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Democrats Not Giving Up on Effort to Overhaul Prescription Drug Prices; Poll Shows Youngkin Makes Big Strides with Independents in Virginia Governor Race; Lawsuit Shows Unite the Right Organizers Planned Violence in Charlottesville. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 10:30   ET


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another sign here, guys, that despite the optimism of Democratic leaders.


If they can get a deal within days on the larger social safety net package, there are still some major issues that they have to resolve between the left and the right to get everybody on board, not just on health care, but on things like climate change as well as paid leave for workers, all key questions they have to resolve. Can they get there? Can they get there this week? It still looks very challenging but they're pushing ahead. As Nancy Pelosi told her caucus earlier today, they're not going to get everything they want but embrace the bill that they can get. Guys?

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Which is interesting because, I mean, it was just under a week ago, right, on Tuesday, there were all these meetings at the white House, and coming out of it, it was amazing the tone and how it had changed. And it was all about optimism and a real kumbaya moment.

Here we are, as Jim pointed out, Bernie Sanders refusing to answer your question, Manu, about whether it's a red line, sometimes a non- answer is an answer though, but his red line isn't the only one, which then I guess boil down to which of these red lines is going to win out. Do we have a sense of that this morning?

RAJU: Yes, we don't yet. And, ultimately, the question had been whether or not the president himself could come out and say to one side or the other, the left or the center of the Democratic caucus, except this, this is the best we could get. And they were starting to move towards that because Joe Biden had indicated if I drop things like tuition-free community college, some of the liberals were unhappy about that, but the health care issue has just been so central in these talks for some time. And that is key to Bernie Sanders here. And how does Joe Biden, how does the White House, try to resolve that? A big question. And also a big question, how is this going to be financed, the tax issue still unsettled. Major questions ahead, guys, as they try to resolve this in the days ahead.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Yes. Will the president set a red line? And if he does, will that resolve the problem? Two open questions. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

HILL: Joining us now to discuss it all, Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas. He's a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Budget Committee and Joint Committee on Taxation. Sir, good to have you with us this morning.

And I hope that you were maybe able to hear Senator Sanders' comments just there and some reporting from our colleague, Manu Raju. But Senator Sanders once again stressing how important it is there be, in his words, serious negotiation with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the price of prescription drugs and also really pushing for that dental, hearing and vision coverage for Medicare. I know those are key for you. What is your sense of where things stand on those issues this morning?

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Well, those are real problems, and I do agree with Senator Sanders on most of what he said. The pinnacles of the pharmaceutical industry are so far reaching within this Congress that what was a weak bill when we started has gotten steadily weaker so that you cannot turn to most Americans and tell them honestly that their drug problem, their prescription price-gouging victimization will end.

And that's the real problem for vision bill and hearing, which I have the bill in the House, is that if you don't get savings for consumers and savings for taxpayers and the many government programs that pay for prescription drugs, you don't have the resources to provide a very necessary service to seniors, knowing that about three-fourths of the seniors who had a hearing loss problem did not get the care that they needed, that almost half of those who had a vision loss, who couldn't see well, that leads to falls, that leads to dementia, that they could not get the services they need.

But as long as the prescription drug issue keeps getting eviscerated, which is what's happening, we don't have the resources to do what we need, especially on vision and hearing. Dental is a bit more difficult. But on vision, we could provide this service next year to seniors, a basic pair of glasses. We could provide hearing coverage the following year and maybe dental sometime in the future. I think we need to do that in this bill, and I'm very concerned about where it is at this point.

HILL: So just to button this up then, can you do that, right, what you've just proposed, without those changes to drug pricing, which is something that Democrats have been pushing for decades at this point?

DOGGETT: That's right. Not enough Democrats. We need more and we need the people within our own caucus to provide full support for broad Medicare negotiation. And we have some problems with a handful of members, particularly in the Senate. But the answer is, yes, we can take care of vision next year and hearing the following, at least, if we turn to revenue sources other than prescription drugs. We can get the prescription drug relief that Americans deserve. We ought to get the revenue from other places to finance vision and hearing. I don't think that --

HILL: So, what are those other things though? What are those other revenue streams to finance it?

DOGGETT: Well, as you mentioned, I serve on the Ways and Means Committee. We generated a bill that provides to pay for so many services in this bill that are now being reduced or eliminated in the broader build back better bill.


So, it's a matter using general revenue from other sources to finance this coverage. We're talking about roughly $70 billion over a decade to provide basic vision and hearing coverage.

I do think there's a problem with the voucher approach, and that's the one area that I have some disagreement with Senator Sanders on. We've a opposed voucherizing Medicare for years. And I think our focus should be on what basic relief we can provide now on a permanent basis and perhaps do the other at another time.

HILL: When it comes to other sources of funding, as we mentioned, you're on Ways and Means, Chairman Richard Neal saying that, overnight, he wasn't sure that this plan to tax billionaires, that it would actually bring in a reliable amount of money, and even warned it could be challenged legally. We know Senator Sinema is opposed to corporate tax hikes. So, what would plan B be this morning for that if that billionaire tax is not going to fly?

DOGGETT: Yes. Certainly, the plan A, which Chairman Neal and all of us on the committee worked together to establish is the best approach, simply restoring the rates that existed for those at the top income level under the administration of President Obama would be a reasonable approach.

Senator Sinema has come up very late with objections. She's yet to lay out a clear plan as to what this billionaire tax would be. I certainly think those at the top should be paying much more. But just doing a tax on a few hundred people is probably not enough to pay for the services we need and is not really a very good substitute for what we proposed, particularly dealing with the problem of corporations on the international level where we know that a large number of corporations were paying were paying less than 8 percent tax rate on their revenues. So I think we need to deal with corporations, and Senator Sinema has been a belated problem here.

HILL: We'll see what happens on that. I mean, where's your gut this morning? Because, as I just said to Manu, on the heels of these meetings with the president last week, it really did feel that Democrats were united at least in their public messaging. The fact that this morning we are seeing with this yet another deadline, there have been many, as we know, but with what feels like a real deadline looming, especially when we talk about infrastructure once expiring on Sunday, what happened to the kumbaya?

DOGGETT: Well, there's still a united feeling that we need to pass these bills and we need to pass them soon, provide the president support particularly on the climate change measures as he goes to the international conference, but the Sunday deadline is not a hard and fast deadline that has to be met in terms of the transportation programs. It's not as if the lights will go out that day. And it's possible to pass some continuation to keep the funding in place as we conclude this.

I hope we can get it done this week. It's more likely to occur next week. It does need to occur. I am one of those progresses who said we can't do the highway portion if we're not going to do the child care and the health portion. I continue to feel that way. These two bills will have to move together to provide relief that is build back better, not build back weak.

HILL: We will see what happens. Look, those deadlines do seem to keep moving, as you pointed out. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, I appreciate the time. Thank you.

DOGGETT: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Did we just hear a moving of the goal post again?

HILL: I think we did. We're looking at next week now, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sunday not a hard deadline. Listen to what they say.

Well, still ahead, another political challenge for Democrats, they're in full-court press in the state of Virginia, the commonwealth of Virginia, with President Biden heading out to stump for Gubernatorial Candidate Terry McAuliffe today. Why the Republican contender may be swaying independent voters, that's next.



HILL: Later today, President Biden heads to Virginia where he'll campaign for Democratic Candidate for Governor Terry McAuliffe. And with just one week now until Election Day, McAuliffe finds himself in a dead heat with a political newcomer, Republican Glenn Youngkin.

SCIUTTO: A big reason why where independent voters stand. According to a recent Monmouth University Poll, independents have been flocking to the Republican in recent weeks.

Joining us now to discuss is Henry Olsen, he's a Republican and a Columnist for The Washington Post. Good to have you on, sir.

This morning, you nail in on three things you say Youngkin is doing right in terms of messaging for his campaign, taxes, crime and education, parents and teachers. Tell us how.

HENRY OLSEN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Well, on taxes he's abandoned the cut the top rate mantra of the Republicans and instead focusing on cutting taxes for the working class and the poor by eliminating the sales tax on groceries and by doubling the standard deduction. That appeals to independents. He's focusing on cutting crime and talking about defunding the police, which is something that unites independents and Republicans. And with respect to education, he's defending parents' rights, again, something that unites Republicans and independents. And in the context of the (INAUDIBLE), they're finding him persuasive.

HILL: He's really capitalized on that education moment as well. One of the things that stood to me that you wrote about his tone. So, while he is aligned with a number of conservative principles, he's not this -- in your words, he's not a firebrand like Trump, and that is a change that we're seeing.


OLSEN: Oh, that's a huge difference. He's much more Reaganesque in his tone. He's gone standing for and communicating clear principles but he's doing it in a reasonable tone that's not angry, that's not name-calling. It's the antithesis of the Trump-style, and it's something that independents like. So, what we're finding is that reasonable center-right policies with a reasonable tone are attractive to independents as opposed to the in-your-face culture war, I'm good, you're evil approach that Donald Trump did.

SCIUTTO: Has he explicitly disavowed questions about the outcome of the 2020 election?

OLSEN: He has done a strong dance about that throughout, that he acknowledges Joe Biden has been elected, has been inaugurated. He's not for reinstatement. He has condemned the violence on January 6th. But he has not necessarily adopted the full preferred line from the Democratic Party, which is to attack the whole idea about there was no election fraud.

He has supported increased election integrity measures, which is the Republican approach to dealing with questions of potential fraud. So I think what he has done is straddled and avoided being tarred with that rather than coming down clearly on one side or the other that each side's political bases would prefer.

HILL: How effective do you think that straddling is for him?

OLSEN: Well, he's tied in the polls and he's got the momentum. So, I'd say that's been extremely effective.

HILL: Right. But do you think that's one of the main factors that's going into those numbers that we're seeing?

OLSEN: Yes. What we're seeing right now -- it's a week to go. What we're seeing right now is that repeated attempts by Terry McAuliffe to tie Youngkin to Trump and to make that an issue is falling flat among independents. So far, it is something that has been politically successful for Youngkin and Democratic attempts and McAuliffe's attempt to tie him to January 6th and Trump, and thus far not shown up in the polls as being a winning message.

SCIUTTO: Well, we should note again there is no evidence of widespread fraud to change the election, and that is not a point just of the Democratic Party but, of course, many Republicans involved in verifying this election. Henry Olsen, thanks for joining us this morning.

OLSEN: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, did the organizers of a Charlottesville neo- Nazi rally plan for the event to turn violent four years ago? That's a question jurors will soon. The latest from the trial preparations, that is coming up.



SCIUTTO: Jurors will decide if organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, four years ago planned for that violence that ensued after white supremacists descended on the city carrying torches.

HILL: Seven jurors were selected on Monday in the civil trial. Now, the lawsuit alleges the event planners intended from the start to wreak havoc back in August of 2017. As you'll recall, Heather Heyer was killed, dozens of others were injured.

CNN's Jason Carroll is in Charlottesville this morning. So, Jason, who is suing these organizers?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, you have got nine plaintiffs who were injured that day, and as you say, what is at issue here is whether or not the 24 defendants in some way conspired to commit acts of violence. So that is what is at issue here.

Yesterday, we saw a long day of jury selection. We might have another long day today. Seven jurors selected yesterday, and we're expecting the judge to ask many of the same types of questions that we heard yesterday, today, namely can these people put aside their personal differences and listen to the evidence in court?

We also heard the judge ask a number of questions about discrimination, about white supremacy. A number of people could not meet the requirements. One woman dismissed just this morning because she said she didn't believe that atheists had the right to protest. She was dismissed. Yesterday, there was another man who said that he was influenced by the media and had basically already made up his mind. So, he obviously was dismissed as well.

One of the defendants, one of the 24 defendants in this case, is Richard Spencer. That may sound familiar to you. He is the man credited with coining the phrase alt-right. He is actually representing himself in court, does not have an attorney. He was in court yesterday, in court again today. So, a little bit of a side note here as well.

A number of the defendants had basically asked for this trial to be moved outside of Charlottesville. They wanted it moved to Roanoke. They wanted it moved to Lynchburg. A judge denied that request saying it should be tried here and that they would be able to impanel a jury.

So, waiting to see how long jury selection goes again today. Guys, back to you.

SCIUTTO: Do we know how much they're suing for in particular, Jason, in this case?

CARROLL: It's a good question and a number of us were asking. A dollar amount is not listed in the civil suit. The jury, once it's seated, and once this trial is over, if it goes in the direction of the plaintiffs here, the jury will end up deciding the dollar amount.

But I can tell you the attorneys for the plaintiffs say they basically want to bankrupt these defendants, they want to financially cripple them.


HILL: It would be interesting to see as that plays out. Jason, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Amazing there are so many open questions from that rally, so critical four years ago and sad to see at the time.

Thanks so much for joining us, all of you, today. Lots of news today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HILL: And I'm Erica hill.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.