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Biden Keeps Schedule Open to Directly Negotiate Agenda; Biden Spent Weekend on Phone with Lawmakers Pushing Agenda; Nancy Pelosi: "Self-Evident" Democrat Agenda Package won't be $3.5 Trillion; 13 States have vaccinated more than 60 Percent of Residents; Liz Cheney: I'm not ready to cede the GOP to Extremism. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 27, 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. A big bet from the president that the power of television and personal experience can help the U.S. COVID fight at 1 pm an hour from now, President Biden gets his booster shot live on national TV.

Plus a flashpoint in the COVID conflict over vaccines. If you are a New York healthcare worker without a shot, you could be unemployed come midnight. And Liz Cheney digs in the Wyoming Republican says her party is full of cobblers and enablers and she warns extremism in Trump are in Cheney's view, the ingredients that will unravel American democracy.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I am not ready to cede the Republican Party. And I'm not ready to cede it to the voices of extremism, to the voices of anti-Semitism and the voices of racism and there certainly are some in our party. I'm going to fight for this party I believe in it.


KING: Up first for us, though, today begins a defining workweek for the Biden agenda with a promise of votes, the prospect of clarity and a giant complication in the form of a deadline to fund the government and keep it open. Right now there is no clear path to all of the above. And a lot of Democrats are nervous there is no plan B.

One important step today though the Speaker keeping a promise to bring the president's roads and bridges bill to the House floor. The goal is a final vote on that bill Thursday. By then this is the hard part, Democrats hoped to also make substantial or better progress on a bigger spending plan.

Whether that happens, though, is a giant question as we open the week and a giant test of democratic discipline. Let's get straight to the White House CNN's Kaitlan Collins giant test for the president as well. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of tests facing the White House here this week, John, and of course, these are a lot of deadlines. Some of them self-imposed, the Democrats are now up against.

And as you noted, one of those deadlines is already slipping until Thursday because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had initially said they were going to vote on that $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan today.

Now that is slated to happen on Thursday because they need more time to make sure progressives aren't going to sink it because they want to see more details and firmer commitments from those Democratic Senators when it comes to that bigger package that social spending and climate change bill that of course, a lot of those details are still in flux, including the price tag, what all is going to be included in there in the end of the day.

And so those are details that are still really being hammered out. And so this is a critical week for the president's agenda. It will be a defining week. But what it's actually going to come down to by the time we hit Thursday, and hit Friday is far from clear right now, John?

And so the president has spent the better part of the weekend on the phone with lawmakers. His staff, of course, has been on the phone with their staff as well as they are trying to figure out what this is going to look like and how they can make sure they get all 50 of those Democratic Senators on board?

And also make sure that those House progressives don't sink the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the hard infrastructure bill. And of course, this is on top of the fact that when that vote happens on Thursday, John, it's going to be within hours of the government funding set to lapse as they are facing decisions on passing that to keep the government funded and also when it comes to the debt limit.

So there are a lot of deadlines and critical ones facing the White House this week. And of course, the question of how it all plays out still far from certain, but we could hear from the president on this when he does get his booster shot in the next hour.

KING: Fascinating work week for the president and for many in Washington. Kaitlan Collins appreciate the live report to get us started from the White House with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, "POLITICO's" Laura Barron-Lopez CNN's Manu Raju and NPR's Ayesha Rascoe.

Mr. Raju, I'll start with you. You paced the halls of Congress every day. And let's start with this. The House Speaker is trying to thread a needle here. And she sent a very clear signal to her progressives 3.5 trillion is what they want a reconciliation package. They already say they've compromised a lot to get to that. But listen to the speaker. She says you have to go a little further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know the budget committee passed a resolution calling for 3.5 trillion, but it sounds like you acknowledge that then final number is going to be somewhat smaller than that.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Yes. I mean, that seems self-evident. That seems self-evident.


KING: Among the many questions we need to try to answer this week is what the number is then? That if it's not 3.5? What does it take, essentially to get all 50 Senate Democrats to say yes, meaning to get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is a challenge for Nancy Pelosi because she has promised her members that the Senate - the House will not vote on a bill with a higher price tag than the Senate's number.

So that means the Senators need to sign up Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, both of whom have said that they will not accept 3.5 trillion Manchin says substantially less than 3.5 trillion. Now I've spent the better part of the last couple of weeks along with other reporters on the Hill trying to get Manchin to pin him down on what number he will accept?

He's not willing to go there yet. And he's been having discussions with the White House and the administration and the like, but Pelosi and the Democratic leaders want to have what they call a framework agreement, something signed off with all the key factors in the House and Senate Democratic Caucus on the larger bill by Thursday.


RAJU: And at that point, hopefully that is enough to convince those progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill, because they're threatened to sink that as leverage that larger bill. But John, I got to tell you to get to that deal by Thursday, that's going to take a lot of work.

Because if you're a Manchin and Sinema, you're probably going to hold out as long as you can to get to see the fine print, not just the outlines of it.

KING: Which means we're guaranteed to a degree, some Groundhog Day, this week. People going in and out of meetings, people saying I'm not ready to show my cards yet, but it's important as even as they go, so we need to watch for clues as to who's moving or what might be moving, in the sense that this is the giant democratic agenda?

This is climate change. This is eldercare, this is Community College, this is free Pre-K, and this is even more that they have to try to figure out so its part of it's about money. And then how much can you fit in there? To your point about where can you get the 50 senators? So Pelosi can go back to the members and say, this is the best we can do. This is for Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii to "The Wall Street Journal". The main goal is to get all 50 of us together, which means we really need to get down to what are the things that will enable Joe and Kyrsten to say yes. I'm personally not sure what is programmatically that they can support. I'd like to get that identified.

Even the Senators on the record, essentially saying there's two of us, there's two of us that essentially control the whole game right now.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: And they have to figure that out. I mean, this is a moment where you can call it Jenga I was trying to figure out is that a game of chicken is Jenga, what --

KING: All the above.

RASOCE: It's all of the metaphor. It's a puzzle, and they are trying to figure out how they can move things around to get everybody on board? The problem is everything could collapse, right? And I don't think even Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin, I don't think they want nothing.

And so they're going to have to figure out how to get to a place of something? And that's what they're trying to figure out this week.

KING: And everybody because no votes despair in the Senate, three or four in the House everybody has enormous leverage. Every person involved here can essentially on the House side; you need two or three friends on the Senate, just yourself. You walk away and the whole thing is cuts which are why - I thought this interesting in "POLITICO" today about what about the president, right?

This is his first giant test. This is his agenda. It's his first year he's struggling in the polls right now. This is from the playbook today in "POLITICO", the president needs to pick up the phone and call people. The modern source close to the talks told us the person argued the White House has been in listening mode too long, and needs to bang heads to get this vote over the finish line this week that gets you back to the you know, we're going to have life and death.

We're going to have all or nothing. We're going to have bang heads. We're going to have closed doors. That's the - that's the nature of the week we're at. But this is his agenda. The divide is in his party. What will he do to referee it?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: And it wasn't until last week that we really saw him start to meet face to face with a lot of these lawmakers. He convened the moderate separately from the progressive over the weekend. He was making calls from Camp David to lawmakers to leadership.

But the big question is how much of that attention is going to the Senate which it seems like the majority of it is going to Manchin and Sinema versus those House moderates who say that they haven't really heard that much from the White House? And they aren't totally convinced yet. In terms of certain aspects that are going in the bill, we saw those House moderates who voted against one of the biggest pieces of what is in this bill right now the prescription drug price negotiations allowing Medicare to do that.

And it's unclear if any of that is resolved. So those are big questions right now is what is the White House doing to really work the House members in addition to Senator?

KING: And as we watch this play out again, the Speaker brought -- it is bringing later today when the House comes into session, he's going to bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill she promised moderate she would do that. They wanted to vote today, but they'll get their vote later in the week.

The question is what happens if they don't? If they haven't figured out at least a broad framework and it has to be a House Democrat and a Senate Democrat agreement. It can't just be an agreement among one or the other?

They have to both agree. What happens if they don't? Well listen to Josh Gottheimer here. He's one of the centrists who say, oh, there's no way no way the progressives will tank this infrastructure bill, if the other package isn't ready.


REP. JOSH GOTTEIMER (D-NJ): I don't believe any Democrat or small fraction of Democrats is going to come, you know, come for a vote on infrastructure on 2 million jobs a year for hardworking men and women of labor and to make sure to fight climate change and vote against it. It's the - it's a key part of the president's agenda. I just don't buy at the end of the day that folks will vote against it.


KING: There's the game of chicken again, for the many metaphors that don't get thrown around this week. There's the game of chicken, the moderates saying no way the progressives will run away, but weren't the moderates saying that if they didn't get this vote this week that they would walk away with a bigger infrastructure bill. So what is he saying? They have - the moderates have a spine, the progressive don't?

RAJU: Well, I guess yes. And look, I've been asking the leaders of the Progressive Caucus about this, are you threatening to bluff here and they said try us. Pramila Jayapal has said very clearly there were 50 Democrats who are willing to tank this bill, vote no on it. They're not going to be that many Republicans to offset that loss.

And you mentioned the three vote margin between the House - in the House right now between Democrats and Republicans. So that is the challenge between now and Thursday can there'll be enough to shortlist progressives to come along?

Now the other thing that Pelosi has made this Thursday vote because October 1st, Friday, that's the current funding for a lot of transportation programs expire that could hurt districts, progressive districts, conservative districts, moderate districts and members will want to make sure that is extended somehow.


RAJU: So she's setting up a cliff, putting a lot of pressure on these guys and girls - to fall in line will they will see.

KING: Somehow you say.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, this reconciliation really is the entire ballgame for progressives because they're not getting anything else. Whether it's immigration, voting rights, other issues, right now.

KING: Race reform, a lot of things a lot of things progressive came saying they would do this year is collapsed. We'll see how this one goes? It's going to be a fascinating week ahead. We'll stay on top of it. Ahead for us, the president getting his booster shot. We'll have some details on that next.



KING: Just 45 minutes or so at the top of the hour 1 pm here in the East, President Biden will roll up his sleeves to get a COVID booster shot. With me to discuss this and other trend in the COVID cases Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University Dr. Thank you for being here in person.

Look, the president's getting his booster shot. I just wanted to put up this map. Obviously, he's getting his third dose of Pfizer; his second dose was back in January. That's a message the president's trying to say if you're eligible for a booster, as many people are now 65 and older health care workers in the like, get your booster.

But he's also trying to send a message here; these 13 states only 13 states have fully vaccinated more than 60 percent of their population. So this is about third shots for those who already have too but more.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right, what's worse is there are eight states that have fully vaccinated fewer than 55 percent of their population. So we're really seeing now sort of a tale of two countries.

And as we go forward, really the challenge is to get people in those states the states that have really these lagging vaccination rates --

KING: 42 Alabama, 43 Mississippi, 45 Arkansas, 47 Oklahoma and 40 percent West Virginia now legging the pack those who you're talking about?

DR. REINER: Right. Get people in those states vaccinated. That's really where the biggest bang for the buck is now.

KING: Right. So what happened? What happened to that in the case of this? I mean, if you look at this, now, this is initiating vaccines. So the president's getting his third shot today. And again, he's trying to tell people, if you haven't gotten your first get out. But this is initiating a vaccine; we're down to 140,000 people. So in other words, we're stuck in the states you were just talking about that have the low vaccination rates, the ball has stopped.

DR. REINER: Right. So about 22 percent of adults are - have as yet to get a single shot. And this is really the hardcore, not hesitant; I'll say resistant people in this country. The people that have watched, you know, 200 million Americans get vaccinated still haven't really gotten it. And we're not going to get them all.

We're not going to - and this is - this is why we really need mandates because even with mandates, we'll only get a part of that population.

KING: Right. When we talk about mandates we'll get to that in a second. But here's if you look here, you're talking about the hesitant or the resistant I think is a great term. It's largely to among middle people, or young people go to the office everyday people are in college people are in high school, at the work it looks like looks - like maybe by the end of the month, right?

Pfizer says within days it will give its data for children aged five to 11 to the government. Listen to hear Dr. Walensky, the Head of the CDC says once the government gets that data, it will act quickly.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are all enthusiastically awaiting these data. As soon as they get submitted to the FDA I know the FDA is urgently planning to review these data, it will go from the FDA to the CDC, and we will review it with similar urgency. And I'm hoping in the order of weeks.


KING: Will that make a big difference? Obviously, again, asking for a friend I know as a parent of a 10 year old. I mean, you know, my son will be here, he will not be among the 60 or nearly 60 percent, who did not get it in this age group. Well, do you think having it brought her approval will help in here as well or what needs to be done?

DR. REINER: Again, it'll make a big difference only if parents take their kids to get vaccinated. You know, again, if you look at adolescence, you know, barely half the population has been has been vaccinated. We have a cancer vaccine, the Human Papilloma - papillomavirus vaccine is really a cancer vaccine. And barely 60 percent of adolescents have been vaccinated against basically cancer.

So I again, I think we need to learn our lessons from the rollout as a whole and really reach out to parents try and understand why they might be resistant and get parents to take their kids to get the shot probably starting in about a month.

KING: And mandates if necessary, you believe strongly enough. DR. REINER: I think school districts will - once the vaccine is fully approved by the FDA. I think we'll see across the country school districts mandate.

KING: Where are we - we're having conversations about booster shots about younger kids being available about the vaccination like this one to ask your opinion on sort of where are we in the sense that if you look at this map, 32 states, fewer new COVID infections now compared to a week ago, so that's good, right?

14 states holding steady only four states reporting more new infections this week, the last week so on the one hand, you look at that, and you say it's certainly better, better than where we were. If you look at the case, rate. Seven day average of cases down 28 percent since the beginning of the month, and you see Sunday, sometimes the numbers are a little low on the weekends, but just shy of 120,000 cases down from 166.

Plus, on September 1st hospitalizations, Dr. Reiner are also starting to come down a little bit right? 103 at the beginning of the month 81000 now, the death rate down a tad this one tends to lag two or three weeks cases conduct hospitalizations. Are we in a better place? Or are we in a temporary place as it starts to get colder again, in the Northeast?

DR. REINER: I think we're in a better place, particularly in the South, which really took a beating this summer. And although the virus is going to move around the country a bit it's going to move to places that have higher vaccination rates so really the Northern part of this country the Northeast in particular where the virus may go next, particularly as people move inside sooner.

Those states have some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. So I don't think we're going to see as much severe illness certainly won't see as much hospitalization and not nearly as much deaths.


DR. REINER: You know, if you look, you know, over the last two months, what we've seen is that the more highly vaccinated states like particularly in the Northeast, they've seen a third of the death rate from COVID as the states in the South. So I think we are in a better place.

We're closing in on a terrible milestone, which are 700,000 deaths. We'll pass that at our current rate probably sometime this weekend. That's about the cumulative number of Americans who have died from HIV since the beginning of the crisis 40 years ago. It's a terrible milestone. We will - next week at this time we'll be past that.

KING: That's a horrific footnote there. Let's help - let's help you're right about this, the high vaccination rates protecting areas that people. We'll continue to watch. Dr. Reiner, grateful for your coming and really appreciate it.

DR. REINER: My pleasure.

KING: Coming up for us, Liz Cheney has a warning for the GOP. Ignoring Trump's she says won't make him go away the Congresswoman staunch criticism of the former president and her own battle for the party next.


CHENEY: I want the Republicans to be in a position where our party stands for substance and stands for policy. I want the right Republicans to take over.




KING: In a "60 Minutes" interview that aired last night the Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says her fight for re-election is the test case of Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party.


CHENEY: I am not ready to see the Republican Party. And I'm not ready to cede it to the voices of extremism, to the voices of anti-Semitism and the voices of racism. And there certainly are some in our party. I'm going to fight for this party. I believe in it.

What my party is doing right now, in too many cases is coddling and enabling a man who does not believe in the rule of law and does not believe in the Constitution.


KING: She is well aware of what happens when you give a "60 Minutes" interview on a Sunday night and then you say things like that. This is a fight she wants to stay in, and that she wants to keep going.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, she is explicitly laying out what she thinks her race is about, which is it is about is the Republican Party going to continue to be beholden to Trump and his whims and what he wants? Or are they going to protect democracy because she flat out says like, this are about the Constitution.

And this is about whether or not we're going to be a party that upholds democratic norms and democracy itself, because she is really focused on the fact that her party is continuing to perpetuate the big lie, and she wants to tear them away from that.

KING: And it's a choice on her part in the sense that look, Trump is after her. She voted to impeach him. That's why he's after her. But she could - she could say, you know, my race back home is about Wyoming. It's about local issues. It's about the thing that people back there care about. It's not about Donald Trump of the National Republican Party. Instead, she says, watch me; I have a Republican primary challenger backed by Donald Trump. This is the most important race in the country.


CHENEY: I think it's going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022, and it will be one where people do have the opportunity to say we want to stand for the Constitution.


KING: In addition to that, saying we want to stand for the constitution over the weekend, she tweeted out a picture of the Former President George W. Bush remember her dad Dick Cheney was Bush's Vice President. But she says that I prefer Republican Presidents who win reelection. You know this is that's a two by four to the head of Donald Trump.

RAJU: Yes, I mean, that's the question is that actually sell to the voters in Wyoming? The Republican base is overwhelmingly supports Donald Trump, it's a small electorate can she actually convince some who do are displeased with Donald Trump enough of them to vote for her?

It's going to be hard. This is - the Trump forces are going to come out and go after her with the band. This is the private number one race for the former president. Now Liz Cheney is going to have all the money in the world to run her race. This will help her fundraiser, especially the anti-Republican, Trump wing of the Republican donor base will sort of give her tons of money to compete, so she will be well funded, but can she get there?

And John, there's a reason why she is such a lonely voice in the Republican Party. She's facing the primary challenge. She's getting taxed by Donald Trump. She got thrown out of her leadership. There are very few people willing to stick their neck out like this. But she says it's for a reason.

KING: That she's gone.

RASCOE: And there's no evidence that that the Republican Party wants what Liz Cheney is selling right now. That's why when she puts it, you know, on this pedestal saying this is for the Constitution. Well, the Constitution may very well lose, like if that's what you're putting up there, because we have not seen anyone stand up to Trump in the Republican Party and be successful. It has not happened.

KING: It's a great point. And to that point she says one of the reasons Trump is successful in that many party leaders either embrace him or at least refuse to fight him. You heard earlier in the program, she used the term enablers, and cobblers, by that she mean the top House Republican Kevin McCarthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHENEY: There's a difference between somebody who voted for Donald Trump and being the Republican Leader after an insurrection and setting that entire aside and going to Mar-a-Lago and rehabilitating him bringing him back in. That to me is unforgivable.