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Senate to Take Up Voting Rights Next Week Despite Dems' Grim Odds; Supreme Court Blocks Workplace Vaccine Mandate. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 09:30   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the Senate will delay its January recess and take up voting legislation Tuesday as Democrats face seemingly impossible odds for passing election reform.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This comes after the White House says that President Biden and key Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema had a, quote, candid and respectful discussion on voting rights.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us live from Capitol Hill.

But, Lauren, you know, even Biden is conceding now that a win on voting rights just not within reach.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Democrats are giving themselves a little bit more time to mull this over the weekend, but the reality is that the vote count here just hasn't changed. And that's despite the fact that the president came up to Capitol Hill yesterday and made a compelling argument according to Democrats that we talked to that this was the moment to change the Senate filibuster. That voting rights was so crucial that this was the moment to act.

But we should remind viewers that roughly an hour before Biden came to Capitol Hill, Senator Kyrsten Sinema went down to the Senate floor and gave her own compelling speech, arguing that despite the fact she did believe that voting rights were in peril in this country, despite the fact she thought states weren't enacting laws that could hamper voters ability to go to the polls, she said she did not think this was the moment to overturn the Senate rules.

So she was dug in even before Biden came to that lunch, despite the fact that Manchin and Sinema had more than an hour long meet agent the White House last night, there is still guidance coming from those offices that their positions also have not changed.

So, yes, they're going to begin this debate on Tuesday, yes, they are going to vote on voting legislation, but the key here is that you would have to change the rules of the Senate to pass that legislation without Republican votes.

Right now, those Democratic votes to change the rules just aren't there -- Jim and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, Lauren Fox and Jim, the timing of that speech from Senator Sinema portion salt on an open wound before the president arrived.

SCIUTTO: You call that a political kidney punch, I believe.

GOLODRYGA: Exactly, exactly.

Well, joining us now to talk about all of this is CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover, host of PBS "Firing Line."

Margaret, always great to see you.

I think it is fair to say this hasn't been the president's best week yet. Here we have the Supreme Court striking down the vaccine mandate yesterday, the Build Back Better and now voting rights bills are stalled. We have inflation at a 40-year high.

I'm just curious from your perspective, what if anything can Democrats take into the next few weeks to get them to think perhaps things can turn around soon?

MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS "FIRING LINE": Well, Bianna, they could use a paradigm shift. In the context of their legislative approach on the Hill, they have thus far, we have all seen it, been pursuing this strategy as though they had a super majority in the Senate and could pass any bill they wanted.


And so, they catered to the left and the mainstream part of the Democratic Party, thinking they could have FDR size sweeping reforms in the federal government at that level, without having that kind of majority.

What they could do, for example, take voting rights, they could have decided and they can still decide to pursue a narrower set of voting rights reforms, where you could actually get 10 plus Republicans on board. And that would -- that would be a place to start just for as an example.

SCIUTTO: Electoral Count Act reform, which we talked about on this program earlier this week, Margaret Hoover, I hope you're watching it.

I wonder, I try to look at the bigger picture here, right, and, you know, administrations have ups, they have downs, this is a big down, but there is a lot of time.

Is the right approach in your view given your experience to go smaller now, right? To take pieces out of BBB to try to pass them individually? Everybody loves lowering prescription drug costs and you're not going to get Republicans to stand in the way of that, they're concerned about senior voters. Perhaps separate bill on climate change. Is that the way forward? HOOVER: Look, I am rarely the person to give the Democrats advice.

But the truth is, if you want to have something to run on, we're going into an election cycle where the Republicans are poised to take back the House of Representatives. Democrats need a message, something to say they have delivered, all right?

Narrow reforms that they can take credit for will be something their candidates can run on and that frankly the moderate majority of American voters in swing states around the country need to be able to see that kind of a victory from a Biden administration.

GOLODRYGA: Look, a lot can happen between now and January, and I think it would be shortsighted for Republicans to just assume all they have to do is sit back and wait. COVID could, we hope, for the sake of the country, start to ease up as well as the economy. Many expect that inflation will start to ease up as well.

That having been said, if we turn our attention to January 6th, there had been a lot of talk that this was just a typical day in January, that in fact these were tourists that happened to be walking around the capitol, given what we heard from the DOJ yesterday, does that, if anything, does that change the paradigm given the details that have now come out to the planning that went on for months leading up to the insurrection?

HOOVER: Look, it is a real shift. Simply, look, there is two sides to this. The politics and then the real threat to our constitutional democracy -- the politics of this make it, you know, awkward for the Trump and the Matt Gaetzes, that wing of the party that said they were tourists, innocent bystanders, that is clear that is not the case and that was not the case.

This was not Antifa. This was -- it is so -- go read that indictment, seditious conspiracy, as one constitutional lawyer said, this is an airtight case made to fit that statute.

The other piece of this, though, Bianna and Jim, is we have to defend our constitutional democracy. There are serious threats to it that go beyond the politics of these charges. And Democrats and Republicans, though Republicans have proved they're not willing to really take this seriously, only very few of them, Democrats need to take this seriously.

This is not about partisan battles of who is up or who is down today, but moderate Democrats in particular I think need to take quite seriously how seriously our constitutional democracy was challenged on January 6th.

SCIUTTO: And, by the way, Republicans saw that, right? By the great work of KFILE here at CNN to call up that sound from Kevin McCarthy saying, one, he held Trump responsible, two, Trump admitted to some responsibility, but also supporting a bipartisan commission. We have McCarthy speaking out of two sides of his mouth.

Does he have the respect of his own party, McCarthy? HOOVER: Respect or fear? I mean, he is emboldened, he's following --

Donald Trump has the power, the political power in the Republican Party and McCarthy is doing everything he can to ensure he wins back the House of Representatives. If he does, he will have the respect of his conference.

And, Him, these are due to forces that have everything to do with redistricting and the ebbs and flows of politics, not the things that McCarthy is saying he's running on.

SCIUTTO: Margaret Hoover, thank you so much as always.

HOOVER: Thanks so much, guys.

SCIUTTO: Ahead, the Supreme Court delivered a big blow to President Biden's pandemic response. What does that signal about how the court bigger picture views executive power?



GOLODRYGA: The Supreme Court has blocked the Biden administration's vaccine mandate impacting some 80 million workers. But the justices gave the green light to another that will impact far fewer people. The court blocked a regulation forcing large employers to require vaccines or regular testing along with masks. But it is allowing a vaccine mandate for certain healthcare workers.

SCIUTTO: The decision on private employers is a blow to the president's efforts to tackle the pandemic and could signal a larger effort by the court to rein in Biden's presidential powers.


CNN's Supreme Court Ariane de Vogue has been following this closely.

And, Ariane, as an observer and not a lawyer I'm confused by this, because during the Trump administration, we saw some decisions for instance involving the border where the court had an expansive view of executive power. In the Biden administration, we've seen some decisions like this one which seem to restrict the view of executive power. Is there a legal inconsistency there?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, well, what you saw yesterday is the conservatives looking at this. They didn't care about vaccines. They don't care about masks. Most of them are vaccinated. Most of them -- they're all vaccinated. Most of them wear masks at oral arguments.

For them, this was all about the authority of federal agencies. It is this long-term conservative program to cut back on the power of these agencies. They think that the federal government shouldn't be involved so often in every aspect of daily life. They don't like to see agencies that are unaccountable to the public being able to have this vast authority. And there you see the stark difference between the conservatives

yesterday and the liberals, because the liberals believe that agencies actually do have expertise, they did have authority, they could act, and the liberals are looking down the road at the power of agencies to protect other areas like environmental issues, as well as health and safety of employees.

And keep in mind, though, even though Biden suffered that brutal loss yesterday in the first case, in the second one he did get a small win, but it will impact fewer people. There you saw Roberts and Kavanaugh siding with the liberals to say they had the authority to act in that instance.

So you're right, it is different from the Trump administration, but the conservatives here, they care very much about the authority of these agencies, they don't want to overstep it, and that's why Biden suffered such a brutal loss yesterday.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. The administration said that had this mandate been enforced that some 22 million Americans would have been forced to be vaccinated and would have prevented over 200,000 hospitalizations in the country. And nonetheless, Ariane de Vogue, big blow to the administration from the Supreme Court today. Thank you.



GOLODRYGA: Well, up ahead, we could see updated guidance from the CDC on what masks we should be wearing after President Biden pledges to make high quality masks available for free. We'll discuss what types of masks we should be wearing coming up next.



GOLODRYGA: President Biden now plans to make high quality masks available to all Americans for free, this as the CDC prepares to update its mask recommendations while making it clear any mask remains better than no massing.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Bernard Ashby, a cardiologist in Miami. He's also a Florida state lead for the committee to protect healthcare.

Doctor, great to have you on now.

This is such an important topic for all Americans I would say who have been struggling and trying to figure out what omicron means in terms of what masks they should be wearing and should they be now turning to N95 masks. This is something you prioritize, right?

DR. BERNARD ASHBY, VASCULAR CARDIOLOGIST: Yes, Bianna. So, omicron is yet another game changer. I feel like I've been saying that over and over again, but that seems to be case. We've always known that the coronavirus is airborne pretty much and omicron is delta on steroids, meaning that the transmissibility is much higher. So the traditional surgical masks are not just going to do the job. If people recall the original intent of the masks were to prevent the spread of you giving the virus to someone else.

But really the surgical masks, they prevent you from getting the virus. N95s, KN95s are masks that have high fidelity filtration systems and they fit your face in the correct way, meaning that don't let air leak out among the contour of the face, and it prevents not only you from spreading the virus but also prevents you from becoming infected.

GOLODRYGA: So when you hear health experts and CDC officials say, you know, a mask is better than no massing at all, I'm curious as a doctor when you're walking through the halls of your hospital or through the cities there in Florida and you see people in a cloth mask or a surgical mask and not a KN95 or N95 mask, what goes through your mind? I mean, are we as a country and is the government acting on this too late in your opinion?

ASHBY: My opinion, we're doing a lot of things too late. We're doing a lot of reacting instead of being proactive. But that's a separate story.

Now to your original question about whether or not a cloth mask helps in any way, yes, they don't really prevent you from getting the infection, but any protection is better than no protection. What most folks don't realize is that the amount of virus that you're initially exposed to is directly correlated to how sick you get. So, it's, again, better to have something there than nothing because it decreases the severity of your illness but also your transmissibility to other folks.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. I feel like when you hear something is better than nothing, that's sort of a line you would expect early in on a pandemic in a crisis, not over two years later.


I think I hit a nerve though, I asked what are the issues you're having now with the federal response here. What is it that you're focused on and most frustrated about? Is it testing?

ASHBY: Well, let me run down the list. I mean, two years into this pandemic and we're still reacting. I mean, we're still using blunt tools such as travel restrictions and travel bans to mitigate the virus when, in fact, we need to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is a society shall have society-shifting event and we need to act accordingly. Instead of saying when things happen and reacting, we need to plan ahead.

Testing is one great example of that. We saw South Africa getting ravaged with this virus. We knew it was highly transmissible, but we didn't ramp up here in the U.S., particularly in Florida, where our own governor sat on a million tests that expired while people were waiting in lines hours to get tests. So, this constant reacting is a point of frustration. I could run down

the list, but, you know, time won't permit that.

GOLODRGA: Yeah, I believe the expiration has now been extended right through March. But you make a fair point. These tests have been sitting there for a long time and had not been handled out.

Is there confusion that you think quickly that can be undone just as quickly in terms of getting on the same page, like everybody should test "X" amount of times a week or not, do you think the damage has been done?

ASHBY: Well, omicron seems to be peaking in a lot of locations currently. Hospitals, many of which including mine are at capacity. And we're seeing the worst of it currently. So anything we do now is kind of going through the after the fact, but something is better than none.

So, we definitely need to focus on being proactive because there's going to be the last variant. There's going to be plenty more so we need to get on the ball.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. Well, let's hope we get through this surge as quickly as possible.

Dr. Bernard Ashby, thank you so much.

And we'll be right back.