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Today: Biden Huddles with Schumer, Pelosi at key Moment for Agenda; Hoyer on Biden: "I Hope he is the Secret Sauce"; Key Progressive: Moderates "Willing to Crash" Entire Democratic Agenda; U.S. now Averaging 2,000 Deaths per day from COVID-19; George W. Bush to Campaign for Liz Cheney. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this busy news day with us.

President Biden makes an all or nothing bet on himself back to back to back to back meetings today with key lawmakers as the president tries to bridge giant differences among Democrats over how much to spend on a first year Biden wish list that ranges from climate and childcare, the free Pre-K and Community College?

Plus an anxious pandemic moment 2000 Americans are dying each day but new cases are leveling off. Is the Delta surge finally giving way or is more pain just around the corner? And Wyoming now a proxy war in the battle for the soul of the Republican Party? George W. Bush plans a fundraiser for Liz Cheney as Donald Trump backs Cheney's primary challenger.

Up first this hour though high stakes attempt at presidential deal- making and presidential peacemaking. Just today, President Biden is meeting with the House Speaker, the top Democrat in the Senate, and the point person for House progressives and the leader of a House centrist group that is only a partial list.

And issue well, just about everything, the size of a giant Democratic spending plan, how that money is split up among a long list of democratic policy goals? How to keep a promise to centrist to vote on a separate roads and bridges plant by Monday and do that without infuriating progressives who insist both spending plans need to proceed at the same time?

It is a tricky negotiation with massive consequences succeeds and Joe Biden has his own version of the new deal, fail, and enters the midterm election year having failed to deliver on central campaign promises.

Let's start on this busy day with our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly Phil, LBJ, FDR and Joe Biden in the hot seat today.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I like how you framed the two possibilities here just a pretty chill day at the White House given what's at stake. I think what's most interesting right now, John, when you talk to White House officials and Democrats on Capitol Hill is the recognition of just how enormous this moment is?

How much hangs in the balance and how really everything President Biden ran on as when he campaigned for his domestic agenda? Everything Democrats said they could deliver on is now hanging in the balance. And that's why you're seeing the president getting personally involved.

This today is by far the most intensive in person effort he's put in since he's been in office. Yes, he's had one off meetings. Yes, he's regularly been on the phone with lawmakers. Never have we seen anything like this at 2 pm meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

At 3:30 he's going to be meeting with Senate and House Democrats that represent the more moderate side of the caucus At 5:30 meeting with progressives as well. And when you talk to officials here, they say it's kind of dual parts here to de-confliction to some degree, right?

The war that is broken out and spill very much into the public, between the two sides of the Democratic Party has become significantly problematic on the political side of things, not to mention the policy details that still need to be hammered out.

And it's on that latter point where you hear officials here talk about the need to kind of elevate the discussion right now. Yes, tax policy is extraordinarily important. Yes, red lines on climate, particularly given that this is probably the last major piece of legislation moving is exceedingly important.

But the president's message and why he's advocating at this point in time in person is to make it bigger than that to underscore that? Democrats right now, even if they might not like everything in the dual pronged packages have an opportunity to deliver on something that Democrats have been looking for, not just for a couple months or a couple years, but some of these Democrats for decades, when you look at the key planks, particularly of that $3.5 trillion economic and climate package.

But there's also this, if you look at the legislative pile up right now, if you've got it's by September 27th House Democrats are supposed to vote on that Senate pass infrastructure bill. Government runs out of money on September 30th by mid-October, the U.S. is going to default. If there's not an increase in the debt ceiling.

Obviously, that $3.5 trillion package is hanging out there as well, the progressive say, they will vote on that infrastructure bill until that moves forward. All of that is hanging over all of these meetings today underscores why this is so important.

I'll just make one final point. Why else officials make very clear the president 36 year veteran of the Senate has an innate sense of how lawmakers kind of move how they operate? What they respond to? Today is the ultimate test of that sense and the ultimate test and the president to deliver on something that he very much believes he still can despite what we've seen these last couple of weeks John.

KING: That's a great point to end with right there the ultimate test. Phil Mattingly I appreciate the live report big busy day at the White House. Let's bring it into the studio now with me to share the reporting and their insights CNN's Dana Bash "POLITICO's" Heather Caygle, Josh Jamerson of "The Wall Street Journal" and Seung Min Kim of "The Washington Post".

So on this big day, I think Phil frame did quite well. Yes, Joe Biden 36, 37 years in the Senate eight years as Vice President. This is a first giant test with your entire agenda in the balance. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader for the Democrats put it this way Dana. I hope he is the secret sauce. I think the whole party hopes he is the secret sauce. Everything's at stake here.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And one of the big challenges among many for Joe Biden was described to me by somebody who is an ally of his who was kind of helping with what looks like shuttle diplomacy inside the White House with his own party which is really fascinating to hear?


BASH: The way Phil described it. The challenge is this, that when you talk to the progressives, they are convinced that this is just a matter of getting the president to get Joe Manchin and his fellow moderates to back down.

When you talk to Joe Manchin and his fellow moderates, it's just a question of the president getting the progressives to back down, and each camp within the Democratic Party fundamentally believes that that is going to happen.

So what the end of the day has to produce after all of these meetings for the president is trying to find Steny Hoyer calls that the secret sauce? It's the sweet spot. What can you - it's basic negotiation. What can you give up? What can you give up? How do we get there and put meat on those bones?

KING: And so we could just put up on the screen. At the top I read a partial list, Phil read a partial list. I mean, just look that's coming to see the president today? The Speaker of the Senate Democratic Leader key committee chairman's key moderates, key centrists key progressives, key house makers, key senators, this is a casserole of the Democratic Party, if you will.

And I say that with no disrespect. But just the challenge for the presidents is to Dana's point. If the moderates think the progressives that are all it has to happen to progress, to give the progressive things, the moderate just have to give. I think that means everybody's going to have to give.

And the prompt for the president is to find that the Goldilocks moment, what is just right to get everyone to say, all right?

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Exactly. And not just for the president, but what is the Democratic Party willing to stomach when it comes to their priorities and how far to go? I kind of got whiplash a little bit to the Democratic presidential primary where there was - there was not much disagreement over what to do. But that primary was so much built on how far to go and what was electable?

And because they focus so much on the electability argument, we never really settled this debate about how far to go for that party? And so that's what we're seeing play out right now.

KING: And so here's just to get to this point, just yesterday, in the closed door meeting, my understanding is the Speaker asked Democrats, look, it's a very big moment, the stakes are enormous. Please turn the volume down. Please stop sniping personally at each other.

I know names here. But this is Congresswoman Jayapal, she heads the progressive, they have a very important list to bring to the president. And as Dana noted, she says we're not the problem.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): This is the Democratic agenda. And anyone that doesn't want to vote for the build back better plan is frankly halting the promises that we made to voters when they elected us. Other people are willing to crash the entire Democratic agenda by refusing to come together on the reconciliation bill.


KING: Crash the entire - look, if you get it in the sense that these progressives were elected on a very clear, very bold agenda. They think this is our chance to do it. What the moderates would say is they don't understand my district is different, or my state is different. I can't win again, if I do that.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And I think, you know, the problem is it takes only three Democrats in the House and one Democrat in the Senate to derail any of this. And there's a huge trust deficit, as everyone has said.

And so I think everyone is hoping that Biden is the one who can bridge this deficit and say, here's what they're going to do. Here's what you guys are going to do. Let's jump off this bridge and do it together. And leadership, Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to their credit, have tried everything that I think they think they can try and nothing is worked. So this is kind of their last hope before things might potentially fall apart.

KING: And so there are just giant policy choices to make. I mean, first, you have to decide how much are we going to spend? And then you decide how much goes to climate? How much goes to community college? How much goes to Pre-K? How much goes to childcare? How much goes to eldercare? What are we going to do to Medicare or Obamacare?

I mean, the policy choices here are just ginormous, because they put it all into one bill. Then there's the sequencing question how to do it the process? This is Josh Gottheimer. He's one of the moderates, the Speaker promised the moderates, they would vote on that already passed bipartisan infrastructure plan in the Senate by Monday. The progressive say, no, no, no, no, we'll vote for that but only when we see the other piece that Chuck - Gottheimer says a deal is a deal.


REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Makes no sense. Who actually these are two separate bills, they stand on their own, it makes no sense to vote against an infrastructure bill that's got 2 million jobs a year. No reason to not vote on that.


KING: Again, I just said, you know, maybe to the progressive point, the moderate say you don't understand us, to the progressives would say back to the moderate, so you don't understand us. We campaigned on big and bold; we understand this is our one chance. We're not going to get hoodwinked.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And there is an immediate problem that Democratic leaders do have to solve, which is what happens is Monday with that key vote on Biden's infrastructure bill in the House, because as you said, the sequencing or Democratic leaders have made it so that the sequencing does matter here.

How do these packages pass together? And we all know that the separate $3.5 trillion package is a reconciliation package. We know that's not going to pass by Monday. So what happens to that vote that Speaker Pelosi promised the moderates?

And if you looked at the comments yesterday from Capitol Hill from you know, Congressman Gottheimer, and then Congresswoman Jayapal, neither side is backing down right now someone will lose and we will see what happens when it comes - when it comes to Monday?


KIM: But I wanted to elaborate on one point that Heather had made is just the - this all stems from the fact especially what's going to happen this Monday? It all stems from the fact that moderates and progressives in the Democratic Caucus do not fundamentally trust each other.

I mean, we know that some Democrats don't trust Mitch McConnell; Republicans may not trust the Biden White House. But the fact that there is this - there is this level of distrust within the Democratic Caucus is fascinating. And it really is affecting the future of their legislative agenda.

KING: So that's the giant challenge for the president is to convince everybody you better trust and respect each other because we have to do this as a family. And part of the argument there might be that we're all alone, in the sense of the Democrats who make the argument is they cannot even count now the Republicans are starting to say even the bipartisan infrastructure plan which passed in the Senate. Well, if they - if they see a problem in the House, Republicans are saying maybe we'll back off and support that. The country has to raise its debt limit. It's something that happens all the time. It has been a bipartisan issue for years. Yes, there are people in the Democrats and Republicans, depending on whose president, depending on the politics of the moment, who rose?

But when it comes to crunch time, it always passes with some bipartisan support. Republicans are now saying, sorry, Democrats, you're on your own. Manu Raju raised that point, the Republican only approach here with Elizabeth Warren earlier today.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're going to vote against it don't you guys have the obligation to raise it on yourself?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Are we hostage to Republicans who are threatening to blow up a part of the economic system because they want to do that for politics? That's just not where we should be as a nation. None of us were elected to come here just to cause trouble so that the Republicans can get reelected.


KING: You don't have to agree with Elizabeth Warren's politics to - that's basically a factual statement in the sense that Republicans on the infrastructure plan in the House say we're for it. But if we can tank Biden right now, maybe we'll vote against it.

On the debt ceiling Mitch McConnell has said for years, it's the responsibility of the United States government to be able to pay its debts. If you don't pay your debts, you could blow up the markets; you can blow up the global finance system. Now Mitch McConnell says Democrats, you're on your own. She has a valid point.

BASH: She absolutely has a valid point. And the fact is that Republicans are trying to, they're looking across the aisle and they're seeing what we were just talking about happening with the Democrats? They are fighting over how much to spend, and what are not whether to spend?

And the Republicans have suddenly found religion on spending, which was their issue back in 2010. And then they definitely lost their way when Trump was President, and they're trying to get back there. It's a little rich considering even this particular session, they have voted for more spending that wasn't paid for a lot of them, including the leader.

KING: And the debt ceiling makes it even richer, because that's not necessarily new spending that's paying bills she was already - they were in accountability that we will continue the very complicated conversation. Up next to the COVID crisis here at home one state stands out when you look at a map of current transmission rates and President Biden promises more help in the global vaccination rates.



KING: President Biden today promising more U.S. help to the global COVID vaccine effort telling at a United Nations Summit, the United States will now provide another 500 million doses to the international effort that doubles the U.S. commitment.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For every one shot we've administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.


KING: Let's just show you a map right now the global vaccination rates worldwide, the deeper the color, the higher the vaccination rate in your country. You see Canada, for example, in better shape than even the United States to the south, the United States in the 50 to 70 range.

You see here on the continent of Africa, that much lighter color that is the bigger problem. At that point let's bring in Dr. Megan Ranney to join the conversation. She's a Professor of Emergency Medicine, Associate Dean of Public Health at Brown University. Dr. Ranney, this has been a global conversation anyway.

But a bit of a controversy as the United States moves toward booster shots giving people third doses of the vaccine. A lot of people around the world have been saying, hey, what about countries those are still desperately behind? Is that - there's the United States now have with this new commitment, the right balance in your view?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: I think we're certainly closer to the right balance. I of course want to see other countries step up as well. But let's be clear, John, we are not going to stop this pandemic until we vaccinate the entire world.

And we in the United States have a major role to play in this. The Biden Administration stepping up here is much needed. But I'm also going to comment that their promise is different from the delivery, right? We've only given out about 160 million doses so far, we have to not just see we're going to give a billion doses, but also work with countries with local departments of health to actually get those shots in arms. That's how we come out of this.

KING: We'll have to watch that part of it's the logistics and actual delivery part of it. Help me understand where we are at the moment. If you look at the case count right now a week ago, we were at 172,000 new infections a day. We are now at 135,000 new infections a day that is a perilously high number in any event, but we are starting to come down a little bit. So on the one hand, you could make the case, the case count has plateaued are starting to dip a little bit. On the other hand, you could go back to last September. I'm going to walk across the screen here and see we were much lower and we went into the horrific winter.

Where are we now with vaccines more available? Still some vaccine hesitancy but when you see a baseline of cases coming down in a week from 170 to 135. Are you convinced we're on a steady decline now or are we still in an uncertain period?

DR. RANNEY: So we're starting to see that peak come down largely because they're states that were the early surges of Delta.


DR. RANNEY: Places like Florida and Mississippi have peaked, that does not mean they're not going to have more infections over the fall in winter, again, look back to last year. And there are still a lot of folks that are unvaccinated in those states, those states have peaked.

At the same time, we're seeing a dramatic increase in state in case counts in other states, like, for example, West Virginia. So I'm not at all convinced that the Delta surge has peaked in the U.S. The last part, of course, is that the North and the Northeast, we're just heading into colder weather; all of us are going back indoors, although we're in a better spot with vaccinations, so less likely to have the huge surges that the South and the Southeast have experienced.

We are not out of the woods, and I fully expect case counts to go up again across the country over the weeks and months to come.

KING: I want to also just come back to look at the U.S. deaths right now. Deaths, as we have sadly had to talk about it. It's just a horrific term, but it is a lagging indicator. In the case we've learned the last 15, 16 months when cases drop and hospitalizations drop. Sometimes it takes a couple weeks for the death rate to drop.

2000 Americans died yesterday 2000 of our fellow Americans died yesterday. Back in March, it was around 2000 as well. So relatively stagnant at 2000 from March to here, you saw the dip in between also new data CNN analysis - that shows the deaths are four times higher in the states that are least vaccinated.

States with the lowest vaccination rates have four times the death rate of states that have the highest vaccination rate. The data tells you something pretty compelling there, doesn't it?

DR. RANNEY: It sure does. It shows once again, the efficacy of these vaccines. How important it is to get vaccinated not just for yourself, but for your community around you? Listen, almost every one of these deaths is preventable, not every single one, almost every single one.

We are going to have to live with a small number of deaths from COVID- 19. Going forward, this virus is not going to disappear. There are some people who will be vulnerable. But for the vast majority of us, if you get your vaccines, you are not going to die.

And what happens is that as this disease spreads, right? It spreads throughout the entire community; it's more likely to catch those more vulnerable people. When there's high numbers of unvaccinated there. It just breaks my heart to see us back at these numbers.

KING: Dr. Ranney one more point I want to show you real quick here, if you bring it up. I just want to bring it up in the map here. This is the CDC map of U.S. transmission. You see a lot of red, you see a lot of red, you see orange in Puerto Rico, and you see orange in California.

Orange means you have a substantial community transmission. That's not great. You'd rather be moderate or low. But California Gavin Newsom just ran a recall campaign saying I'm right, these other states are wrong. Is it safe to say that he is right? Or do you look at this and say perhaps, you know, it's one week, let's look at the data as we move forward?

DR. RANNEY: I mean, as a physician and public health professional, I never just look at one week of data. But I do think that California, like a few other states across the country, Vermont, Maine, there's a few others have combined relatively high vaccination rates, especially in their core cities where there's a lot of density with a continued following of the other public health measures that we know stop the transmission of this virus.

So it's vaccines plus masks, ventilation, distancing, rapid testing, and honestly California has walked the walk in terms of the full suite of public health measures in addition to vaccination. So they should be proud of where they are right now. I hope it sticks.

KING: Hope it sticks is a good thing and hope more of the map wherever Democrat or Republican whatever your Governor hope are, the map goes from orange to yellow to blue in the days ahead Dr. Ranney, grateful as always for your time and for your insights.

Up next for us, George W. Bush ups the ante. First the 9/11 speech taking clear aim at Donald Trump now, a Bush fundraiser to help Trump's number one Republican target, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney.



KING: Two long running Republican family feuds are about to merge raising the stakes in the fight for the future of the GOP. We are learning today that the Former President George W. Bush is organizing a big Dallas fundraiser for Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

Donald Trump is trying to defeat Cheney in the GOP primary next year. She of course one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and she is now the Co-Chair of the Committee investigating January 6th and including Trump's role in that attack. Trump's disdain for the Bush family of course, is no secret. The panel is back with us. I just want to tee this right up because I found it unusual on - on September 11th, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 George W. Bush spoke in Shanksville, and there was just no doubt just no doubt he had Donald Trump in mind when he said this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.


KING: He has largely stayed back from politics, but it seems like he is escalating and this fundraiser sends a clear signal to Donald Trump. Fine, you want to have a war at the Republican establishment the establishment going to fight back.

BASH: That speech that he gave was a moment for history. It was a moment for his legacy. But it is not a moment that will change the Republican Party. It's not his party anymore. Not even close. What he can do that is actually active and practical is raise money and that is what he is doing.