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Pfizer: COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 5-11 is Safe & Effective; Poll: 25 Percent of Parents Say They Are "Definitely Not" Getting Their Children Aged 5-11 Vaccinated; Foreign Policy Turmoil Dogs Biden Ahead of U.N. Speech; Democrats Unlikely to Get Immigration in Budget Proposal; WSJ: Trump Looks for Challenger to Depose McConnell. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. This morning important pandemic news for parents coast to coast; Pfizer says its vaccine is safe and effective for kids as young as five.

Today the start of a trip wire week for the Biden Presidency. The president's first speech to the United Nations comes after big foreign policy dust ups and a trillion plus dollar divide between Democrats threatens to stop the Biden domestic agenda dead in its tracks.

Plus new and sobering CNN pictures from the border; thousands of Haitian migrants living in a makeshift refugee camp under a bridge. The Biden plan is to send them home. We begin though with the Coronavirus and two giant developments.

The White House today announcing it will lift COVID travel restrictions and allow fully vaccinated international visitors into the United States starting in November, more on that big news in a moment. First, though, welcome news for parents.

This morning, Pfizer releasing trial results it says show its COVID vaccine is safe and highly effective in children ages 5 to 11. Pfizer says it will now submit that data to the government and apply for emergency authorization by the end of the month. If that FDA review goes smoothly some 28 million children could be eligible for vaccination by Halloween or soon after.


DR. BILL GRUBER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PFIZER VACCINE CLINICAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT: We're hopeful and expectant that the FDA will approve the vaccine based on the data we have. The level of antibody the vaccine is generating in children 5 to 11 matches the level of antibody that we know provides protection for individuals 16 years of age and older.


KING: With us to share his insights and expertise about this important development Dr. William Schaffner. He's a Professor Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Schaffner grateful for your time today!

I have a 10 year old so this news is important to me. When you hear what Pfizer is saying based on its study, it says this is - it's the same two dose approach a smaller dosage about a third of the dose because you're dealing with younger children. Any red flags to you or do you think this is on a clear path for emergency use authorization in a matter of weeks?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBELT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well John, you and many other parents have been looking forward to this. We've been looking forward to it. We've just seen the announcement. We haven't seen all the data. But let's assume that the data support what's in the announcement.

And yes, I would think that the Food and Drug Administration would give an emergency use authorization for this vaccine to be used in 5 to 11 year olds, and we hope the CDC would follow that with their own recommendations.

And yes, as your setup piece said, maybe by Halloween or shortly thereafter, we could start vaccinating children 5 to 11. Now mind you, we still have many children 12 and older already improved that hadn't been vaccinated. We've got to do that work right now while we prepare for the younger youngsters soon.

KING: But let's take a deeper look at that because you're raising an important point. Game changing, game changing anyway, your children cannot get vaccinated against this Coronavirus but all the more so because we have seen this spike in cases among kids 243,000 cases alone in a single week ending September 9th.

You see at the top there, a little bit of a drop in the recent days. But still that is a perilously high caseload. You also see hospitalizations among children it's the smallest numbers this month today, Dr. Schaffner down to 2078 children, but above 2000 going back to the end of July and throughout August into September just troubling so many children in the hospital with COVID.

But you mentioned the fully vaccinated Americans fully vaccinated older Americans rushing out to get vaccinated but we come down here 12 to 15 year olds, they're eligible only 42 percent. 16 to 17 year olds, only 50 percent even 18 to 24 only 51 percent. What do you think Dr. Schaffner is driving this vaccine hesitancy among these are parents, especially the 12 to 15 year old saying, I'm not ready to do this yet, even though it's authorized.

DR. SCHAFFNER: We've got two groups out there. The group of parents, for example, that are very eager to have their children vaccinated. And then the other groups of parents who may not be vaccinated themselves are saying I'm not so sure. And it's clear that the unvaccinated continue to drive this outbreak, just as you say. Our children's hospitals in Tennessee and many others across the country have been a bit strained because children are becoming infected seriously, with COVID. We can prevent this with safe and effective vaccines.

KING: So what's the way to break through if you look at a poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation went out this over the summer and they asked will you get your child aged 5 to 11 vaccinated when that vaccine is available? That could be now just a month or so down the line.

26 percent of parents say right away, you tell me it's authorized. I'll get it done. 40 percent say wait and see. So there's some hesitancy there 9 percent only if the school requires a 25 percent say definitely not.


KING: What should public health professionals right now, what should the government doing right now Dr. Schaffner, what should Pfizer be doing right now to try to address this hesitancy to say, yes, this will be emergency use authorization. But this is safe, it has been tested.

DR. SCHAFFNER: Every pediatrician and family doctor in the country should be talking to every set of parents that they see about the importance of vaccination. 12 and up right now, 5 to 11 coming up down the road very quickly, get them reassured and comfortable, that this is really an important thing to do for their children and their whole families.

And in the meantime, have all the adults who are associated with those children vaccinated that will help protect them also.

KING: I just want to put up the latest national case count right now as I asked you the next question. You see 147,179 cases Sunday that's essentially where we were one month ago, it went up a little bit. We do seem to be at - let's call this the beginning of a plateau maybe coming down. Let's hope the data continues to go that way.

At least plateau but still a very high level Dr. Schaffner, which is why we were having the booster debate on a separate vaccination debate issue last week. The FDA did not green light boosters for air all adults, but it did green light boosters for those above the age of 60. Listen to Dr. Collins at NIH. He says he believes it will be everybody soon enough.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NIH DIRECTOR: They weren't convinced yet that the data required this for younger individuals who aren't at high risk. But I think some of the data we're seeing coming in, especially from Israel, tells me that it's likely that they will get to that point. But this was a start.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Why - why do you believe just the one step, the more limited step and not a blanket all adults get a booster?

DR. SCHAFFNER: Well, the FDA Committee and I think the CDC Committee is thinking the same way. Let's rifle this rather than shotgun it. And they want a direct attention to those who need it the most, and not take too much of our bandwidth away from trying to vaccinate people who hadn't gotten their first dose.

And in addition, they were a little cautious about safety data in the youngest part of that age group. So more data will come along and perhaps Dr. Collins is correct that in the future, there'll be a booster and all of our futures. But at the moment, let's focus on the people who needed the most who are vaccinated first and are still at the highest risk.

KING: Dr. Schaffner always sir grateful for your time and your expertise. We will continue this conversation in the days ahead but thank you today. And more now on the giant pandemic policy change relating to international travel. Beginning of November, the White House will allow foreign visitors into the United States if they can prove they have been vaccinated.

The change will end more than a year-long policy of restricting travel from Europe, Iran and China. Let's get straight to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly with these big details. Phil, these changes long sought especially by the Europeans coming as the president person have a begun bit of a controversial week on the global stage.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, rather timely when you look at everything else that's going around, along with President Biden at this point in time as it pertains to perform policy, particularly as it pertains to European allies.

Look, this is something that has been a significant point of tension between the U.S. and European allies for several months now, particularly as European countries started to surpass the United States in vaccination rates.

The applicability of that travel ban, particularly to those nations was simply as one foreign diplomat told me completely nonsensical. Now that will be addressed. As you noted, they will be allowed into the country if they are vaccinated and have a proof of test within three days.

And that addresses one point of tension as the president heads up to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where he will give a high profile speech tomorrow amidst other significant issues. Obviously, European allies somewhat concerned raising serious issues with how the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan, many of those countries involved in that process.

There's a very real, very acute tension between the United States and France. France pulling its Ambassador from the U.S., due to the U.S. deal with Australia over nuclear subs that essentially ended a contract that France had for more traditional jobs with Australia.

So what we're hearing right now for administration officials is there's a recognition though some surprise about the French response to things about the president's necessity to really kind of drive home a point that John, you could remember just three or four months ago, back in June, when the G7 Summit the NATO Summit, the America was back message was not only delivered by the president, but received with open arms by European allies.

The president is going to need to reiterate that and I think back it up a little bit. When you talk to senior administration officials, they make clear that president tomorrow in his remarks is not going to run from what occurred in Afghanistan. In fact, he's going to address it head on and make clear getting out of Afghanistan out of a 20 year war was a critical component of what he sees as kind of an intensive effort of personal diplomacy that you'll see not just in the coming months and years, but also in the coming weeks.

A series of bilateral meetings over the course the next couple day's one thing we don't know when it's going to happen? A call with French President Emmanuel Macron that scheduling is in process so far not scheduled John.


KING: I won't mind listening in on that one. Phil Mattingly I appreciate the live report from the White House a very, very busy week consequential week ahead for you. Up next part of that busy week the Senate ruling deals a blow to Democrats who hope to include immigration changes in a big spending bill. And that's hardly the party's only headache as we hit crunch time for the big Biden agenda.


KING: Things are getting more messy and complicated at a pivotal moment for the Biden agenda. Immigration is one of those complications. The Senate Parliamentarian ruling Sunday, Democrats cannot tack their immigration plan onto a broader spending package.

The calendar is another giant complication. The House Speaker promised moderates a vote on a bipartisan immigration package by September 27th. That's one week from today.


KING: Liberals though say they need the bigger spending plan. It's called reconciliation in budget speak, to be ready at the same time. But it won't be. Moderate Democrats are playing hardball consider this for moderate House Democrat Kurt Schrader. If they delay the vote on infrastructure or it goes down, then I think you can kiss reconciliation, goodbye, reconciliation would be dead.

With me to share their reporting and their insights "POLITICO's" Rachel Bade Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times" and Olivier Knox of "The Washington Post" Rachel Bade, let me start with you at the Kurt Schrader, just laying down the line, Madam Speaker, you promised us to vote one week from today. We demand it happens or else there's the or else attached to it.

"POLITICO" today, reporting this exclusively Senator Kyrsten Sinema delivered a tough message to President Joe Biden, at a private meeting. Wednesday, we're told if the house delays it scheduled September 27th vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan or if the vote fails, she won't be backing a reconciliation bill.

So these moderate Democrats, some in the House, Senator Sinema in the Senate, are essentially saying we are willing to tank the entire Biden domestic agenda if we don't get our way.

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Yes, I mean, it's a tricky situation. I think last week, we saw progressives come out and say, look, if you guys have this vote, we're going to vote against it, we want to see the $3.5 trillion bill, they sort of see this vote on the 27th as a leverage point that if they withhold their votes, they can sort of force these moderate Democrats to accept something perhaps they wouldn't accept right now.

The problem with that is a lot of these mods who I talked to over the weekend, are privately starting to say, look, if it's a $3.5 trillion bill paired with infrastructure, we'd rather have neither. And these are moderates who worked on this product for weeks for months trying to get this passed.

And now they're sort of - this sort of changes the political calculus, because you know, if they're not going to get either, where's the leverage for progressive? And the question right now is does leadership have the votes for this? This vote that's coming a week from today and right now, our reporting indicates that they don't, and there's not a lot of time between now and then to get that.

KING: And so some of this, we presume some of this is theater. Everybody knows this deadline is coming. So you -- its leverage, I need more, I need less whatever it is. But we've never been through this before, to the point that another moderate in the Senate, Joe Manchin puts this on the table.

This is from "AXIOS" reporting. Senator Joe Manchin is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a strategic pause until 2022, before voting on President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package. Number one that blows up everything in the here and now and number two, if it's this hard to pass this year, Olivier, do you think they could pass it in an election year?

OLIVIER KNOX, AUTHOR, THE DAILY 202, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, I don't. And I've never - I don't think I've ever heard a Senator calling for a strategic pause as in legislation. Let's not forget, we have other deadlines coming up, right?

We've got it - we've got Congress has to raise the national debt limit. And of course, we've got the end of the fiscal year. So it's not just this dance over reconciliation. It's not just this fight over the bipartisan infrastructure. It's all these other pieces that are coming together too creating cross cutting pressures for the moderates and the progressives as well. KING: And so in this time of the approaching black hole, or maybe that's it, maybe you approach that sometimes you pull the rabbit out of the hat, I guess. Listen here; this is Jim Clyburn and John Yarmuth in the House. Again, the Speaker gave her word to the moderates, it was a big negotiation. They say it could be a little wiggle room.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I'll be going to work to get to Google for September 27th. Yes, you're going to work hard to reach that goal. And sometimes you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal.

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): The Speaker does not have to actually advance the bill to if we pass it in the House does not have to actually have to send it to the president for signature, she can hold on to that bill for a while.


KING: Is that a realistic proposal, Congressman Yarmuth, at the end, essentially saying, OK, the Speaker promised to vote by next Monday. So we'll vote on the bipartisan bill. And then she turns to the moderates and say, I know you're mad at me, but I'm just going to keep it.

We're not going to send it to the president. It will not become a wall until we get the big spending plan. Is that within the parameters of the deal? Or do you have to sort of stretch the outsides to get there?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It seems like just by those comments that there's some willingness there to have some wiggle room, you know, on the September 27th deadline. Let's be honest, I think when we've heard deadline for September 27th, there has been some skepticism on the Hill as well about whether or not that would actually be a hard deadline to bring this bipartisan infrastructure package.

And just to pivot a little bit as well. I mean, I'm also curious how immigration not being allowed, but not basically the parliamentarian saying this does not fall under the budgetary rules under reconciliation, also interested in how that's going to impact this timeline as well and progressive, some of the reactions among progressives?

We're already hearing from some Dems, who are saying that they're preparing a sort of alternative immigration plan to include in reconciliation, whether or not that's a sort of registry that for years past has allowed people to get their green cards will be interesting? But this was one of those sweeping proposals included in reconciliation that progressives were touting.

KING: And that's why it gets so interesting because in my lifetime in D.C. no one's tried to do this all at once. No one's tried to do such a giant bill that has so much in it from health care and childcare, potentially immigration, climate legislation and the like.


KING: Which is why Bernie Sanders again, there's the big number, and then there's all the different pieces that people want in it and so three votes disappear in the House, no votes despair in the Senate. Everybody's vote matters. So everybody can make the case. I need this, that and the other thing. Senator Sanders says 3.5 trillion; this is his message to the moderates 3.5 trillion, because that's already a compromise.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): We are engaging with the House and the Senate. It is a complicated proposal. All I am telling you is that 3.5 trillion is much too low. A compromise has already been made, an agreement has been made.


KING: But there's no final agreement on three, five no way not when Sinema and Manchin who are saying how about closer to two?

BADE: Exactly. I mean look, it is a compromise from them. They started at $6 trillion, and they've already come down quite a bit. But when you have a narrow majority in the House in the Senate, it doesn't matter. You know, that just doesn't matter. They have to have the votes to pass something. And without that they don't have the hooks right now.

KING: And so can a 36 year veteran of the United States Senate eight year veteran of the Vice Presidency proved that he can be a little Lyndon Johnson Houdini here or not, is he have to get a get involved to figure this out?

KNOX: Well, I mean, Johnson had a bigger margin of error.

KING: Yes, he did.

KNOX: And when he lost Congress ceases to be this magic, dealmaker and toward the end of his term. So I think the answer to that is I don't think so because they're responding to the pressures from their home states and their home districts.

BADE: There's one - there's also one additional complicating factor just to go back to if they end up postponing this vote and that is, you know, if they end up delaying this and tying it more to reconciliation or saying we're going to hold this bill after it passes, there are Republicans on Capitol Hill whose votes they actually need to pass this. Who are getting more freaked out?

So it makes it even harder if they end up doing, you know, this delay or somehow holding the bill without sending it to the president.

KING: Fascinating couple of weeks ahead. It's never happened before. We shall see if it happens now. Up next for us, a new twist in the Trump vengeance campaign, where the former president is hoping to knock Mitch McConnell from his job leading Senate Republicans. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: Donald Trump now trying to dethrone Mitch McConnell but so far the former president not getting the help that he would need. "The Wall Street Journal" broke this news and it notes. There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan. But that the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest ranking member in elected office.

Our next guest knows well what it is like to be targeted by Trump. He's also the Author of "Two Roads Diverge: The second chance for the Republican Party, the conservative movement, the nation and ourselves". Former South Carolina Governor and Former Congressman Mark Sanford with us now Governor, it's great to see you.

It has been too long as you do - you do know what it is like to be targeted by Trump. So now a word in "The Wall Street Journal" he wants to find allies to knock Mitch McConnell out of his Senate leadership position. You write this in your book Trumpism is a cancer, a malignant one in time all cancers will kill or weaken the host if not eliminated; cancers don't get better on their own.

When you hear another story like this, essentially the next stop of the Trump vengeance tour A, what goes through your mind and B, what most Republicans including those in leadership positions like Mitch McConnell do to stop it?

MARK SANFORD, FORMER GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I mean sadly, it sounds completely consistent with the Trump that I have seen over the years. And it should disturb every one of us whether you're conservative or liberal in your philosophy, because it is a breach with what the founding fathers set up in the way that our political system was to work, which is, you know, Tom Wright said it better he voted against Trump on impeachment.

He says, you know what somebody is it votes with Trump 99 percent of the time, a traitor. If you look at my own votes, I'd voted with him 93 and 94 percent of the time, and yet he came after me. It is - it is this cancer of tribalism, that all of us should be concerned about. So is it consistent with what I've seen experienced?

Yes. Is it dangerous? Yes. As to what McConnell should do? I think McConnell's in a fairly secure position. I mean, I think Trump's hold on the party, though it is obviously quite strong. You know, every fever has a half-life. And I think that this fever has to break sometime soon, though it seems to be going a lot longer than I would have suspected.

KING: Right to that point where you think it's going to break sometime soon. Look, you and I go back a long way. I remember when you came to the House; you were a rising star in the House Republican Party. You became the Governor of South Carolina everybody says well, there's a path to the presidency. Another rising star in the Republican Party of Congressman Anthony Gonzales of Ohio announced last week he would not run for re-election. Now he says he could have survived the Trump primary challenge he was among those who voted to impeach the former president.

"The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board", writes about this today saying if Republicans don't swear fealty to the stolen election canard they'll risk being attacked by Mr. Trump and his supporters, but they do agree with the Trump line. They'll give Democrats an opening to tie them to the January 6th riot and Mr. Trump's attempt to overturn the election result. The latter won't go down well, in suburban swing districts.

Again my point is you say the fever has lasted longer than you anticipated. How do you break it when number one the leader in the Senate is being targeted by the former president and number two, these young Republicans who should be the future of the party are just deciding it's not worth it. It's too toxic.

SANFORD: Well, I think he's right. I think he's a profiling courage in that he stepped down.