Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden's Agenda In Jeopardy As Democrats Struggle To Unite; Report: Gen. Milley Blames State Department For Chaotic Withdrawal; CDC Urgently Recommending Pregnant Women Be Vaccinated. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 30, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: They're angry moderate Democrat senators won't provide a topline funding number for Mr. Biden's bigger social safety net package. The big question here, will Speaker Pelosi delay the vote for a second time this week? More on all of this in a moment.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI is now in possession of a cell phone Brian Laundrie bought September fourth. That was after he returned home to North Port, Florida without his fiance Gabby Petito who was eventually found dead in Wyoming.

JARRETT: Authorities in Austin, Texas investigating an arson attack on the county's Democratic headquarters. Surveillance video shows the masked suspect throwing a rock to break the door glass and placing fireworks and a Molotov cocktail inside.

ROMANS: The FAA clearing Virgin Galactic efforts investigation into Richard Branson's trip to space. Officials say the company made the required safety changes and can return to flight operations. Virgin Galactic is preparing for its next crewed launch, its first with paying customers, as early as mid-October.

JARRETT: The U.S. Postal Service bringing new meaning to snail mail. Expect slowdowns in delivery as soon as tomorrow as USPS starts rolling out new service standards. The changes include longer delivery times for first-class mail, cuts to post office hours, and temporary price increases for packages.

ROMANS: Facebook's global head of safety will appear at a Senate hearing this morning. She'll be questioned about internal Facebook research that found Instagram is toxic for teenage girls. Facebook owns Instagram.

JARRETT: Wednesday night's performance of the Broadway show "Aladdin" canceled after breakthrough COVID-19 cases within the theater company. This is the first known cancelation since Broadway reopened this month after being dark for nearly 18 months.

ROMANS: Foreign spectators will be banned for the 2022 Winter Olympics, including athletes, family members, and friends. Some Chinese fans will be permitted to attend the games in Beijing as long as they follow protocols, including quarantines for unvaccinated participants and daily COVID testing.

JARRETT: To Washington now as President Biden's experience in powers of persuasion are being put to the test like never before this week. He's determined to make sure his agenda does not implode under the weight of Democratic infighting. Right now, it's House progressives versus Senate moderates on two major economic packages.

Senator Joe Manchin dealt this blow, saying he's hopeful for common ground but, quote, "What I have made clear to the president and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs when we can't even pay for essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity."

ROMANS: Here is how top House progressive Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal responded.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): And I can tell you that his statement has just probably created at least a bunch more votes on the House floor against a bipartisan bill.

REPORTER: So do you feel that now -- that Joe Biden is going to end up with nothing?

JAYAPAL: And he actually -- he actually called it insanity, which is the president's agenda that he's calling insane.


ROMANS: Senator Manchin is even getting pushback from Senate colleague Dick Durbin.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I would say to him we can't delay these things. Simply delaying them is just inviting a bad result, to be honest with you.

You know, we are one heartbeat away from losing the majority in the United States Senate, and I've been in the Senate long enough to see that happen. So I would urge Joe if you believe there's value and merit to the programs in the reconciliation bill, don't wait -- do it now.


ROMANS: It doesn't seem like that will happen before today's planned vote.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Christine and Laura, the three most powerful Democrats in the country huddled in the Oval Office on Wednesday night, fully aware of the reality they simply were not going to have the votes in order to pass that $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

It has been the subject of feverish behind-the-scenes work for several days now -- an effort to lock up the votes. But perhaps more importantly, lock up commitments from moderate senators, in particular, that would be able to lay the groundwork to pass that bill. They aren't -- at least it doesn't look like they're going to heading into this day.

And it's a critical moment for the president's nearly $4 trillion agenda. There's that infrastructure proposal, and then there's that multitrillion-dollar economic and climate package -- what progressives are so keen on, trying to have some pathway forward on. At this point in time, the pathway for both seems very unclear.

Now, Speaker Pelosi said the vote is still scheduled for Thursday. Whether that actually comes to fruition and fails or ends up getting pulled is an open question. What's not is what happens next. White House officials making very clear the president doesn't plan on ending negotiations. In fact, they are very much going to continue in earnest.

This was how White House press secretary Jen Psaki framed things.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been clear about his commitment to getting both pieces of legislation passed -- both of them through.

So right now, what we're navigating through and we're working through is how we can get agreements, of course -- 50 votes in the Senate on a reconciliation package. That's what we're discussing here. We have to see what senators are comfortable with and what everybody involved is comfortable with it to get enough votes to get it across the finish line.


MATTINGLY (on camera): For all of the meetings that have gone through over the course of the last several days -- meetings with the president and Sen. Manchin, Sen. Sinema, the White House staff, and Sen. Sinema for several hours -- they do feel like there has been progress, according to officials I've spoken to -- the type of progress that could lay the groundwork for an eventual agreement. They're just not there yet.

And obviously, when you have a deadline, that's a problem. It's very clear, though, they're going to blow past that deadline in terms of negotiations -- guys.


JARRETT: Phil, thank you for that.

It's time for three questions in three minutes, or maybe a little bit over three minutes. We've got a lot to do today. Let's bring in CNN political analyst Margaret Talev, managing editor at Axios.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: Margaret, good morning.

President Biden attended that congressional baseball game last night. He was talking with Republicans and Democrats while his plan to help American families really hangs in the balance here.

Is he going to be able to be the closer-in-chief that he wants to be?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, MANAGER EDITOR, AXIOS: The closer -- if it like were like a baseball game, right? Baseball games are nine innings. This infrastructure debate has -- is -- it's like a 32-inning game where there have been no base hits and a bunch of foul balls, and four different presidents, you know?

The way that Biden has handled this, so far, has been largely to focus on kind of who can unlock the key to this, which has been looking through the Senate and looking particularly at Sinema and Manchin, these two senators who seem to be the biggest roadblocks.

The thinking was after that, if they -- if he can get them to a place where they can commit, at least verbally, to something around the spending bill, that would give progressives the space they need. That's just not happening. It's not going to happen by this afternoon.

And so, there's a real tactical question for Biden now. He's been working mostly through Schumer and Pelosi in the House, particularly Pelosi, to let her block and tackle. We've heard her tell lawmakers if you're going to be mad at someone be mad at me. Don't be mad at the president. He's doing his job, right?

But if that plan isn't working, we may see Biden potentially try to engage more. I'm just not sure that it's going to make a big difference. Many of these progressives who are the biggest holdouts were never Biden fans, to begin with -- never wanted him to be the nominee for president, anyway. Got behind him when they needed to, but it's always been a fragile peace. And I think -- I'm not sure what the carrot is that he can do to bring these folks on board if they're not ready to come.

ROMANS: Keeping that baseball metaphor alive -- I mean, you look at the team that is the Democratic Party and, wow, what a wide range of opinions on that team. They're all on the same team, but are they? Progressives in the House and moderate senators disagree on how to move forward.

What do we know about communication, if any, between the two wings of the Democratic Party?

TALEV: Yes, it's been sort of all over the map and very tense just as it looks like in public. But look, we've seen really detailed private efforts, again, to try to bring Manchin and Sinema on board.

We've been reporting on efforts by western Democratic lawmakers to try to talk to Manchin about the extreme weather problems in their state. He's been very reluctant -- resistant on some of the climate change provisions that have been talked about here. We've seen efforts to try to bring Sinema on board when it comes to the corporate tax increases and tax increases for the wealthy. None if it's working.

And then, there's just a lot of the public messaging. And you've seen in recent days the public venting their frustrations about these two senators.

But the truth is there are massive spectrums and splits in both parties -- in the Republican Party as well as the Democratic Party -- but when it comes to falling in line behind your commander-in-chief or your speaker, or your Senate president, Republicans just are much more disciplined about doing it even if they don't want to -- and that's just not the markers of this Democratic Party.

Pelosi and Biden keep hoping that it will be. But at this moment, as you hear the speaker saying it's going to be hour-by-hour if she decides ultimately that she has to pull this bill, there's just not that same kind of falling in line instinct. And it's a real concern for Biden as he looks ahead at these midterms, which look kind of miserable right now.

JARRETT: It's true. Democrats just do not stay in line in the same way as Republicans.


JARRETT: And you see how it plays out when you have a situation like this.

OK. So, Margaret, then bottom line. What does Speaker Pelosi do today? She's saying hour-by-hour. Does she pull the vote?

TALEV: Look, if I were a betting woman, and I'm not -- but if I were, I would say the chances are more likely yes than no that she has to pull it. Again, she's trying to give herself as close to the edge as she can in case this can pull together. But at this point, based on all the reporting that we know --


TALEV: -- there isn't a vote that could pass right now. And what she's saying is she won't put it up there unless she's got the votes.

ROMANS: All right, Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst. A busy week. Thank you so much for your expertise and analysis. Nice to see you.


TALEV: Thanks, guys -- you, too.

JARRETT: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, inflation watch. The global supply chain so badly tangled the workers who keep ships and trucks moving say it's reaching a breaking point.

The International Chamber of Shipping and other industry groups warn of a global transport system collapse unless governments allow workers to travel freely and give them priority to get vaccines.

Fed chief Jerome Powell, this week, acknowledged that supply glitches were lasting longer than they thought they would.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: It is frustrating to acknowledge that getting people vaccinated and getting Delta under control 18 months later still remains the most important economic policy that we have. And it's also frustrating to see the bottlenecks and supply chain problems not getting better.


ROMANS: It's all part of a COVID mix of factors driving prices higher.

Dollar Tree said it will start selling items above a dollar for the first time in some locations. Sherwin-Williams is raising paint prices as raw materials get more expensive. And bacon prices have skyrocketed to the highest in 40 years, climbing 28 percent in the past year.

JARRETT: So we talk about supply chain issues. We also talk about the red-hot housing market, and here is your proof. You can now buy this three-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home in Melrose, Massachusetts that was badly burned in a fire last month for $399,000. Again, a home that was in a fire.

The single-family home features boarded-up windows, no walls, no ceilings inside. Firefighters reportedly had to rip those out to put out the blaze.

ROMANS: I'm --

JARRETT: That is how tight the market is.

ROMANS: I'm going to bet that's -- I'm going to bet that's a good school system --


ROMANS: -- and that is the most important thing.

JARRETT: They just want the land.

ROMANS: It's the location, location, location.

JARRETT: We'll be right back.


[05:45:59] JARRETT: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley is placing the blame on the State Department for that chaotic and deadly U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to Axios, Gen. Milley had a classified briefing with senators on Tuesday and he told them that State Department officials waited too long to order the evacuation of U.S. citizens and allies through Kabul's airport.

ROMANS: At another public hearing yesterday, the head of U.S. Central Command told lawmakers the Taliban offered to let the U.S. military take over security for the city of Kabul during the withdrawal, but the Taliban was already taking the city.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, JR., COMMANDER, UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND: I met with Mullah Baradar in Doha on 15 August to pass a message to him that we were withdrawing and if they attempted to disrupt that withdrawal, we would punish them severely for that. As part --

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): But did he offer to allow you to have security over all of Kabul, not just the airport (ph).

MCKENZIE: As part of that conversation, he said why don't you just take security for all of Kabul? That was not why I was there. That was not -- that was not my instruction, and we did not have the resources to undertake that mission.


ROMANS: Chairman Milley said he believed the war had reached a stalemate about five to six years ago.

Military leaders also acknowledge there's a real possibility al Qaeda or ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan in the next six to 36 months.

JARRETT: This morning, an urgent plea for pregnant women to get vaccinated. Right now, only 31 percent of pregnant women have done so. The numbers for Black women, even lower.

The CDC says COVID is not only a risk to mothers, the virus can also cause pre-term labor or babies born so sick they have to go straight to the ICU.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: What we don't want to do is see women who for some reason or other are hesitant to get vaccinated when they're pregnant or wanting to get pregnant, and then have a negative impact on their pregnancy. You could protect yourself, your pregnancy, and your fetus by getting vaccinated.


ROMANS: At the same time, a bit of promising news. For the first time since the end of June, the CDC forecasting a decrease in new coronavirus deaths over the next four weeks. The key to keeping it that way, of course, more vaccinations.

The White House says the administration's vaccine requirements for companies with 100 or more employees are still weeks away from being implemented. But many companies already seeing the upside to mandates on their own.

JARRETT: Companies like United. United's CEO now says 99 percent of the airline's employees have been vaccinated, aside from a small number for formally requested an exemption. He says other companies should follow United's lead and require the shot.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: There are United Airlines employees who got vaccinated because of this. Who will be alive a year from now. Who would not be had we not done this.

I would encourage everyone -- not just airlines -- but to think about this. There's no question that this is the right thing to do for safety. And when it's the right thing to do for safety, just do it and then you'll figure out all the complications just like we did.


ROMANS: Yes. He says this is about keeping all of his people safe.

As new mandates come into force, some frontline workers, though, are going to great lengths to avoid their shots. An elementary school teacher in New Jersey has been arrested, accused of forging a doctor's letter to avoid a school mask requirement. And a nurse in Michigan has been charged with selling fake COVID vaccine cards -- a nurse -- stolen from a V.A. hospital.

JARRETT: Meantime, the federal government is sending $1.5 billion to schools across the country that are struggling to serve student lunches. Supply chain disruptions are leading to food shortages, delivery delays, and higher costs just as students return to classes after a year and a half of virtual learning.

ROMANS: All right, let's look at markets around the world this morning. You can see Asian shares have closed mixed. Europe has also opened mixed. And on Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are leaning higher here.

It was a mixed day for stocks yesterday after the Fed chief Jerome Powell said inflation may stay around for a little longer. The Dow finished up 90 points. The S&P 500 managed a slight gain. The Nasdaq closed down.

The restaurant industry still struggling to recover from the pandemic and is in worse shape now than it was three months ago. Seventy-eight percent of restaurant owners say they have seen a decline in demand because of the Delta variant. That's according to a survey by the National Restaurant Association.


Supply chain issues also mean restaurants are paying more for their raw materials -- for food -- and they're dealing with a worker shortage all at the same time.

The National Restaurant Association said the recovery will continue well into next year and estimates 90,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic.

Mary Barra will add a new title to her nameplate -- chair of the powerful Business Roundtable. Barra is the CEO of General Motors. She becomes the group's first-ever female chair starting in January.

Business Roundtable has been opposed to the tax hikes for businesses in President Biden's Build Back Better plan. But GM said Tuesday it would support the climate investments in the plan.

JARRETT: The NBA says players who don't comply with local vaccine mandates will not be paid for the games they miss.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Laura.

While the NBA does not require players to be vaccinated, new health and safety protocols will make life more difficult for the roughly 10 percent who are not.

New York City and San Francisco have mandated that people must be vaccinated in order to attend indoor entertainment venues. This includes players on the Nets, Knicks, and Warriors. Visiting players from different states are exempt though.

Golden State Warriors starter Andrew Wiggins and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving recently announced that they haven't gotten the vaccine for personal reasons and that will be a very costly decision, Laura. If both players miss all 41 home games, Wiggins would pass up nearly $16 million, while Kyrie would lose out on about $17.5 million.

The New York Knicks, meanwhile, say that their roster is already 100 percent vaccinated.

The longest September winning streak since 1935 is over. The St. Louis Cardinals taking their first loss since September 10th last night. Milwaukee shut out the Redbirds four-zip to snap the streak that -- at 17 games. But the fans still gave their team a standing ovation. The Cardinals have already clinched the second wildcard spot and face either the Giants or the Dodgers in next week's winner-take-all playoff game.

Brewers' relief pitcher Devin Williams will likely miss the playoffs after breaking his pitching hand when he punched a wall. The 2020 Rookie of the Year told reporters that he went out for a few drinks Sunday night after the team celebrated winning the division. And, Laura, he said he got upset over something on his way home and punched the wall out of frustration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEVIN WILLIAMS, PITCHER, MILWAUKEE BREWERS: I'm pretty upset with myself. There's no one to blame but me. You know, I feel like I've let my team down, coaching staff, our fans -- you know, everyone. I know how big of a role that I play on this team and there's a lot of people counting on me.


WIRE: And for the second-straight season, the road to the World Series in the American League runs through Tampa Bay. The Rays clinching the top seed in the A.L. Playoffs and home field advantage with a seven-zip shutout over the Astros last night.

Tampa Bay will face the winner of the single-elimination A.L. wildcard game. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, and Blue Jays all battling for those two spots with the regular season wrapping up on Sunday.

Finally, history was made on the airwaves last night. Melanie Newman and Jessica Mendoza becoming ESPN's first all-female broadcast team for a nationally televised Major League baseball game. The Padres- Dodgers game marks the first time the network has had only women call the game for any MLB, NBA, or NFL game, regular season or playoffs.

It was a great game, too. L.A. making a furious comeback, scoring five runs in the eighth inning to beat San Diego 11 to nine.

You know, Laura, Mendoza was at Stanford when I was there, Laura. Incorrigible work ethic, extremely disciplined, and obviously, very talented. I saw her last month and she does not take lightly the role she's playing in helping shape the lives of future generations.

JARRETT: That's awesome. It is about time, though. It's 2021 -- come on already, right?

WIRE: Yes, no doubt.

JARRETT: Thank you, Coy. Appreciate it.

All right, the president's agenda faces a make-or-break day. Can he bridge the gap between Democrats at odds with each other?

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Laura Jarrett. You will see Christine on "NEW DAY," next.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman on this new day.

It's a moment of truth for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing her biggest test yet. Is the vote today on the Biden agenda even going to happen? And the FBI search for Brian Laundrie is now focusing on a new cell phone. New details on where the phone was discovered and who has it now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Britney Spears scoring a huge victory in the fight to control her life. Her father suspended as her conservator after 13 years. How the drama unfolded in the courtroom.

General Milley reportedly blaming the State Department directly for the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. His blunt message to senators behind closed doors.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, September 30th.

And nine months into his presidency, the fate of Joe Biden's agenda is on the line today. Will Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a vote on an infrastructure plan -- a bipartisan one?