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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: "I Do Think I'll Get A Deal" On Legislative Agenda; Alec Baldwin Fired Prop Gun In Deadly Film Set Shooting; Haitian Gang Vows To Kill Missionaries If Ransom Isn't Paid. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 22, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. About 30 minutes past the hour here. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden says he would support major changes to the Senate's controversial filibuster, the rule that effectively gives -- effectively requires 60 votes to pass most bills -- but not right now. During last night's CNN town hall, the president said he needs the votes of several senators who oppose ending the filibuster to get his economic agenda over the finish line. We have more on all of that in just a moment.

ROMANS: In New Mexico, a deadly accidental shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the film "Rust." Police say cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died when Baldwin fired a prop gun during filming. The film's director, Joel Souza, was also injured.

JARRETT: A setback for America's development of hypersonic weapons. The latest rocket test failed Thursday in Kodiak, Alaska. Hypersonic weapons can travel five times the speed of sound. The Pentagon has them a top priority to compete with Russia and China.

ROMANS: The State Department is telling Congress that 363 Americans remain in Afghanistan and nearly half of them want to leave. That's according to two CNN sources. The number is nearly four times higher than the administration's estimate after the U.S. troop withdrawal.

JARRETT: A state of emergency has been declared in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A large break in a 90-year-old water main has drawn attention to the high levels of lead there. Water service is shut off to the entire town. Michigan's governor asking the Legislature for $11.4 million to replace the entire pipe system.

ROMANS: A warmer and drier winter expected across the south and the west. Government forecasters say that may worsen record drought conditions in California. It could also mean much-needed savings on household heat for American families. The cost of home heating oil is expected to rise more than 40 percent this winter.

JARRETT: Gun violence in the United States surging during this pandemic. Penn State researchers studied daily police reports and gun- related injuries and deaths in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. during a 13-month period. They found a 30 percent increase in gun violence over the previous year.

ROMANS: All right, so many headlines from CNN's town hall with President Biden last night, from his legislative agenda to the filibuster and so much more.

In case you missed it, here is 90 minutes boiled down to two.


ANDERSON COOPER, MODERATOR, CNN TOWN HALL: Bottom line, do you think you will get a deal?


COOPER: You're also proposing for the first time ever federal paid parental leave. Because at one point you had talked about 12 weeks. Now there's reports it's down to maybe four weeks.

BIDEN: Yes, it is down to four weeks. And the reason it's down to four weeks is I can't get 12 weeks.

COOPER: One of the other things that Democrats are looking to do is to expand Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing. Will all three of those still be covered?

BIDEN: That's a reach but here's the thing. Mr. Manchin is opposed to that.

COOPER: There's a lot of Democrats in the House and Senate who are confused about where Sen. Sinema actually stands on things.

BIDEN: First of all, she's smart as the devil, number one. Number two, she's very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation. Where she's not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period.

You're the President of the United States and you have 50 Democrats. Every one is a president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When will the vaccines for young children be ready, and how accessible will they be?

BIDEN: The expectations they will be ready in the near term, meaning weeks, not months and months.

COOPER: Are you saying once you get this current agenda passed on spending and social programs that you would be open to fundamentally altering the filibuster or doing away with it? BIDEN: I am open to fundamentally altering -- well, that remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally altering it -- whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.

COOPER: When it comes to voting rights -- just so I'm clear, though -- you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue? Is that correct?

BIDEN: And maybe more.

COOPER: And maybe other issues.



JARRETT: All right. Obviously, a lot to digest there from last night's CNN town hall, so let's bring in CNN politics senior writer Zach Wolf. Zach, good morning.

ROMANS: Hey, Zach.

JARRETT: Nice to see you.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning.

JARRETT: So, let's start here --

WOLF: Hello.

JARRETT: -- with his filibuster, sort of, breaking news gamechanger. It seems to me that he's doing two things here. He wants to sort of have a nod to the progressives who have been banging down his door about voting rights, and so he's talking about the filibuster in that context. But then he says maybe more.


What did you make of that?

WOLF: You know, I thought that was really interesting. And can we just take a second to look at how he was sort of prowling around the stage. I think what we saw right there was him thinking in real time. He must either know something that he's not letting on about how far he'll go --


WOLF: -- on this, or he's really trying to choose his words carefully. Because at the end --


WOLF: -- of the day, he can't wave a magic wand. He has to convince people who don't want to do something -- two people -- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- to decide that they want to do something. So if you think about trying to figure out how to convince somebody to do something, it's very hard to do.

JARRETT: Well, that's the thing.

WOLF: So I think we're seeing that process kind of play out in real time. I don't know what exactly it means -- the other things -- maybe the debt ceiling. But he has to figure out a way to apply such pressure on those two people without completely turning them off to make them change their minds and publicly do it. So, that's interesting and that's what we're seeing.

JARRETT: But the reality of it is he needs their help not only on his agenda on the economy, he would need -- he would need their help if they actually wanted to change the filibuster.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: He can't change the filibuster on his own. It's up to the Senate, and the Senate would need 50 votes.

WOLF: Right. It's a matter of Senate rules.


WOLF: So he actually has no power there whatsoever.


WOLF: It's all a pressure campaign --


WOLF: -- on his part. And up until recently, he didn't think the filibuster should be changed. He's not on the same page as a lot of progressives who just want to get away or get rid of the filibuster. So, he's kind of in an interesting spot here and ultimately, it's going to come down to what is achievable as opposed to what people want.

ROMANS: Yes. You know, we also -- I think he was really frank about sort of the horse-trading going on in the Build Back Better agenda.

What stood out to you? To me, that corporate tax issue -- you know, this was always how you were going to pay for it. You know, tax the rich, raise corporate taxes a little bit but not as high as they were before the tax cuts from 2017, and invest in working families. That whole construct is up in the air now.

WOLF: Right, and apparently, dead. I mean, if you can't raise tax raise -- and it's a little bit unclear to me, as with so much, what Sen. Sinema actually opposes.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: What her line in the sand is. I think there's a lot to this that we don't know.

Can they -- can they set a minimum rate for corporations and that would raise enough money? Would that not be raising taxes even though -- tax rates, even though it would raise money? There's like a -- there's like a Washington shell game going on here where you need to find money but you can't raise tax rates. And it's not an undoable thing but it will certainly be a confusing thing I think to understand.

It was also interesting to me how in the weeds he was on some of this stuff, specifically, like they're talking about -- you know, it's enrollment time for a lot of people right now in the fall --


WOLF: -- as they get ready for their health insurance. They're doing enrollment for all of Medicare right now. Are they going to extend hearing or vision?

And these are very important things that affect millions of people's lives but it's like three people around a conference room table deciding what's going to happen.

ROMANS: I know, and those are really popular provisions, by the way. I mean, Republicans and Democrats -- those are very popular provisions -- those Medicare provisions that now seem to be held up by, again, a couple of people who don't like -- don't like that spending.

JARRETT: Well, and you notice that people are asking the president what's not going to be in the bill. People are paying attention to the things that are getting cut. Obviously, there's a ton of things in the bill that are widely popular and that people like, but people are paying attention --


JARRETT: -- to what's being cut here.

Zach, I also want to ask you about an interesting comment he made in the context of this national shortage of labor that we're facing right now. He was asked about encouraging people to go back to work -- back into the office. And he said this about mental health -- listen.


BIDEN: How many people do you know -- and maybe some in this audience -- who because of what you've been through -- the loss of a husband, wife, brother, mother, father, son, whatever, or you've had something that's really impacted you with COVID that you really find yourself just down? I mean, just down. And so, there's a lot of people who are just down. They're not sure how to get back in the game.

All the things that matter to people that go into things they look forward to. So, a lot of it has to do with us getting back on our feet and getting back on our feet in terms of our attitudes about what the future looks like for us. COOPER: What do you say to someone who is down because there's a lot --

BIDEN: What I say --

COOPER: -- people watching tonight who are.


BIDEN: Well, there are and I'll tell you what -- there's plenty of help. Look, being down, having some problem in terms of needing some advice -- if you have a broken spirit, it's no different than a broken arm.

You shouldn't be ashamed of it. You should seek the help. There's a lot of people who can help.



JARRETT: I mean, talk about Biden being Biden, right. This is -- this is sort of what he does best, which is talk to you like a human being, not just as a president but as the comforter-in-chief. And he is sort of speaking to the collective trauma that we have all sort of been through and lived through but maybe don't address every day.

WOLF: That's right. You know, I think a lot of people have struggled to understand why the quote-unquote "great resignation" is going on. Why there's a labor shortage. There is clearly something going on out there in our society that is changing. And at this moment I think it's really interesting that we have a president who is like Mr. retail politics.


WOLF: He wants to look you in the eyes and make a personal connection with you. He views people as people and not as data. And I think that we see that come through a lot in answers like that.

ROMANS: Yes, the broken spirit. I mean, when you think about all these people trying to get back into the labor market and so many things happening, I think that's a really interesting way to -- the broken spirit of the labor market.

All right, Zach Wolfe, CNN politics writer -- senior writer. Thank you so much, Zach. Have a great weekend.

WOLF: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. The cornerstone of that Build Back Better, investing in workers paid for, in part, by higher corporate taxes. But the president, in the town hall last night, acknowledging roadblocks in his own party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: No, I don't think we're going to be able to get the vote.


ROMANS: I don't think we're going to be able to get the vote. Biden planned to tax the rich and big companies to pay for his sweeping economic and climate agenda, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's opposition to raising the corporate tax rate has left the White House scrambling for ways to pay for it.

Context here -- context here. For decades, working people have shouldered more of the burden of funding the government. Meanwhile, company share has been declining. This is the effective corporate tax rate. This is -- taxes is a share of earnings. It has been falling for 50 years.

At the same time, public spending on infrastructure has been at a bare minimum for years -- hardly enough to keep up with maintenance, let alone build out investments that make the U.S. more competitive.

JARRETT: And breaking overnight, a deadly accidental shooting involving a prop gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin. It happened Thursday afternoon in New Mexico during the filming of Baldwin's new movie "Rust." Photos of Baldwin, you can see, after the shooting show the actor looking distraught outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.

Police say the cinematographer on this movie, Halyna Hutchins, was killed. The details, though, at this hour, still remain fuzzy. Investigators haven't said what type of projectile was fired, whether it was a blank or something else went wrong. No charges have been filed here.

The film's director, we've learned, Joel Souza, was also injured and he is hospitalized.

Production on this movie has been shut down for now.

ROMANS: Tragedy has struck before on a set at the hands of a prop gun. In 1993, Brandon Lee, son of the martial arts icon Bruce Lee, was killed at the age of 28. He was on the set of the film "The Crow." It was after an improperly loaded Smith & Wesson fired while filming.

And back in 1984 on the set of the T.V. series "COVER UP," the actor Jon-Erik Hexum died from an accidental self-inflicted prop gunshot. He was just 24 years old.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: Millions more Americans can now get a COVID booster shot -- any booster shot. Overnight, the CDC director cleared booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Those who got the Moderna shot at least six months ago can receive a booster if you're 65 and older or in an at-risk group. People who received J&J can get a booster if they were vaccinated two or more months ago.

JARRETT: Key here, the CDC also endorsed the so-called mix-and-match approach, allowing people to choose whichever vaccine they like for their booster shot. And even if you received your flu shot recently, health experts now say there's no need to wait to get your COVID booster now.

Next up, vaccines for kids. The FDA's vaccine advisers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to vote on emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine for kids five to 11 years old.

ROMANS: All right. The leader of the Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries now threatening to kill those hostages if he doesn't get the ransom he is demanding.

CNN's Joe Johns is live for us following this story in Port-au-Prince. Good morning, there -- hi.


So, this is Wilson Joseph. He is the leader of 400 Mawozo, which is the group that is now holding those hostages. He did make the threat that if the -- he did not get what he wants, the hostages will be killed. He made that threat on a video at a funeral of members of his gang that he said had been killed by police forces here in Haiti.

Also important to report that this gang apparently has provided authorities with proof that the hostages are still alive. As you know, earlier this week that group demanded $17 million -- $1 million each for every man, woman, and child they were holding.

Of course, important also to say that typically in the kidnappings here in Haiti -- and there have been hundreds of them over the last couple of years -- what you do find is an outlandish sum of ransom will be demanded and that number eventually will be negotiated down.

And one other thing I think to say here from Haiti before we leave you is that the police chief here in Haiti has abruptly resigned. It was abrupt but not necessarily unexpected because the prime minister here was under pressure to get rid of him due to the problems with security and kidnappings.


Back to you.

ROMANS: Just like a country with a kidnapping economy. It just shows you just what is a dire situation it is there. Thank you so much. Joe Johns for us in Port-au-Prince -- Laura.

JARRETT: OK. The queen, this morning -- Queen Elizabeth is back at Windsor Castle and resting after spending Wednesday night at the hospital. A spokesman for the 95-year-old monarch underwent preliminary investigations. Those are his words. Not sure exactly what that means but she remains in good spirits we're told. The queen abruptly canceled a trip to Northern Ireland this week and

has been seen recently with a cane. She's done 16 public engagements this month and is still expected to attend the major climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland later this month.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Look at markets around the world this Friday edition, they've ended the week in Asia mixed, and Europe has opened higher here. On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are also narrowly mixed here.

It was a mixed day for investors after some positive news in the labor market. The Dow barely moved. The S&P 500 hit a record high, by the way. It's now up 21 percent this year. The Nasdaq also closed higher.

First-time jobless claims fell to their lowest level since March of last year -- 290,000 Americans filing for benefits.

A red-hot September for real estate. Sales rose seven percent last month. The median sales price up 13 percent. This is -- get this -- 115 straight months -- that's 9 1/2 years of year-over-year price increases in the American housing market.

The tight inventory of homes had begun to improve in August and then worsened again in September. At the same time, demand is still strong and that's what's pushing prices higher.

JARRETT: All right. The Dodgers keep their World Series dream alive with a historic performance from Chris Taylor.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


You know, as the saying goes, if you want to be the champ you have to beat the champ. And the Dodgers not going down without a fight against the Braves. For the second-straight season, the Braves up 3-1 to the Dodgers in the NLCS. Last year, L.A. won three in a row after that, and then the World Series.

And all-star Chris Taylor trying to lead another comeback. He had a post-season record-tying three home runs in game give. The first player ever to have a three-home run game when facing elimination. He called it surreal.

Dodgers win big 11-2 to send the series back to Atlanta tomorrow night.

In the meantime, the Astros can punch their ticket to the World Series with a win tonight against the Red Sox in game six of the ALCS.

All right, to the NFL. The banged-up Browns hosting the Broncos, and what a night for third-string running back D'Earnest Johnson. He ran for 146 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland's 17-14 win. Not bad for a guy who was working on a fishing boat after not getting drafted three years ago. He made an impression in the Alliance of American Football League and then found his way to the Browns.

The performance even impressing LeBron James. He tweeted, "D'Earnest Johnson on 1 tonight! Love to see it!"

All right, Congress, meanwhile, wants to know more about the NFL's investigation into the Washington Football Team. Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter Thursday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell requesting that the league provide them with documents and information regarding the Washington Football Team's hostile workplace, culture, and the NFL's handling of the matter.

An NFL spokesperson told CNN the league has received that letter and looks forward to speaking with Congress soon.

All right. And finally, Warriors' star Steph Curry putting on a show last night in the Warriors' home opener against the Clippers. The two- time league MVP could not miss. He scored 25 points in a perfect first quarter. Curry hit his first 10 shots and would finish with 45 points for the game. And he nailed a three-pointer with under a minute remaining to give Golden State the lead.

The Warriors would hold on to win that one 115-113.

And guys -- you know, Curry -- he said he was trash in the team's win over the Lakers in the opener because he missed 16 shots. Well, he made 16 shots last night so I guess he was the opposite of trash.

JARRETT: He's Steph Curry. Of course, he made it.

Thank you, Andy -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: All right, at a CNN town hall last night, President Biden making big news. Says he's willing to do away with the filibuster for voting rights at some point, but he acknowledges it could affect his domestic agenda.

ROMANS: And this developing story overnight. A prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin killed one person and injured another on a movie set in New Mexico. We're following all of those details for you this morning.

Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, October 22nd. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

A news eruption overnight from President Joe Biden in a CNN town hall. A free-flowing stream of revelations about what's going on behind the scenes as the White House and Democrats move closer to a deal on a huge social spending plan that could change the lives of millions of seniors, kids, and working parents.