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House Ways and Means Committee Begins Marking Up $3.5 Trillion Package; Hospitalizations Soar in Kentucky, Reach New Pandemic High; California Voters Decide in Five Days Whether to Recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: As we speak, the House Ways and Means Committee is in session. They'll be marking up, as it is known, President Biden's $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill today, a key part of the process in coming to an agreement. Many parts of the proposal could have a big impact for middle class Americans including up to 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave, expanding Medicare coverage, to include dental and hearing benefits and increasing wages for child care workers.

Joining me now is one of the people involved in those negotiations, Michigan Congressman and Chief Deputy Whip for the House Democratic Caucus Dan Kildee. He's also a leading member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Thanks, Jim, it is good to be on.

SCIUTTO: So, there are differences even within the Democratic Caucus here. I'm curious. I mean, they're big. Is this a negotiation, part of the negotiation or talks at an impasse?

KILDEE: Well, I won't say it is in an impasse because we're moving forward with the legislation in the House. But as you know, there will be a process between the House and the Senate and we may not be of all of one mind.

So long as what we do is significant and helps reconcile some of the big inequities in our society, by making sure that we have access to good paying union jobs, tax cuts for families, lower prescription drugs and pay for it by making sure that the world's largest corporations and wealthiest individuals pay their fair share. It may scale up and down based on what the Senate is willing to do but that is the direction we're going in.

SCIUTTO: Are you and are your colleagues, willing to accept a final bill at a lower price tag than $3.5 trillion?

KILDEE: Well, that is the top line and that is what we're shooting for. And my goal, and I know the goal of the members of the Ways and Means Committee on the Democratic side, is to send a bill over to the Senate that does that. Where that goes from there is the process of negotiation and compromise.

Look, I can speak for myself. So long as we're making big progress on this front, knowing that we may have to live to fight another day, I just think it would be a mistake to go small and maintain the status quo. And I hope that is not what the Senate ends up deciding they want to do. The status quo means that instead of lifting half of the children who live in poverty out of poverty, we keep them there in order to allow the wealthiest individuals to hold on to the vast wealth that they've accumulated without paying their fair share, and it is not acceptable.

SCIUTTO: No, I get the argument. It just it doesn't appear you have the votes on the Senate side. I mean, Joe Manchin is talking about $1 to $1.5 trillion, about a third of that size. If you don't have the votes, if it comes back to you from the Senate smaller and with less of what you want, would you say, listen, well, bite my tongue, I have to vote for it?

KILDEE: Speaking for myself, if it comes to that, I mean, obviously, progress is my goal. And I will support what we can come together around. I want the biggest, boldest common denominator between the House and the Senate. And whatever that is I'll support it.

SCIUTTO: You know well that the pairing here, right, this two-track between the reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, you need both, right? That is the plan. But is the infrastructure bill in danger as a result of the ongoing negotiations on the reconciliation bill?

KILDEE: Well, we made a commitment to bring a vote to the floor of the House on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. I mean, from my point of view, it doesn't go nearly far enough and it's a lost opportunity if that is all we do. So, I mean, my hope is it that that is not the case. I don't think it will be. Just listening to Senator Manchin's comments, it seems he's willing to move in this direction. So I don't think it's going to be a case of that having to go all by itself and that certainly was not our intent.

But having said that, we made a commitment we're going to bring that legislation to the floor and I'm sure we will.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. The Democrats got the House, they got the Senate, they have the White House. It hasn't happened for a while, right? This bill contains so many Democratic priorities, so many priorities, legislative priorities for the president.


If you can't get this through, even controlling all three branches granted with thin margins, but you got them, what case you could make to voters to the midterms in 2024?

KILDEE: Well, first of all, we will get something big and bold through. The question is how big. And I think that will really be the story. But governing is hard. Being in the majority is far more difficult and especially with these really thin majorities. So we have work to do. And it is not easy. It is difficult. These margins are really thin and the Democratic Party is not monolithic. We have lots of different views. So you make a good point.

But I think at the end of the day, what you'll see is a big step forward both on the infrastructure front and I'm trying to come up with an economy that is more inclusive and that requires the wealthiest to step up and pay their fair share in order to make sure that we don't have children living in poverty.

SCIUTTO: Before we go, another topic, because on September 18th, you got a major rally planned at the Capitol again in defense of the violent insurrectionists who threatened that building eight months on January 6th. You even have a member of Congress who might very well attend that rally. I wonder, as someone who experienced what you did on January 6, are you worried that there may be a repeat of that violence, that danger?

KILDEE: I think we have to be prepared for that. I mean, I see these people, I talk to them, they post on social media. These are dangerous people. The biggest danger, though, Jim, honestly, is not so much member of Congress who might show up, these are the nutty fringe in Congress, but the silent leadership on the Republican side who aren't calling these people off. I think that is the real danger.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Even people who reason though day we know were scared themselves and have changed their tune since then. Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you so much for taking the time.

KILDEE: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, coming up next, we're going to go inside one of the most overwhelmed hospitals in Kentucky.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you come in and have a heart attack and you need an ICU bed, we probably won't have a bed for you.


SCIUTTO: You heard that, ICU beds full, regular beds full, emergency department full. How hospital at 130 percent above capacity is staying afloat, that is next.



SCIUTTO: Hospitals in Kentucky are teetering on the brink this morning as the state battles an unprecedented level of new infections and hospitalizations. Right now, hospitalizations in the state are at the highest point of the entire pandemic. In Hazard, Kentucky, the hospital is overwhelmed with COVID cases. It has not allowed journalists inside until now.

CNN's Miguel Marquez given access to the hospital's COVID ICU and COVID unit where he spoke with patients and staff.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Vera Middleton was so sick, doctors considered putting her on a ventilator. She refused, opting instead to pray.

VERA MIDDLETON, COVID-19 PATIENT: God has brought me where I am right now and I'll praise him from now on.

MARQUEZ: She's getting everything but the ventilator and improving. The 66-year-old great grandmother from the small town of Olive Hill, Kentucky, says she and her husband talked about getting vaccinated but decided against it.

Do you have any idea where you got COVID?

MIDDLETON: Yes. My granddaughter had gotten sick and it just went through one and everybody seem like at the house.

MARQUEZ: Kentucky seeing its biggest COVID surge yet, cases and hospitalizations spiking sharply to levels never seen before, deaths too, on the rise, hospitals everywhere just trying to keep up.

JOELLE CRAFT, COVID ICU NURSE, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: It is defeating to put another person on the ventilator. It is defeating to watch a health care provider that I care about or myself stand at the bedside when someone dies alone. It is also defeating to watch somebody else get put in a body bag.

MARQUEZ: Morehead's at St. Claire Regional Medical Center is the biggest facility providing health care to 11 counties in rural Northeastern Kentucky. It can't expand capacity fast enough.

COURTNEY HOLLINGSWORTH, COVID ICU R.N., ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: It is like we're at war with this virus. And I think what we have to understand is we're not at a war with each other, whether your beliefs and those things. It is truly a war with this virus.

MARQUEZ: The National Guard is helping here. A federal disaster medical assistance team is also on hand and still they need more.

DONALD LLOYD, CEO, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: We, right now, based upon our number of staff beds, we're running about 130 percent above capacity.

MARQUEZ: 130 percent above capacity? And that is ICU beds, regular COVID units, regular patients, emergency department, everything, across the board?

LLOYD: That is correct.

MARQUEZ: The hospital has created yet another COVIDU ICU but doesn't have the staff to open it.

So, if this opened today, how quickly would these beds be filled?

LLOYD: Within the hour. We could fill it within the hour.

MARQUEZ: St. Claire is trying to keep those with COVID out of the hospital by providing monoclonal antibody treatments at home.


Madison Owens was fully vaccinated and still picked up the virus.

MADISON OWENS, NURSING STUDENT: It spreads like wildfire. Pretty -- it is easy to get and it doesn't matter who, vaccinated or not, everybody is getting it.

MARQUEZ: A nursing student, the 21-year-old, believes she picked it up at a funeral.

OWENS: My great grandmother passed away and we all went to the funeral, and then, one by one, we all went down.

MARQUEZ: The in-home treatment takes about two hours.

In a perfect world, how many could you do in a day?

LEAH STINSON, CLINICAL MANAGER, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE HOME HEALTH: We could probably start in the morning and keep going continuously, to be honest.

MARQUEZ: 24 hours?

STINSON: Yes, we have that many orders.

MARQUEZ: To try and keep up with demands, St. Clare plans to turn a tent in its parking lot into a monoclonal antibody treatment unit.

JENNIFER HARDIN, DIRECTOR, HOME HEALTH CARE SERVICES, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: I just worry that we're not going to have the staffing to meet the demand.

MARQUEZ: Hospitals across the Blue Grass State so full with COVID-19 patients, almost the entire system stretched to the limit.

DR. CORY YODER, FAMILY MEDICINE, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: So, I get really fearful when we need beds for folks who their diabetes is out of control, and they need an insulin drip, or they have regular community-acquired pneumonia. We might not have a bed for them. If you come in and have a heart attack and you need an ICU bed, we probably won't have a bed for you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ (on camera): St. Claire Health Care crunches its own numbers and they believe they have about three more weeks of rising cases and the hospitalizations before they start to see the numbers decrease. And the woman we met at the beginning of that story, Vera Middleton, she is getting better. She's expected to go home. And she does say, as soon as she is able to, she will get vaccinated. She'll encourage her family to do so as well and maybe a few friends in Olive Hill, Kentucky. Jim?

SCIUTTO: I wish it didn't take that. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

Still ahead, Kamala Harris joins the California governor to try to help him save his job. They're both trying to make the recall election about national issues, such as abortion and voting rights. Hear how Republicans are responding.




GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're like actually literally debating democracy in this country, the big lie, the insurrection on January 6.

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: These policies that are about attacking women's rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, workers' rights. They think if they can win in California, they can do this anywhere.


SCIUTTO: Vice President Kamala Harris there campaigning with California Governor Gavin Newsom as he faces a recall vote in a few days, just five days away from that election. A crowded field of Republicans are vying to replace him. But, we should note, a majority of voters would first have to reject Newsom.

Sophia Bollag, Politics Reporter for The Sacramento Bee, joins us now. Sophia, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: So, hearing Newsom and Harris there, they're clearly trying to make this recall in California about national issues on, for instance, abortion, voting right, Republicans trying to do the opposite. I mean, is the national strategy working?

BOLLAG: It appears so. For most of the month of August, polling was really surprisingly close for Newsom. California is a deeply blue state but the polling has broken for Newsom recently and so it seems that that message is resonating with voters.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Okay. The turnout is key here and, of course, we always say that it's almost a cliche of elections. But in this in particular, right, because a lot of folks, it's kind of off schedule, right, it's not a typical election year, a lot of folks don't vote. How is that working? How are Republicans driving voters to the people and how are Democrats trying to respond?

BOLLAG: Yes. So, we came into this election cycle, as you mentioned, it is an off year, it is not a typical month for an election and enthusiasm has really been on the side of recall supporters who are largely more conservative, more Republican, although it is not exclusively conservatives and Republicans who support the recall. That is what polling shows. It is mostly sort of Republicans who are supportive.

And so Newsom and his campaign have had to really make up this big enthusiasm gap that we saw a couple of months ago really needed to convince Democrats and their liberal base to turn out and vote in this election, even though it is not a time when people expects to have to vote. And even though this recall was not something on a lot of voters' radar, a lot of more liberal people sort of had tuned it out. It was kind of a conservative talking point, something a lot of Newsom's base, his Democratic base had really tuned out.

And so the governor's challenge in the last month or so has been really getting people to tune in and understand that there is an election going on here in California and that they, you know, should vote if they want to keep the governor in office.

SCIUTTO: Well, Sophia Bollag, thanks so much. We're going to be watching it closely. We'll watch those votes coming in next week. Thanks to you.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. We know it is a lot of news to digest. I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with my colleague, Kate Bolduan, will start right after a quick break.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching at this hour. Vaccines, required, President Biden's big speech today laying out his plan for defeating COVID-19 once and for all. Some cities are taking matters into their own hands.

Getting out, the first flight carrying Americans leaves Afghanistan for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal as the Taliban tightens they're grip on the country.