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Inside Politics

New Concerns About Turnaround Time for COVID Test Results; Manchin Lays Marker on Democrats' Bigger Spending Package; Poll: "Long-Term Effects" Top Concern About Vaccinating Kids; Alachua County Schools Keep Mask Mandate Despite Threats From Florida Governor; COVID-19 Cases & Hospitalizations Highest Since February. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Admiral Giroir sorry we have to cut it short today but thank you very much for coming on. And thank you all so much for joining me today. I'm Kate Bolduan. "Inside Politics" with John King starts now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. The Senate passes a budget outline with sweeping changes on climate, immigration, childcare and more. The next big challenge for the ambitious Biden agenda is House progressives and their wish list.

Plus, sashay down there and vote. Democrat Cory Booker deploys a heavy dose of sarcasm to mock the Republican midterm message that Democrats wanted to defund the police.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): I'm sure I'll feel no - attacking anybody here over defund the police and I would ask unanimous consent to add something else to this obvious bill. Can we add also that every Senator here wants to defend the police believes in God country and Apple pie.


KING: Also today, new numbers show a divide among American parents on back to school COVID mandates. We'll talk to one school superintendent called a monster and a fascist for standing up to her governor and requiring kids and teachers mask up.

Up first, though another giant step forward for a Biden White House and Democratic budget plan. That envisions a dramatic rewrite of the social safety net. Senate Democrats last night passing a $3.5 trillion budget outline.

Its proposals include free Pre-K and free community college. It adds vision and dental coverage to Medicare. Not to mention it includes ambitious proposals on climate and immigration, and more. There are giant obstacles ahead in both the House and then back in the Senate.

But just moments ago, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promising Democrats will work out their differences and deliver their transformative plan to President Biden's desk. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill and our Congressional Correspondent, Lauren Fox. Lauren, this is big progress for the Biden agenda. But there are big lifts ahead.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. Now the hard work really begins this is when the committees are going to have to write this $3.5 trillion bill that really reimagines the social safety net in this country. And this is what Chuck Schumer said about what lies ahead.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It's as if we caught a pass a nice long pass at midfield, but we still have 50 yards to go before we score a touchdown. But it's still good to make that pass and make that advance.


FOX: The Majority Leader very sober here about what lays ahead, John, making it clear that he has to keep his Democratic Caucus together. Because remember, he doesn't have a single vote to lose, you're in already two of his members have made clear that this price tag is just too much.

They voted for the first step. But they think that $3.5 trillion for this package is just too expensive. They want it to be smaller, but Schumer making it clear there are others who want it to be larger so a lot of work ahead.

The Majority Leader very clear that when they get back in the fall, they're going to have to write this legislation, they're going to have to be ready to go. Otherwise, this is going to get pushed farther into the fall, John.

KING: Lauren Fox appreciate the breaking news coverage of Capitol Hill. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Olivier Knox of "The Washington Post" Eva McKend from "Spectrum News" CNN's Jeff Zeleny and "Times" Molly Ball.

It's a fascinating moment in the town. I've been here 33 years never, as a president had as ambitious an agenda at this point. And yet, I'm going to hold up my mug, there are conversations all around town is this half empty or half full?

In the sense that let's just put up some of what's in this spending plan. Free Pre-K and Community College, vision and dental coverage for Medicare, climate and immigrations proposals in the money for education, money for immigration, money for agriculture, money for housing, money for clean energy, money for the climate.

It is a bold, ambitious agenda. The Democrats have held it together so far. The question is can they get to the finish line?

EVA MCKEND, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, SPECTRUM NEWS: Yet to be seen, you know, John, that bipartisan infrastructure package that was the shortest victory in the world, right, because now they have to quickly move on to this much heavier lift.

Senator Schumer, I think is facing the greatest challenge of his political career. He's at the helm in the Senate right now. And it's up to him to make this happen. He describes it as a general - having a generational impact. It's hard to argue with that.

These are sweeping reforms, Republicans arguing we don't need this right now. America does not need to fundamentally be remade.

KING: And part of it, Molly the challenge is what do we look for in the sense that I came to Washington in the final months of the Reagan Administration? This has never happened, that you have such a big and bold, ambitious agenda.

Every president since has gotten something but nothing on this scale. And so when Joe Manchin says the morning after he supports the proposal, the framework he says I'll go ahead with the initial 3.5 trillion, then the morning after he says it's simply irresponsible to continue spending levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession, not an economy on the verge of overheating.

So many read that has never mind I read that as a selling House progressive. Just don't make it any bigger. Don't make it any bigger. This is as big as I can go. Don't you dare?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Yes, no, it's all in negotiation at this point, you know, and I actually just got off the phone with a different, moderate Democratic Senator, who was saying that at least for him the question isn't how much but how the money is being spent?


BALL: And so you know, we all know this is - these are just outlines that they've approved so far, the devil is always in the details. And that's what the committees are now going to do is try and flesh out exactly how all this money is going to be spent?

And then it's going to be this tug of war between the moderates and the progressives and of course, the House of how much they can actually agree on? I think everyone expects that that number will come down somewhat.

But you know, it's a real number, there's no question they could spend that much money if they wanted to. But now that many, many members are going back to their districts for what remains of August, they'll also be looking to take the temperature of their constituents and try and figure out if voters are reacting badly to this much?

KING: And to that very point isn't the fundamental question for Democrats, as we come this far, to fail now would be to fail heading into the midterms? You collapse the first year of the Biden Presidency. And all those Democrats, maybe they ran on different numbers or different specific proposals.

But all of the Democrats ran on its - way past time to do things on climate. It's way past time to give green cards, especially to "The Dreamers". People are here through no fault of their own. So to say - to walk - to fail now would be to open the trap door.

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: We know that they're going home with a series of economic based talking points, focusing a lot on childcare, which is a big part of this package on childcare on the economic recovery of the last eight months.

The - how it's going to be spent is really interesting, because what we've seen in some of the other big projects, the American Rescue Plan Act, for example, we just learned in this latest wave of conversation about the eviction moratorium.

Is that a lot of the money that Congress sent to States to help people pay their rent help, both renters and landlords in effect hasn't gone out the door. And one of the questions that we're seeing and it was throughout the pandemic, with unemployment as well is do states have the structure to be able to get this money out the door?

It is not enough. If you really want to have an impact it is not enough for the Senate to do a crazy 24 hour Vote-o-Rama and get things you know, notionally moving forward, you also need to see how they're actually going to make this work? How are they going to make the expansion of broadband work? How are they going to make childcare work?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And that's a central question. How is this going to work? Molly, you mentioned the price tag overall, the month of August is going to be a defining one for the messaging of all of this spending.

The White House Democrats are going out with the full court press. Yes, we are doing all this for you. We're doing exactly what the President Biden said he wouldn't. The Republicans also making the argument, spending too much money ads are already millions of dollars of ads are already on the air.

So even before any of this gets passed, which I think it will get passed. We know that Speaker Pelosi is good at one thing, several things, but one of the things she's good at is passing complicated legislation and unifying her party.

But you just wonder right now as we sit here in the summer of 2021, is this going to be like an Obamacare like thing? Are they passing something so big that come the midterm elections next year? It's going to come back to haunt them politically? We'll see.

KING: Well, that I think that's why August comes down if you've learned the lessons of 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats passed something they promised for 50 years, and then many of them run and hide from it because it's not implemented yet. And Republicans attack it.

I think is that not the defining question? Democrats believe A, with the pandemic B, with just look around the climate crisis is everywhere, whether it's floods, whether it's droughts, whether it's wildfires, whether it's extreme weather, that the American people have finally figure it out, after waiting.

Again, George W. Bush, H.W. Bush Administration, Clinton administration, W - all these - all those presidents talked about these things, little bit has been done. The Democrats think they're ready; Republicans are going to say you're spending way too much money.

BALL: That's right. And, you know, there is a lot of pent up demand for progressive legislation, right, because Democrats haven't had an opportunity for many years to fully fund a lot of these priorities to make advances on the policies that they seek.

But we do already see in the polling, the voters are starting to feel like it's too much government too much spending. And the inflation is a persistent worry if this inflation persists; we know people are conscious of that in their daily lives.

And if that's going to give people pause and feel like the economy is overheating, that may put the brakes on things also.

KING: To your point that the 3.5 trillion may be dialed back some I think watching the inflation numbers as we go through the next August recess. People at home, watch the economic reports. But the core is still on the track and many people in this town thought this president and the Democrats couldn't do it.

Core is still on the track. That's where we score in today. A bit later, we're going to take a look at the budget debate and one moment in it that has gone viral Senator Cory Booker animated response when a Republican colleague rose defunding the police. Next for us though, the debate over masks and vaccine requirements is heating up as kids return to the classroom. New numbers and an up close look from Florida.



KING: New polling today on an issue that is front and center in the new COVID battle. Schools and mandates. Let's take a look. Should schools require unvaccinated students to wear a mask? Well, nearly two thirds of parents overall say yes.

But look at the sharp partisan divide and this Kaiser Family Foundation survey. 88 percent of Democrats favor the masks requirement, only 3 in 10 Republicans do. A vaccine mandate as you see here is less popular 58 percent of parents are against their child school, instituting a blanket vaccine requirement. As you can see a third of Democrats oppose a vaccine mandate nearly 9 in 10 Republicans say no to such a mandate.

So what's stopping parents from vaccinating their team? A whopping 88 percent of parents with an unvaccinated teenager say they're concerned about long term effects nearly 8 in 10 say they're worried about immediate side effects.

About a third of parents worried they may have to take time off from work 18 percent fear of some out-of-pocket cost. Florida right now you might call ground zero in this debate over masks and schools.

The Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, threatening to withhold salaries from local school leaders if they mandate masks in turn the Biden White House says it is exploring whether it could use federal money to pay those people who might get cut off by the state.


KING: Carlee Simon finds herself right in the middle of this debate. She's the Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, where students returned to the classroom yesterday, and are required to wear masks. Carlee grateful for your time Superintendent, I should say today.

Let me start with the students. The students are now caught up in this national debate over masks and schools and COVID safety. How are they doing? We got 35,000 students and staff back into school? What's the experience with you saying you need to have a mask on and some of their parents in the governor saying that's wrong?

CARLEE SIMON, SUPERINTENDENT, ALACHUA COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: So I'd say on the large scale, our students are very used to mask mandates they have this all of last year. And they're you know, nothing is new as far as you know, we aren't approaching this from a different avenue or a different angles, so they're pretty accustomed to it.

I think I am concerned because we do have some students, and unfortunately, they're there - they tend to be many of our younger students in the elementary school age, where their parents are telling them to refuse to wear a mask. And the school district has policy that requires a mask.

And I think many of these young children really don't know what to do. I mean, they want to obey their parents, and but they also understand that they are in a school setting. And they want to follow the rules of the school.

And I think it's unfortunate, because I think they're really put in a challenging position. And we're trying to work with parents to tell them that, you know if you disagree with the policy, that's fine. Let's not put your children between the situation but we have to make sure that we are protecting the entire student population and so we just cannot have unmask students on our campus, especially right now, as we are noticing just in the two days.

And actually, we haven't even been open two days. In the day and a half that we have been open, we are seeing infection rates that are increasing in our staff. And we're also seeing the same situation with our students.

KING: And so that I've read the interviews you've done in recent days that are your overriding goal. You want kids back in school, because that's the best place for them to learn. And you're trying to do everything you can with the Delta variant and the rising cases, to limit infections to students limit infections to staff.

I read your op-ed in "The Washington Post", where you say people have called you a monster a fascist and worse for doing this. How does it feel to be in the middle of this national debate?

SIMON: Well, so obviously, no one likes to be called derogatory names. It is an unfortunate component of being in this position. I am pleased to be involved in this. And I'm very pleased. I mean, specifically, I'm pleased that education is getting this level of attention.

I think sometimes education I feel gets ignored or neglected. So I'm glad to be a part of this. I think that this is important work. Fundamentally, this is like a core principle. So I'm OK with that. But I do understand that there are you know there are negatives to anything.

And this is one of those where not everybody is as thoughtful and considerate and diplomatic when they choose to address me.

KING: Do you believe the governor wants to cut off your paycheck? And do you see any evidence he's going to try to cut off your paycheck? Or do you think that's just political rhetoric?

SIMON: Well, I mean, I have received a letter from the Commissioner of Education saying that this would be something that they do, I had to respond. Yesterday, it was due at five o'clock, it was a little bit after five o'clock that I got it into him, we ended up actually our staff attorney went home sick and did test positive for COVID.

And she has been vaccinated, and she did allow me to share this. But you know we are trying to do business as well as respond to the governor. And so we told them that we're going to continue to stay the course because we do believe this is what we need in place in order to continue to function as a school system.

KING: The Biden White House says it we'll look at ways maybe find some federal money if your paycheck gets cut off. The governor today saying he will fight back any effort for the federal government to come in and try to get involved in this debate in Florida.

I have a 10 year old who's going to go back to fifth grade in a couple of weeks. My question is this what happens to the kids, when they are in the middle of this debate, whether it's between the governor and the president, the governor and you, you and their parents? What happens to the kids?

SIMON: So I look at it in the sense that we are here to provide the education to the kids. We're here to take care of the kids. Clearly this is a disagreement among adults and responsible adults make sure that they focus on communicating with each adult in a respectful manner.

And they don't fight in front of the children. And this is what I continue. I know I expect to do and I know my staff and my leadership, they are very much focused on doing this so the kids can continue to do the back to school experience and enjoy themselves.

And those of us adults we're going to have complicated discussions and I would like us to be respectful as we do this. So we're just going to continue in that manner as far as I'm concerned.


KING: Well, I wish you the best of luck as you try to keep it respectful number one and number two keep the kids out of it. It would be best. Carlee Simon appreciates your time today best of luck in the days ahead.

SIMON: Thank you.

KING: Ahead for us more on the COVID dynamic including hospitalizations. Now more than tripled, more than tripled what they were just a week ago. Texas running out of ICU beds and the Fed say they're sending ventilators to Florida.



KING: We're going to take a closer look now at COVID hospitalizations which are at their highest level since back in February, back before vaccines became widely available. More than 73,000 Americans more than 73,000 hospitalized with COVID-19 right now.

More than one in five ICU beds across the country occupied by a COVID patient, problem, no coincidence, greatest in states with the lowest vaccination rates. Let's walk through some of the numbers. Number one, it's just the trajectory of the case count.

116,000 plus new COVID infections yesterday, that's six times higher, six times higher than a month ago. And when you have cases going up that's because of this community spread. The CDC says that nearly 99 percent of Americans just shy of 99 percent live in communities with either high or substantial community spread.

That's why the CDC says if you're in one of those communities, most of them read that's high spread, you should wear a mask even indoors, even if you're vaccinated just to protect yourself. With higher cases and high community spread comes this 73,300 Americans hospitalized with COVID yesterday, that's more than 3.5 times where we were just one month ago when it was 19,644.

At this point, let's bring into the conversation for his insights and expertise Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University Dr. Reiner grateful for your time. The numbers, the raw numbers look bleak. But we were talking right before we came on the air. And you actually see perhaps a few glimmers of some progress out there.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE & SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Yes hi, John. First of all, I think the rate of growth in the United States, even though cases continue to increase, the rate of increase looks like it's starting to slow.

And if you look at the first places in the United States to get slammed with Delta, let's look specifically at Missouri. You look at case - new cases there, it looks like they've almost started to decline now and same thing for Nevada.

So I think some of our earlier states are starting to see a drop off. And when you look outside the United States to places like the United Kingdom, and India, what you see there is that this Delta surge started to drop after about two months. And that's where and we're about at the two month mark now for places like Missouri and Nevada.

So I starting to think that perhaps there is some reason to hope that in another three to four weeks, we'll start to see the United States peak and then perhaps start to decline.

KING: I certainly hope you're right. And one thing the administration says is it's not where they would like it yet, but they do say there's an increase in the vaccination rate. And it's now gotten up over 500,000 people a day. And they think that would help at some point.

I want to come back to this hospitalization issue where we have right now. 73,300 people in the hospital with COVID and if I bring up this map here, the darker is the more dangerous. This is the percentage of ICU patients COVID-19 patients across the country fill 21 percent of ICU beds.

But if you see the deepest darkest colors here 25 percent or more of the beds, South Carolina, Georgia, all across the Southeast to Texas, no accident, right that you have higher hospitalization, higher use of the ICU, in these states where if I bring the vaccination map back up, that's where you also find the lowest vaccination rate.

REINER: Yes, that's right. And in fact, if you look at the worst 10 states, now for new cases, they're all in the south, they all have a below average vaccination rates. But the surge in ICU cases has actually nationwide consequences because as I ICUs fill up, the capacity to care for patients fills up.

Particularly, the ability to find qualified ICU nurses becomes harder and harder. And states like Texas and Florida have started searching throughout the United States, for traveling nurses to fill these gaps. And that has led to a nationwide shortage of ICU nurses all around the country to fill these gaps in these high COVID surge areas.

KING: And again, we're having you know, in Texas, for example, the governor says delay elective surgeries, which is the right thing to do. When you have a COVID surge you need those beds for COVID patients. But we've talked about this through the prior surges that then have a domino effect on quality of care for people with other illnesses, right? REINER: Right. We see elective procedures delayed. You know, during the worst of the first couple of surges, we actually saw a sudden cardiac death rates go up around the country. We think people delayed cardiac care.

And what happens when a hospital starts to fill their ICU, they need to use other venues in the hospital, and they need to use other hospital personnel to take care of these patients. You know, here in D.C. for about two months, we had canceled elective cases at the beginning - at the very beginning of the pandemic.

We're seeing that happen now in the worst parts of this country now during the surge. It has very impactful, negatively impactful consequences on communities when people can, you know, get their heart catheterizations. They can't get their bypass surgeries.