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CNN: Biden to Require all Federal Workers be Vaccinated; LA: Expected to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Eligible Students; Fauci: Need to get Daily COVID Cases Below 10K; Democrats Divide on Price Tag, Scope of Biden Agenda; Today: Big Fight for Biden Agenda Begins. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Today, a big back to school vote the nation's second largest public school district, Los Angeles plans to mandate COVID shots for eligible students.

And tonight, the president hits the reset button again, on his pandemic strategy. Big new changes include a strict vaccine mandate for all federal workers. Plus important action today on the sweeping Biden domestic agenda but still a big obstacle to getting to the finish line a democratic divides over its price.

And calling the families the fallen service members seeking revenge in Republican primaries, more election lies, even color commentary for a boxing match get this on 9/11. Just what is Donald Trump up to? But we begin this hour with big COVID news. A call for vaccine requirements from the president and from the nation's second largest school district President Biden tonight delivers a big speech with several new pandemic initiatives.

And CNN has told one of them is a requirement that all federal workers get vaccinated with no option for frequent testing to get around that mandate. The big school shift is out in Los Angeles, its school board both later today on a COVID vaccine mandate for all eligible students. It would make Los Angeles the first major public school district in the country with such a mandate.

Our Stephanie Elam is standing by for us live in Los Angeles. Let's begin though with CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House on a very big day for the president Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, President Biden, as you said he will be signing executive orders trying to reset the conversation on this fight against COVID-19. He is going to be though, making some tough requirements for federal workers all those who are not vaccinated.

He gave them the option about six weeks or so ago, saying it will now be required. And that is employees here at the White House across federal agencies and the military. It does not include the congressional branch of government or the judicial branch as well.

But it's some 4 million people here. So John, the president is doing what he can to require federal workers to get vaccinated but also trying to send a signal to school districts, like you said out in Los Angeles as well as the private sector. That is how the White House believes they can still put a dent into this stubborn fight against COVID-19 having businesses require their employees.

But John the bottom line here is the president also trying to boost his bottom line. His approval rating has fallen over the last six weeks over the summer. They're trying to get control of this pandemic John.

KING: And then a very critical time back to school. And on that point Jeff Zeleny, thank you. Let's head out to Stephanie Elam live for us in Los Angeles, Stephanie, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest public school district in the country, that's a big step.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRSPONDENT: It's a very big deal if it happens today. What we're expecting to find out today is that the Board of Education is holding a meeting that they just put together to vote on this very idea. And what they would like to do is require all students 12 and older to be vaccinated to be on campus and they then want everyone to be vaccinated by the time they get back to school in January for the second semester.

They say they do have a lot of hurdles getting people vaccinated. But they do believe they can do that. Take a listen to one board member as she talks about this.


TANYA ORTIZ FRANKLIN, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD MEMBER: We anticipate at least 150,000 vaccine doses needing to be administered potentially more depending on the information we're getting from our students and families. But we have the doses in LA County and we have the staff capacity, and the time and a week by week plan working with our school staff and our community partners to get this done by the end of first semester.


ELAM: And they also have plans for people as these children turn 12 that they get their first shot within 30 days of their birthday, the next shot within eight weeks of their birthday. And they're saying for their 600,000 students, that go to more than 1000 schools that this is necessary.

And as we all know, John, people want their children to go to school and they're saying that this is the safest way to do it. And they've been on the forefront of this because already they are testing all of their students and all of their employees every single week regardless of vaccination.

So it's not that much of a surprise. We will find out that this is what they're going to do this afternoon at 5 pm Eastern Time.

KING: Remarkable. It's a giant public health challenge, a logistical challenge, if you will. We'll see what the political fallout is from it? Stephanie Elon, grateful for live reporting we'll keep on top of that vote later today.

Let's bring into the conversation right now on that point, Dr. Carlos del Rio. He's the Executive Associate Dean at the Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Del Rio grateful for your time on this day. Let's start out in California.

You just heard Stephanie Elam; the nation's second largest school district appears poised to have a vaccine mandate. I have the map of California. Up on the map Los Angeles County included in the counties with high transmission. The CDC says you should be wearing a mask even indoors in this situation. That's just Los Angeles.

We all have lived through this in the last several weeks. These are the cases among children spiking dramatically just as we hit back to school season more than a quarter of a million new cases should other school districts be copying what appears to be about to happen in Los Angeles public schools districts mandating vaccines for everyone who is eligible?


DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: John, I think so I think this will be a good public policy and public health. We - this is not the first time that we have vaccine mandates in schools or many vaccines that are required for children to go to school throughout the nation. So I think it'll just make a lot of sense.

I think the biggest challenge we have right now is that children - 12 are not eligible for vaccination. So until that happens, which would probably be is later this year or early next year, we have to get everybody around them 12 and older, be vaccinated, because if we don't do that, we will continue seeing transmission.

And the number of cases in children, as you say, has really spiked throughout the country. And more, you know, more concerning is the number of hospitalizations among children, it's also spiked.

KING: Right. And so as you get that action in a big city and a big school district, in the Los Angeles area out there, the president's going to speak to the country again tonight to try to reset reinvigorate, if you will, the national response to the COVID pandemic.

We know the president is going to call for more vaccinations for those who are still unvaccinated and try to re-energize the public campaign to say, hey, please roll up your sleeves, get a shot. He's also going to talk about boosters for those of us who are vaccinated and put a priority on keeping schools open and a priority on getting more COVID testing so we have better eyes on the problem situation today and more masking. As you listen to the president's priorities is there one thing he must do a better job at? Or is it a combination that we need?

DR. RIO: It's really a combination of things. We have learned throughout this pandemic that is not one strategy, but multiple strategies that make a difference. Vaccinations clearly have changed dramatically. What happens to people that is vaccinated versus those that are not vaccinated.

So again, getting more people vaccinated has to be a priority. I'm concerned that the number of people vaccinated, it has slowed down again. And I think there's a - there's a certain percentage of the population that no matter what we do are not going to get vaccinated. So that's where mandates and other requirements are going to be important.

But masking again, very important, you know, we have politicized mask, and we should not mask clearly have powerful role to play. But I do think that one thing that we have, significantly underused, utilize throughout pandemic is testing and particularly rapid testing.

And I think getting more testing into the hands of people and getting affordable testing into the house, hands on people so they can use them. It's a very important strategy. And I'm disappointed that we currently don't have rapid tests that people can afford and can use readily throughout the nation.

KING: Right. And so I don't like to get the doctors involved in politics, but the president has a giant public health speech today. And a lot of it does collide with politics. And by that, I just want to go through the math. The president says all the public health experts say priority number one is if you do not have a vaccine, please help yourself, and help your neighbors help your community get a vaccine.

But if you look at the map right here, the states where you have the low vaccination rate, you're in Georgia, Dr. Del Rio, its 43 percent, Alabama, Mississippi in the 40s. You go out to the west out here in to Idaho in the late 40s. The states that have the lowest vaccination rates tend to be the states that were not carried, or in George's case, just barely carried by the current President of the United States.

So the question is do you have a receptive audience? And this is what fascinates me is where we are right now in terms of fully vaccinated? Most of those over the age 65 82 percent now is the full vaccination rate. But if you're talking about people who are either going back to school, 16, 17 year olds, college age kids 18 to 24, less than half of the population fully vaccinated.

People now being told it's time to go back to the office, if you're not already there. 25 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 64, maybe going to college football games, the NFL opens this weekend.

How Dr. Del Rio is the president deal with that? And if you look at the communities that are way behind in rolling up their sleeves eligible, but if you had to get a shot, they are the people going back to school, whether it's lower school colleges, or getting back into group settings like the office, how do you convince them?

DR. RIO: Well, I think you're absolutely right, I think that he needs to provide leadership. But leadership in this pandemic has to be bipartisan. You need to have Democrats and Republican leaders throughout the country, say this message and provide this message and consistent message. This virus doesn't discriminate if you're a Democrat or Republican.

We need to use a part of bipartisan approach. And I think that's one of the other things that we have not had throughout the pandemic. You know, we see people like Dr. Fauci who's had served Republican and Democratic administrations and his message hasn't changed.

So we need everybody on board and we need Republicans and Democrats to have a clear strategy and communicated consistently and regularly with to their constituents because otherwise we're not going to make the progress we need.

KING: I'm hopeful, I'm skeptical but I would hope that you're right. And maybe someday we get people talking on the same page, regardless of political party. Dr. Del Rio grateful for your time. Just one quicker slide I will show our viewers as we wait for the president tonight.

Here's the challenge for the President of the United States. You know if you go back when he took office 194,000 cases a day, a big drop, we got to a low of 11,000 cases on average a day but look where we are right now more than 150,000 cases a day - COVID cases day.

This is why the president has decided he needs to ask the country again to do more and to try to shake up the administration's strategy. This is the president's challenge tonight. Also just today and even right now there's big action on the Biden domestic agenda.


KING: Five House Committees are writing the details of that life changing spending plan. But will the Senate accept the $3.5 trillion price tag? We'll ask a key Senate liberal how he would win over reluctant moderates.


KING: Today a new chapter in the fight for the Biden agenda and really the fight for the Biden Presidency action on Capitol Hill this morning. Five House Committees right now working their way through the pieces of what they call the reconciliation bill. That's a big spending bill.

Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill and CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. Manu the action is proof of progress yet there are some significant roadblocks to come.

[12:15:00] MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are major differences between the House and the Senate within the Senate Democratic Caucus divisions over the price tag divisions over the policy and they have to get resolved those disagreements, the Democratic leaders hope by next week.

The idea is to put together one proposal in each chamber by September 15th. That is what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the leaders of the Democratic Caucus in each chamber have said they want to get done. But at that point is still an open question.

Whether the votes will ultimately be there? The hope of on Democrats in the House is to push it through in the narrow majority that they have by the end of the month and then see if it can get done in the Senate where there is a 50/50 Senate and any one Democratic Senator if he/she were to defect could derail this bill.

And a lot of attention is on Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrats who was raised concerns that the $3.5 trillion price tag and also has raised concerns about a whole host of other issues. The expansiveness of the child tax credit, the climate provisions that are in there, and it's indicated he wants changes.

So can they placate the moderates? Keep the progressives in line; get it all through by the end of the month, big questions and big weeks ahead?

KING: Very, very big. So some progress today, but the buts, we'll keep focusing on the buts. Manu I appreciate the live reporting. And on that point, let's bring into our conversation the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey Senator Markey, grateful for your time today.

So let's just right now, let me start. It's a 50/50 Senate. Joe Manchin says 3.5 trillion is too big. He wants 1.5 trillion; you can't pass this bill without his vote. Put Ed Markey in a room one-on-one with Joe Manchin, what would you say? And would you accept if he says 1.5? Could you do two? Can you do 2.2? Or do you need 3.5?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MS): First, I would say that I'd rather be talking to Joe Manchin every day of the week and twice on Sunday, then a Republican at this time, because Joe is a good Democrat, Joe does actually believe in climate change. He believes in the social safety net that we have in our country.

He doesn't want to cut it, he wants to see it, expand it. So I guess that what we have to do is to work with him to make it bigger than 1.5 trillion. I mean, my hope was that it would be much bigger; I supported $6 trillion, as the package.

But I think as you go through each one of the individual items, whether it be childcare, or community college, or a free pre-K for every child in our country, or the ability to create millions of new jobs in a clean energy economy, I think we can make the case to Senator Manchin, that this really is a great opportunity for West Virginia, for the citizens of West Virginia. KING: So let me - let me jump in and say, let's say you have some success there. And Joe Manchin says, OK, I can go to 2.5, maybe 2.6, you have some friends on the House progressive side, especially on the climate issue, but another progressive issue, some of them helped you out back in your primary campaign, when you're running for re- election?

Are you willing to walk to the other side of the Capitol and say, you all keep saying 3.5 trillion is already a compromise, we won't go any lower? Hey, guess what? We got to go to 2.6?

MARKEY: Well, you know, this is a multi-dimensional political chess game that we are in right now. But it's all amongst Democrats. And obviously, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the House and in the Senate, I'm part of it are pushing for the highest possible number.

And I think the times justify that, given what we've lived through over the last couple of years, and given what we've just seen with Hurricane IDA? What we've seen with the forest fires on in California, we know that we have to respond to the climate crisis in each one of these plans that we have in place is part of a massive job creation program for our country.

And so yes, I think the left is going to continue to push on part of that. And ultimately out of this, my hope is that we can find a way in which we make the number significantly bigger than 1.5 trillion, and that all Democrats can come together, I think the times call for it. And I think the Democrats ultimately will come together to reach that goal.

KING: You've served in the House in prior - earlier in your career, the margin there for Nancy Pelosi is you can count on a hand the number of votes she has to spare, I think I lose a finger and that's the number of votes she has to spare. You have no votes to spare in the Senate. What should the president be doing and what is he doing, if anything that we don't see publicly to move this along?

MARKEY: Well, I know that his top staff is in ongoing negotiations by the hour with all of the key parties including the Committee Chairs in the House and the Senate to resolve these disputes. And ultimately, this is Joe Biden's plan. This is Joe Biden's legacy.


MARKEY: So they're in obviously trying to resolve the difference between the House and Senate to try to make the number as big as possible to try to ensure that Joe Manchin is on board. And at the end of the day, I think it's a pathway for the Democrats to hold on to the House and Senate in 2022 and ultimately, to hold on to the presidency in 2024. There's a lot on the line. And Democrats ultimately, in my opinion, are going to come together.

KING: If there's so much on the line, and you have the optimism, Democrats will come together. Just give me your crystal ball. Ed Markey believes that yes, they will come together, Joe Manchin will make peace with the progressive caucus in the house, there will be a bill in a couple of weeks, and the final price tag will be what?

MARKEY: Well, I will predict that the Red Sox are going to win the World Series this year. OK. I will give you - I will make that prediction.

KING: I can't argue - I'm not going to argue with you on that but let's 2.6, 2.8 or 3 trillion?

MARKEY: You know, the answer, my friend is blowing in the wind. But I know that Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are working very hard to make it the highest possible historical number. And Bernie Sanders and the progressive caucus in the House are going to be pushing to make it the highest possible number as am.

I - I'm - I remain an optimist, that ultimately, this program is going to be good for every Democrat, to be able to support it at the end of the day.

KING: Right, the danger of mixing metaphors and mixing sports in honor of the Patriots Dolphins' game this weekend Senator that's a punt, but I get it. I understand difficult days ahead. Appreciate your time, Sir Ed Markey of Massachusetts, very much.

MARKEY: Thank you.

KING: We'll keep in touch throughout this conversation. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights "POLITICO's Laura Barron-Lopez, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast" Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times" and variant is the issue. He's not going to give you a number, because this is so difficult. But to his point, everything is at stake here, right?

He's capsulate that quite well. The fate of the Biden agenda, what did Democrats have to talk about going into the midterm elections or does it at all collapse? That will be settled in the next two weeks?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It will but I thought his one of the first things he said when you started the interview was he said I would rather be talking to Joe Manchin every day than a Republican, which is I think, what you're hearing from Democrats, who is the message to progressives.

Like listen, without these guys, we don't really have anyone to talk to at the end of the day, and as frustrated as they get with Joe Manchin and his demands, who won't get everything he wants, but it will probably get quite a bit of what he wants. This is - that is the price you pay to have a 50/50 majority, right?

KING: And so the list of what they want the Democrats want is long. And the question is that it's the number - the number matters, because how much you can spend means how much can you do? How much can you change? How much do you have to pare back your goals?

There's child tax credit universal pre-K tuition, free community college corporate tax hikes to help pay for climate change policies. There's even more than that. Those are the concerns laid out by Joe Manchin on some of these issues. So listen, this is Jim Clyburn, the number three in the House who wants to get it done, understands progressive, say 3.5 trillion or more, but he says--


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): 3.5 trillion it's just that a ceiling. No one has ever said that. That's an exact number or that's a floor. I think that there's a lot of room for people to sit down and negotiate. It may be when you're sitting around the table you may not need 3.5 trillion to do what the president wants done.


KING: I think it had been said before, but just in case Rashida Talib tweeting after that interview 3.5 trillion is the floor. This is the issue. You see there. The number three a key deputy of Nancy Pelosi moving away, moving closer to Joe Manchin, the progressive say, oh, no, no, no, what happens?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And the price tag here also has a direct connection to the policy that's at stake here for the White House, right? I mean, you know, the president just yesterday issues a blueprint for relying on solar energy.

Well, guess what, it's still unclear how much the White House is willing to push that through regulations through a unilateral process? They are going to need guess what the reconciliation package for much of these climate policies. And that area is what Joe Manchin is saying he wants to be scoped down here. So there's policy at stake here as well.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And in addition to not just Manchin's demands right now, there's also a debate going on amongst Democrats about what health care provisions are going to go in this package?

So there's leadership in the House which wants to make permanent expanded subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, but progressives want Sanders' proposal, which is to expand Medicare benefits for hearing dental and vision and that's something that he worked really hard on winning Biden, over on.

KING: Breaking a lot of eggs is messy. Sometimes you get a nice omelet at the end. We will see if that's what happens here. We shall see. Up next for us, a snapshot in time Donald Trump, heaping praise on a Confederate General and scorn on Republicans who voted to impeach him?



KING: Donald Trump is having a scattershot week and he clearly wants some attention. Most days we ignore him because most of his statements are rich with lies and we frankly don't want to waste your time. But he has a big rally in Iowa this weekend and there's a big fundraiser for House Republicans on the books.