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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Pivotal 48 Hours: Infrastructure, Spending Bills and Debt Ceiling Collide; Biden to Hail Decision to End Afghan War in U.N. Speech; White House: Footage of Border Agents Confronting Haitian Migrants "Horrific". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It's Tuesday, September 21st. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We have reports this morning from Kabul, Atlanta and Mexico.

But we start in Washington because the next 48 hours could make or break President Biden's agenda. The first order of business: keeping the government running. The House is expected to vote today on a short-term funding bill.

This is critical. It includes a suspension of the debt limit through 2022, a.k.a., the midterm elections.

JARRETT: Meanwhile, the Biden agenda is running into political roadblocks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling top Democrats the next two days are critical to pull together a deal to reshape the social safety net from cradle to grave.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're just moving in a forward direction. I'm very pleased with the hard work of the members. It's a question now of finalizing, and everything is on schedule.


ROMANS: The House Budget chairman says the best case scenario is for action by the end of next week. The problem the deadline has passed the deadline Pelosi promised for a vote on a separate hard infrastructure bill. And House Republicans say they won't bail out Democrats if they come up short.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has it covered for us this morning from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, Congress is back and they have a lot of work to do in a short period of time to get it done. Their first thing that they're trying to knock off the to-do list is passing these two big spending bills that are key components to the Biden agenda. That $1.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, and then that $3.5 trillion human infrastructure social safety net spending plan.

Of course, those two pieces of legislation are tied together, and right now Democrats are fighting over the best way to get them over the finish line. So, moderate Democrats would like to just pass the bipartisan bill, get that out of the way and then work on the broader reconciliation package, but progressives have said they're not voting for the bipartisan deal unless they get that big $3.5 trillion spending plan done as well.

So, right now, the plan is to vote on at least the bipartisan deal as soon as next week, but the question is will the bill, the big reconciliation package, the $3.5 trillion deal be ready to pass in the Senate as well. That could hold the whole process up. Now, as if that weren't enough, there's two other huge agenda items Congress is being forced to deal with.

The first is that the country -- the government is on the verge of running out of money and they need to pass a bill that will allow them to continue to spend money. That's called a continuing resolution. And then there's a problem of the country's credit card, the debt limit is about to reach its peak, which means that Congress needs to pass a bill to allow that debt ceiling to rise.

Now, at this point Republicans have said they're not voting for any increase to the debt limit. They're dead set against that. So now what Democrats are attempting to do is tie the extension of spending, that continuing resolution on spending, to the debt limit bill.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Should Republicans careen our country towards a default, our country could actually be plunged into recession, laying off millions, making it harder for people to pay for the food on the table and their mortgages and their rents.

NOBLES: They're daring Republicans to vote no on a piece of legislation that would essentially shut the government down if it's not passed. It's not just funding the basic needs of government that would be included in this bill. There is also a significant amount of spending for things like disaster relief after the recent hurricanes.

And Chuck Schumer is making the calculated bet there's at least ten Republicans who are impacted enough by the spending that they're not going to play Russian roulette with this and not vote for the spending bill even though it's tied to the debt limit. It is a risky proposition. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they won't vote for the debt limit under any circumstances. That will play out in earnest in the next couple weeks in addition to the conversation about the big spending package that has to do with the Biden agenda that Democrats --


JARRETT: Ryan, thank you so much for that.

Christine, can you just explain in layman's terms what happens if Congress does not raise the debt limit?

ROMANS: Senior citizens, maybe 50 million senior citizens would not get a Social Security check or it would be delayed.


The child tax credit going into people's paychecks or into the bank accounts would be stopped. And you wouldn't be able to pay the troops right away.

This is paying America's bills. It's really dangerous to play with this stuff. And Washington sometimes uses the debt limit and its process -- you'll hear Republicans talk about they want to constrain future spending by not raising our credit card limit. This is money that's already been spent. These are bills that have to be paid.

America doesn't default on its obligations to its citizens and certainly to its creditors. So this is very -- it's so important. It can sound like Washington process.

JARRETT: Really everyday people will suffer.

ROMANS: Real world examples. You have the treasury secretary moving money in the bank accounts making sure people are paid. We've already reached this limit so it's really important.

JARRETT: Thank you for that. Chief business correspondent.

Later this morning, world leaders will address the U.N. general assembly. Traditionally, Brazil goes first. But its unvaccinated president said he plans to speak despite U.N. rules that require proof vaccination. Yael Bolsonaro appeared to clam up when Boris Johnson, a fellow coronavirus survivor, urged him to get the vaccine.

ROMANS: President Biden will make his debut on the UNGA stage this morning.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Kabul for us.

And, Nic, we'll talk about Afghanistan in just a moment. There are many crisis facing world leaders this week. The climate, vaccine diplomacy.

Another is the U.S. spat with France. They're so upset about losing that Australian submarine deal to counter China. Listen.


JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): What matters now is, first of all, the breach of trust between partners because trust, partners and alliance means transparency, predictability. It requires explanation. It is about talking to one another, not hiding from one another.


ROMANS: I mean, the French are very angry here. What is President Biden's main goal here today on this world stage?

ROBERTSON: Yeah, it's sort of alert the world to the United States foreign policy agenda. I think the world, the French included, everyone thought they got a read of that back in February when President Biden gave his big foreign policy speech then.

But as you say, so much has changed. Afghanistan has happened. This break-up with relations with France has happened.

There's so much playing into it. So I think for other leaders tuning in, this is a real moment to see. Okay, how does President Biden frame this? We know he's going to talk to Emmanuel Macron separately about the relationship with France. We know that he's got the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who benefits from this sub-deal in the United States at the moment. They'll be sitting down together as well.

But how he frames what the United States is going to do, we expect him to talk about engaging in intensive diplomacy on Afghanistan. But how he lays out that clear road map of why his upset this transatlantic relationship so much. We know that President Trump had really sort of done a lot to irk and upset the German leader, Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel macron. They were looking for an alternate path with Europe and they did that with President Biden with his economic relationship with China which goes against what President Biden has been pushing for.

So does this rift and gap over relations with Europe, because of United States' chosen path on China and the friends it's making, that's what people will be looking for and leaders in his speech.

JARRETT: And, Nic, you are in Kabul. Talk about what effect you think this withdrawal from Afghanistan and that tragic drone strike that killed ten people in Kabul is going to -- how much that's going to weigh on world leaders at UNGA this week?

ROBERTSON: The chaotic pullout was really a detractor in terms of relations, diplomatic relations and support for the United States. It's not a deal breaker, but it really puts those relationships under tight, tighter scrutiny for those governments back home. Again, we're talking about France, Germany, the UK here.

So there's that part of it. What President Biden is expected to say is that he will continue with intensive diplomatic relations to try to help the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The test he'll probably say is really with the Taliban, how inclusive they're going to be, how much they value women's rights.

So, he'll lay that out. Absolutely, at a diplomatic level there will be agreement and there will be understanding about what is what he's saying Afghanistan needs international support. Not the Taliban, Afghanistan, the people here need that international support in terms of humanitarian aid.


But U.S. policy going forward in Afghanistan is likely to be a lonelier path for President Biden whatever he says because of those transatlantic wrists. Because of the way the pullout went, because of that drone strike. If you're perceived here as being an American citizen on the streets here, there is, I wouldn't say anger, animosity that you wouldn't find if you were a French or German national here who were held in better regard. That's how I would describe the situation here.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much, from Afghanistan this morning.

The stock market had its worst day in months. China nerves, showdown over the debt limit in the U.S., inflation worrying the investors. Worst day for the Dow since July. Look at that, it closed down 614 points. It had been down 900, so it did bounce back from the lows.

S&P and Nasdaq also tumbled from their worst day since May. Fears over a potential collapse of a huge Chinese property firm, Evergrande. That spread from Asia markets into the U.S. looking at futures right now, you can see the stock index futures in the U.S. look like a bounce back.

All this as the fed has to consider pulling back its extraordinary support of the economy. Investors will be waiting for clues and exactly when that will happen during Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's remarks tomorrow.

You know, I want to be clear here. Stocks had been ripe for a pull back. They have been setting record highs for a year. They have gone months without barely any significant movement up or down. And September is historically the worst month for stocks.

So, progress report here, the Dow is down nearly 4 percent for the month, but still up 11 percent this year. And context here, the S&P 500, Laura, is still up 16 percent this year. But we had gone just months and months without any big moves, just creeping up to record after record after record high.

So, I feel like the market was primed to come down. Even all of the factors yesterday were factors we kind of already knew. I would say the clearest new factor was this debt limit, debt ceiling problem that we have in Washington. That seems to be the newest piece of news in trying to figure out just what this Evergrande problem in the Chinese property market is going to mean for the rest of the world.

JARRETT: Always interesting.


JARRETT: All right. Still ahead for you, disturbing new video of Border Patrol agents on horseback trying to stop migrants from crossing the border into the U.S. look at that, using whips. We have the White House reaction and what the migrants are actually facing.

We have a live report from Mexico. That's next.



JARRETT: This morning, the White House is seeking more information on what it is calling horrific footage at the U.S./Mexico border. Videos taken here by al Jazeera and Reuters appear to show border patrol agents on horseback, you can see them there, charging at Haitian migrants who crossed the border near Del Rio, Texas.

Now, officers are seen on the banks of the grand trying to corral them like horses.

ROMANS: The scene playing out in Del Rio where more than 10,000 migrants are gathered under the bridge there, living in these makeshift tents in communities.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins us live on the other side of the border in Mexico.

You know, Matt, we've seen the conditions under the bridge. What sort of conditions are people facing on the way here?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's just the end of a very long journey, Christine. There's no doubt about that. But we are in southern Mexico. It's basically where all those thousands of people that you see up at the U.S./Mexico border now, they were here maybe a week, maybe ten days ago.

And the number of Haitians, specifically Haitian migrants that we have seen move through southern Mexico on their way to the U.S. is basically unprecedented. We've had conversations with government officials. Also had a conversation with immigration activist who said this is southern Mexico. Migrant flows through here, through this area are nothing new per se.

What is different is the vast number of Haitians that we have seen move through southern Mexico taking buses, taxis, different forms, mainly of transportation, vehicular transportation on their way to the U.S. border, which is how so many people were able to arrive so quickly up there.

We've seen scenes recently as recently as a week ago, of scenes here in southern Mexico that look more like Port-au-Prince with amount of Haitians that moved through this area. Many have since left southern Mexico. That's why you're seeing the numbers up at the U.S. border at this point.

Mexican government officials telling us the majority of these Haitians are people that have actually been living outside of Haiti for years now after a couple of natural disasters. The earthquake in 2010, hurricane Matthew in 2016. People who have been living in Ecuador, Chile, Brazil after pandemic-related economic hardships, making their way up to this part of the world, going to the U.S., trying to earn a living up there essentially.

It's a long journey for these people. You just have to feel for them looking at the conditions that they're living in right now, at least temporarily at the U.S./Mexico border.

ROMANS: Matt, what we are hearing is a lot of this is word of mouth, people have heard from a friend of a friend in the U.S., come here now. The ground swell word of mouth come to the border. I can't imagine what it's like for some of these folks who are then put on a plane sent back to Port-au-Prince. They haven't been to Port-au-Prince in a decade.

RIVERS: Exactly. And these are people who maybe weren't expecting that. I mean, you see these messages go viral through WhatsApp. That's the predominant method of communication. You've seen messages being forwarded from person to person to person saying this is the time to come, even saying which routes to come to the border. So, it's amazing how quickly this spreads between migrant communities who often don't have a lot of people helping them. They rely on each other to figure out where to go, what to do next. This is what we have been seeing in terms of why people are choosing now.

One question that we're going to ask today of the Mexican government is how thousands of Haitians all were able to transit this country on the way to the U.S., because what we have seen is Mexican immigration authorities cracking down here on Guatemalans, on Nicaraguans, on Venezuelans, on Hondurans, people not able to cross through Mexico at least easily on the way to the U.S. without facing some sort of law enforcement intervention.

What we've seen over the past few days, weeks, Haitians seemingly allowed to go north. That's a question we're going to be asking the Mexican government exactly why that was allowed to happen when other countries have had their citizens stopped here in southern Mexico.

ROMANS: All right. Certainly a big migration there.

Thanks so much for that, Matt. Talk to you soon.


JARRETT: All right. Kids 5 to 11 could be just weeks away from a COVID vaccine. Truly a huge development here. But the next challenge, getting parents on board.



ROMANS: A crisis now worse than the 1918 Spanish flu, this morning the U.S. death toll from coronavirus officially higher than the death toll from the flu pandemic more than 100 years ago. More than 675,000 people have died. More than 110,000 of those deaths happening since mid April when vaccines were widely available. One white flag for each fatality on breath taking display on the National Mall. JARRETT: Look at that. Good news should be on the horizon, though.

Pfizer now says clinical trials of its vaccine for children 5 to 11 found a robust antibody response. FDA emergency use authorization could come in just a matter of weeks. It could make another 9 percent of the U.S. population eligible to be vaccinated, but young kids don't get to decide whether to get vaccinated or not. Their parents do, and data shows only about a quarter of parents will get their kids vaccinated immediately.


DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, VICE PROVOST OF GLOBAL INITIATIVES, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLANIA: Out of 28 million kids, between 5 and 11 who could get the vaccine, 10 million don't get the vaccine. We're not really going to be protecting our schools and protecting the larger community by vaccinating children.


ROMANS: Nearly 226,000 children were reported with coronavirus last week, while hospitalizations are finally starting to trend down. A tent has been set up outside of Pittsburgh Children's Hospital emergency room to help expand care. The hospital's chief of emergency medicine said the number of children coming to the emergency department is historic.

JARRETT: All right. A little programming note here for you. A court order conservatorship has controlled her life for years. Now, see how she and her fans are fighting back. A CNN special report, "Toxic: Britney Spears' Battle for Freedom", Sunday night at 8:00, only on CNN.