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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Expands Push for "Build Back Better" Plan; Brian Laundrie's Parents Help Investigators Find Human Remains; Today: Full House Set to Vote on Bannon Contempt Referral; CDC Set to Sign Off on Moderna and J&J Booster Shots. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Thursday, October 21st, 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.


Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

We begin this morning with President Biden ramping up his public sales pitch today for the cornerstone of his agenda, this cradle to grave expansion of America's social safety net. His fellow Democrats, meanwhile, are still hashing out what stays in the Build Back Better plan and what must be cut to get this package passed.

Yesterday, the president was in Scranton calling for an investment in our resilience.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Coal built this town in this part of the country. But we have to provide other avenues for people to make the same kind of living they used to be able to make.


ROMANS: The president will make his case tonight in Baltimore at a CNN town hall. Meantime in Washington, lawmakers are grappling with the reality key priorities on the tax credit and more that had been included in the bill are likely now on the chopping block.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us.

Daniella, what are Democrats saying about the cuts that need to be made to this package to appease some of those moderate Democrats who don't want to spend $2 trillion or $3 trillion?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Christine, Laura, I've seen so much frustration in the last two days from members who are upset as they learn the news that they're going to have to pare back the price tag of this bill. What that means is losing some of the provisions they spent the last couple weeks, last couple of months, some of these members since they were in office fighting for legislation on this.

Look, during a meeting with house progressives on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden told them that the final bill is not expected -- is expected not to include free tuition -- tuition-free community college which is a major White House priority. And staff and members were shocked also Tuesday to learn that instead of getting a larger or longer extension for the child tax credit, a major provision Democrats fought for, moderates and progressive Democrats to be clear, it is likely only going to be a one-year extension for the child tax credit.

So, a lot of frustration from members. I spoke to Congressman Torres of New York, and he was incredibly upset. He argued that if it is just a one-year extension and Republicans take the House majority next year, it's likely that this provision that puts direct cash in families' pockets, the child tax credit, is going to be lost. And he feels Democrats need to work on the momentum they have right now since they have the majority in Congress.

Now, another thing that's still up in the air that they're still trying to figure out is climate provisions. Especially after senator Joe Manchin, one of the moderate Democratic senators that is fighting to try to pare back this bill, because the Senate needs his support on this. It was originally priced at $3.5 trillion, now trying to get it to the $1 trillion range.

He has said that he won't support the clean electricity performance program which would give utility, federal grants to increase their share of electricity from clean sources, which was a major climate provision that was a Democratic priority. Now he's left progressives scrambling to try to figure out what kind of provisions he will support that they can include in the legislation to combat climate change.

And, look, this is all a time crunch because in two weeks, President Joe Biden -- excuse me, less than two weeks, President Joe Biden is expected to go to Glasgow and he does not want to attend the United Nations conference without any sort of official climate provisions he can bring to the table at hat meeting.

So it's really crunch time here, but moderate and progressive Democrats are trying to figure out how they can get what they want in this bill.

JARRETT: So, Daniella, you have the Manchin problem, you've also got a problem with Senator Kyrsten Sinema. She's pushing back on how the White House wants to pay for all this. Tell us about that.

DIAZ: Well, yet afternoon, Laura, Kyrsten Sinema threw a written much in the plans. She would not support a corporate tax hike to pay for this bill which was originally planned. Democrats were pushing to find ways to have pay-fors and that was one of them.

Now, there was a call yesterday with finance Chairman Ron Wyden, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neil and top administration officials as they scrambled to figure out how they can pay for this bill now that Kyrsten Sinema has thrown a wrench in their plans. Now, some of the things they're looking at, of course, are taxes on companies buying stock buy backs, revisions to international tax provisions, and potentially setting a minimum tax on international corporations.


Now, I do want to emphasize that Kyrsten Sinema, a source said she is obviously not set in stone on the idea of throwing out the corporate tax hike. She could be amendable, but it really all depends on whether Democrats can figure out another way to pay for this.

But the bottom line is this major detail could possibly delay Democrats' efforts to try to pass this bill as well as the bipartisan infrastructure bill which they're trying to do as a two-track plan to try to pass it by October 31st, which was the next imposed deadline house speaker Pelosi set earlier this month. It could be a delay here as they are trying to figure this out.

ROMANS: She's just negotiating on corporate tax rate. You know, that corporate tax rates were cut 21 percent. That was below what companies were asking for. They were asking for 25 percent, so maybe that could move. We'll have to see.

JARRETT: Don't have much time.

ROMANS: Yeah. Thank you so much, Daniella. Nice to see you.

Tonight, a CNN exclusive, Joe Biden takes questions from the American people. Anderson Cooper moderates. CNN presidential town hall, that's with Joe Biden, the president, begins tonight at 8:00.

JARRETT: And this morning, a potential breakthrough in the hunt for Brian Laundrie. Investigators announced Wednesday they found what appear to be human remains. Authorities had been searching for him for weeks since his fiancee Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming last month.

Last night, Chris Cuomo spoke about this new discovery with the Laundrie family attorney.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Do they believe it is their son?

STEVE BERTOLINO, LAUNDRIE FAMILY ATTORNEY: Chris, it's not about belief. As you said at the onset, the probability is strong that it is Brian's remains. But we're going to wait until forensic results come in and verify that.


JARRETT: But here's what we don't know. How did the remains get there in the first place?

ROMANS: Yeah, what role did Laundrie's parents play in the apparent discovery of their son's remains? They made their first visit to the park since its reopening yesterday and seemed to provide significant assistance with the discovery.


CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: It's nothing short of bizarre. What I saw were the two parents picking up evidence, wandering through the brush, not supervised that I could see, at least not in sight of the video that I saw. And they were picking up what seemed to be evidence and putting it in a bag.

DR. CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Absolutely no evidence of him found in the preserve for the past month covered by hundreds of searchers, diligently looking, and absolutely nothing found until today when the parents announce that they're going to go look for their son in the preserve, and voila, they suddenly find backpacks and a dry bag and lo and behold, human remains.


ROMANS: CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the story from North Port, Florida.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura.

Here is what we are learning from the FBI. They say they have found what appear to be human remains here at the Carlton Reserve along with a backpack and a notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie. We also have new information on where this discovery was made. A spokesman for the north port police department said it was all found in a 2 to 3 mile walk from the Carlton Reserve from this entrance here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These items were found in an area that up until recently had been under water. Our evidence response team is on scene using all available forensic resources to process the area. It's likely the team will be on scene for several days.

KAYE: Now, remember, on September 14th the Laundrie family car, a Mustang, was tagged by north port police as an abandoned vehicle at this entrance. So if indeed these remains are Brian Laundrie's, perhaps he is the one who drove that car here, and then took a fairly long walk 2 or 3 miles apparently, into the reserve.

We also are told that the Laundrie parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, were in the reserve when the remains were found. The Laundrie family attorney would not comment to CNN about those remains. Also a source close to the investigation is telling me that in terms of the condition of the remains, they seem to have been there for awhile. That's a quote. Also that based on the condition of the remains, it may take some time to officially identify them and it is going to be a very thorough and painstaking process.

Back to you.


JARRETT: A lot of questions there. Randi, thank you.

It is important to note as we have the Gabby Petito case is one of many, sadly, the FBI says there were nearly 90,000 active missing person cases at the end of 2020.

One person who went missing this year, for example, was Jelani Day. The 25-year-old in Illinois grad student's body was identified nearly a month after his disappearance was reported back in August.


His mother joins NEW DAY in the 8:00 hour.

ROMANS: All right. To Washington now, the full House of Representatives is expected to vote today to hold a Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress. Bannon has refused to cooperate with the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel, she urged her GOP colleagues to defy party leaders and vote to hold Bannon in contempt.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I ask each one of you to step back from the brink. I urge you to do what you know is right, to think of the long arc of history. We are told that it bends towards justice, but it does so only because of the actions of men and women in positions of public trust.


JARRETT: But Cheney's plea to her GOP colleagues didn't work. Lawmakers voted along party lines during a House rules committee meeting on that contempt citation yesterday. But now it goes to a full vote in the Democratic-controlled House. And assuming that goes against Bannon, the case then moves to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. That U.S. attorney is required by law to put the issue to a grand jury.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said this week that if the House, in fact, certifies that contempt citation, it will evaluate the matter on the facts and the law. The thing to note here, Christina, this is going to take a really long time. They want Bannon because they think he has something of interest.

Remember, contempt is about punishment. It is not about getting the person to testify.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. Two new COVID boosters on the verge of rolling out nationwide. What you need to know about COVID boosters, next.


[05:16:02] ROMANS: Today, the CDC is expected to sign off on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID booster shots. The FDA has already authorized half dose of Moderna's vaccine for people vaccinated at least six months ago and who are over 65 or at high risk. It also okayed booster shots, J&J, for anyone who got that vaccine at least two months ago. Assuming the CDC gives the thumbs up today, Moderna and J&J boosters could be available in days. The FDA also okayed mixing and matching any of the three authorized vaccines as a booster.

JARRETT: So, as grandparents and parents get boosters, first shots for kids may soon be on the way. Finally, all that's left is FDA emergency authorization for children 5 to 11 years old. They are scheduled to meet next week to consider Pfizer's request on this.

If the agency gives it, 28 million kids will become immediately eligible for the shot. And even though kids are less likely on average to become seriously ill, Dr. Anthony Fauci says they should still get vaccinated.


REP. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Children are not completely exempt from the difficulties of getting infected. In fact, if you go to pediatric hospitals throughout the country, you see that many of the beds are filled with children who have serious illness.


JARRETT: The Biden administration says it's prepared to hit the ground running here, equipping 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of community health centers and rural health clinics and tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.

ROMANS: All right. Cargo congestion, price spikes, truck driver shortages, moody's analytics warns supply chain stress is only getting worse and could slow down the economy.

For small business owners, just getting the basic for Halloween has been a struggle.


SHARON MATTERN, OWNER, AMERICAN HARVEST: Didn't receive nearly what we should have so they wouldn't get it until November. That doesn't help me. We're into Christmas by then.


ROMANS: A record number of shipping containers holding everything from toys to parts for factories are all stuck on ships off the coast of Los Angeles. President Biden directed the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to move to a 24/7 schedule, but the port of L.A. is operating from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., not doing 24/7, because frankly they're not using those other hours. There aren't trucks to get the stuff off ships and moved anyway. On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order to find land for

container storage and freight routes for trucks so they can lift weight limits on the road.

Here's Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: It's not that we're moving fewer goods through the system. We're moving fewer goods than ever. That can't keep up with demand being even higher than that. As you correctly point out, there is a lot more to this than just what goes on at the ports. Those 24/7 ops, those are going to make a difference. But sometimes when we see ships waiting at the ports, that might actually have to do with the availability of trucks either inland or moving those containers.


ROMANS: He talked there about the demand. Americans are buying more, a lot more. Out of stock products online surged 172 percent from pre- pandemic levels. That is according to a new report from Adobe Analytics.

Despite struggling to get items, Adobe still expects online holiday sales to hit $207 billion from November 1st to the end of the year. We are buying, buying, buying more stuff.

Services have been crimped, right, because of the pandemic. That spending has switched to buying stuff and all of that just complicates the supply chain problems.

JARRETT: It sounds like you better get your kids' Halloween costumes in local shots. Don't get it online.

ROMANS: You should do your holiday shopping now. I'm really -- I'm serious.

JARRETT: I'm all about that. Get ahead of it. Hide the presents.

Still ahead for you, for the third time this year, Senate Republicans block a national voting rights bill. Where the future efforts to protect the right to vote are headed, next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Pressure is mounting on the president to do something about voting rights. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked yet another Democratic attempt to pass a bill strengthening voting rights. So without 60 votes, where does the fight go from here?

Let's bring in Jessica Huseman. She's the editorial director at "Vote Beat".

Jessica, so nice to have you this morning.

Remind our viewers here who might have lost track somewhere along the way. What exactly with this federal bill had actually done to shore up voting rights?

JESSICA HUSEMAN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, VOTEBEAT: So, this bill is very similar to previous iterations of Democrats voting rights plan such as the For the People Act, slightly watered down. It would have done things like assure, you know, that the Election Day was a national holiday. It left out some of the ethics provisions of the For the People Act, but a lot of the major voting rights themes you remember from that bill would still have been in here. It would have just taken out a few of the more restrictive federal measures that made Joe Manchin a little bit nervous.

ROMANS: Jessica, you say Democrats messed this one up. They put too little thought into converting Republicans to their cause. How so?


HUSEMAN: Well, you know, for the month that we were discussing the For the People Act, the major points of contention were Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema. We paid very little attention to Republicans at all. Even though there were only 50 Democrats in the Senate and they were always going to need to either do filibuster reform or convert Republicans to their cause, and they just didn't.

And so they may have had unilateral Democratic support, but that is not enough to get this bill passed. And they've known that from the beginning. And so, it's not clear to me why they put up a bill that they knew no Republican was going to support. Simply the reality of their political position, and they're going to have to take that into consideration if they actually want to get anything on voting rights done during the Biden administration.

JARRETT: But it's hard to know what a bill would look like that would get Republican support. I think that's the concern, that it's hard to imagine to get any Republicans to come to their side on this. Part of it is that this is just fundamentally about power, right? As all this is happening in Washington, Texas just passed these new congressional maps that are going to bolster GOP strongholds the for probably the next decade.

I wonder in your mind, we've been talking about a national voting rights bill. Doesn't this also suggest some of the work has to be done on the state level?

HUSEMAN: Absolutely. I think it absolutely does. And I think it's another miscalculation that Democrats have made, which is that you have the federal government actually plays a really small role in the voting in the United States. And I think that they have been focused too much on what the federal government can do rather than how the federal government can support states in having more expansive policies. For example, they gave no money at all to election administration this

year to support crumbling election cybersecurity infrastructure and physical infrastructure. And I think if the federal government reevaluated and started to issue additional funding to the states so that we could provide better experience for voters, then maybe the federal government could be more impactful.

ROMANS: All right. Jessica Huseman, editorial director for "VoteBeat," thank you for getting up with us this morning. Thanks.

JARRETT: Thanks, Jessica.

HUSEMAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Still ahead, two teams, one win away. We are on the verge of a World Series match up. Your late night highlights coming up.