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Expanded Jobless Benefits Expire Today for Millions of Americans; U.S. Companies Pushing Back Against Texas Abortion Law. Aired 9:30-10am ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 09:30   ET


MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: We know the reason why is because the Taliban wants something in exchange. This is really, Chris, turning into a hostage situation where they're not going to allow American citizens to leave until they get full recognition from the United States of America.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox joins me on Capitol Hill. I mean, Lauren, it's stunning to hear that and Chris Wallace pushed him and went back and forth a lot with him for more details. And Mike McCaul also said that it was his understanding that zero Americans had been able to leave the country since the final U.S. troops withdrew. Has any of this been confirmed by the State Department?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, CNN immediately reached out to both the State Department and the National Security Council yesterday because these were very serious claims that the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee was making. What we heard from the NSC was crickets. They did not respond to a request for comment. But the State Department did issue this revealing statement and I want to read it to you. It says, "We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan. However, we do not have personnel on the ground. We do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace, whether over Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the region."

And Poppy, this just really goes to underscore what a serious and difficult situation is on the ground because we do not have U.S. forces on the ground.

Remember, that is what the whole withdraw was about. And the fact that we are not able to get quick information about what's happening is one of the reasons why McCaul has some serious questions.

Now, a group that is trying to get Americans and Afghan allies out of that country. They said that they have a group of people that is trying to leave from this region of Afghanistan, but they are not currently sitting on planes. Are there others? That's still a question up for discussion, but I think that we are still trying to find out more information about what McCaul said yesterday morning, Poppy?

HARLOW: Right and it shows the challenge now being gone of getting accurate information from the ground. Lauren, thanks for the reporting. Please keep us posted as you learn more.

Well, expanded jobless benefits and today for million, 7 million Americans. So, what happens to them when the rent is due? The refrigerator is empty. The gas tank needs to be filled if they don't yet have jobs? We'll talk about it next.



HARLOW: As the Delta Varian fuels surges of COVID infections across the country, and in the wake of a disappointing U.S. jobs report on Friday, millions of Americans are set to lose their boosted emergency federal jobless benefits or unemployment benefits today, and millions more will lose an additional $300 in state unemployment benefits.

Let's get to our Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans, who has more. We knew this day was coming for a long time. They'd said September 6, and now it's here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, an important lifeline for millions of Americans. And remember when this was enacted, people lost their jobs overnight, and they were facing just crushing economic uncertainty. So, this was money. First $600 a week extra unemployment benefits an expanded group of people to get it and then 300. So, there are now seven and a half million people who lose all their benefits today, almost 3 million who lose that extra $300 a week. So, it's the biggest benefits cliff, Poppy, I can remember my career covering business.

HARLOW: Yeah, and the question is what happens? But we have a little indication maybe, Christine, at least on the jobs front, because the debt -- the Labor Department sort of crunched the data from about half the U.S. states that cut these boosted benefits early, right? And what did that show us?

ROMANS: It showed that the states that sort of were painting so many of these workers is freeloaders who weren't going to get a job that was open because they wanted the free money. Instead, they didn't have appreciably bigger job growth in those states. It was basically the same, Poppy, you know, the states that kept the benefits on and the states that took the benefits off. Not a really big difference there. So, it kind of pokes holes in that political, you know, that political chatter that this was a government money that was keeping people from working.

We know there are a lot of people, a lot of jobs open, 10 point, 1 million. We also know there's been this great reprioritization of -- in COVID of people's lives, people aren't going to plug right back into the old job they used to have. Many are retraining for higher paid jobs. You we've seen companies raising wages, Walmart just raised wages again, for 500,000 people, they're trying to entice people back into the labor market. But you've got childcare issues, health concerns, family unit is changed. People are taking care of elderly relatives. So, it's more than money. It's -- COVID has reordered our priorities.

HARLOW: The great reordering, right? As our friend Heather Long wrote in the Washington Post.

ROMANS: That's right.

HARLOW: Christine, thank you so much.

Let me bring in Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director for the National Employment Law Project. Rebecca, it's great to have you. Good morning.


HARLOW: So now what? Because I know you will pose the ending of these federal boosted unemployment benefits, but it's happening, it's ending, right? And the administration has said, look, there's all these other ways that we're trying to help. We've boosted these career grants to help people retrain. I guess my question to you is, if now is not the time to end them, and we don't know how long COVID is going to menace us like this, then when is the right time?

DIXON: The most important thing to remember is that the policy we're making ending them today. It's about the people who've already recovered. And we know this recovery has been incredibly uneven. So, we know that women and people of color have been disproportionately affected in terms of job loss, their employers were the ones who closed, and their employers are the ones who are looking at potentially having to close again. And certainly, business slowed down due to the Delta variant. So, it's really a question of, can we actually make policy for working people? Can we prioritize Main Street over Wall Street?


HARLOW: So, what do you think would help most in terms of policy?

DIXON: I think at this point, what we need because our UI system is basically a patchwork of UI state programs. And everybody's state is different. In the 15 years that I've been working on this program, I've seen this state benefits erode and become worse. So not better over time, but worse over time. And so, what we have right now is Congress has an opportunity and reconciliation to actually put a down payment on fixing this program for good. So that means every state, we would have 26 weeks of benefits, and you have a benefit amount that actually replaces enough of your salary, to allow you to search for work and to meet your basic needs.

HARLOW: Well, you do have President Biden in the White House on your side on that, because they have agreed publicly even lately that this system, when you say UI unemployment insurance system, has in their word serious problems and needs immediate reform. I think the question is, does that now come? I want you to respond to what White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, told our Dana Bash and State of the Union yesterday, because she noted that the Biden administration has given states the green light to use any of their unused COVID stimulus money for extending unemployment for their citizens. But none as of Friday had done so. Listen, what Ron Klain said to Dana,


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The Delta variant is having an impact on the economy, but not so much on employment. And we think that the states have the tools they need to help people move from unemployment to employment.


HARLOW: Do you agree the states have what they need to get people into these jobs?

DIXON: Poppy, I think the strongest indication is what we've seen states do, right? The evidence is that we saw 26 states cut off benefits early this summer. So, I don't really think the states can be trusted to actually really take into account what working families need right now. They're actually listening to employers and their narrative. And we don't have an issue with work -- the work ethic of working people, we have an issue with not putting people first and listening to employers and this oversimplified narrative that is overblown. Workers don't need a push back into the labor market. Workers need good jobs to go back to.

HARLOW: We're seeing a complete reshuffling as Christine was just talking about of what, you know, the labor system and what jobs look like in America. Rebecca Dixon, thank you for being an important voice on this and come back soon.

DIXON: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Coming up next, Lyft is one of the companies taking a stand against Texas' new restrictive abortion law. Coming up, their general counsel will join me to explain why they took an interesting step, next.



HARLOW: The nation's two largest rideshare companies Lyft and Uber both pushing back against Texas's new restrictive abortion law and effectively bans abortions after six weeks and gives private citizens the right to file civil lawsuits against anyone considered to be aiding in an abortion that would include anyone who drives a woman to a medical center for example.

Now Lyft and Uber say they will cover the legal fees of drivers who might face any lawsuits for that. Lyft has also donated a million dollars to Planned Parenthood in the wake of this. The company's co- founder sent a letter to employees. Let me read you part of it, "We want to be clear: Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you're breaking the law by giving someone a ride. Similarly, riders never have to justify or even share where they're going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get a health care appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking the law. Both are completely unacceptable."

And I should note the new Texas law to extreme even for some pro-life Republicans. Listen to what Congressman Adam Kinzinger told our Dana Bash just yesterday.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: Well, there was a lot of question about what the Supreme Court thing meant. So, look, for me, I'm pro- life. But what I don't like to see is this idea of every citizen being able to tattle, you know, Sue an Uber driver. You know, as you said, be deputized to enforce this abortion law to whatever they want.


HARLOW: Let me bring in Kristin Sverchek. She is the General Counsel for Lyft. Kristin, thank you for your time this morning. It's a really important issue.

KRISTIN SVERCHEK, GENERAL COUNSEL FOR LYFT: Thank you so much for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: So, it was Lyft that decided to do this. Uber joined on literally an hour later. So, both major companies are now on board. But can you bring us into the decision-making room? How did you guys make this decision?

SVERCHEK: Absolutely. Well, you know, first and foremost, as you said it, this law is egregious, and it bans virtually every abortion in the state of Texas, and it also encourages private citizens to sue one another. And so late Wednesday night after the United States Supreme Court failed to enjoin the law, our President and CEO John Zimmer and Logan Green reached out and said, what can we do about this?


And a small group of us immediately convened, I was very heartened to see this from two male co-founders understanding this laws impact on a woman's right to choose. And very quickly, we decided that we wanted to act. We were also hearing from our drivers who are very concerned about what this means for them, are they under some obligation to monitor where their riders are going and why. And so, we both wanted to come out strongly in support of a woman's right to choose, as well as make our drivers feel OK. We did not want them being in this untenable position of not knowing whether their behavior was OK or not.

And so, within that first 24 hours, we decided what we were going to do, and we were lucky to have strong support from our board of directors, including Valerie Jarrett, who we discussed with, and she said, I only wish I had thought of it myself. HARLOW: It's interesting that a lot of this also was prompted by drivers being concerned, what does this mean for me? Am I, all of a sudden, going to be on the hook for, you know, $10,000, and, you know, potential civil prosecution? What is happening now, Kristin is, you know, following this move in Texas, is that a number of Republican led states, more than half a dozen are looking to follow Texas' path here and pass similar laws that the Supreme Court at this point hasn't intervened in and doesn't even know if it has the authority to check because we're in uncharted territory. If that happens, is Lyft promised to cover all the legal fees for any driver who may be brought suit against indefinite? And would it span all of those states?

SVERCHEK: That is our intention, yes, Poppy. Obviously, every state may enact its own laws. This Texas law is unique in that it has this private right of action, which is, you know, as we just heard on the clip abound too far for even Republican Congress, people, but yes, law, Lyft wants to support its drivers in this. The overbreadth nature of the law, where it says that anyone can be liable for aiding or abetting is it's just unique, and it's egregious. And so that is why we wanted to come out strongly in support of our drivers and strongly against this law.

HARLOW: Let me ask you a question that's not legal, but you're a high- ranking executive at the company. And I just -- it's very interesting. And we're in a new sort of phase of corporations speaking out and acting on social issues that are very divisive, like abortion, you wouldn't have seen this, I think 5, 10 years ago. And you've got, you know, polling that shows 42% of residents in Texas, for example, support banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat, for example, not specifically this law, but that in general, how do you weigh that as a company? Because for sure, all of your customers, employees, drivers will not agree with this.

SVERCHEK: Yes, thank you for that question. And when we discussed this decision, we knew that it could be controversial, and we knew that we would not see 100% support. But this was very much a moment of wanting to do what is right, what we as the executives at Lyft, felt was right. And I'm very proud of us for having done this. We will lose some customers because of it. But that that was not something that was going to stop us from acting here.

HARLOW: It's notable because it follows other decisions and moments of speaking out on social issues that Lyft has made. For example, in 2019, you guys gave a million dollars to the ACLU, right after former President Trump issue that travel ban on those Muslim majority countries. Obviously, you've taken a progressive stand on a number of environmental issues. Is it Lyf's position that the role and responsibility of founders and CEOs in America is changing on social issues that are not directly related to their business that they need to speak out on them?

SVERCHEK: Yes, I think that's right, Poppy. You know, I joined Lyft nearly nine years ago after working as the company's outside counsel. And one of the reasons that I joined the company and one of the reasons that I've stayed as long as I have is because we are values led, probably nine years ago, we would not have spoken out on this issue. And honestly, as I think back on it, I'm not sure why abortion is a constitutionally protected, right. And so, I'm happy to see us here taking the voice and I hope that more of corporate America does this.

Now that said, governments should also be passing fair legislation and not look at to inappropriately ban a constitutional right as they have here. But I do you think it's important that corporate America holds government accountable and speaks out on important issues.


HARLOW: Well, I think if we've learned anything in the last few years. It's how much power corporate America does have on key issues like this. Kristin Sverchek, thank you guys very, very much for taking the time to come on, especially on a holiday.

SVERCHEK: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Coming up, a big question for all of us right now is, will we get a COVID booster and when? We'll have the details, next.



HARLOW: Morning everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us on this Labor Day. This is a special holiday edition of CNN Newsroom. Jim has the day off and we begin on COVID and booster shots. Top health officials say --