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NYC Public Schools Return To In-Person Learning; HHS: Kids Hospitalized With COVID-19 More Than Double In Six Months; CNN Poll: Majority Of Americans Support Vaccine Mandates In Order To Attend School & Work; Joe Manchin: Democrats Spending Bill "Not Going To Be" $3.5 Trillion; Today: Biden Campaigns With Newsom Day Before Polls Close. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing what is a very, very busy news day with us.

The Democrats collide over the Biden agenda and over its price tag. There are major decisions coming this week both sides now publicly digging in for how big that package should be? Today, Joe Biden makes a final hours campaign pitch for the California Governor.

Tomorrow voters decide if Gavin Newsom stays or if he goes? And even before the votes are counted the top Republican insists the outcome is rigged. And the Former President Donald Trump sends it - spends an American day of reflection pitching his big lie assault on American democracy.

Our new poll numbers find Republicans do still see Trump as their leader. But many are clearly worried the 2024 run would bring another defeat.

To begin the hour though, with the COVID crisis and the nation's biggest back to school challenge New York City today right now 1 million students back in the classroom for full time in person learning. This is experts say there is hope vaccines will be authorized for kids aged five to 11 by Halloween.

There is a vaccine mandate for teachers in New York but the deadline is not by today. CNN's Polo Sandoval is tracking this very big day for us in New York City, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good afternoon to you. Those students are well into that first day of classes it is important to remind viewers that some parents did decide to take the city's offer up on actually sending their kids to school for in person teaching just in the last semester here.

But what's different now is that remote learning that we've all seen and experienced already for the last year and a half that is no longer being offered by the New York Department of Education so safe to assume that.

As you mentioned that close to a million students had in fact a class earlier this morning here in the school district rather the city and the Department of Education have been working for the last 18 months to try to reassure parents, students and staff that it is in fact safe to come back in this pandemic era of teaching that includes boosting their PP supplies at campuses, those EPA air purifiers, at least two of them installed or at least put in place in most of those classrooms.

And as we heard today Mayor Bill de Blasio, also no steps overlooked ahead of today's big, big return to class.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: It's coming to school today all across the city are going to experience a gold standard of health and safety measures. And as everyone knows, in the coming days, every single adult in our schools is going to be vaccinated.


SANDOVAL: So remember, teachers at this school system have until September 27th to actually get at least that first shot in terms of where they stand right now about three quarters of them so far have been gotten at least that first shot.

About 65 percent of students ages 12 to 17 have also at least that one shot starting this week and also expecting to see a hundreds of locations vaccination locations at actual school campuses. So make sure that those students who are eligible who can't get that vaccine can actually get it there.

But you mentioned at the top too, John that news that there is high hopes that some of those students will be able to get that shot the younger ones before Halloween parents certainly watching that as they send their kids back to school today.

KING: Multiple experiments beginning today in New York City. Let's hope this school year goes well. Polo Sandoval grateful for the live reporting. Let me show you some of the numbers driving the Coronavirus crisis right now.

If you look at the case count, there is some evidence perhaps at least a leveling off of new COVID infections. On Sunday - sometimes the numbers go down over the weekend. So we need to be careful. But on Sunday 144,316 new infections for you do see if you go back a few days and see the lines way up here above 150,000.

You do see a bit of a tapering off let's hope that continues. But 144,000 yesterday one year ago, it was 34,000. So even if we have a plateau or a slow tapering off, we are in a much dire situation that we were one year ago. Hospitalizations per 100,000 residents in your states you do not want to be dark green, look at Alabama. Look at Georgia. Look at Florida.

Look at Kentucky, the highest hospitalization rate in the country right now or per capita. And what about children as we go back to school, New York now back 1 million students many school districts already back. There are 2,251 American children in the hospital with COVID-19. Six months ago, that number was 969.

On this point, let's bring him to share his insights and his expertise. Dr. David Kimberlin, the Co-Director of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Doctor appreciate your time. I understand you're just finishing your rounds and joining us.

You are living this firsthand. You have seven children in your ICU. As we watched back to school and we deal with masks debates and we deal with the Delta variant. Just tell me what that's like seven children. How high is that compared to say a month ago six months ago?

DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, CO-DIRECTOR, UAB PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION: It's much higher than what we've been seeing in the past. And the numbers while perhaps the total number of new cases is slowing down. The important thing is we're still having new cases.


DR. KIMBERLIN: And as these children are coming in, many of them is requiring intensive care support. Many of them are on ventilators. They're on ECMO, which is the heart lung bypass machine. This is really ravaging children right now across our region. And I fear ultimately, it may spread even further across the United States with this new Delta variant.

KING: And as we watch this play out, Doctor, I just won't bring up the vaccine map of the country right now. You're in Alabama, 40 percent; West Virginia and Wyoming are just below 40 percent. Those are the three states that are at the back of the pack, if you will, when it comes to fully vaccinating their populations.

If you look at vaccination by age, this is why the back to school conversation and your Intensive Care Unit right now becomes so important. Age 12/15 those who are eligible to be vaccinated only 40 percent vaccinated 16 to 17 again, school aged children only 49 percent vaccinated how important is it that the vaccine message get out not just to everybody, but especially right now at this back to school moment for teenagers and college age kids?

DR. KIMBERLIN: It's critical. You know if you're 12 and over, roll up your sleeves and get the vaccine that ultimately as the way that we move through this. And I would add with that we also need to have the layered kind of approach that I believe Mayor de Blasio was mentioning, and that is to have masks for all children, all children in schools vaccinated or not what no matter what their age is and first, the staff and teachers also to be masked well in school. If we do a layered kind of approach, including air circulation and HIPAA filters and so forth, we can do this safely. But you've got it - you got to start out at the bloc strong. In Alabama, for instance, we had 30 percent of all of our school system starting with a mask mandate. That was a month ago, we went back to school.

We now have 90 percent of our school systems with a masks mandate because masking works and if you don't have masking, you're going to have a problem.

KING: Dr. Kimberlin grateful for your time and insight, stay grateful for your emphasis on that key point. The CDC Director saying adjust today three times more cases COVID cases in places that are not masking their children in schools in places that do mask their children's school.

But as we have learned selling mask and vaccine mandates is a giant political challenge. Our new CNN SSRS poll, for example, asked if vaccine mandates for everyday activities going to work going to school attending a sporting event or a concert. Is that an acceptable way to boost vaccinations? Or do you view it as an unacceptable infringement on your personal rights?

Well, take a look at this. The country is split 51 percent say vaccine mandates are an acceptable way to boost vaccinations across the country. But nearly half of you again look at that. 51 -- 49 percent say it is an unacceptable intrusion on their rights. And so let's break it down by party. Should we require vaccines for everyday activities?

Well, Democrats 80 percent - Democrats say that's acceptable. But look at this. Only 23 percent of Republicans say that 77 percent of Republicans say no, that is unacceptable. And among independents, the middle of the electorate becomes critical.

As we move into the midterm elections. 44 percent say acceptable, but 56 percent majority in the middle say unacceptable. So here's the challenge. If you're a Republican Governor like Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, your state is lagging behind in vaccinations. He's actually pushing people to get vaccinated. He says when a Democratic President mandates vaccines, it's counterproductive.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (D-AR): We have to overcome resistance. This is a very serious, deadly virus. And we're all together in trying to get an increased level of activation out in the population. The problem is that I'm trying to overcome resistance but the president's actions in a mandate harden the resistance.


KING: Here with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights Seung Min Kim, White House Reporter for "The Washington Post" Claudia Grisales, Congressional Reporter for NPR, and Jonathan Martin, the National Political Correspondent for "The New York Times". You hear Governor Hutchinson there, and it's fascinating, actually, if you look at the polling, and we can come back to this poll here. Number one, a Democratic President telling Republicans to get a vaccine and then saying I'm going to mandate it causes a reaction.

You see here, 77 percent of Republicans, they oppose that. This is interesting especially we get closer to the midterms 56 percent of independents say that is an unacceptable intrusion on their right. So you see trouble for the president, both in his urging, and in his mandates for vaccines in the polling.

However, there's also some evidence that in our new poll, that the Delta variant and perhaps the president's talking about it, are moving numbers somewhat his way. Do you support vaccine mandates to attend school 55 percent of America? It's the majority.

What about work? 54 percent of Americans, it's a majority to attend sporting events 55 percent shop in the grocery store, you know, not quite there yet, but it's a plurality at 41 percent. So, in the big picture, the president is winning the argument, but in the smaller groups, the subsets he needs to convince most he's losing.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. Right and that's the point that Republican Governors have been trying to make that President Biden is effectively making their job for by issuing these mandates.


KIM: But I think in terms of whether that discourages you know, people at the end of the day, whether to get vaccinated or not? I do think the evidence is still out. And I think what was interesting was that some of the companies that have mandated vaccines for their employees, it has been successful in terms of getting their employees vaccinated.

I believe United Airlines did an interview with NPR recently, where they said, since they announced their requirement that more than 50 percent of their unvaccinated employees have gotten vaccinated. So if you take a look at kind of case studies like that, the overall goal that President Biden is trying to do, in some sense, mandates do work.

Now, does that apply in Alabama? Does that apply for other sectors? That's a question that has yet to be determined. But President Biden knows that defeating the COVID pandemic is going to be the central issue of his presidency and mandates. And vaccines are just such a huge part of that.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What's the oldest - the only way to do it, right? I think just to echo Seung Min's point there; this is some short term pain for Biden. Yes, there's going to be a backlash for you, from the White House mandate vaccine used across the country for every company to have more than 100 employees that's fairly inevitable in this polarized times so I can there is going to be short term backlash.

But as you were saying, Seung Min, this is a longer term play by the Biden White House and the play is this. We cannot break through politically, unless and until we have beaten this virus. That's all that matters - for them, they got to get past the virus and the only way to do that is the vaccine, if it means taking a hit for a few weeks or months. So be it - in 2022 the countries more vaccinated, they're in better shape.

KING: Well, it's a striking point, because right now you talk about the president taking the long term bet that if he can suppress COVID, you know, people will say thank you. People will say thank you, and he and the Democrats will be rewarded.

Just look at this map right here. The Republican Governors opposing the president's vaccine mandate. There are three the Governor of Vermont, the Governor of Massachusetts and the Governor of Maryland Republican Governors who are not on this map. Many Republicans would call them rhinos; they're more moderate centrist Republicans.

But this is also the Republicans are making a bet. Are they not when all of these Republican Governors say no to what the President says is the A, vital weapon right now in the fight against COVID? Are they not putting their risks on the line as well?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: I think there's a political calculation here for these Governors, they need to keep an eye on what their residents of their states are calling for. They don't want to be told what to do.

However, when it comes to their paychecks when it comes to their employers I think that is the real test. We see private employers requiring these vaccination requirements and seeing that uptick in employees who are complying because they want to keep their jobs.

And so it's a different test. But these Governors at the same time, they do have a political calculation here in terms of their party and the message they're sending.

KING: And it is - it is remarkable, I guess, not surprising given the polarization. But it is remarkable that red versus blue, that is just evitable in a public health crisis. We'll continue to track that. Up next for us, though it's a pivotal week for the Biden agenda House Democrats say 3.5 billion is the magic number, and they say they would raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it but a key Senate Democrat says that price tag has to shrink and shrink a lot.



KING: Several House Committees today continue work on their pieces of a sweeping $3.5 trillion Democratic spending plan. But a Senate showdown maybe slowdown is the better word is looming. Two key players they're speaking out Sunday and planting the flag in very different places. Take a listen first Senator Joe Manchin right here on CNN.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): He will not have my vote on 3.5 and Chuck knows that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But what's the overall number for a budget though?

MANCHIN: Well, I think you're going to have to look at it and find out what you're able to do through a reasonable responsible way.

BASH: So that you know that it's not 3.5?

MANCHIN: It's going to be one, one and a half. We don't know where it's going to be?

BASH: So you think ballpark one, one and half?

MANCHIN: It's going to be at three and a half. I can assure you.


KING: Just minutes later, Senator Bernie Sanders delivering this response.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): It is absolutely not acceptable to me. I don't think it's acceptable for the president, to the American people, or the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic Caucus. I believe we're going to all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families.


KING: How do you take a flag that's planted at 1.5 and a flag that's planted at 3.5? Normally, you just pick them up and split the difference? That's a traditional Washington compromise. But progressives like Bernie Sanders say, no, we're not willing to do that. So where do we go?

KIM: Right. And we might have to break the flagpoles at some point and try to merge them together in some sort of way. I mean, what the progressives will tell you is that $3.5 trillion is already a compromise. We heard the negotiations over earlier this year where they were floating around $6 trillion.

The problem for Senate Democrats is that they didn't get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema's buy in on that broader figure. They - so what the - what the center's had to do was say, OK, we're OK for now. But there's going to be a problem for us down the line.

I do think there's such a strong political imperative for Democrats to produce something through the reconciliation process by the end of the day, because they know this is going to be the major legislative accomplishment that they take home to their voters in advance of the midterms.

But how that is shaped is really unclear? There are very different ways to do it for example, I'm not quite sure where Senator Manchin is for example, on if you would it be OK, if most of this was paid for? Does that affected thinking on the one to 1.5 trillion figures?

But things are a lot of questions that they're facing right now and that Democrats are trying to kind of massage through on there.

KING: And you mentioned - you heard Senator Sanders. He says 3.5 and he would like it to be higher so he's trying to hold it right there. Progressives in the House are going even more so listen to Jamaal Bowman here Jonathan a House progressive who says look; this is what we campaigned on.


KING: This is what is urgently needed and we should be prepared to vote for it even if we lose.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): We have to go big right now in this moment. It's now or never when it comes to infrastructure and climate change, and Hurricane IDA proved that to be true. We cannot just be thinking about the needs of our district. We have to think about the future of the planet and the future of humanity.


KING: It is hard to convince any politician, Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. There's an election next year, you're on the ballot, it's a volatile climate, cast this vote even if even if you might get punished back home.

MARTIN: Yes. Well, and the question now becomes the folks like Mr. Bowman, start exerting the same kind of authority in the House, that Manchin and Sinema are on the Senate. If the house progressives hold together, that could really create challenges given the fact that Pelosi has said, by the end of this month, there is going to be a vote on the bipartisan bill on infrastructure.

What I think the political imperatives now are different than the start of the summer. I think that at the start of this summer, the president was above water and every sort of he's now blow water - percent in every survey. The pressure is now on him and his party to deliver. And I think it's going to be very difficult for Democrats to go home at the end of this year without giving him some kind of victory.

And that I think eventually is going to be the argument internally in Democratic politics is we can't deliver anything. We have to do something.

KING: But that same argument leads to what we see happening right now. And every time you wander the halls on Capitol Hill, I'm sure you encounter this. Everybody knows their vote is necessary. There's no votes despair in the Senate, three or four, maybe five votes despair in the House. And so everybody says I'll vote for it. If it has this has my pet project. Mark Warner, Senator of Virginia saying today he could vote against the 3.5 trillion budget package if money isn't added for housing assistance to close the racial wealth gap. That's one Senator there.

Again, every Senator every member of Congress has what they believe to be very legitimate concerns. There's also a question that could make this even more intense. Will the Senate parliamentarian allow the Democrats to put immigration reform in this reconciliation bill? It is complicated enough to begin with, you add that explosive issue and wow!

GRISALES: Exactly. They presented - the Democrats presented their side of the argument just this past Friday. So now we're waiting to hear what the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough will say? She's not letting us into her thinking.

However, I talked to her predecessor recently, Alan Freeman. And he said that this issue has not been litigated before this question of whether immigration can be inside a reconciliation bill? And so although hopes are very high for advocacy groups, it seems that the president is not there when it comes to including this.

And that will be a really large hit when we talk about all these members who have their eyes on certain targets of spending, not seeing immigration get in there.

KING: It's just - there's just so many different pieces of this. This is literally crunch time. We'll see more and we'll learn a lot this week. And then we'll go through --. Stay with us. It is complicated. But it's fascinating to follow. Up next for us, President Biden heading West right now, to help the California Governor Gavin Newsom we count the recall votes tomorrow and today, we'll map out what to look for.



KING: President Biden will join the California Governor Gavin Newsom tonight for the last big Democratic rally of the "Recall Campaign". Democrats including the Governor are upbeat and the president is welcome.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I couldn't be more blessed and honored that President Joe Biden here not only to have the backs of this campaign in its effort, but the backs of 40 million Californians.


KING: Now we fill in this map tomorrow night. It is great right now tomorrow we count votes. This is a recall election. Let me show you what the ballot looks like? There are two questions whether you're voting in person tomorrow whether you have early voted or whether you got to today maybe you cast your ballot on the last day and put it in the mail.

Question number one should the governor be recalled? That's a pretty simple question. Yes or no and that's what will count tomorrow night first keep Newsom or recall Newsom. That is the key vote. Can the Governor stay?

If you vote yes you have the option Governor Newsom says don't even bother vote no and skip this. But if California voters decide to recall their Governor then there are 40 plus candidates Gavin Newsom is not among them to replace it. So that is the question there.

But this is California Democrats are upbeat because if you look at the ballots returned so far, number one, they have a two to one voter registration advantage the Democrats do. The ballots are coming back 52 percent Democratic 25 percent Republican so even bigger than the two to one rapid.

This is from political data - a firm that tracks voting. They work mostly with Democrats and independent groups, but we trust the data. So Democrats think the ballots returned so far, look in their favor. At this point let's bring in to discuss from the Golden State CNN's Jeff Delany and Seema Mehta of "The Los Angeles Times".

Seema walkthrough number one, why that two to one Democratic advantage even bigger than back in 18 years ago when we got Arnold Schwarzenegger is so important? As you do just very quickly, I just want to show go back to 2020.

And the presidential race Joe Biden wins California with 63 percent of the vote. Now go back to 2018 when Gavin Newsom is elected Governor 62 percent of the vote. Democrats have a huge advantage. The question is are voters so mad that enough Democrats vote yes or stay home right?

SEEMA MEHTA, POLITICAL WRITER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: I mean, Democrats have an enormous voting advantage in California because there are5 million more Democrats and Republicans in the state.