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House to Vote on Build Back Better Plan; CBO Reveals Cost of BBB Plan; FDA Authorizes Boosters; Biden Undergoes Physical Exam. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 19, 2021 - 09:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning to you. It is Friday, but a heck of a lot of news before the weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I'm Erica Hill.

We are following three breaking news stories this morning.

So, right now, Democrats finally on the verge of passing President Biden's Build Back Better plan. The House set to vote on sweeping $1.9 trillion social spending bill any moment now. This after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy successfully thwarted a vote planned for last night with the longest House floor speech ever.

SCIUTTO: Well, now the vote is going to go ahead.

Also in the last hour, the FDA has now approved booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for all adults in the U.S. Previously they had only been authorized for adults 65 and older, as well as people with immune deficiencies. What that means for you and me, all of us, ahead.

We're also monitoring Walter Reed Medical Center where at any moment President Biden is set to receive his first physical exam as president. President Biden arriving there just moments ago.

We have a lot to cover this morning. We're going to help keep you on top of it.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House, Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, the vote, there's some procedural votes happening right now, but this vote's going to happen this morning. Do they have the votes? Is it going to pass?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is expected to pass. The vote is expected to happen this morning. Of course, as you all mentioned, there was quite the hang-up overnight as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy taking his privilege of unlimited time to speak and going for eight hours and 32 minutes.

But here we are now, the final votes, I'm watching them with one eye here, on this Republican motion to send it back to the committee. That is expected to fail. And then they will move on to voting for the Build Back Better Act, which, as I mentioned, is expected to pass.

And, of course, this has been weeks and weeks of negotiations. You'll remember a deal was struck with a handful of moderates who committed to voting for it after they got that CBO score back. And they now are committed to voting for it. They do have the votes. We do expect it to pass. And then it will go over to the other chamber, to the Senate, where we expect a lot of changes to be made to this bill.

It's not going to come back to the House in the same form that it is leaving. Why? Well, Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema specifically have expressed some reservations, a lot of reservations about a number of provisions of the bill that's coming out of the House. Among them, on Manchin's side, paid leave, the climate provisions, expanding Medicare. These are all things that are going to have to get negotiated over on the Senate side and then it's going to have to come back to the House.

And the question there is, will it be enough for progressives? We do expect President Biden to really be getting into it with the Senate side. He's made that commitment to progressives on the House side that he will get all of these 50 Democratic senators on board.

So that's what we're watching right now, Jim and Erica, that Build Back Better Act vote should be coming very soon.

HILL: Soon. Soon, soon, soon.


HILL: That's the four letter word everybody's operating on.

SCIUTTO: It might actually -- it might actually apply this time.

HILL: I think this time around it may mean something.

DEAN: It's soon now. Yes.

HILL: Kaitlan, in terms of that next step, though, in the Senate, as, you know, as we're starting to talk about, that is -- that is, obviously, the next step. You know, and as Jessica laid out, there could be a hurdle or two there.

Just how optimistic is the White House this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're hopeful to get this passed. I mean this is a vote that they thought they were going to have in their hands about 12 hours ago. And, of course, that got delayed by Kevin McCarthy's speech that lasted, as Jessica noted, for eight hours and 32 minutes. And so the White House was hopeful this would happen last night. They don't think in the long scheme of things that this is actually going to change the outcome. They still believe that they have the votes given only one Democrat has said that they plan to vote against this bill, passing the House, of course, now putting it in the hands of the Senate, where the White House knows it is likely to change because we don't even have Senator Manchin saying yet that he is ready to take up this bill to get that process started.

And so the White House knows that this is going to be a challenge to come. This vote that is going to happen, that is likely to happen here, any minute now, is really just going to be a next step in this. And the next challenge, of course, is actually getting it through the Senate and seeing what the Senate is going to do with it because it's not just the moderates like Senator Joe Manchin that are concerned about the size of this bill, also the scope of this is something that still remains to be seen what it will look like in its final form, with Senator Bernie Sanders saying yesterday he is not comfortable with where the current provisions of that state and local tax deduction are because a lot of critics have said, and rightly pointed out, that it would amount to a tax break for the wealthy. And that is, of course, not the point and not what you hear from President Biden when they talk about this bill.

They want to focus on the other aspects of it, including the fact that it's the biggest expansion to the social safety net in several decades.


It's probably the biggest ever effort to combat climate change. And so that's what they want to focus on, but they believe these other parts of it, like that part that Senator Bernie Sanders doesn't like when it comes to what's known as the SALT tax is inevitable because they say in order to get some of these moderate Democrats on board, you have to also have components like that. And so that is the way the White House is viewing it, though they are hopeful to get this passed, actually have this notch on their belt today as you are going to see from President Biden later today, when he does that Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning those turkeys, of course, he's also likely to talk about this because they had a statement ready to go last night. Of course, that statement was delayed by that speech given by Kevin McCarthy.

SCIUTTO: Listen, you talked to Democrats in New York and New Jersey, they're not going to vote for this without the SALT tax, raising those caps.

Jessica Dean, Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.

Well, the numbers. Some new analysis by the Congressional budget Office, nonpartisan, we should note, now reveals the cost of the Build Back Better Act. It says it will add $367 billion over ten years. But we should note, that estimate excludes any additional revenue generated by greater enforcement of tax collections.

HILL: CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joining us now. So, Christine, walk us through the CBO calculations, and how we should

be looking at them.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And that tax enforcement part of it is very, very important because for years the IRS budget has been cut, cut, cut and so there are tax scofflaws, people who don't pay their taxes, and there's this theory here that if you invest $80 billion into the IRS, you can get much, much more of that back in taxes that are due into the -- into the government.

So, what the CBO is saying, over ten years, the cost of this legislation will be $367 billion over ten years. If you include IRS enforcement revenue, it would only be $167 billion. And, frankly, there are people -- the Treasury and the White House, and even some other economists who are saying, they think it would be much, much less than that. That it would get a lot -- you would get a lot of money by actually enforcing American tax laws.

SCIUTTO: That, we should note, is a fraction of what the CBO estimated that the 2017 tax cut added --

ROMANS: Right.

SCIUTTO: I think by a factor of 10 to the deficit over a number -- over ten years.

ROMANS: It ballooned the deficit.


ROMANS: The 2017 tax law, at the time, was forecast to add about $1.4 trillion to the deficit over a decade. It's now $1.9 trillion is the estimate.


ROMANS: It's only gotten worse.

SCIUTTO: So it's gone up.

ROMANS: So what you're talking about here with Build Back Better is a reordering of priorities of the American economy, away from corporations and the rich who got a lot of money in that 2017 tax reform and investing in working people, elderly people, healthcare, lower drug costs, housing, and the climate. The climate is the biggest part of this -- of this Build Back Better.

So it is -- it is definitely a generational reordering of priorities here.

You will hear Republicans, and some Democrats, screaming about adding a penny to the deficit. Just a reminder that it wasn't very long ago that no one was really screaming very loud about adding to the deficit by giving money to companies and to the -- and to the super rich.


You also hear some screaming about actually pushing for the IRS to collect taxes that are due.


HILL: And that in doing that, you know, the rich will always find a work around. They may, but it's still sort of mind-boggling, I think, to many Americans that there would be a pushback on people actually paying their fair share since so many Americans actually do that already.

ROMANS: Yes, tax enforcement is a really important part of how to pay for this. Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary, and others have said they think that the CBO might be underestimating how much money you would get from just actually enforcing tax law as it is, how much money that would bring in, that would help pay for these Democratic priorities.

HILL: Christine, appreciate it. Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you guys.

HILL: Also with us now, our political analyst, Margaret Talev, managing editor of "Axios," and Toluse Olorunnipa, political investigations and enterprise reporter for "The Washington Post."

Nice to see you both on this very quiet Friday morning as we -- as we await that vote.

Margaret, it is important to maybe pause for a moment and look at just how significant this vote will be this morning.


MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's absolutely right. There were some central tenets to Joe Biden's campaign for president, but one of them was since the start of this presidency, this plan. And, yes, it is scaled back from what some of the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus aimed for, but it is a massive expansion of a social safety net in America that could have implications for decades to come.

The question for Democrats is, is it going to have implications between now and the midterm elections? Can they get credit for it? And if they do get credit for it, will it be positive credit? Will it help them? Or will it be used to message against them and funnel this idea that inflation is a problem and this is contributing to it.

But that CBO score that came last night is so important because not only did it pave the way for the vote that we're about to see, but it gave legitimacy to the White House's argument this was a fiscally responsible plan. The White House coming back and saying, we don't think it's going to add anything to the deficit.


We think it's actually going to offset the deficit.

But whether or not that's true, that $160 billion figure that we're talking about in terms of adding to the deficit over a decade is, like, a tiny -- teeny tiny fraction of the amount of money that is going to go to the economy and into people's lives through this plan.


TALEV: It's a tiny fraction. It's like less than 1 percent.

SCIUTTO: I mean, listen, in a classic Washington phenomenon, the protests over adding to the deficit only happen for the other side's priorities, right? You -- either party very happy to add to the deficit for their own priorities.

Toluse, the issue with this, for Democrats, right, is that the big bill doesn't seem to be very popular, but all the constituent parts of the bill really are. You know, lower drug prices, childcare tax credit, universal pre-k.

Do Democrats have a plan to sell the parts of this so that, you know, if they think they can get political benefit, as Margaret was talking about in 2022, that they can from it, or have they lost that battle?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They are still fighting that battle. There is going to be a big battle in 2022. I think 2021 they've been so focused on trying to get the bill through, working through some of the negotiations and some of the actual battles that they have within their own caucus between liberals and moderates and it has been messy.

But now that they are pushing this through, and if this gets across the Senate into the White House and on to President Biden's desk, then they can spend the next several months talking about the various pieces of this bill that are going to be affecting people's lives. People being able to send their three-year-olds and four-year-olds to preschool without having to pay for childcare, people having money in their pockets through, you know, the $300 a month that is going to be going to almost 40 million households. They can campaign on these things. They're going to have to work out the messaging because the messaging has not been very strong over the past few months as they've been fighting and as they've been negotiating and as everyone has been witnessing the sausage-making process. But now that we're getting closer to the finish line, they're going to have to transition.

And there is going to be a lot of resistance. Republicans are going to say this is adding to inflation. This is making things cost more. That, yes, the Democrats are giving you more money, but how far is that going to go when your grocery bill is going up, when the gas bill is going up.


OLORUNNIPA: So there's going to be huge negotiations and over this messaging, but it will be very interesting to see how it works out over the next year.

SCIUTTO: The vote -- we see the vote has now started on the actual passage of the bill. So we'll be keeping eyes on that.

HILL: It's interesting, too, what Toluse brings up, messaging, right?


HILL: I think you were very diplomatic, Toluse, in talking about the message.

But, Margaret, messing is going to be, and to Jim's point, is going to be key here, especially as this moves into the Senate because this is, frankly, an area when it comes to messaging.


HILL: Democrats have not done well on that at all. I mean I think you could say they have failed in pushing either infrastructure or this bill in a message that is clear and really cuts through to people.

TALEV: That's absolutely true. And you're also right to point out that even after this vote happens, you're going to hear the chamber erupt in applause and everyone take credit for it. It doesn't mean the thing has become law. It still has to survive a more difficult road in the Senate. It's a more difficult road because of some Democratic resistance. Not much, but a little bit.

And, look, I think the messaging is very interesting, particularly based on this CBO score, which will help the Democrats try to push this in the Senate. Because an element of that tax collection goes to getting money back from companies like Amazon, Facebook, the companies that the Republican Party is now positioning itself against and saying, we're the party of the working man and, you know, corporations are -- you know, massive global corporations are bad. And this goes to enforcement of their tax provisions, of collecting money for them.

So I think the Democrats obviously have an opportunity to talk about how this would impact your drug prices, your, you know, day care, preschool, early schooling for your children, what happens on the later side of your life when you need healthcare. But can they do it and will it be enough to convince the most resistant in their own party? And that's what we're going to see in the next several weeks or months.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We'll see how much give they have to give.

Margaret, Toluse, stand by because we do have live events on the floor of the House there as the vote is progressing on passage.

Jessica, you're up on The Hill. Tell us what's happening now.

DEAN: Well, the vote is happening. After weeks and weeks, months of negotiations, Jim and Erica, the House now voting on the Build Back Better Act. And really just in the last, I don't know, minute and a half, the

energy here has kicked up several notches. Many people filing in and out as they start to vote on this. And a lot of excitement among Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been seen on the floor huddling with people, Democratic leadership seem to be in quite a good mood.

This is a big day for them. They have been working long and hard to get this passed. And after that delay overnight with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking for that marathon eight and a half hours, the time has come now for Democrats to see this through the finish line in the House.

Now, let's put a little brake -- pump the brakes for a second because it now does go to the Senate, where it's going to go through a long and arduous process of getting through what will pass the Senate and all 50 -- get the support of all 50 senators over there.


But for this moment in time, we're now watching as Democrats vote to move the Build Back Better Act forward. We do expect this to pass. We know there is one Democratic lawmaker that has said that he does not support it. But Nancy Pelosi appears to have the votes to get this across the finish line.

So, like I said, a lot of energy here on the Democratic side. They're ready to see this move forward. It's something that especially progressives have had their eye on voting, making -- cutting that deal not too long ago, a couple of weeks ago, to get the infrastructure bill passed in exchange for a promise to vote on this bill this week. The handful of moderates who were holding out getting that CBO score yesterday that they now have supported this bill.


DEAN: So now we will see it moving forward.

Jim and Erica.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's still got to go to the Senate.

DEAN: Right.

SCIUTTO: But if it does get through there, this would be the third major piece of legislation this year.

HILL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: If you go back to Covid relief, infrastructure, which has been passed, and this at least a step. We'll see what happens this time.

HILL: We'll see what happens.

SCIUTTO: Yes. HILL: We're going to take a quick break here. Stay with us. Much more to come on the other side.



SCIUTTO: We continue to watch live pictures from the House up on Capitol Hill as a vote is underway on the passage of the Democrat's Build Back Better Act, which seems like they got the votes for it, to get it through the House there.

Jessica Dean is up on The Hill. She's been seeing members filing in and out to cast their votes.

Jessica, when's it all going to come together?

DEAN: Well, it is rapidly moving that way, Jim and Erica. And, remember also too, this is their last vote before Thanksgiving recess, in addition to being a major priority for them. So things are moving pretty quickly now.

We did see one House Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, vote against this. That was expected. He had said to a local paper yesterday that it was the SALT tax deduction. And what that is, is state and local tax deductions. They were going to remove the cap on that. That was needed to get the moderate support. So we'll see what happens.

Again, we've been talking about this all morning. Once it goes over to the Senate, because there are various senators who -- over there who are also concerned about that, namely Senator Bernie Sanders, who has floated an idea of maybe capping that at a certain income level.

But, again, to just zoom out right now. What we're watching is something that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leadership have been working toward now for weeks and weeks, threading this needle between various factions in their party, between the progressives, the moderates, trying to get everyone on board to get this major part of President Biden's legislative agenda through its kind of first hoop. And that's what we're going to see. That's what we are seeing right now. They do have the votes for this. We're expecting it to pass. So this is a big moment for House Democrats to see this.

We also have seen, just in the last several minutes, a number of more moderate Democrats who had been maybe unclear about how they were going to vote coming out for this. Namely Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, she's a good example, of Michigan, voting for this. She had been on the fence.

So, the White House also talking with them, talking with some of those more moderate members last night and into today as well I'm sure as they try to get this over the finish line, Jim and Erica.

HILL: All right, we'll continue to watch. We'll continue to check in with you. But as you pointed out, moving swiftly this morning.

Jessica Dean, thank you.

Also breaking this morning, the FDA approving both Pfizer and Moderna's booster shot requests for all adults.

Here to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, this was expected, but this means now anybody 18 and older, six months out from that second dose, can now get a booster. How significant is this?


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, we do have to see if the CDC formally recommends it, but that is expected. That should happen later today. You know, I think it's significant. And, you know, first of all, if you just look at what the existing authorization is, it is for adults 65 and older, but also any adult who has conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid. And when you look at all those conditions, as we did, it really comprises, you know, close to 90 percent of adults.

So this, you know, in -- overall, I think, is going to be just an easier communication thing saying all adults now eligible. But, truth is, that many adults were already eligible.

But I think the big thing here is that as we're, especially going into the winter months, the idea that this protection of the vaccine may be starting to wane against severe illness, either because just the passage of time, or because of delta variant, we're still not entirely sure, but there has been some, you know, less protection. So people who are fully vaccinated, there's an increasing likelihood that some of them could become more ill, develop symptoms.

That's what these boosters are mostly about. I think that's what drove the FDA's thinking and likely will drive the CDC's thinking as well, to offer that higher level of protection against serious disease.

SCIUTTO: Sanjay, Erica raised a point earlier today, does this mean now to be considered fully vaccinated, you really need three shots, or I suppose two if you had the J&J as your first one? I mean is that going to be the new definition of fully vaccinated?

GUPTA: They're not saying that yet, Jim, but that's certainly something we're going to be listening for today at the CDC meetings.


It's a very important question. But right now, still the definition of fully vaccinated is those first two shots.

This is one of those situations where, you know, this may turn into a three-shot vaccine, as you see with other vaccines, like hepatitis, for example. It is possible that this just becomes a three-shot regiment and that's it, not necessarily, you know, a booster every six months or a year after that. But we have to see what those formal recommendations are. But the answer to your question, fully vaccinated, at this point, is still considered two shots for these mRNA vaccines.

HILL: OK. Don't go far because we're going to need you on this next story, Sanjay.

President Biden, we've learned, is at Walter Reed Medical Center. He's there to undergo his first routine, annual physical exam while in office. This is coming just a day before his 79th birthday.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. She is with us now.

So, he will, as is done, transfer power to Vice President Harris during this physical. What more do we know about -- about what will happen at Walter Reed today?

COLLINS: Yes, you see the president there. He was arriving with his doctor this morning. He is at Walter Reed right now. This is the first physical of his presidency. It's not because anything is wrong. This is pretty routine, that presidents do have these physicals. The White House will release a written statement after letting us know about the results of this.

Of course, Joe Biden is the oldest sitting president, He turns 79 tomorrow. When he assumed the presidency in January, he did become the oldest sitting president.

But what is notable about this is that the president, while he is there for this physical, is going to be getting a colonoscopy, which, obviously, requires the president to get some anesthesia and be put under for a little bit. So, the White House has confirmed that during that brief period of time, he will be transferring power of the presidency to Vice President Kamala Harris, who we saw arrive at the White House earlier this morning. And the White House says she'll be working out of her West Wing office during that time.

And we should note, there is precedent for this. It did happen when Bush was in office, and he transferred power to Vice President Cheney at the time when he had a colonoscopy. I think he -- it was about two hours that technically Cheney was in charge. And so this isn't unusual. We have seen this before. But it does go to speak to the level of just what happens when a president is having a pretty routine exam, like a physical, like what President Biden is having now. And so the White House has confirmed that that will be happening and they say they will release a written statement on the president's results of what happened.

Of course, we saw with former President Trump, when he got his physical, his doctor came to the briefing room and took questions about his results. And so it is notable, of course. It is routine, but it is notable here that he is the oldest sitting president and right now the vice president will be in charge technically for a little bit today.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Gupta, as we noted, oldest first term president in U.S. history. He's going to turn 79 tomorrow. It's routine. All presidents go through this.

What does this exam mean for someone his age, though? What kinds of things will they be looking for?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean there's several things that, you know, as someone gets older that they need to be testing for. But he also has a medical history, which they've released in the past. And we can just put up a few of those things for you. There's a few things that are, I think, most significant. He does have this history of atrial fibrillation, this heartbeat abnormality. So this is something that I'm sure they're going to be looking at specifically. He takes a blood thinner for that.

He has a history of having high cholesterol. He takes a statin medication for that.

I think the most significant part of his history in the past was that he had -- he had a brain operation for a cerebral aneurysm. That was back in 1988. Now, I know from his past medical records, which I was looking at, there's been no evidence of a recurrence of that aneurysm. He had scans going back to at least 2014 that did not show that. That might be something that they are also looking at.

And then he had that history of breaking his foot, as we know.

So, the colonoscopy, as Kaitlan mentioned, probably the most significant part of the exam today. People do receive a sedative for that. Something like propofol. Typically the examine itself only take, you know, maybe under half an hour, but, you know, giving the sedation, waking up for the sedation could be a couple of hours. So that's probably going to be the most significant part, but maybe have his heart, lungs, other, obviously, vital organs examined as well.


HILL: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Good to see you both this morning.

Up next, breaking developments in the trial for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. We're learning the attorney for one of the defendants asked for a plea deal and was turned down.

SCIUTTO: And, in about 30 minutes, jurors will return for day four of deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The judge has allowed at least one of them to take home her jury instructions. What that all means, coming up.