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McConnell Weighing Two Offers To Schumer On Debt Limit; Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) Discusses Debt Ceiling Stalemate, Negotiations On Build Back Better Act; Zuckerberg Dismisses Whistleblower & Says Claims Made No Sense; Edgy New HHS Ad Campaign Uses Fear To Sway Unvaccinated; Biden Administration Boosting At-Home Rapid COVID Testing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, so we continue to follow the breaking developments on Capitol Hill. Senator Mitch McConnell has confirmed that he is floating two ideas to solve the nation's debt limit crisis.

He has told Republicans that he's concerned that Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema might gut the filibuster if there's no deal on the debt ceiling.

Joining us is Manu Raju.

Manu, that makes sense. That's Senator McConnell's motivation for now wanting to participate in this process?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what I was told from a Senator who was in the room, closed-door meeting that just wrapped up, where McConnell laid out these options about how to proceed amid the standoff that could potentially lead to first ever debt default in American history.

Both sides certainly don't want to be blamed for that.

McConnell now taking steps amid the standoff with Democrats over the process for raising the debt limit.

And I'm told clearly he conveyed that he's conveyed to his conference that he's concerned that there's immense pressure on Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two Democratic Senators, that have refused to budge on the Senate filibuster rules.


Of course, it requires 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to overcome a filibuster. Most Democrats want to lower that to 51. That would allow them to advance the debt-ceiling increase by just Democratic votes alone.

Now Manchin and Sinema held back and said they will not support going forward and gutting the filibuster. Manchin made that clear.

Sinema didn't say how she would react if it led up to a deadline to reach a potential default. As a result, that's one reason why Mitch McConnell made this offer.

Another reason why, he believes a short-term proposal, which he'll now propose to Democrats, would give them more time to go through a process on Capitol Hill, a budget process, that would allow them to advance the budget, the increase in the national debt ceiling on Democratic votes alone.

So I'm told the proposal he'll make will extend the national debt ceiling up until about December, through November. It would increase it by several hundred billion dollars.

But that would require all 100 Senators, including 50 Republicans, to agree to a quick vote. So any one Republican could delay the process. It's also unclear if all Republicans are on the same page.

It's also unclear if Democrats will accept that proposal. They want to suspend the national debt ceiling up and through next year's midterm so there's no scare at all about what would happen with the potential default.

That vote is going to happen in just a matter of minutes. Republicans are expected to block the suspension of the debt limit.

So McConnell is also going to propose something else to expedite the budget process. The budget process that Democrats are refusing to use because it could take some time. It would open it up to some very political amendment.

McConnell wants them to use that process, but they said they will make it quick, make it less painful, fewer votes on the Senate floor. But Democrats have, so far, not agreed to that.

But this is a sign that he is looking for a way out of this standoff. Democrats themselves are looking for a way out of this, suggesting they maybe they would go down that route of gutting the Senate filibuster rules.

But all this uncertain. Expect when this vote happens in the 3:00 hour whether or not to block this suspension of the debt limit.

Afterwards, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, will almost certainly have a discussion about where it ends up. Could it be a stalemate? Could it be a deal? We'll have to see, but some movement in the last hour or so -- guys?

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu Raju, thank you --


CAMEROTA: -- for the latest breaking Capitol Hill developments.

Joining us now is a Democrat from Texas, Congressman Colin Allred. He's a member of the Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure. And was one of several swing district Democrats who met virtually yesterday with President Biden.

Great to have you here, Congressman.

Does this mean the stalemate about the debt ceiling is over?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): That should never be used for politics. Just the thought of what would happen if we allowed this default, it would wreck the global economy.

How is that a political leverage point? I think that's just the height of irresponsibility.

Mitch McConnell has created this situation by withholding Republican votes. We only need 10 to get this out of the way.

And you know, let's remember, we're talking about paying our bills for spending that's happened in the past.

This is spending that happened under President Trump that McConnell and the Senate Republicans are now saying they don't want to help raise the debt ceiling to deal with.


ALLRED: So this is a ridiculous argument.

CAMEROTA: Well, the news that Manu just reported is that now McConnell is floating this short-term solution to raise the debt limit by several hundred billion dollars that would just last, basically, I guess, into November, a month or so.

Are Democrats going to accept that?

ALLRED: I don't know. I know this is not a leverage point. It's not a political point.

I think we feel strongly that just being responsible adults that we need to pay our bills and not allow just the idea of our economy be at risk over something like this.

If it's the only option, then Democrats may take it. But I think, right now, they're holding firm in the idea that Republicans should join them in doing the responsible thing and extending this for a couple of years.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to move on and talk about the other big economic plan. That is President Biden's Build Back Better, as it's called, the social safety net plan.

As you know, for a long time, there was a stalemate over the $3.5 trillion price tag. It sounds like now the number that is being floated by President Biden and the moderates, sounds like the progressives are open to this is $2 trillion.

So what comes out? What are you willing to sacrifice if it goes down to $2 trillion?

ALLRED: You know, I get a little bit frustrated that we're talking about top-line numbers before we talk about the programs because the top line number will be dictated by the programs.

And the top line numbers are also very fungible depending on the time frames we're talking about. Is it a five-year? Ten-year? In perpetuity? What is the time frame of the program we're talking about?


And the Build Back Better Act has some really critical investments in lowering the cost of health care, helping working families, dealing with climate change that are incredibly popular with the American people and Democrats in general.

So we're going to come to an agreement. I think some of the discussion on the top-line number can be confusing to folks.

First of all, everything we're talking about doing is paid for.

Second of all, it's going to come down to what the programs are. We'll put those in.


ALLRED: Then we'll get to a top-line number.

CAMEROTA: Well, I hear you. I understand that maybe we've done this backwards.

But since it was at $3.5 trillion with everything like, you know, the child tax credits and universal pre-K and community college elder care, so if it's going to be cut, that dramatically, something's got to give.

So tell me what program you'd be willing to give up on?

ALLRED: I think it's going to be up to negotiations between the White House, our kind of holdout Senators, and the House. So that's going to be, you know, where that sausage is made.

But I think we have a lot of agreement, from what I've seen from Senator Manchin and less so from Sinema, but certainly from Manchin, around some key programs that I know he supports that are incredibly important.

I think he's even there on some of the climate provisions. But particularly on the early childhood things. I know he said there's been some discussion on assessing, things like that.

So there's still some area that we have to negotiate.


ALLRED: But I think it would be less the programs to come out, to be honest with you, and more what are the time frame of the programs left in.

CAMEROTA: What didn't Senator Sinema go along with?

ALLRED: I'm not part of those negotiations. And I don't want to kind of you know, pretend like I have some kind of insight into that.

I know she's been in discussion with the White House and with Schumer and the leadership on their side.

I'm not in the Senate. And to be honest with you, we should start talking a lot less in the House and in the Senate because we have separate and competing impetuses from different bodies and a whole bunch of different things there.

But we're going to get there. Because I think that most of what we're talking about, as I said, is incredibly popular. Not only with the American people, but within our party.

And so we just have to decide on, how is it paid for? What are the time frames we're talking about? And what stays in?

That's the difficult part and that's going to be worked out. I think we'll land that plane.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Allred, thank you. I really appreciate your time.

ALLRED: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for dealing with this breaking Capitol Hill news with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Mark Zuckerberg is firing back after a whistleblower says Facebook put profits over public safety. We'll discuss where this goes, next.



CAMEROTA: Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, fired back against the whistleblower who told lawmakers yesterday that Facebook puts profits over morality and public safety. Zuckerberg argued the company's work had been mischaracterized.

He wrote in a Facebook post last night, quote, "If we didn't care about fighting harmful content, then why would we hire so many people dedicated to this than any other company in our space. Even one's larger than us."

"If we wanted to hide our results, why would we establish an industry leading standard for transparency on what we're doing?"

"At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profits over safety and wellbeing. That's just not true." BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Roger McNamee, the author of "Zuck,

Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe." He was a Facebook investor and early mentor to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Roger, good to have you.

Let me start here. This statement from Mark Zuckerberg, from the "60 Minutes" interview and the testimony, amounted to, sorry you have to hear these lies, guys, we're all doing great.

What's your reaction to his finally responding to these accusations, as damaging as they have been?

ROGER MCNAMEE, AUTHOR: So, Victor, let's start with the key point here, which is that the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, she was incredibly courageous.

Her testimony was authoritative and utterly convincing. So I think Facebook has had a really hard time responding. Because the documents she produced were produced by experts within Facebook to address questions that had been brought in from the outside.

So this is really serious. And Mark Zuckerberg's response is complete deflection. Every aspect of that is actually incorrect.

So the way to think about Facebook's business is they're -- they need to get people's attention. So what they do is they have algorithms to promote content that grabs and holds attention.

It turns out that fear and outrage are the best way to do that so they put out tons of that stuff. That is the stuff that makes people angry.

And the hope -- one of his arguments, for example, is advertisers have told us they don't want to buy inflammatory content.

What he doesn't mention is, among their most important advertising, are the very people who are spreading that content, so anti-vaxxers, Stop the Steal.

These kinds of people are big, big advertisers to Facebook and the business absolutely prioritizes profits over people.


Because guess what? In America, the CEO's job is to maximize shareholder value at all coasts. And in Facebook's case, because their product connects everybody, they harm millions of people in the process of maximizing their profit.

CAMEROTA: And so, Roger, what is Mark Zuckerberg doing? Is he just in denial? What he says -- I mean, here is another thing he said in this statement he put out last night:

"If social media were as responsible for polarizing society as some people claim, why are we seeing polarization increase in the U.S. while it stays flat or declines in other countries with just as heavy social media around the world."

Is he serious? Does he think social media has polarized this country? Has he seen the insurrection? Has he been to a Thanksgiving day table?

I mean, what is he doing when he says that?

MCNAMEE: Alisyn, here's what's going on. Facebook knows more about attention than any country on the earth. They know if they can string out a scandal long enough, eventually the press and policy makers will move on.

What Mark and all of the P.R. people at Facebook do is invent things that aren't true to change the topic.

For example, no one in my world of activism has accused Facebook of causing polarization. What we have accused them of doing is making people angry.

You don't move people from the center to the extreme very often. You take people very conservative or liberal and make them angry.

It's the making angry that's the problem. And it's making people sad. It's making children feel bad about their bodies. That is the business model of Instagram, and it has been from the first day.

It uses filters to make people look artificially good. When people look artificially good, everyone else gets jealous, right? That's going to be a problem.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about fixes. These Senators are considering regulation. You suggest something akin to the FDA for this space. Expound on that.

MCNAMEE: Victor, here's the issue. There are three problems, safety, privacy, and competition.

On safety, the core issue here is that tech products are unregulated today.

And as was true with chemicals before all the environmental laws, food and drugs before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the industry is just creating unsafe products.

I think we need something like the FDA that certifies products every year to confirm that they are not doing harm. With huge penalties, if you fail.

We also need privacy, though, because the issue that we have today is that everything we do leaves a little digital footprint. And all of these footprints are available for sale. People create digital models to predict their behavior and recommendations to manipulate their behavior.

And it's not just Facebook. The regulations have to look at the whole economy. Because this business model that made Facebook and Google so profitable is being adopted by every large company in every industry. And so we need them to do something about monopoly. Because Facebook went down for six hours yesterday, and millions of small businesses lost access to their customers.

Because a monopoly, when it fails, takes out a whole market. That's what we need to do.

BLACKWELL: We'll see if members of Congress this time around make moves on regulation.

Roger McNamee, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: So helpful. Thank you.

OK, the Biden administration is ramping up its efforts to boost at- home COVID testing. That's next.



CAMEROTA: Health officials are trying a new approach to persuade the unvaccinated. They're using the dramatic stories of COVID survivors.

BLACKWELL: You have seen this tactic before. Think anti-smoking campaign. It's similar to those.

CNN's Amara Walker shows us how the government is using real-life stories to convince the skeptics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I died three times. They gave me a 5 percent chance of living.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're real life-near- death stories from the unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got COVID. I was intubated and in a coma for eleven days.

WALKER: The Department of Health and Human Services taking on a striking shift in tone with a series of ads released Wednesday using firsthand accounts to get the vaccine hesitant to realize the dangers of COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take advantage of like simple things in life, like going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth.

WALKER: They're part of a $250 million campaign focused on the nearly one in four eligible Americans who are not jet vaccinated.

So far, 56 percent of the total U.S. population, more than 186 million people, have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC. And over six million people have gotten a booster shot. And for the second consecutive week, the CDC's ensemble forecast

predicts new deaths and hospitalizations are likely to continue going down over the next four weeks.

Out of the 702,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., 645 have been children according to the CDC. Children's deaths may only make up less than 0.1 percent of the total.

Still, the FDA's top vaccine official says FDA regulators are feeling, quote, "the weight of the world, plus, the weight of Mars" to authorize the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

DR. PETER MARKS, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICS EVALUATION AND RESEARCH: In this latest wave of COVID-19, particularly down south, there have been thousands of children hospitalized.

And frankly, it's an embarrassment in a developed country to have even 100 children, like we have, die of infectious disease that's preventable.

WALKER: Meantime, there's a long overdue renewed focus on coronavirus testing. The Biden administration is set to announce a $1 billion investment to ramp up supplies of at-home rapid test kits.

This, just as the FDA recently authorized at-home test from Akon Laboratories.

The White House says it's on track to quadruple the at-home tests in November, something one hospital CEO says could be a change changer.


BRIAN MOORE, CEO, BAY AREA HOSPITALS: A rapid test of low cost that can be repeated could do more to stop and prevent and control the spread than a more expensive test that you perform less frequently and wait longer for the results.


WALKER: And there's also some new information that might concern substance abusers.