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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

House Passes New Debt Ceiling Plan, Measure Goes To Senate; Daily Cases Rise To 120,000 As Delta Variant Surges Across U.S.; Olaf Scholz The New German Chancellor. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 05:30   ET




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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

ROMANS: All right, the House has passed a new debt ceiling plan. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a deal with Democrats to create a one-time fast-track process allowing the Dems to raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority. So, Tuesday night the House passed that new legislation in a 222 to 212 vote. The measure now goes to the Senate.

CNN's Daniella Diaz joins us live from Capitol Hill. Good morning, Daniella. Does this fast-track plan have an expiration date?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: It does, Christine. The way this legislation is written, which is folded into a bigger bill on Medicare, it expires January 15th. The deal by McConnell and Schumer would allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without any Republican support.

And as you said, it passed the House last night with just one Republican voting for it -- that Republican being Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. And now, it goes to the Senate where they're likely to vote on this tomorrow.

So how does this work? Well, this bill would not raise the debt ceiling. This is not that bill that would do that. This bill is the process so that Democrats could raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, which would mean they have to pass a separate bill that would do that.

This bill, however, still requires 10 Republicans to support it when it goes to a vote in the Senate. Now, McConnell has said that he is confident that this bill will have 10 Republicans to support it so it would break the filibuster -- 60 votes total. But some Republicans -- more conservatives -- namely, of course, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- have said that they don't believe that 10 Republicans will support this bill, which could be detrimental toward trying to raise the debt ceiling.

But the bottom line here is, Christine, that the clock is ticking. Democrats and Republicans need to pass this bill before, of course, December 15th which is when Janet Yellen -- Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen has said that the nation would default on its debt. And Christine, you know that would have -- be an economic catastrophe, which is why they need to work on this as soon as possible. So they're trying to get this through Congress as soon as possible -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, the calendar -- the calendar very cruel here for lawmakers here as we head into the end of the year.

Also, the House, last night, authorized $770 billion in Pentagon funding. What can you tell us about that, Daniella?

DIAZ: This is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Christine, which is -- sets the priority for the Pentagon's spending. It's not actually a Pentagon-funding bill but it does have some funding for several issues. And it was a priority for Congress to pass this, at least before the end of the year. It had been stalled in the Senate because Sen. Marco Rubio had actually wanted to add an amendment that would punish China over its treatment of Muslim Chinese residents.

However, now that it has passed the House it will go to the Senate and it's mandatory, of course --



DIAZ: -- Christine, that this passes before the end of the year. But, of course, this funding is super crucial toward Pentagon funding and sets the priorities for the Pentagon.

ROMANS: All right, Daniella Diaz, keeping track of all it for us in Washington. Thank you.

JARRETT: Alrighty, let's do a little three questions in three minutes, shall we? Let's bring in "Washington Post" reporter Toluse Olorunnipa. Toluse, so nice to have you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: McConnell and the Democrats finally make a deal on the debt limit, at least for now. As always, kicking the can down the road. This is now the second time McConnell has essentially had to make a deal with the Democrats. What does that signal to you? What is his motivation?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via Webex by Cisco): Well, he does have a motivation to not let the economy tank. We're in a very precarious situation with COVID numbers going up and with the economy still fragile. But he also has the motivation of trying to not let his political

career tank. Donald Trump has been attacking him over the fact that he cut a deal with the Democrats a few months back. He has not let him forget that and he's tried to turn the Republicans against him.

So, he tried to figure out some way to thread the needle. We'll see if it works. He's trying to distance the Republicans from this while also not letting the economy tank with a default on the nation's debt.

ROMANS: I think threading the needle is exactly the right metaphor there.

JARRETT: It's not clear he has 60 votes to let --

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- to let them pass the legislation that would let them pass the legislation --

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- to do it by a simple majority.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the January 6 Committee, Toluse. The former chief -- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows rescinded his cooperation. Trump ally Steve Bannon looking to delay his contempt trial.

Is the committee's work moving fast enough given these headwinds here?

OLORUNNIPA: It's very tough for them to get their work done.

And talk about threading the needle, Mark Meadows seems to be on all sides of the aisle in terms of originally saying he was going to cooperate -- giving a little bit of cooperation -- and then essentially cutting off the talks.

And he seems to be a man on an island because former president Donald Trump is not happy with his former chief of staff for cooperating or entertaining the idea of cooperating with the January 6 Committee. And now that he's cut off talks, he's trying to work his way back into the Trump camp, but it's not clear that that's going to be able to work.

And for the committee, without having some of these key voices -- people who were in the room with the former president when he was making these decisions -- it may be difficult for them to answer some of these key questions about what the president knew, when he knew it, and what he did when the country was under attack.

JARRETT: Toluse, I also want to ask you about Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw calling out members of his own party yesterday, something only it seems like five Republicans, basically, are willing to do right now.

Listen to this.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): There's two types of members in Congress. There's performance artists and there's legislators. The performance artists are the ones that get all the attention -- the ones you think are more conservative, as they know how to say slogans real well.


JARRETT: Performance artists. Christine calls them bit players often because they do take up all of the oxygen.

But is he essentially just screaming into the void here? If at bottom, the fact is that Republicans, at leas the vast majority of them, are still not willing to confront facts, like on January sixth. I mean, what do statements like that from Crenshaw really do?

OLORUNNIPA: Not much, in part, because there's not much legislating going on, especially bipartisan legislating. So if you're in the minority in Congress what you do have is performance artistry where you are trying to get the attention of the news cameras and trying to get the attention of the former president.

And it's really become a party that's really focused on attitudes and vibes, sort of being negative and being willing to attack your opponent. And that seems to be where the cache is on the right, right now, especially with the former president really boosting some of these voices not because of their legislative prowess but because of what they're able to say and how they're able --



JARRETT: Right, and because of fealty to him and only him.

ROMANS: Right. I like how Crenshaw said the slogans -- they did the slogans real well. It's like these little -- I don't know, almost like Twitter kind of bumper sticker politics just so you can get clicks and just so you can raise money off of outrageous behavior.

And they are bit players. You've got three or four names out of 435 legislators.

JARRETT: Of very junior congressmen.

ROMANS: Oh my God -- all right.

Nice to see you, Toluse. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Thanks.


ROMANS: All right, 39 minutes past the hour.

Paychecks are about to get fatter. Companies are planning steeper wage hikes in 2022 than at any point since the 2007 recession. Now, "The Wall Street Journal" highlighting a new Conference Board report due out later today.

Look, the labor market is tight. Workers are job-hopping for better pay and companies have to pay more to attract and retain the talent they need. Retailers like the Gap and Big Lots confirm higher pay rates are already baked into their budgets. The average company setting aside 3.9 percent of total payroll for wage hikes.

Higher wages mean bigger paychecks but they can also raise prices for consumers if companies decide to pass those wage increases along.


The biggest wage increases go to the job-hoppers, by the way. If you switched jobs between August and October you saw a median wage increase of 5.1 percent as opposed to the 3.7 percent hike for those who stayed in their current job. This is an unusually large gap but it will likely mean higher paychecks for everyone next year.

JARRETT: To COVID now, and Michigan shattering records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and now leading the nation in per capita case rates. The state recently reported its highest 7-day average of new daily cases -- more than double the rate at the end of October.

The Delta variant remains the biggest threat in the U.S. More than 99.9 percent of all cases in the U.S., still Delta.

And we're still learning more about the new Omicron variant. Researchers in South Africa now raising more questions about the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine. Whether the Pfizer vaccine can stand up to Omicron.

More now on all of this from CNN's Jason Carroll in New York.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Laura, the Delta variant continues to take its toll across the country with 120,000 new daily cases reported. The Midwest and Northeast particularly hard-hit; the highest case rates in states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

The U.S. now averaging more than 1,600 deaths each day, one of the highest rates in more than a month.

And a troubling sign among the nation's youngest as COVID cases among children rise again with 133,000 new cases last week alone.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We have cold weather. We have holidays. We have all the kinds of things that the virus loves. And our best ability to fight that off is to take full advantage of the vaccines. And also, don't forget to wear your mask when you're indoors with other people.

CARROLL (on camera): And new polling gives new insight into Americans' behavior when it comes to responding to Omicron. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they would mask up when inside in public spaces. But then you see a real disparity along political lines. Eighty-two percent of Democrats saying yes, they are likely to wear a mask indoor versus 67 percent of Independents, and 38 percent of Republicans -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: Thanks, Jason.

A programming note for you here. It is that time of year when the stars come out to honor some of humanity's best among us. Now more than ever, the world needs heroes. Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they name the 2021 Hero of the Year. The 15th annual "HEROES ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" Sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.



ROMANS: It is the end of an era in Germany. Overnight, Olaf Scholz is now the country's chancellor. He replaces Angela Merkel who chose not to run after 16 years as chancellor. Scholz becomes official shortly when he is sworn in as Germany's new leader.

Let's go live to CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Fred, what are some of the challenges as he takes the reins from Angela Merkel?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Christine, you're absolutely right. Obviously, the end of a very, very long era here in Germany -- 16 years of Angela Merkel. Obviously, Olaf Scholz stepping into some very large footsteps there and there are a lot of really big challenges that Germany has to overcome.

First and foremost, of course, keeping the economy on track is one of the main things, but then also really fighting the pandemic. Germany, right now, in a really difficult situation. A lot of new coronavirus infections but frankly, a lot of deaths as well. We have the highest death toll since February coming out today.

But then, of course, you also have foreign policy challenges like, for instance, the current situation there with Russia and Ukraine.

And I think one of the interesting things that we -- that we need to point out is that Olaf Scholz is definitely a chancellor who is very much in favor of strong transatlantic relations.

He is a fan of President Biden. He, yesterday at a press conference, once again praised President Biden and his new multilateralism that the U.S. president has brought to that office. Obviously, President Biden also speaking to many of the U.S.' allies as far as Ukraine is concerned.

So you will see, I think, pretty strong transatlantic relations under this new government. And then finally, Germany now no longer has a female chancellor but

will soon have a female foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock from the Green Party. She is also very much in favor of good transatlantic relations and she's also someone who is pretty tough on Russia as well, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us breaking it all down. The end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Thank you, sir.

JARRETT: All right. LeBron James and the Lakers put on a show against their rival Celtics. Coy Wire has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


This is one of the best rivalries in all of sports. They've won 17 championships apiece and met in the NBA Finals 12 times. Stars coming out in L.A., including J. Lo and Boston superfan Ben Affleck getting cozy for the 296th edition of the rivalry. And Ben liked what he saw early.

Jayson Tatum scoring the Celtics' first 14 points, including four 3- pointers. He ends up with a game-high of 37. But LeBron James, with three days of rest under his belt, keeping it close with 16 of his 30 points coming in the first quarter.

The second half was all L.A., finally looking like they're getting some chemistry. Russell Westbrook dominating the third, including this vicious dunk.

The Lakers win 117-102, splitting the season series and getting their record above 500 at 13 and 12.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: We had a lot of good moments tonight and we want to continue to build off of that. There are some things we can clean up but tonight was one of the best 48- minute games that we've had so far.


WIRE: And it looked like the first-place Nets were in danger of back- to-back losses for the first time this season, down by 17 to the Mavericks, and sharpshooting Luka Doncic, in the third. Doncic finished with 28.

But James Harden and Kevin Durant turned it on. Look at the beards (ph) beating Doncic's one-on-one for a layup with 1:23 to go. Seconds later, K.D. hitting the fadeaway to put the Nets away. That put them up by three for their largest lead of the night.


Brooklyn holds on to win 102-99, handing the Mavs their fifth-straight home loss. Now to one of the most incredible passes you'll see with a hockey stick. Put your coffee down. Anaheim Ducks rookie Trevor Zegras behind the goal. And the next thing you know, all of a sudden, the puck is in the back of the net. If you take another look, Zegras scoops the puck, lobs it over the net right to Sonny Milano who knocks it in for an incredible alley-oop in hockey?

The Ducks beat the Sabres 2-0.

And just in overnight, Serena Williams will not be playing in the Australian Open next month. The 7-time Aussie champ says she's just not where she needs to be physically to compete. Serena hasn't played since injuring her hamstring at Wimbledon over the summer. She's been stuck on 23 Grand Slams since 2017, one shy of tying Margaret Court's all-time record.

She turned 40 just over two months ago, Laura and Christine. I think we're all rooting to see her --


WIRE: -- get back and to being able to play and finally crack that record.

JARRETT: Absolutely. I hope she gets better really soon.

ROMANS: If anybody can, she can. I mean, I've got a lot of faith in her.

JARRETT: Yes. She has shown a lot.

ROMANS: I've got a lot of faith in here.

All right, nice to see you.

JARRETT: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You, too.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Business this Wednesday morning. Looking at markets around the world, checking in on Asian shares, they closed higher. Europe has opened narrowly mixed here, with London just slightly up. And on Wall Street, stock index futures have just turned mixed in the past few moments.

After an Omicron freak-out last week, a Wall Street rally this week. Tech stocks led the charge yesterday sending the Nasdaq up three percent. That is a big one-day move, the best day for tech since March. The Broad S&P 500 rose two percent. The Nasdaq -- or the Dow, rather, climbed 1.4 percent.

Investors are less fearful the new Omicron variant will hurt the global economy. Market focus now shifting back to inflation. Investors get new information on that later this week.

All right, striking workers at four Kellogg cereal plants have rejected a tentative labor deal voting to extend their two-month-long walkout. Union officials say the vote was -- by members was overwhelming. The company says it's disappointed the contract was not ratified and has no choice. At this point, they will hire permanent replacement workers.

The four Kellogg factories are in Battle Creek, Michigan, the company's home base, as well as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Omaha, and Memphis. You know, they produce some of Kellogg's most popular cereals, including Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, and Rice Krispies.

JARRETT: Now to this amazing reunion story. It only took 73 years but two long-lost sisters managed to find each other once again. Their reunion is the result of a perfect accident. Both Linda Hoffman and Harriet Carter signed up for and they were a perfect genetic match.

That was nearly two years ago. But COVID, like everything else, kept them apart. So their first face-to-face meeting came Tuesday at the Denver airport.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do look like me.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I can't believe how much you look like mom.





Harriet Carter was given up for adoption at birth. Their parents died decades ago, taking the secret of their sisterhood with them to the grave.

Isn't that incredible?

ROMANS: Those ancestry stories are so fascinating. Right, yes.

JARRETT: You never know what you're going to find.

ROMANS: The good and the bad in some cases. In this case, very, very good.

All right, yet another billionaire has jetted into space. This time around it's Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, who blasted off in a Soyuz capsule and rocket this morning. It will dock at the International Space Station at about 8:41 a.m. eastern time.

Joining Maezawa on his 12-day journey aboard the ISS is Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

The cost for the fashion mogul, a mere 50 to 60 million dollars.


ROMANS: It's the eighth time a wealthy civilian has been launched into orbit.

JARRETT: Finally, an extreme home makeover for the ages. I hope you remember this story. It has stuck with us.

A house in Colorado Springs sold for $580,000 this past summer, but let's just say it needed a little work. OK, a lot of work. It was dubbed the "House From Hell" by a real estate agent. It was filthy. It had a freezer full of rotting meat and the walls were covered in spray paint.

ROMANS: Yes. This is what it looks like now, completely transformed after a nearly $200,000 remodeling and renovation. The house goes back on the market this week.

Location, location, location, even if it's a dump. I'm telling you, if it's in a good school district, which this house was, we're told, real estate is just -- you know, it's just the best investment.

JARRETT: That is -- that is the most amazing transformation I have ever seen.

ROMANS: It really was a house from hell but it looks great now.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

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