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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Faces Deadline To Respond To Supreme Court Border Restriction; House Panel Deciding On Releasing Trump's Tax Returns; Spending Bills Leaves Out Attempts To Regulate Big Tech Monopolies; U.S. Faces Flu, COVID, RSV Illnesses Ahead Of Holidays. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 20, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I love this. Well, Cameron did a forensic study with a hypothermia expert who reproduce the raft used to stop people at the same body masses as Winslet and DiCaprio and Cameron says only one could have survived.

So, there you have it. The results are part of a National Geographic special about the film.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The White House has 16 minutes left to weigh in on one of the most controversial border policies of our time.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The U.S. Supreme Court's deadline quickly approaching, tick-tock. Will the Biden administration proceed with its plans to lift a border policy that previously allowed the government to expel immigrants at the border quickly? Only one hour left to respond to an emergency appeal.

Plus, only CNN traveling to the dangerous post of Snake Island littered with land mines. See where Ukraine's first major show of defiance to, quote, Russian warship go F yourself, set the tone for the last ten months of war.

And the triple threat of viruses disrupting holiday plans. With so many kids getting sick, a big pharmacies are putting new limits on medicine to help relieve their pain.


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

The clock is tick-ticking. The White House must respond by the end of the hour to the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily keeping Title 42 in place. Title 42 is the pandemic policy that currently allows border agents to quickly expel asylum seekers. The Trump era rule a set to expire tomorrow. But, chief justice of the United States John Roberts extended the policy to give the court more time to hear a complaint from Republican-led states. In Mexico, thousands of migrants are hoping if Title 42 is lifted,

they will have a better chance of being granted asylum status in the U.S. But for U.S. border cities, lifting Title 42 would likely bring and even greater influx of migrants, as these cities are already struggling to support to the thousands of people crossing each day, desperate for a new life in the U.S. Shelters are packed, supplies are running out, migrants are sleeping in the freezing streets.

CNN's David Culver and Ed Lavandera are monitoring the situation from both sides of the border. We're going to start with Ed in El Paso, where city officials are bracing for thousands of migrants to arrive every day, stretching already thin resources even more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours before sunrise, Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas state troopers constructed a nearly mile-long fence covered in razor wire along the Rio Grande, in the very spot where federal Border Patrol agent started processing thousands of migrants in the last week. The Texas military department says the National Guard did not alert the border control or local officials that this offense would be constructive.

On Monday, El Paso officials said National Guard soldiers were to primarily focus on humanitarian efforts and which security of migrants who are already in the city not with deterrent efforts.

MARIO D'AGOSTINO, EL PASO DEPUTY CITY MANAGER: The state is preparing resources. They are relocating to El Paso. They are not activated, anything other than security. So, at this, point it is for the what- ifs.

LAVANDERA: El Paso County judge Ricardo Samaniego says the newly installed fans and razor wire is a political stunt and a misuse of resources at a critical time.

JUDGE RICARDO SAMANIEGO (D), EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS: Standing on the border, putting barbwire and fences is not what we need. We are the epicenter right now of migration. And you've got the governor not calling the mayor and myself.

LAVANDERA: But this is the kind of optics and strategy that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has long supported. The Republican governor has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to secure the border.

But the newly installed fence isn't stopping migrants. CNN captured these images just a few hours after the fence went up of a group of four migrants crawling through the razor wire despite warnings from border agents. They were taken into custody.

RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE: And who's got the keys to that?

LAVANDERA: As the uncertainty of what will happen with Title 42 looms over this border city, local officials and migrant advocates say they will continue preparing as if the public health rule that was used during the pandemic to block migrants from entering the U.S. some 2.5 million times will be lifted. Those leading the humanitarian efforts like Ruben Garcia are frustrated. Garcia runs the migrant shelter Annunciation House and has served migrants for more than 40 years in El Paso.


GARCIA: Right now, the federal on the state government are fighting with each other. So, they are not working together. They are fighting.

One of the reasons we face moments like this it is because our political leadership does not sit down to work out comprehensive reform. That takes into account the phenomena of refugees.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Jake, the apprehension numbers that were part of this recent surge here in the El Paso area have declined dramatically in the last few days. That is why authorities here now say they are focused on what is going to happen with Title 42 and if it's lifted -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera in El Paso.

CNN's David Culver is on the ground on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez.

And, David, you are seeing a different protocol for migrants trying to cross into the U.S. today after that fence was put up. What's happening?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That mobilization, Jake, changed everything overnight. To be the only ones here at 4:30 in the morning local time and to watch that play out and to see the Humvee, a convoy of vehicles come our direction and at the same time you have migrants who are lined up on the U.S. side where those folks are right now, they were camped, out they had fires going. They were sent up to be processed and told us they didn't want to be processed. They would have to go into the side.

We saw them put up the barbwire. They have established this barricade. You can see what's happened here, a lot of the folks are still finding ways to cross. Not the usual crossing they are doing in days past, and said, they are going another direction, they are going into the spot here. The families are sitting there now for hours.

There seems to be this false hope that perhaps, it's imminent that things are going to change.

A lot of people still have, Jake, the 21st in mind as the date Title 42 will lift. And even as they've learned from us that there is now a freeze on that, and that it is still in place. As of now, no plans to change that. Well, for them, they're still holding on to hope, and now, they're just waiting it out. TAPPER: Do the migrants know about the back and forth with Title 42

that's playing out in the U.S. today? Are they that aware? I mean, I know they have social media, in some, cases iPhones, et cetera.

CULVER: It's interesting. They're not following the back and forth and Washington. They are aware of certain news headlines when they break, when the chief justice froze Title 42 and decided to keep that in place. They are aware of that, but they don't fully understand it. And to be honest, a lot of folks on both sides of the border don't understand how it trickles down and how it's going to impact them.

So, they're still putting themselves in this position that perhaps it's going to change and they'll be allowed in. But the biggest fear for them, the reason a lot of them have waited for that 21st is that they'll get in, and then they will be immediately expelled under Title 42, and not expelled right back here at Ciudad Juarez, but to places much farther, it much more dangerous. That is a real concern, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. David Culver, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat from New York. He's the first formerly undocumented immigrants to serve as a member of U.S. Congress.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. So, the White House has for the rest the hour in which they can respond to the Supreme Court's decision to keep Title 42 in place temporarily.

But even if Title 42 is formally extended by a court ruling, that too would most likely only be a temporary extension.

How do you think the Biden administration and Congress should deal with this influx of migrants at the border, these asylum seekers?

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): That's correct, Jake. Title 42 was put forward as a public health policy, not an immigration policy, and certainly not immigration reform. This doesn't take care of the problem.

You know, the hemisphere is facing a crisis of democracy. These migrants, these asylum seekers are coming from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. These are authoritarian regimes and they are fleeing political violence, and some cases, they are fleeing natural disasters.

So, we really have to address what is going on in the hemisphere politically. I think we've fallen back and we sort of fell asleep at the wheel. And things have really changed in the hemisphere in the last 10, 15 years.

But, locally, you know, we just passed, -- we're getting ready to pass another bill that has $800 million that will assist some of the local cities with food and shelter. I think that is important, that we have the capacity to address this at the municipality level. We're getting ready to do that.

Eventually, the fix is comprehensive immigration reform.


But that's weaponized, Jake. It's never used for good purposes. It used to score political points and gain voice to election.

TAPPER: Our system is broken, I'm just thinking about, when I interviewed outgoing Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, he was talking about how there is a tremendous labor shortage in Massachusetts and he wants these migrants who are coming for a better life to be able to come to Massachusetts and work, but the way the laws are written, they are delayed at least a year and a half before they are even able to do that. None of this makes any sense.

ESPAILLAT: Anywhere you go, you will hear that small businesses and folks across the country need workers. You know, this Christmas holiday party that I had, you know, a couple of hundred migrants, asylum seekers, went to eat there. They were hungry. They're in our city already, and they want to work.

TAPPER: Right.

ESPAILLAT: And what they told me is that they want to work. So, we should be able to inject the economy with some oxygen and that's called immigration reform.

TAPPER: Yeah, but the government's going to provide them with food and shelter, and that's great. That's a humanitarian gesture, but the same government has laws that will not let these people work, even though they want to.

You are a New York congressman. New York has seen the arrival of more than 30,000 migrants and has had to open 60, 60, emergency shelters to handle the influx. I understand a lot of the money in this omnibus bill is going to go to New York.

Tell us what you are hearing and seeing in your district.

ESPAILLAT: Well, the cities concerned, obviously, as they should be. This is a fast and rapid influx of families with children. Yesterday, I went to a school district that had 500 new families attending, where their kids are attending school there, so this is a load on obviously on the school system there, and on our city.

But again, you know, the economy needs a shot in the arm. Let's get these people to work, let's give them an opportunity. Let's process them. They are asylum seekers, right? They are fleeing these countries, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba.

In the past, we've allowed people from Cuba and those types of governments to come in. Let's give them a shot.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York, thank you so much. Good to see you, sir. Appreciate , merry Christmas.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you. TAPPER: Feliz navidad.

Coming up, the documents Donald Trump has been trying to hide for years. Now congressional Democrats have their hands on them. The discussion right now over what to do with his tax returns.

Plus, joining me this hour, one of the most powerful names in the U.S. government, Joe Manchin. His take on next year's agenda. Will he follow the lead of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, independent of Arizona, and leave the Democratic Party?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our politics lead today, just one day after the January 6 select house committee referred former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution on four different charges. Right now, another House committee is meeting behind closed doors, digging into the tax returns that Donald Trump spent years desperately trying to keep out of public view.

CNN's Sara Murray is looking at the fallout from yesterday's bombshell referrals, but I want to start with CNN's Lauren Fox.

Lauren, as we speak, lawmakers are weighing what to do with Trump's tax returns. What do we know about their discussion so far?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, they are actually in the room right behind me and they are having this celebration. They've been in there for about an hour now, having this closed door discussion. And they're in an executive session, which means we don't have much insight into what is happening inside the room.

But what we do know is they're discussing whether or not to release any of this information related to former President Donald Trump's, tax returns. That, of course, is something that House Ways and Means chairman, Richard Neal, fought for in court for years to get access to. He has had access to this information now for about a month. Members of the committee have had access to it for a couple of days now, looking over this information, getting ready for this meeting. We know that once they are ready to vote, they will come out of executive session and we will see what they vote on in public, Jake. We expect that that could come in the next hour or two.

TAPPER: Sara, the Justice Department has been waiting for the evidence and the transcripts from the house committee. I understand you have some new information on that.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they've been waiting for months. They've asked repeatedly for the January 6th committee to begin handing over transcripts and we are learning, our team, that that process has begun, that the select committee has already begun handing over these transcripts to the justice department.

Again, this is important for DOJ's investigation, it's important because they already have a number of folks who are going to trial and they want this evidence. They want to be able to follow up on what the House committee has already obtained. You know, we are going to get some of these transcripts, hopefully public, starting on Wednesday. The committee has said essentially when it comes to the public, they will trickle up between now and the end of the year, Jake.

TAPPER: Lauren, if Democrats vote to release any of Trump's tax information, how are Republicans planning to respond?

FOX: Yeah, Republicans really already readying that response, Jake. They actually held a press conference right before members went in for this executive session, railing against Democrats, saying if they release any information, that this is a slippery slope, that any taxpayers' information could become public. They are really focusing less on former president Donald Trump and the fact that he was a public figure, and more on what this means for the future of the committee.

We should note, though, there is some precedent for this tax information to be released in this way. Remember back when there was the investigation into IRS in 2014 and Lois Lerner, the committee, after several months of deliberations an investigation, did release some sensitive tax information, using the same set statute, Jake. So, that's important context to remember.

TAPPER: Sara, how are Republicans responding to the criminal referrals for Donald Trump, from the January 6th committee to the Justice Department?

MURRAY: Well, you know, look, we've seen from the Republicans that were on that refer list, essentially a lot of downplaying, saying that the referrals don't mean anything, it's nothing different from an average American making these referrals.

Look, I think what Republicans are looking forward to from the committee is also, frankly, the release of these transcripts. They want to be able to dig through them, look for any exculpatory evidence, any evidence that they might be able to point to as a defense of the former president.


And, you know, we've heard Kevin McCarthy say they want to dig into any potential security failures that may have led to the attack on the Capitol, so you can bet that there will be Republicans that are digging through transcripts for anything that point so that as well.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray and Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Democratic Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania who is leaving office, and having term limited out, and being replaced by Josh Shapiro in January.

Governor Wolf, good to see you.

So, this election lies, and the whole insurrection, very relevant to your commonwealth. Two thirds of House Republicans voted to disenfranchise Pennsylvania on January 6, 2021. What harm did that do to politics in the Keystone State, or what affect did it have?

GOV. TOM WOLF (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not sure. The -- Pennsylvania was a real outlier in the election. I know the conventional wisdom was midterm elections are always bad for the party and the White House. But it wasn't as bad around the country as people thought.

But it was really good in Pennsylvania. I mean, we had the pick up of U.S. senator, the governor-elect won by a comfortable margin. The U.S. senator won by a couple of margin. We picked up over 20 seats in the state house. We picked up the seat in the state senate.

I mean, Pennsylvania is really put to a lie (ph), I guess, the idea that the party in power does poorly in a midterm of -- midterm election.

TAPPER: Do you attribute that to the fact that so many House Republicans and so many Republicans and Pennsylvania were actually outwardly anti-democracy. I mean, every single House Republican from Pennsylvania except for one, Fitzpatrick, voted to disenfranchise their own citizens -- although, I should note, only on the presidential ballot. They did not vote to invalidate their own elections on the same ballot, on the same day.

WOLF: Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think voters in Pennsylvania simply voted for the party they thought was a party of adults, the party that was not peddling nonsense. I mean, I've been governor for eight years, and I think my administration has been marked by honesty, people like integrity, people like good policies, record investments and education, criminal justice reform, expanded Medicaid, and all this in a very fiscally responsible without raising any taxes. We had a surpluses and lots of money in our rainy day fund.

So, I think people were voting for the adults in the room. And that's what happened in Pennsylvania. And I think that's what could happen elsewhere if our party actually decides that's the strategy.

TAPPER: Republican Doug Mastriano obviously talked about the big lie quite a bit. He also dabbled in what to many critics seem like dog whistles that were antisemitic in nature, going after Joshua Shapiro, the attorney general who will be the next governor of Pennsylvania, going after him for having attended and sending his kids to a private Jewish day school, which in the spirit of full disclosure, I should, acknowledge I attended as well. It was not the elite school that Mastriano described.

Do you think that played any role? Were you surprised to see a statewide candidate in Pennsylvania traffic in that type of hatred?

WOLF: No, I was really happy. I mean, a lot of those folks are doing that these days. I was really happy to see Pennsylvania has responded by giving Josh Shapiro a huge margin of victory. TAPPER: What's the toughest lesson you learned as governor? You were

governor for eight years. You're still governor.

But you're on your way out. What's the toughest lesson you've learned, maybe even a lesson you learned the hard way?

WOLF: Well, I think you -- the lesson is that you actually do the right thing. You have an honest administration. You actually do things that help people, folks living down the street or down the road. You do it and I fiscally responsible way. And you stand up for what you believe in.

I have vetoed more bills than any governor in 50 years in Pennsylvania. None of them have been overridden. I have stood tall for my values. I still have gotten things done.

That's what a democracy is. Pennsylvania has rewarded that version of democracy with their votes in the 2022 elections.

TAPPER: What's your best advice for Josh Shapiro, your successor?

WOLF: My best advice, I have already given this to him, keep trying to make our governor in Pennsylvania do a better and better job of serving the people of Pennsylvania.

TAPPER: Democratic Governor Tom Wolf of the great Keystone State, good to see you. Thank you so much. What are you going to do next? Do you know?

WOLF: Yes. Read, eat, and sleep.

TAPPER: Okay. Well, I know you're capable of all three.

Thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Google. The failed attempt to rein in the monopolies of big tech as major platforms get away with squeezing out the little guys.


Who's to blame?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: A commentary now in our tech lead. In some ways, it could be more telling what congressional leaders left out of the massive $1.7 trillion spending bill unveiled today than what they included.


I'm thinking specifically of two pieces of bipartisan antitrust legislation to try to rein in big tech monopolies. One of the bills was bipartisan from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chuck

Grassley. It would stop companies such as Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Google, which critics say are all clearly monopolies, from giving preference to their own products and burying other products.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Right now, you have these major platforms. Google has 90 percent of the search engine market. And we don't owe them success. We want them to be successful, but what happens with monopolies is they start hurting small guys.


TAPPER: Now, the Klobuchar, Grassley bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a 16 to 6 vote. That was almost one year ago. A House version passed the House Judiciary Committee in 2021.

European countries are right now working on getting some of these protections for consumers and small business people. There's another bill that is from Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn. That would loosen the stranglehold the companies such as Apple and Google have when it comes to apps. That stranglehold allows them to crush competition.

Did you know, for instance, that Apple has blocked third-party app stores from iPhones? You can only use their App Store. Did you know that Apple requires apps use Apple's own rather pricey payment system for any in-app purchase?

The legislation from Blackburn and Blumenthal to rein in Apple's behavior on apps was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20 to 2, in February. But neither of these bills even got a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. And similar bills in the House were also denied votes on the floor of the House. The App Store bill in the House didn't even get marked up in its committee.

Why? Well, often, leaders deny the opportunity for votes for bills that they are afraid will actually pass. And sources familiar with this fight tell me that congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans, seemed eager to run out the clock.

Now, it might be cynical to note the number of relatives of members of Congress, not to mention former top staffers, who have coincidentally found a lucrative jobs in the tech sector. But it's certainly relevant to observe that these tech companies represent one of the biggest sources of campaign funds for the Democratic Party, which fancies itself as standing up for the little guy against corporate behemoths, though in this case, not so much.

It might also be worth observing that despite all the anti-big tech rhetoric we heard from Republicans, who are currently casting themselves as populists, very few Republicans, Grassley, Blackburn, and Congressman Ken Buck, accepted seeming all interested in standing up to monopolies.

Buck recently speculated about why the bills were never brought to the floor for a House vote.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): There are so many reasons of that. In the month of July, 36 million reasons why antitrust bills will not pass. That's how much money these companies spent on lobbying and individual districts around the country.


TAPPER: For these two bills, this was a murder on the Orient Express type slaughter. Everyone's fingerprints are on the knife.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God, a murder here?


TAPPER: The fingerprints of Leaders Schumer and McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, plus a bunch of California house Democrats who represent big tech. These were two pieces of legislation that would try to rein in big tech monopolies. They would push competition, they would benefit consumers, and they are, as of now, dead.

One of our New Year's resolutions here at the lead is to try to pay more attention to the efforts to rein in these monopolies in 2023, which hits that's all where we live, on our phones, our computers.

Elon Musk might be getting all the headlines for his mercurial Twitter trolling and thirst for MAGA clicks, but these big tech monopolies and their anti-competition, dare I say, anti-American way that the govern their businesses. I'm not talking about Twitter, I'm talking about Apple, Google, Amazon. What they are doing, that is arguably a more important and significant story.

So, who is to blame for the missed opportunity to rein in big tech monopolies? I'm going to ask one of those influential names in the U.S. Senate, Senator Joe Manchin. He joins me next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, in the wee hours of the morning, congressional leaders unveiled their massive and long-awaited 1.7 trillion, trillion dollar government funded bill, but with a shutdown looming this Friday, lawmakers have very little time to review the legislative text, which runs more than 4,000 pages long.

Let's bring in Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's a member of the appropriations committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

I want to ask you, because one of the things that was left out of the spending bill are two widely supported bipartisan antitrust bills that would rein in big tech monopolies like Apple and Google.


Neither bill was given a vote on the Senate or the House floor, which Democrats control. I will point out that one of the biggest sources for campaign funds for Democrats these days is big tech.

Why was this legislation left out that would protect consumers and small businessmen?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No excuse at all, Jake, none at all.

So, anyone trying to give you excuses, I can't. It should have been, it's something we all talked about and reading Section 230 on down, but why that was done? I have no clue whatsoever. I cannot give you an answer on that.

We knew a lot of the stuff. We've been working on things for a whole year, Jake. So, we had a lot of input on a lot of things that have been in there. It's gone through the appropriations committee when we were working together, but at the end there, it -- come together, I can say that.

But why some things are taken out in four corners -- Democrats and Republicans, whether it be McConnell, whether it be Senator Schumer, or whether it be Nancy or Kevin on the House side.

TAPPER: One thing that is in the massive bill, I know you're happy about it, is the legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act. It would raise the threshold needed to challenge presidential electors.

Right now, it only requires one lawmaker in the House, one in the Senate.

Are you satisfied with these changes or enough to prevent any future attempts to, well, overturn election results?

MANCHIN: Well, basically, it'll stop what would happen to us January the 6th. That was our main call. And that's what we addressed. Everyone had a different idea of how to approach that, Jake. Some wanted to go further, someone to do lot more, I understand.

And the House did a lot more of what they sent over. But basically working in a bipartisan way, like we have to, working in the Senate, we came up with something that addressed, first of all, being totally ceremonial, so vice president could never be caught in that situation again.

Next of all, just one Congress person or one senator couldn't hold up a whole counting process for one state. Now it takes 20 percent or 86 congresspeople to say, we think the state of X, Y, Z was wrong and we think the count was wrong, and we can test that. And you have to have 20 senators to confirm it.

So, that puts a whole other angle into it. I think it adds more to an oversight and democracy, if you will. Next of all, the Electoral College, those people, electors, have to be chosen before the election. Not afterwards, to try to get people to -- go along with you.

And then we have a court accelerated court proceedings, so there are things that stop what happened on January the 6th. There's still a lot more to do, but if you remember, we have states rights also.

TAPPER: Yeah, I don't know if you saw, but Kevin McCarthy, who's really trying to get the votes to become speaker, he said that if any Republicans in the Senate vote for this omnibus spending bill, $1.7 trillion, then their legislative priorities will not be heard in the House when he is speaker. Mitt Romney called that silliness.

What do you think of it?

MANCHIN: I think Mitt described it pretty well. Pretty well. I mean, this is not a vindictive type of thing. We are not in high school or college playing games back and forth. This is real life.

And with that being said, Kevin is fighting, I understand, for his political life over there. I wish him well, don't know how that's going to come out, we have no input on that whatsoever.

But to say you're going to stop everything and hold things hostage if we do things that we think is best for our country on our side and we have Democrats and Republicans both agreeing, then it's something to be worked out when the two -- both sides -- we have bicameral body here at the House and the Senate.

So, saying that one is going to put pressure and control on the other, and if you do that, forget you're legislations dead, that's not leadership.

TAPPER: Another provision left out of the omnibus spending bill was able to protect African allies who served with American troops in Afghanistan. If that comes up as an amendment, would you vote for it?

MANCHIN: Absolutely, that's a big mistake. We had people risking their lives and their families' lives, and there were promises made. And we have people that basically, when we go into areas of conflict and we have our troops and the lives of our troops in danger, and we have someone willing to protect our troops and work with us to try to give us the best chance of survival and success, and we can at least make sure that we keep them protected, yes, I would vote for that.

TAPPER: The fate of Title 42 is up in the air right now as the U.S. grapples with the crisis on the border. Congress has failed to deal with the border for decades, as I don't need to tell you.

Is there any kind of bipartisan agreement that could be made to solve this? And why isn't it happening yet?

MANCHIN: I think there is. I think there's some breakthrough here and, you know, there's been a lot of conversations going on, and I understand the administration, under the leadership of Secretary Mayorkas, working on behalf of the administration, has some things that they have been talking about and I'm thinking that a group that we've put together, John Cornyn and myself in the Senate, and we have Congressman Gonzales -- Congressman Cuellar, who are, Congressman Cuellar and John Cornyn are right on the frontlines in Texas.


So, they know it better than anybody else.

But there are things that they believe can be done. They've been exchanging those ideas back and forth. We've written a letter, 42 must be basically enforced and continued on, not just in the realm of the pandemic, but also in the realm of security. We have to be able to secure our borders. There is never going to be, Jake, meaningful, meaningful immigration reform until we get committed to securing our border.

You have to have a secure border, there have to be ports of entry, there have to make sure that people go through the proper vetting process and those are all things that we can do. Until you secure that border, and that seems to be where the big rub is, how secure should it be? What should you secure?

It's going to take everything. The 2013 bill is still the best piece of legislation that we've ever worked on in immigration, and we couldn't get a vote in the House at that time. And it's a shame that that ever happened, because we passed it bipartisan, over 68 votes in the Senate.


MANCHIN: And it basically was all geared around, you couldn't have anybody becoming a U.S. citizen until the border was deemed secure.


After Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced she was leaving the Democratic Party in an interview with me about a week and a half ago, you later said in an interview that you will let us know what you are going to decide to do.

MANCHIN: Well --

TAPPER: So, I will ask you, do you -- intend to remain a member of the Democratic Party?

MANCHIN: Jake, I don't think there's anyone more independent than me. And that we have been voting in my entire life, over 40 years. I'm not a Washington Democrat. I have a lot of good friends who are Washington Republicans.

This party tribal mentality is killing our country. People are sick and tired of it. I respect Kyrsten's decision, God bless her. She made her decision and she's very articulate in the way she pointed out of why she did what she did.

And I think that basically, I will make my decision whenever I make the decision, or if I do make a decision, I will do it and I'm not in any hurry to do that.

So, you know, the bottom line is I'm not changing how I vote. I'm not changing how I approach a problem. If my Republican colleagues have a good idea, I'm for it. I can go home and explain it.

If the Democrats have a good idea, I can support that also. And I'm not afraid to say, I can't support something that makes no sense at all to the Democrats or Republicans.

So, people have gotten so, it's what team are you on? I'm on one team. I'm on the American team. I would like to think we are all on the same side. We just have different branches. That's all. But the same side as the American side.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, merry Christmas, sir. Good to see you as always.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Jake. Always good to be with you.

TAPPER: Parents, heads up. The major pandemic have at the pharmacy forgets kids get sick over the holiday break. That's next.



TAPPER: In to our health lead, 'tis the season for sickness. Cases of the flu and RSV, and COVID are all still high in the U.S. and they are not going away just yet. The trifecta of illnesses is colliding with the holidays, raising concerns that more Americans will get sick as they gather indoors or travel for family events.

CNN's Dr. Tara Narula joins us now.

Tara, what can people do to keep these viruses from ruining their holiday plans?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: As someone who had Christmas of 2020 ruined by COVID, I can attest to the fact that it is not fun to be away from your family. So, certainly what you want to do is think about the events that you want to attend this week or next, you can count back by about five days. During that time, you really want to avoid large indoor, unmasked crowds. If you do have to attend an event during that time, you want to wear a high quality masks like an N95.

Certainly, when you are going to attend an event with family in the coming weeks, you want to make sure they're all strategizing and planning out in the same way. And keeping those vulnerable people in your parties safe. So if that means that you are sick and showing signs of symptoms, don't attend.

Other things you can think about doing, obviously seeing up to date on your COVID booster, your flu shot, ventilation. You can't underestimate the importance of that. So, HEPA filters, open the windows, go outdoors if you live somewhere warm. And then finally those rapid COVID tests to be taken right before you

attend an event or at the door. These are always that you can think about trying to stay safe.

TAPPER: And as we are seeing a rise in the spread of these respiratory illnesses, CVS and Walgreens are now limiting how much children's pain relief medication a consumer can buy. These are widely used by parents when their kids suffer from these viral infections to ease fevers and bring comfort. How big of a problem is this?

NARULA: Right, it's certainly unnerving as a parent to not have access to these staple medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

Now, this is not a widespread shortage. These are spot shortages, but it's difficult for parents when they are hunting around and certainly in an effort to kind of increase and meet the demand, and increase supply, CVS and Walgreens have initiated these changes. CVS, saying that you cannot buy more than two of these pain or fever reducing medications for kids either in-store or online, and Walgreens, limiting it to six purchases of these medications online. They have not put a limit in-store.

We know that, you know, sales of these drugs are up by about 65 percent compared to the previous year. So, it's definitely frustrating and parents may have to search at smaller pharmacies. And again, you don't have to treat every fever in your child as well. So --

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Tara Narula, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, what it's like on Ukraine's snake island. One of the most dangerous plots of land in the world. CNN's Will Ripley managed together. See his experience. That's next.



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

This hour, winter does not officially start until tomorrow, but every state in the Lower 48 is going to see temperatures below freezing in the coming days. At the extreme cold is expected to trigger a holiday travel nightmare later in the week.

Plus, time is up for the White House to respond to the Supreme Court's decision to keep a controversial border policy in place for now. What we are learning about the Biden administration's next move on Title 42.

And leading this hour, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spent 300 day of the war visiting troops at one of the most contested battlefields in this country. President Zelenskyy handed out medals and visited soldiers in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, in Eastern Ukraine, where Russia has focus most of their effort to take Ukrainian territory. Zelenskyy promised the Ukrainian soldiers he would share their gratitude with the U.S. lawmakers and President Biden for the support.

But Zelenskyy went on to say, the support is not yet enough. But first, we have some breaking news. Plans are underway for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit the U.S. and visit the White House tomorrow.