some state officials, sending the case back to the lower courts. Chief Justice John Roberts writing with the court's liberals saying, given the ongoing chilling effect of the state law, the district court should resolve this litigation and enter appropriate relief without delay.

But the ruling means the threat to abortion in Texas remains, since private individuals won't be stopped from suing any person involved in performing an abortion after six weeks with payouts under the law amounting to $10,000 per case if the plaintiff wins. Clinics across Texas have shut down because of that threat of litigation.

LINDSAY LANGHOLZ, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PROGRAM, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: It is going to be hugely problematic as we go forward that these cases continue to be brought. And they continue to have a chilling effect on people's access to abortion care.


SCHNEIDER: The law has now been in effect 100 days since September 1st. In that time, abortion clinics in surrounding states have reported being overwhelmed at the number of Texas women coming in for procedures. And low-income women without the means to travel have been left with few options.

Liberal leaning Justice Sotomayor slammed the Supreme Court's decision saying the court should have put an end to this madness months ago.

My disagreement with the court runs far deeper than a quibble over how many defendants these petitioners may sue. The dispute is over whether states may nullify federal constitutional rights by employing schemes like the one in hand.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And abortion rights advocates are now vowing to keep fighting even though they've only been left with what they're calling a shred of a case in their words.

Now in addition to what we saw, the Supreme Court also dismissed the case that was brought by the Justice Department to challenge SB8.

And, Pamela, a spokesman for the attorney general saying today that they will continue to challenge this law in the lower courts. They say that it subverts the constitutionality of the women's right to choose. So this fight is continuing in other courts. But the point is that, at this point, this law stands. That is a big blow to these abortion providers here.

BROWN: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

And I want to bring in Katie Watson, she's a public interest lawyer.

Elie Honig also is with us. He was an assistant U.S. attorney for New York's southern district.

Nice to see you both.

So, Elie, first to you. Your reaction to this opinion by the Supreme Court letting Texas keep its 66-week abortion ban but also letting abortion providers challenge this ban. What do you make of it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Pam, on the surface, this ruling is about who can sue and who can be sued under the Texas law SB8. And there's sort of good news and bad news both ways.

The good news for pro-choice advocates is this law can be challenged. The Supreme Court said that abortion providers can sue here. But the good news for pro-life folks is that the road to challenge this is very narrow. Jessica said before a sliver of a path here. That's an accurate description.

Bigger picture, though, let's keep in mind. As we sit here on December 10th of 2021, this law is still in effect. As Justice Sotomayor says, this law is in open defiance of Roe v. Wade yet the Supreme Court keeps pointing to procedural outs to leave it on the books and the bigger question is, how long will it survive?

BROWN: Right. I mean, that's what I was going to ask you, Katie, for those who hate this law, what should they think in terms of a timeline to know either way what's going to happen with it?

KATIE WATSON, PUBLIC INTEREST LAWYER: Well, there actually are two trains running here. In the federal suit, what the Supreme Court said is the plaintiffs can go back to the federal district court. They have standing to sue there. They got an injunction the first time around. I won't be surprised if they get the law enjoined fairly quickly.

However, five seconds after they do, the defendants will appeal to the Fifth Circuit. And the Fifth Circuit is notoriously anti-abortion, and it will probably sit either reverse the injunction or sit on it until the Dobbs ruling comes out. However, before we move to Dobbs, and I want to emphasize that yesterday, there was a state court ruling. So, there's state court proceedings and there was a win in that one.

In Van Stean versus Texas Right to Life, a lower Texas state court ruled that this procedural mechanism violates the Texas state constitution and enjoined it on that basis. Of course, it was immediately appealed and it won't be any solace to providers until it reaches the Texas Supreme Court. But we should be keeping our eyes on both those cases.

BROWN: But for all intents and purposes, this law, Elie is still in effect for now. The Texas law went into effect in September. Neighboring states have been flooded with Texas patients. A legal brief against the law noted, quote, in New Mexico, an influx of patients from Texas has already strained provider resources and made it more difficult for new Mexico residents to receive timely care.

What other impacts do you see, do you anticipate in light of today's decision?

HONIG: Well, Pam, this is a key part of Justice Sotomayor's dissent. Justice Sotomayor has made clear she's going to fight all the way here. Just the existence of these laws has what we call a chilling effect. Meaning, just the possibility of getting sued here is enough to close down these clinics and cause women who live in Texas to have to travel to other states to get abortions. And that could be, of course, even broader effect.

The real case to watch here is the Mississippi case. That was referred to, the Dobbs case. That case has been argued to the Supreme Court. It was argued last week. We're going to get a ruling on that likely late spring, early summer, May, June. That's the case that's going to decide whether Roe vs. Wade stands.

And what you can see in today's opinion is that you can see the battle lines forming. You can see where the fight is going to play out. It's going to be Justice Sotomayor leading the liberal branch and Justice Gorsuch leading the conservative branch.


It's a 6-3 majority. So the numbers are on the Gorsuch and the conservative side.

BROWN: And what did you think, Katie, did today's opinion show which side the court might go on that pending Mississippi abortion case?

WATSON: I don't think today's opinion adds that much new than what we heard in the Dobbs arguments which are as was mentioned, I think we have at least certainly six to affirm the Mississippi 15-week ban, even though there's no principle basis to do so. The question that there could be some openness to is will they outright overturn Roe. But it feels like they definitely have at least four votes, maybe five, maybe even six.

So it's possible the 5th Circuit would sit on this case, this Texas case, until -- with the idea that we'll just wait to find out what happens in Dobbs. I don't know if they could sit that long but it's a possibility.

And I also want to mention when we talk about a flood of patients leaving Texas, that's an important thing to track. It's incredibly burdensome. I spent three days at an Oklahoma city abortion clinic that has about half its patients now coming from Texas. And saw just personally how overwhelmed and how wonderfully the staff worked late -- until late at night. But it's not sustainable.

But the second piece is think about who doesn't make it out. So those Texans are forced by their government to create another person against their will or they feel they have no other choice but to step outside the medical system and look to self-induced or nonmedical --non- medically supported abortion. And those are terrible outcomes as well. They are just a little more hidden, but we know the abortion rate in Texas in the month of September was cut in half.

So we've got a group of half and some of them are getting their abortions and some of them are not.

BROWN: All right. Katie Watson, Elie Honig, thank you both.

CDC is releasing new information about the dozens of cases of Omicron in the U.S. What these clues may tell us, next.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: In our health lead, the CDC is revealing new details about the 43 people who contracted the Omicron variant of COVID in the U.S. most cases have been mild, but most of those people have been vaccinated. And 14 of them have already received their boosters.

Now, as CNN's Athena Jones reports, the White House's top COVID fighting officials are digging into what this means for their efforts to get more Americans boosted.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. COVID-19 cases on the rise again, now averaging nearly 120,000 new infections a day, up more than 50 percent over a month ago. Case numbers increasing in 26 states. Hospitals strained in hard-hit Michigan, Ohio and Arizona.

Indiana now becoming the latest state to call on the National Guard to help overwhelmed hospital workers.

DR. PAUL CALKINS, INDIANA UNIVERSITY HEALTH, ASSOCIATE INTERIM CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: The hospital beds and monitors don't feel that -- I mean, we are tired. Our people are incredibly tired.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The surge is definitely upon us.

JONES: And in New Hampshire, the governor warning --

SUNUNU: It's going to be a rough winter. There's no doubt about it. I don't think these numbers are going to finish peaking until early January.

JONES: The nationwide surge driven almost entirely by the highly contagious delta variant.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We need to be on a wartime footing because we are at war with an enemy that's killing 1,200 Americans a day. And I just don't see it.

JONES: Doctors say most of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. But as the U.S. prepares to mark one year since the first shots went into arms, the pace of COVID vaccinations is up almost 40 percent over a month ago. With nearly 460,000 people getting their first shot each day, and some 2 million total doses administered a day, about half of them booster shots.

Early studies suggest boosters increase protection against the new omicron variant. Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN the National Institutes of Health will likely have data early next week from lab tests on vaccine effectiveness.

With the CDC today confirming cases among those infected by Omicron in the U.S. have been mild and among those already vaccinated, that mirrors what's being seen in South Africa where the variant was initially identified.

SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, AFRICAN TASK FORCE FOR CORONAVIRUS: The cases tend on the whole to be milder with fewer requiring oxygenation.

So it's interesting that it's emerging. It's confirming what we know and certainly no red flags at this stage.


JONES (on camera): So no red flags at this stage. We're getting more signals about how dangerous the omicron variant could be. This new CDC report out today shows that most of the 43 people known to be infected with the Omicron variant in the U.S. had mild symptoms. But about 80 percent of them were fully vaccinated. And 14 of them had already had their boosters.

Now, the most commonly reported symptoms were cough, fatigue, congestion or runny nose. And, of course, this is early data. The severity of the Omicron variant will become more understood as more cases are identified and investigated -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Athena Jones, thank you so much.

And joining us now is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And Athena just laid out there the early data. What we are learning about the Omicron variant, Sanjay. It appears the COVID vaccine doesn't protect people from getting infected with Omicron but it does indicate the first cases have been mild. What does that tell you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if this data holds up, it's sort of -- a lot of this makes sense in the sense that the idea of the vaccine is to really prevent people from developing serious illness. Now, if you look specifically at the idea of infection, how well that works, the numbers that Athena just talked about, again, 43 cases that have been confirmed, this data coming from the CDC. 34 of them were fully vaccinated. 14 did have this additional booster. Six previously infected as well. So I think there's two things to keep

in mind. The vaccines may be doing the bulk of their work in terms of preventing people from getting sick. That's why the majority have mild illness. But also, Pamela, you know, we still have the same problem that I think you and I have been talking about for two years now, which is there's not enough testing happening. We don't know the true denominator here. When deal with something as transmissible as Omicron. There could be people who have it and have mild symptom and aren't getting tested.

So, until we know what the true dominator here is, it's hard to say how protective the vaccines are against infection. But we do know they seem very protective against illness.

BROWN: Such a key component, the testing or lack thereof in terms of being accessible for everyday Americans.

Let's talk about the booster shots, though, about 50 million people, about 27 percent of fully vaccinated adults have received a booster. What percent of those vaccinated need to get their booster so Omicron stays under control?

GUPTA: That's a really -- it's a really important question, and we, you know, you hate to be the person that says we don't know yet but we're just a couple of weeks into really studying these trajectories with Omicron. So, some of this data is going to be forthcoming.

But I will tell you that if you -- first of all, with boosters sort of willingness, it has changed a bit even since we started talking about Omicron. About a quarter of the country boosted. There's only about 18 percent of the vaccinated who say they still probably will not or definitely will not.

I've seen now, closer to 80 percent say that they will at some point. But if you look at the UK, specifically, and say their hospitalizations are starting to go down. What percentage of their population is vaccinated and boosted? They -- it's close to what we have, 80 percent of 12-year-old and older are vaccinated in the UK, and about 38 percent are boosted. We're closer to 25 percent boosted.

So that 38 percent boost in UK, at least for the time being, has led to a decrease in hospitalizations. That holds up, that's a good target at least.

BROWN: I'm going to ask you before we let you go about these health care workers in Michigan who spoke to our Miguel Marquez. They said that they are noticing a disturbing trend that younger and younger people are dying. What do you attribute this to?

GUPTA: I think this is a very transmissible virus that we've been talking about for some time, even delta, which is still the dominant virus here. And I think you have gone into a period of weather where people who may have frankly dodged this for the last several months are now clustering indoors, looking at this pandemic in the rear-view mirror and the majority of those that are getting sick are still not vaccinated. Let me show you the numbers really quick. If you look at Michigan

specifically and say, okay, let's look at all the COVID patients here and break it down by vaccination status. Seventy-six percent of COVID patients in the hospital unvaccinated, 87 percent ICU patients unvaccinated, and 88 percent on a ventilator unvaccinated. That's the real problem. And I think as a result, people who are younger, people who are healthier, people who typically did not worry about this as much, they're now -- they now have to obviously think about the ramifications of what I just showed you.

BROWN: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks.

BROWN: Coming up right here on THE LEAD, tragedy on the highway leaving more than 50 people dead. We are live with what caused it, next.



BROWN: In our world lead, the death toll is rising after horrific crash killed dozens of migrants. We want to warn you some of the images are disturbing. The tractor trailer overturned on a highway in southern Mexico yesterday, leaving at least 55 people dead and more than 100 injured.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Mexico City.

So, Matt, what are authorities saying about what caused this tragic accident?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is a horrific accident in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. It actually borders Guatemala and it is a state that migrants regularly use on their journey north. And that is what these dozens of migrants that were in this trailer were doing yesterday afternoon when this accident happened.

According to Chiapas state authorities, there were dozens and dozens of migrants in this tractor trailer that was driving at a high rate of speed according to these authorities. It collided with another truck. It flipped over and it resulted in just a horrific amount of injuries.

We know that at least 55 people have been killed as a result of this accident so far. Dozens more have been sent to the hospital. Among the nearly 60 or more than 100 people, rather, reported injured, we know that 19 of them minors. No word yet on how many minors are among the dead.

But this is just a horrific example of how dangerous this journey can be northward for so many migrants, thousands of people who do this kind of journey on their way eventually mainly to the United States.

[16:45:09] Accidents like this one, this one stands out because the number involved. It's not all that unusual for migrants to lose their lives in traffic accidents on their way north, often run by smuggling networks.

And later today, we are expecting an update from Mexico's foreign ministry, as well as other Central American companies that are going to give us details into the investigation into the smuggling network responsible for all these deaths, Pamela.

BROWN: You're also getting new information about the victims, right?

RIVERS: Yeah, that's right. So we are. We know that at least 98 percent of the people in this trailer were Guatemalan. We also know there were citizens from El Salvador, from the Dominican Republic, from Honduras also involved but the vast majority appear to be Guatemalan. The Guatemalan government says they will be assisting in the repatriation of those Guatemalan citizens who lost their lives during this accident.

BROWN: Matt Rivers, thanks so much.

Up next, popular vacation spots in danger of washing away. And the representatives in Congress just voted against helping them.



BROWN: In our buried lead, those are stories that we feel aren't getting enough attention, a political calculation elbow deep in hypocrisy. Republican lawmakers who represent districts on the verge of a flooding disaster voting against the bipartisan infrastructure bill which aims to fix the problem.

As CNN's Rene Marsh reports, that includes one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As hurricanes rising sea levels and intense rain storms batter the U.S. coastline, more of the nation's critical infrastructure, like police and fire stations, hospitals and power plants are increasingly at risk of being shut down by flooding. A CNN analysis of new flood risk data from First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group, found the threat is most acute in ten congressional districts across four states -- Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California.

CNN ranked these districts by the level of risk to critical infrastructure. We found six out of the ten lawmakers from those districts voted against the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that included funds for flood mitigation, climate resilience projects and FEMA disaster recovery. These Republican lawmakers from high-risk districts are voting no on legislation that would help their constituents and in some cases they are denying climate science altogether.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): We do know that the earth's temperature changes. It goes up and down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't accept the science?

SCALISE: In the 1970s, they said we were entering a new cooling period.

MARSH: Congressman Steve Scalise's district ranks second on the list of critical infrastructure most at risk.

CNN was recently there. The recovery is far from over after Hurricane Ida, a fierce category 4 storm ripped through three months ago. Seventy-eight percent of the critical infrastructure in Scalise's district is at risk of failure from flooding. Scalise voted no to two pieces of legislation containing aggressive climate change actions and funding. His office did not provide comment to CNN.

Congresswoman Maria Salazar's district includes Miami Beach and tops the list with 88 percent of its critical infrastructure at risk of flooding. Salazar smoke urgently about the need to act on climate change.

REP. MARIA SALAZAR (R-FL): Better do something now so 30 years from now we're not under water.

MARSH: Yet Salazar also voted no to both pieces of legislation containing climate actions and funding. We got no comment from the congresswoman.

Republican Congressman Carlos Jimenez, whose district includes the Florida Keys, also has a voting record that does not match his rhetoric, nor this need in his district. Sixty-nine percent of critical infrastructure there is at risk.

In an op-ed, Jimenez called for more funding to deal with climate change. But he, too, voted no to climate change legislation.


MARSH (on camera): Well, "The Miami Herald" reported that the two Florida Republican members of Congress, Salazar and Jimenez, both said that they voted against the legislation with climate provisions because of the price tag. And Scalise for his part said the legislation sold Louisiana short. It didn't give enough money to his state.

Pam, we should also point out that all of the Democratic members of Congress in these high-risk districts, they all voted yes for this climate legislation.

BROWN: It's interesting because these Republicans clearly need the help in their districts. They didn't want to pay the political price by voting for this legislation.

Thank you so much, Rene.

Next, the nation says good-bye to a hero.



BROWN: Today, America paid tribute to Senator Bob Dole for a final time. Funeral services were held for the late Kansas Republican at the National Cathedral. President Biden called Dole a genuine hero and fondly recalled their time together in the Senate. Dole's daughter robin read from a letter her father crafted ahead of his passing.


ROBIN DOLE, BOB DOLE'S DAUGHTER): As I make the final walk on my life's journey, I do so without fear because I know that I will again not be walking alone. I know that God will be walking with me.


BROWN: Dole, a highly decorated army hero, was also honored at the World War II memorial this afternoon. Bob Dole was 98 years old. May he rest in peace.

Be sure to tune in to "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday. And among the guests, Senator Amy Klobuchar, plus Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Mayor Bill de Blasio will debate the best COVID policies. That's at 9:00 and Noon Eastern.

I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer.