Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senate Hopes To Pass Biden's Social Spending Plan By New Years; Asian Nations Growing Militaries As China Nuclear Arsenal Grows; Pfizer Seeking FDA Green Light For Experimental COVID Pill. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

Senator Chuck Schumer hoping to deliver the Christmas present President Biden wants the most. The Democratic leader now says there's a way to get his massive social safety net package passed before the holidays are over.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The BBB is very important to America. We believe it's very popular with Americans. We aim to pass it before Christmas.

It's a huge agenda. We have funding the government, we have debt limit, we have BBB, and we have the defense bill. That's a huge agenda for December and the end of November but we aim to get it all done.


JARRETT: But here's the thing. House Democrats still need to win over centrist holdouts. And in the Senate, they cannot afford to lose even one vote.

Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Daniella Diaz, who is following all the twists and turns. Daniella, so many things have to happen. So many things have to go right for the Democrats to actually get the votes that they need. Break it all down for us.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Laura, so many things, indeed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, of course -- as you guys just played -- that he wants to pass this bill by Christmas.

However, there are still -- there is still one Democratic senator who has not offered his assurances yet that he would get behind this bill and that is, of course, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He has said he has concerns about the price tag -- namely, what it could do for inflation in this country. There is some data that shows that this bill, the Build Back Better Act that would expand the nation's social safety net, could affect inflation, at least short-term, in the country. And he has said he still has, quote, "a lot of concerns" as recently as yesterday.

And look, a new analysis from the Joint Committee of Taxation says that the economic bill would likely benefit high earners, especially those making more than $1 million annually, which would be a huge problem for Democrats as they try to promote this bill with Americans. This is something Republicans will likely seize on.

But the thing is the House, meanwhile, is trying to pass this bill this week. And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer actually told reporters and the caucus yesterday that they were trying to have the debate on this bill, which is the first part of starting the process of voting on this bill, as soon as today. But as the day progressed and the schedule came out, that debate was not listed on the schedule. So, it's unclear whether that timeline will be shifted in the House.

And not only are Democratic leaders dealing with this bill, the Build Back Better Act, they also have to deal with government funding and the debt ceiling before the year is over.

So, lots of issues here that Democratic leaders are trying to address. It's a really -- going to be a really busy day on Capitol Hill today -- Laura.

JARRETT: It seems we're at that phase where it's all about getting an agreement to agree, which is still a challenge.

Daniella, thank you.

OK, it's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in White House correspondent John Harwood. John, good morning.

Hard infrastructure is done.


JARRETT: Now we focus -- good morning. Now we focus on the hard part, the Build Back Better plan -- much more massive, much more expansive. Potentially, much more life-changing immediately for people.


How is this going to work out? How are they going to convince these Senate holdouts?

HARWOOD: Well, the signs are looking positive for getting this done in the House, and what is benefitting Democratic leaders at the moment is a bit of momentum that comes out of the passage of that hard infrastructure bill.

Every -- all the Democrats are watching Joe Biden and people who got behind that bill celebrate its passage, promote its passage. That feels a lot better to them than the infighting that they've been experiencing over the last several weeks that dragged down the president's poll numbers, dragged down the Democratic Party. So, they're getting on a bit of a roll in terms of sentiment for getting this done.

So, some of the moderates in the House who have expressed resistance over the potential cost of the bill -- they want to see what -- how the Congressional Budget Office assesses whether it adds to the deficit. Some of those people seem to be falling in line even before they get that final number. So, prospects are good in the House.

And I think Democrats -- Democratic leaders and White House officials are confident that even the resistant senators like Joe Manchin ultimately, with some changes, are going to fall in line and they're going to get this done.

Democrats are eager to put this infighting behind them and try to make themselves in a healthier position once the holidays are over and you turn into 2022 when, of course, you have midterm elections.

JARRETT: So, one of the key sticking points, always, is how to pay for it. And we understand the White House is bracing for an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that will show that this plan will add, likely, to the federal deficit.

So, with some lawmakers already sort of have hang-ups here, how does the bill survive a negative report, or what's perceived as a negative report?

HARWOOD: Well, one of the things they've done is lay the groundwork for members to not be surprised by this number.

A lot of the difference we expect to see has to do with how both the Congressional Budget Office and the White House, and the Treasury assess the impact of steps they're going to take to strengthen tax enforcement to try to collect taxes that are already owed but not paid by, especially, wealthy people at the top. And you have different estimates and different rules for how you count money that may come in. And I think people are prepared for that number. It's not going to come as a shock.

And I think having done that, Democrats are going to be able to get past this -- certainly, in the House.

It is somewhat more of a challenge in the Senate, as you've mentioned and as Daniella mentioned in the runup. That is, people like Joe Manchin are saying well, is this going to make inflation worse?

In reality, economists say that even if some things the Biden administration did earlier this year in terms of the size of the rescue plan that contributed to inflation, this Build Back Better plan is not likely to make much difference on inflation. And I think they're counting on that argument prevailing with the holdouts.

JARRETT: While I have you, I also want to ask today about the House voting to censure Republican Congressman Paul Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments after he, of course, posted that horrendous anime nonsense of AOC.

On the one hand, it seems obvious that you don't get to post a video on social media even joking about killing one of your fellow congressmen, but the fact that we even have to ask is this a resolution that passes sort of signals where we are.

HARWOOD: Yes, and I think it's going to pass. Look, this is sick behavior by Congressman Gosar. There's something wrong with him. You hear that in statements from his own family members who have been speaking out against him for some time.


HARWOOD: And there's something wrong with the Republican Party more broadly, which is that you have a segment of the Republican Party which has embraced the idea of threatening Americans who are on the other side with actual violence as a -- as a political weapon.

And I think that's something -- even if you have a Democratic Party that's divided internally by some ideological splits and some political concerns, everybody can get behind the idea that it is deeply wrong and antithetical to democracy for a political party or a segment of a political party to use physical threats as a tool. And I think that's something that is likely to unite Democrats and maybe even a small number of Republicans in censuring this behavior and trying to do something about it.

It's a very difficult problem because you've got a former president in Donald Trump, who inspired an insurrection and is now praising the insurrectionists and laying the groundwork for more activity of that kind. And that's something that decent people in politics know that they can't stand for. And I think we're going to see that in the House today.

JARRETT: Well, and sometimes I think this gets too easily dismissed as sort of a statement about civility and how low civility has sunken. But to your point, this is about actual violence. And we know that this type of behavior inspires violence and that we saw it firsthand when people were hurt on January sixth. And we know that this congresswoman receives threats every day that are quite serious.


So, John, I appreciate you always being here to break it all down with me, including all of the nonsense. Thank you.

All right, now to this story. Possible arms control was a key topic in President Biden's virtual summit with Chinese president -- the Chinese president -- leader Xi this week. The talks, in part, a reaction to this growing arms race across the Indo-Pacific region. Countries like Japan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia all ramping up their arsenals in response to China's military expansion.

CNN's Will Ripley is live in Taipei City with more on this developing arms race that could threaten the rest of the world. Will, good morning. WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Laura.

Yes, these talks couldn't come at a more critical time, analysts are telling me, because China has been expanding its arsenal at an alarming pace, and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region are doing the same.


RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting virtually this week as the world faces what analysts call a growing threat, an intensifying arms race across the Indo-Pacific. Potential flashpoints across the region raising the risk of a nuclear conflict threatening the U.S., its allies, and the world.

DR. PETER LAYTON, VISITING FELLOW, GRIFFITH ASIA INSTITUTE: If you have serious conflict you could end up with nuclear weapons being used. And we're not talking atomic bombs; we're talking hydrogen bombs. And this is a different level of warfare entirely.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The world's most assertive nuclear power, China. New satellite images suggest Beijing is building nuclear-capable missile silos and testing more ballistic missiles than the rest of the world combined, the Pentagon says, including what the U.S. calls a potentially game-changing hypersonic weapon -- a claim China denies.

The Chinese navy, now the largest in the world, with a catch. Most of their warships are small but they are getting bigger. A new aircraft carrier in Shanghai could launch early next year with technology rivaling the larger, more advanced U.S. carrier fleet.

RIPLEY (on camera): How long is it going to take for China's navy to pose a credible threat to America's navy?


RIPLEY (on camera): Are we talking years? Are we talking decades?

YING-YU: Oh, yes -- 20 to 30.

RIPLEY (on camera): Twenty to 30 years?

YING-YU: Twenty to 30 years.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Full-sized mockups of U.S. warships dot the desert in Xinjiang, possibly for target practice, analysts say. China also flexing its flight muscles, flying warplanes near Taiwan in record numbers.

The island's leaders warn Cross-Strait tensions are at 40-year highs. Taiwan racing to modernize its military. New ships, more missiles, billions of dollars in American-made weapons, all to guard against an invasion Taiwan's defense minister says could be possible by 2025 -- a war that could involve the U.S. and other democratic allies, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen told CNN last month in this exclusive interview.

RIPLEY (on camera): Is Taiwan's strategy to try to be able to defend for a period of time before other countries could assist?

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN: We definitely want to defend ourselves as long as we can. But let me reiterate it's important that we have the support -- the support of our friends.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's closest friend, at least geographically, Japan, signaling support for Taipei -- a thinly-veiled warning for Beijing.

NOBUO KISHI, JAPANESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translator): What could happen in Taiwan would likely be an issue for Japan, in which case Japan would need to respond accordingly.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Japan is staging its largest military drills in decades, moving missiles, radar, and troops to its southern islands about 100 miles from the Taiwanese coast. Sending ships to the East China Sea, the site of territorial disputes with China.

Japan also facing a threat from North Korean missiles. Pyongyang believed to be ramping up production of uranium for its growing nuclear arsenal.

South Korea is speeding up its own weapons development, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Australia will get nuclear-powered submarines, part of a deal with the U.S. and the U.K. to counter China's rapid expansion, militarizing manmade islands in the South China Sea.

Another military buildup in the Himalayas, the site of deadly border clashes last year between China and India -- another nation with nuclear weapons.

LAYTON: And military forces are definitely being built up. And getting into those arms races like that is certainly a difficult path.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A path charted primarily by presidents Biden and Xi today and whoever leads tomorrow.



RIPLEY: The stakes could not be higher, particularly here in Taiwan, a self-governing island that has literally scores of Chinese missiles pointed at its capital as we speak. They could arrive in a matter of minutes. And even as they continue to spend billions more every year on defense, they are still vastly outspent about 15 to one by Beijing, Laura.

JARRETT: Will, great piece. Thank you.

Well, this weekend, Fareed Zakaria is doing an in-depth look at China's leader. "CHINA'S IRON FIST: XI JINPING AND THE STAKES FOR AMERICA" begins Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The committee feels that the witnesses that have refused to appear have no basis to do so and that we need to hold them accountable. And we're discussing the best ways to do it.



JARRETT: That was Congressman Adam Schiff who, along with his colleagues on the January 6 Committee, are trying to sort through how to deal with former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, along with other Trump allies who have been rebuffing investigators' efforts. The House committee is giving Meadows, though, one more chance to comply with the panel's subpoena and face questioning.

Pfizer is seeking FDA authorization for its experimental antiviral pill to treat COVID. It would be taken with an older drug called Ritonavir. The treatment is for patients with mild to moderate COVID symptoms with an increased risk of hospitalization or death. The FDA will meet November 30th to discuss that application.

Meanwhile, CDC advisers will meet on Friday ahead of the FDA's decision on officially greenlighting Pfizer booster shot for everyone over 18.

Well, Golden State made a huge statement in Brooklyn against the Nets. Coy Wire has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, a great night for Steph Curry.

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

The last two seasons have been ones to forget for the Warriors and their fans, but this season they are on fire. Steph Curry and company are letting everybody know we're back.

Curry faced his former teammate Kevin Durant, arguably the best player on the planet. This is in Brooklyn. But sharpshooting Steph Curry had something to say about that debate. Curry running down threes like they were layups.

He hit nine of them in this game, Laura. That's the 37th time he's done that in his career. Nobody else in NBA history has had more than nine such games.

Curry finishing with 37 points. He was even getting MVP chants at several points from the Brooklyn crowd.

Warriors roll 117-99. They're now 12-2 on the season. That's the best in the NBA. The U.S. men's soccer team traveling to Jamacia, mon, for a huge World

Cup qualifying match. Tim Weah, get out of my way-a -- dancing around past defenders for this blast -- his first goal for the national team.

That lead wouldn't last long, though. Check out Michail Antonio with a huge strike from 34 yards out. Laser beam pass to keep her there. It ends in 1-1, but the U.S. securing another point in its bid to qualify for Qatar next November. The U.S. is now one point behind Canada for the top spot in their qualifying group.

Canada getting the 2-1 win over Mexico in the freezing cold in Edmonton. And check out this celebration, Laura -- liftoff. Sam Adekugbe soaring through the air torpedoing into a pile of snow. Team Canada and its fans erupting after that eventual match-winning goal.

The new college football playoff rankings are out. Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State holding on to the top four spots. Notre Dame is the only new team in the top eight.

But big chances -- changes could be on the way Saturday, Laura. Alabama hosting Arkansas. Oregon has a tough road game at Utah. And Ohio State hosting 7th-ranked Michigan State. Cincinnati and Michigan are just waiting for one of those top four teams to stumble so they can peek their way in.

Finally, Tom Brady's new 10-part docuseries "MAN IN THE ARENA" debuting last night. The 7-time Super Bowl champ reflecting on the moment he was finally drafted into the NFL as the 199th overall pick.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Finally, the phone rang and it was the Patriots. I'm sitting downstairs in my living room with my parents and everyone was excited. And I remember my dad opened a bottle of champagne not even realizing where New England was. I mean, I was like New England Patriots? I mean, I didn't know -- where is that?


WIRE: Where in New England? Viewers also see how Brady became a starter and led the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl title.

The series, airing on ESPN+, looks back at his record 10 Super Bowl appearances. It gives viewers a chance to take a glimpse at one of the greatest athletes of any sport to do what he does, just like Steph Curry. We got a glimpse at that greatness -- incredible stuff.

JARRETT: Yes. All right, Coy. Thanks so much -- appreciate it.

All right, some good news for caffeine fiends. That morning cup of coffee or chai tea may be linked to a lower risk of stroke or dementia. A recent study finds those who drank four to six cups of coffee had the lowest risk. That's a lot. But there's a caveat here. Those who drank more than six cups a day could be at higher risk for dementia. And finally, this morning, this New Year's Eve, the party is back on in Times Square. New York City's mayor announcing partygoers will be able to ring in 2022 in-person next month as long as they prove they are fully vaccinated.

Now, children under five years old who can't get vaccinated yet must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult. I don't know what 4-year-old has managed to convince their parents to go down to Times Square, but more power to you.

And if you can't get vaccinated for a medical reason, you'll have to show a negative COVID test within 72 hours. And you will be required to wear a mask.


Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Laura Jarrett. Christine is back tomorrow. "NEW DAY" is next.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman alongside Brianna Keilar.

On this new day, the jury is about to reconvene in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. A verdict may not be far away.

And sorry, not sorry.