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Moderate Democrats Furious About Delayed Infrastructure Bill Vote; Handful Of Moderate Democrats Block Biden's Full $.35 Trillion Plan; U.S. Surpasses 700,000 Coronavirus Deaths; Democrat McAuliffe Holds Slim Lead In Virginia Governor Race; Manchin And Sinema: A Study In Contrasts. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 03, 2021 - 08:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A pivotal moment for the Biden agenda.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We're telling you, we're going to get this done.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Deep democratic divisions remain.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I've never been a liberal in any way shape or form. There's no one has ever thought I was.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): We need to be real, are we going to deliver universal pre-K or not? Are we going to expand healthcare to our seniors or not?


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Plus, will a lack of action in Congress in the presence fading popularity cost Democrats a key governor's race in November/


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my race. It's not President Biden's race. This is my race.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): And new vaccine mandates take effect as America marks a grim new milestone, 700,000 dead of COVID-19.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: The future of where we go with this pandemic really lies within our ability to get this country vaccinated.


MATTINGLY: Inside Politics, the biggest stories source by the best reporters now.

Welcome to Inside Politics, I'm Phil Mattingly, in today for Abby Phillip. "Everybody's frustrated," that's what President Biden acknowledged yesterday after the Democrats' plan to quickly pass the two core pieces of his domestic agenda collapsed. But he insists it's a temporary setback.


BIDEN: I'm telling you, we're going to get this done. It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter whether it's been six minutes, six days or six weeks, we're going to get it done.


MATTINGLY: So now what happens? Well, President Biden plans to hit the road this week to sell his plans and Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her new deadline for passing that bipartisan infrastructure plan is October 31st. Moderate Democrats, they are furious. They were promised a vote last week. Progressives said no.

They'd only vote on that infrastructure bill if Moderates first approved a much bigger plan full of liberal priorities. And most Democrats are on board with that $3.5 trillion plan. But Biden doesn't need most Democrats. He needs just about all of the Democrats. And at this moment, he doesn't have them.


MANCHIN: My top line has been 1.5 because I believe in my heart, that what we can do and what the needs we have right now and what we can afford to do without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality. I've never been a liberal in any way, shape or form. There's no one has ever thought I was.


MATTINGLY: So on Friday, the President told House Democrats he agrees with progressives but also said compromise is inevitable. The head of the Progressive Caucus says she gets that to a point.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think we're going to have to get to a number that all 50 Democrats in the Senate and all of us in the House agreed to. And, you know, 3.5 was our number. We're going to go back and see what we can do on that because we understand we got to get everybody on board.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: Joining me now with their reporting and their insight, Lisa Lerer of "The New York Times," John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News, CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Politico's Laura Barron-Lopez.

Now, Bres, there are a lot of takes right now. But I think my most important question to you is scale one through 10, how much did you miss me in the halls of Congress? Bres and I spent a lot of time hanging out in hallways for the last decade or so. But I do want to get your sense right now, big picture of where things stand after the week that was for the President's agenda. What's your read on things right now.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Every democrat is sniping with every other Democrat. It's really unbelievable to see. I mean, you have the House and Senate Democrats calling in each other Mods versus Conservatives. There's a lot of criticism of the White House. The White House is criticizing the leadership back in the Hill. I mean, everyone is going after everyone.

I think they, you know, they talked about this is the big reset. Biden coming up there Friday, you know, they need to reset. Now, they have to get this done in October. They have to get an agreement. They're not going to finish the reconciliation bill in October. It's not going to happen. It'll be lucky to get it done by Thanksgiving.

But they have to have an agreement, or if they're going to have one, because the longer it stays out there the worse it gets for them. So they're going to try this week two to get a top line number. They're going to try to get a deal between the House and Senate that everyone can live with that Senators Manchin and Sinema especially can live with, and they're going to try and go from there.

But it's really -- it's incredibly toxic right now. I had a chief of staff for a Moderate, the House Democrat say, you know, the White House Legislative Affairs Operation. It's just, you know, they don't know what they're doing, so there's a big problem there. There's a lot of big problems.

MATTINGLY: So I want to do two things. I want to play something that President said and then show a headline from Lisa's paper and kind of get everybody's read on that. First what the President told our colleague, Arlette Saenz, yesterday, which I thought was actually a pretty astute observation. Take a listen.



ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Have you been surprised by how difficult it has been to bring the Moderates and Progressives together on agreement with this?

BIDEN: We can bring the Moderates and Progressives together very easy if we had two more votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: I think he's being subtle about who he's talking about there. But -- so that's kind of the reality, right? You can do -- you can say whatever you want, you can do whatever you want, but if you don't have the votes, it doesn't really matter. But you also have this headline, it was in the New York Times said, Biden throws in with the left, leaving agenda in doubt.

And we don't read the headlines, I'm not critiquing the headline. But I think this is the idea, right? That the Democratic Caucus, in very large part, is behind President Biden's entire agenda, it's not just a group of Progressives versus a group of Moderates. The vast majority of the Democratic Caucus is there. The vast majority of Democratic Caucus isn't enough to get it over the finish line. So what's your read on the dynamics right now?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean -- I think Biden threw in with the left long before this, right? If you look at his campaign, they made this choice for a lot of very clear political reasons, particularly given those razor thin majorities in Congress to package his entire domestic agenda, essentially, in one giant bill. That bill is what the left wants.

So he does not pass some version of that bill, whether it's 3.5 trillion or maybe it comes down to 2 trillion. He is really -- it's his whole legacy, at least for the first term, domestically, he has very little -- they will have very little to run on the midterms. He will have not followed through on many of his campaign promises. Never mind the ones that were he cast himself as this deal maker who understood how to work with Congress.

So I think the choice was made to move to the left long before we got to these negotiations. And it's also a choice that the Democratic Party made during the Trump era. And it's a choice that, frankly, the country made.

I mean, even when you look at polling of Republicans, they are not as concerned about deficits. They are much more comfortable with federal spending. So I just think that that is the reality of where, not only the votes are, but in a lot of ways where the party is, and really where a lot of the country is.

And the Moderates simply don't have the numbers to completely stop this, but they have the numbers to hold it up for quite some time and potentially kill the deal if it hangs out there long enough.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I mean, this is certainly something that President Biden ran on, as you said, but where's the mandate?

LERER: Right.

JEFF ZELENY CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There simply isn't one. I mean, yes, he had a big popular vote to win, but the reality was, electorally, very narrow, some 44,000 votes in three states, and he wouldn't be president. He doesn't have a big majority in the Senate. So now what he has to do is sell this plan. Individual pieces of it

are very popular, but they have been just -- the White House has been so caught up in these negotiations of the, you know, 1.5, 3.5. Where is the big picture here?

So this week, I'm told, that President Biden is going to try and remind people of the big picture. He's going out in the country, likely in the Midwest, to try and sell this plan. Well, chop-chop, you know what I mean?

This really -- a few months ago, people inside the Biden White House said, we are going to, the President is going to do what President Obama failed to do, and sell his domestic plan to the country. Since then, Afghanistan intervened, COVID, all of these challenges. So the President is really not used that bully pulpit.

There's still time. He's going to use the month of October to try and sell this plan. But now philosophically, they're going to have to scale back their ambitions. And that is going to be very challenging because there'll be some very unhappy interest groups and others who want to do things.

LERER: And that mandate point feels like a critical miscalculation by the White House. They decided to go big, go with this big proposal, and they didn't fully sussed out whether they had a mandate to do it within their own party on Capitol Hill. And that really feels like a misstep in some ways.

MATTINGLY: I want to get, Lisa, you alluded to this, Laura, I want to ask you about this because you're both very close to the White House, but also very close to Progressives in terms of what their -- how their approach is going right now.

We saw something over the course of this week, which I think they've been telegraphing for several weeks, in terms of the Progressive Caucus flexing their muscle, and making very clear we're not go along and get along anymore. We've been waiting, we've been giving you guys what you needed to get to this point.

Now we're putting our foot down. And this was what the leader of the Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, had to say. Take a listen.


JAYAPAL: We have a very small margin here in the House. And we have said over and over again that in the House everybody is Joe Manchin. And we have also a very strong Progressive Caucus, and I'm just so proud of our caucus because they are standing up for people who feel like they have not been heard in this country for a very long time.


MATTINGLY: Look, it's a personal point of privilege. I don't think the comparatives to the Freedom Caucus are even remotely on point because the strategies are different, how they're operating is very different. But they made very clear that not only do they have choose, they have the votes, and the White House can't help but notice and try and figure out how to work with it.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes. This was one of the first times where we saw the Progressive Caucus actually hold their line and say we're not going to move, we know what we want.

We want to use the leverage that we have because in their view, if they were to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure right now, then there's no knowing what Manchin and Sinema will agree to down the road. There's no way to lock them in. There's no leverage to exert it all.


The White House was very aware of that knowing that Progressives were not going to be there. And so all week long, they were not trying to aggressively whip Progressives to strong arm them into voting for the bipartisan bill. They said, we hear you, we're on the same page with you, and we're going to focus our attention. President Biden's going to focus his attention on what they were describing as the 5% of Democrats that aren't on board with both of these bills right now.

So those are those Moderates, the handful of Moderates in the House, and then Manchin and Sinema in the Senate. But to Lisa's point about where this goes back to and why Progressives have been able to reach this point, you know, this goes all the way back to Bernie Sanders running in 2016. And him exerting this new wing of the party and then becoming emboldened and realizing that there were more of them out there, and him and Clinton kind of dividing the party along those lines. Then come 2020 and Biden needed them.

So Biden decided after he won the nomination, that he was going to sit down with Sanders and his wing of the party, and they had all these task forces about what exactly was going to be in Biden's agenda. So you see that playing out now where the administration is always in constant contact with Progressives, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain frequently talks to Pramila Jayapal and other progressives to keep them in the loop. So you see this really close dynamic between the Progressive wing in the White House right now --

LERER: That we haven't seen in the floor, yes --

ZELENY: They didn't bring along majorities in the House or Senate. They lost Senate races across the country majority. So I mean, that is the issue here. So it's a huge complication.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Bres, we got like two seconds.

BRESNAHAN: Oh, Well, I think that -- I do think the mandate thing, they've talked about this a lot. I'm always reminded of when Karl Rove saying to George W. Bush, when he won. He said, govern like you won by, you know, 50 million votes. I mean, I think that they made the decision.

They didn't have a big mandate but they had to govern that way. And now that, you know, the thing is they postponed everything up until now. And now it's all come together. And now they've got, you know, they're trying to juggle 10 different plates all at once and it's not working.

MATTINGLY: No pressure. No pressure, all right. Up next, a US debt default totally unimaginable, right? Guys, it's time to start imagining.



MATTINGLY: President Biden has a portrait of FDR hanging in the Oval Office. You can see it right there. And he wants to enact the biggest economic transformation since probably the New Deal. But Roosevelt had the advantage of huge Democratic majorities in Congress when he took office. Take a look. So did President Obama when he passed the Affordable Care Act. Biden's Democratic majority on the other hand, hangs by a thread. So I guess the question is, are Democrats trying to do too much too fast?


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And no, it's not too ambitious because we're meeting the needs of the American people. And what that is, is what our agenda will be.

MANCHIN: Well, he know we wouldn't have 50 votes. I guess for them to get there's, I'll let more liberals.


MATTINGLY: So, Laura, I think one of the interesting elements was like (inaudible) was clarifying, right? It kind of brought what we all knew to be true and the reality to the forefront in the sense of 3.5 is not going to work. They were going to have to come down and come down pretty dramatically.

But I think the question right now is, what will be considered acceptable, given the scale of the ambition and the big talk about what they want to accomplish, in terms of what's inside a potential final package.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. When Biden came out of the meeting this week, he said, all of you are going to have to compromise. Everyone is going to have to some -- some of you are going to have to come up, some of you are going to have to go down. He gave the range of I think 1.9 trillion to 2.3 trillion roughly.

So, of course, the Progressives have known all along, even Bernie Sanders, despite the fact that he likes to say to us reporters, I'm 3.5. I already came down from 6 trillion. Even Bernie Sanders knows that Progressives are going to have to come down.

What exactly gets cut, that's going to be a big issue, already even before the Moderate-Progressive square off on the price tag. Even among Progressives and among leadership in Progressive, there's the dynamic of what of the healthcare provisions are going to make it in. Is it going to be Bernie Sanders' Medicare expansion on vision dental

hearing or Pelosi who really wants to see the ACA subsidies made permanent, so there's a lot that they have to get through. In what like Bernie said, a few weeks, in a month that they're going to have an agreement.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And real quick, I want to pull up kind of what's in the original plan because, you know, extension the child tax credit, universal pre-k, subsidized childcare and elder care is a huge component, paid family leave, free community college, obviously, the climate provisions are enormous as well.

You can get a lot done in $2 trillion, but you've promised a lot of things as well. There's constituencies behind all of these things as well. The cutting, the shaping, how this bill actually gets formed is going to be very complex.

BERSNAHAN: Yes. It's going to be, right now, they're going to have huge problems trying to fit all of this in, like Laura's talking about, you know, the Medicare prescription drug issue, which Moderates in the House, actually, some of them voted against in which Sinema -- particularly Senator Cinema. She has concerns about. And there is more that New Jersey senators, there's other ones, Delaware senators. I'm not sure that makes it but that's a big chunk, that $700 billion.

They lose because they need those savings. What do you do with Medicare expansion? They're talking about phasing in the dental expansion not until 2028 because it's so expensive. You're talking about $500 billion just for dental.



BRESNAHAN: So, I mean, the price tags are huge. I think you're going to see, and it depends on what they do in the tax side which they have to offset. I think you're going to see them jiggle a bunch of these numbers, you know, do I fees in -- they fees in something till 2025. And then figure, well, the next president will have to deal with this. They'll play these kind of games, which the Republicans did on their tax cut in 2017.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, this is where staffers can get very creative, and they're very smart. They've done a lot of these things. So we're going to be talking about this for next couple weeks. I'm going to talk about something that I think matters really, really a lot right now. And that's the debt ceiling, which I feel like has just been kind of skating under the radar here over the course of the last several weeks.

I want to pull up what would happen, what Noody's says what happened in the event of a default. 6 million jobs lost, immediate recession, stock market crash, higher rates for mortgages, car loans, credit cards, less, clearly, less global trust, in the US financial system. Look, we've messed around with this a couple times over the course of the last decade, always kind of figured our way out of it.

I think the really dangerous part of right now is nobody knows the way out of it. We've got about two weeks left until that October 16th deadline. Senator Schumer is essentially calling Senator McConnell's bluff, debatable whether that's a great idea with McConnell's history, how does this end?

ZELENY: I don't know how it ends, but I think I would be surprised if all of that was allowed to happen. I would be surprised if they went over the edge of the cliff like that, when that's not obviously good for President Biden or the Democratic majorities.

But as you said, I'm not sure that Senator McConnell is going to blink on this. What's the example of something where Senator McConnell has gone against his word, I can't think of one. I mean, he plants his feet on a position and doesn't change it. So this is on Democrats to figure out. So I don't know how it gets resolved but I would be very, very surprised if it crashes.

LERER: And, look, the politics of this are that you get severely punished for not raising the debt limit, but you don't get all that rewarded for doing it. So there isn't much of an incentive for McConnell to play ball on this but I think there is, as you point out, a major incentive for Democrats to avoid it happening, Particularly because unlike when we've played footsie with this issue before, we're now in the middle of a pandemic, we're still in the middle of a pandemic, where the economic situation feels fairly uncertain.

So this is really the last thing the economy needs. And we know that that is what people will be voting on overwhelmingly, how they feel about their personal economic situation, their public health, the pandemic, have they -- has the country returned to some sense of normal. And that is not going to happen if we default on the debt.

MATTINGLY: Laura, go ahead.

BARRON-LOPEZ: On the debt limit is that, I think voters don't typically understand what happens if the country gets to the brink or goes over it. And so that's what makes it very difficult when Biden is trying to explain or when Democrats are trying to explain what exactly is happening.

But the country got to this point, right, because 10 years ago or so, Mitch McConnell decided that he wanted to start taking the debt limit hostage in order to score political point against the Democratic Party. It's a routine step the country is supposed to take. It's one about basic governance. So that's really how we got to this point.

And it's, because of that, because Republicans are deciding that they don't want to give any votes whatsoever to take this step of basic governance, to make sure that the country doesn't default, that then Democrats are alone and will --


BRESNAHAN: Let me tell you the other day, if you watch the vote in the government funding the other day. You had 175 Republicans in the House, and a majority of Senate Democrats vote for a shutdown. They voted for a government --

MATTINGLY: Majority is the Republican.

BRESNAHAN: I'm sorry, majority of Senate Republicans vote for a shutdown. And, I mean, their -- McConnell is not backing down. And this is really, when you have to see this, this is McConnell going after the Democratic agenda.


BRESNAHAN: It's not the debt limit, he showed as a cudgel --

MATTINGLY: This is the point I want to make. He put out a statement, I think it was yesterday, actually said in part. Democrats control Washington but can't govern. This unified Democratic government must stop putting radical wish lists ahead of basic governance where they will thrust our nation in a more foreseeable and avoidable crises.

This is the message, right? He wants chaos. He wants -- if this is going to, if Democrats in the effort to raise the debt ceiling have to pursue reconciliation, it takes another two or three weeks and it becomes a mess inside their caucuses, in a big debate over why Democrats can't figure out how to do this basic thing, 98% of which was run up during the Trump administration and is about past spending, not future spending.

That is a win for McConnell. He knows that it's why he staked out this position in July, why he put it on Democrats who now have to figure this out. And yes.


ZELENY: They have to put out its past spending.



ZELENY: I mean, Senator McConnell is doing a very good job of blending those. He's getting the chaos. They're sitting back and watching this just pop the popcorn, but this is past spending. So it is absolutely --

BRESNAHAN: And another, what are Democrats talking about when you're talking about the debt limit? You're talking about debt, and that is bad ground for them. As you guys talked about, this is bad politics. They're talking about debt and deficits, and then they've kind of lost the messaging more on their own reconciliation bill. And this further reinforced that.


MATTINGLY: Yes, yes. Well, they got to figure this out. They got to figure it out fast. People in the White House know that they need to figure this out when they decide to make the turn. To start figuring it out, probably soon, I would expect, all right.

Next, a potential game changing pill in the fight against COVID-19, but it's not there soon enough to avoid a grim new milestone, 700,000 dead.


MATTINGLY: This weekend, the US marked more than 700,000 deaths from COVID-19. Summer surge devastated unvaccinated America. Still, new cases are starting to decline nationwide. The Delta variant seems to be slowing across the south.



MATTINGLY: This weekend the U.S. marked more than 700,000 deaths from COVID-19. The summer surge had devastated unvaccinated America. Still, new cases are starting to decline nationwide.

The delta variant seems to be slowing across the south. The number of hospitalizations, that's falling too; 73,000 were hospitalized Saturday compared to more than 102,000 a month ago.

And potentially, a new tool to the fight against the virus. Merck's has developed an anti-viral pill that reduces hospitalizations and deaths by 50 percent. That as more vaccine mandates go into effect.

California is now the first state to require all eligible students to get the shot.


GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): A lot of good folks out there still with a lot of anxiety, particularly when it comes with their kids and remind them of all the vaccines their kids are already safely taking. And why this is just another of the many, many doses of vaccines that are extending their lives and keeping our society healthy.


MATTINGLY: So I want to get to mandates more broadly in a second. But the idea of mandating vaccines for students. You and I were just talking. We've got younger kids. This doesn't apply to us yet.

Do you think this is something we'll see across the country or is this just a California thing? What's your sense of things?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think it will probably spread to other liberal states. That's what we saw with some of the hospital mandates that have been put in place.

And here is the thing with the mandates. They work. Like what we've seen at companies, what we've seen at hospitals is that, you know, it raises vaccine rates in these institutions to, you know, 80 percent, 90 percent, that it actually works much better to force people to do something than to give them a lottery ticket when they voluntarily do it. People need to be forced perhaps.

And I think the politics of it might also be beneficial. The best thing for Democrats in the Biden administration is to enter those midterms next year and have the country be back to some semblance of normal. And if mandating the vaccines gets them there, I suspect that's a trade off they take.

And the other thing is a lot of these proposals like masking on airplanes, things like that are very popular. There is very few issues in American life where 70 percent of the public agree and that's one of them.

MATTINGLY: There's two things you said that I want to tee up right now. Vaccination rates after mandates -- pull up a graph, we've got Cedar Sinai Medical Center, 97 percent. New York hospital nursing staff, 92 percent. United Airlines. 99 percent. Tyson Foods, 92 percent.

They work. I don't think there's anything -- any question about it. And then you bring up the support for President Biden's worker mandates. Total it's 51 percent -- it's not a mass majority but the majority Democrats 77 percent, Republicans 27 percent, Independents 37 percent.

Democrats feel like politically this is a winner, public health-wise they definitely think it is. What's your read on things?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You have to wonder what if mandates had been done earlier this year? The Biden administration and the president himself, they never wanted to get close to this --

MATTINGLY: Refuse to talk about it.

ZELENY: -- because they thought politically it was a loser. It turns out there has not been an issue of these companies. Initially some people were saying oh, workers are going to flee. They're not going to get mandates. It turns out Tyson Foods 92 percent -- that's a fascinating statistic.

So what if there had been mandates earlier, who knows. But I think it may have changed the course of this pandemic.

Are mandates going to spread though to every state in the land? No, of course not. But to liberal states? I think absolutely.

LERER: People like to get paid. They like to get their paychecks. They're going to get --


ZELENY: The bottom line is the bottom line -- right.

LERER: -- to get their paychecks.

MATTINGLY: Inside administration -- you know, Jeff makes a good point. They made a turn, right. They've gotten more aggressive. They've obviously embraced this. They know that -- they're seeing that it works to some degree. How critical is it for them to get this back under control as the year moves forward?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, the White House views this -- pretty much COVID and the pandemic and their response to it as the whole ball game, right. I mean this is what they think that they need to be focused on.

And they also think that this is what the majority of Americans are focused on. I mean I was just in Georgia and it still is very much impacting everyone's lives.

I was talking to a service worker who is saying that, you know, they come into work and they don't really like the fact that they're exposing themself potentially to people that they don't know if they have gotten the vaccine or not. And that they would like some more financial aid from the government -- from the federal government.

So the Biden administration knows that COVID is occupying everyone's lives. It still hasn't gone away. We're in the middle of this pandemic still and that this is what they want to be focusing on and are the vast majority of the time even as they're trying to put through the other big packages and deal with crisis that have cropped up over the summer.

MATTINGLY: And yet, they still have to deal with the fact that not everybody has the best sense of what the vaccine can or will do. We've seen this kind of play out in a lot of different places but in particular the NBA over the course of that last couple of -- last week or two as they've been ready to start the season.

Take a listen to what Bradley Beal had to say about the vaccine.


BRADLEY BEAL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Some people have bad reactions to the vaccine. Nobody likes to talk about that. And what happens if one of our players gets the vaccine and they can't play after that? Or they have complications after that? Because there are cases like that.



MATTINGLY: Now obviously, Bradley Beal star of the hometown Washington Wizards. I thought they were actually very interesting conversations about players that have already had it and what that means for immunity. But on the vaccine itself, you know, what does this show?

BRESNAHAN: They're all over the place. You saw Draymond Green talk about this. I was looking at Andrew Wiggins who plays the Golden State Warriors doesn't want to take vaccine and he tried to give a religious exemption. They're not going to give it but he won't be able to play with the Golden State Warriors when they're in California, when they're playing in his hometown. So he's going to miss at least half the games of his team. And they're going to take his salary from him. But what if he goes to other places where it's mandated, as well? I mean they're going to have to make a choice. I think everybody is going to have to make a choice that, you know, this mandate is there. It's not -- they're not going to go away.

Just like COVID is not going away, mandates are not going away. So they're going -- you know, we're seeing across the federal government, federal contractors across private companies. I mean people are going to have to make decisions about what they're doing.

But I saw United had talked about, you know, there were a number -- there were like 600 or 700 employees were going to quit because they weren't going to take. But when it came to the end of the day, they took the shot -- like half of them.

MATTINGLY: And in total at United Airlines? 99 percent. 99 percent. They work, whether you like them or not.

All right. Up next, thousands marked Saturday to protest Texas' new restrictive abortion law. Democrats hope there's enough energy like that to propel them to a big win in Virginia next month.



MATTINGLY: The Virginia governor's race is testing both parties. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is warning that his opponent, businessman Glenn Youngkin is no different than former President Donald Trump.

For his part, Youngkin is trying to make the race a referendum on the first nine months of the Biden administration. Still polls show a close race. A Fox poll gives McAuliffe a narrow advantage with a month to go until election day.

Jeff Zeleny, you have spent a lot of time reporting on this over the course of the last several days. I want to start on the Republican nominee and then move over to Terry. This is what he told you where the GOP stands in the state. Take a listen.


GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It hasn't been a line to walk at all. In fact, what it's been is a big hug, which is yes, you're right forever Trumpers, Never Trumpers, we're single-issue voters and libertarians and Tea Party folks.

And it's about bringing people together.


ZELENY: Well, we'll see how big that Republican tent is. But he is trying to walk a line and thread the needle, whatever metaphor we want to use here to try and get all Republicans on board but he did not mention President Trump at all on the day that I spent out on the campaign trail with Glenn Youngkin. And former President Trump has noticed. He has called Glenn Youngkin

out for not embracing the MAGA movement more. So the big question over the next month in the Virginia race, is will President Trump stick his head up or he come and rally?

But look, what he's trying to do is get the benefit of the Trump base without getting the fallback from others. It's an early window into how Republicans are going to have to operate without President Trump on the ballot next year but certainly in the air still.

MATTINGLY: And one thing that was interesting this week on Capitol Hill or in Washington as the negotiations were going on is the number of times Democratic operatives or Democratic staffers would bring up the Virginia governor's race as it pertained to the Biden agenda, which is something that McAuliffe has had to be addressed. Take a listen.


GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA): I say do your job. You got elected to Congress. We in the states are desperate for this infrastructure. We have about 9,000 bridges and roads here rated deficient. We need help out here in the states and people elected you to do your job.


MATTINGLY: How much does this moment right now for the Biden domestic agenda spill over into what's going on in the Virginia governor's race?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, I think it spills over quite a lot, right. I mean McAuliffe has been talking about this repeatedly saying can you please pass this? Can you pass it already? Can you just get something done to give him a boost heading into November?

Because we're seeing Biden's approval ratings which have gone down are clearly impacting McAuliffe and the whole Democratic fight over what exactly they're going to get done and what they're going to focus on and what their message is.

I mean Jeff earlier was talking about the fact that the administration has not really even made clear what is in this bigger social spending package. That impacts McAuliffe too, because his ability to run on what exactly is in that bill and figuring out the best message so voters understand because there is former Biden pollsters that have told me that voters think that they like some of the provisions that are in the package but they don't fully understand it. They don't totally know what's in these bills.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Can I ask you, Lisa, you know, you've got a great piece yesterday when I read it, today?

LERER: Yesterday.

MATTINGLY: I think the weekends all blend together. I know you guys all care about A1 and Sunday and all (INAUDIBLE). Us TV people don't understand it.

But it kind of gets to this idea that I think you heard from a lot of Democrats right now is their apathy. Where's the enthusiasm? How are we inducing our voters. How are we making sure that they actually come out and participate.

What's your sense of things? You saw the women's march. Obviously, a pretty significant turnout. Given all o9f the national dynamics that are going on right now, what is your sense where women voters are and where Democratic enthusiasm is?

LERER: I think Democrats are grappling with the same question that Jeff was alluding to is what it means to run without President Trump as much in the political conversation.

Their best motivator Democrats have had in years was former President Trump. I mean their voters were motivated by the extreme hatred of the president and without that you do see this decline.

And I think what is worrisome for Democrats is when you really dig into those approval ratings for President Biden is where we've seen the biggest drops in his approval rating and it's with women. It's with black voters. It's with Latino voters. That is the core of this party.


LERER: And so I think there are some concerns about enthusiasm, about the national environment and about whether these particularly these suburban voters who turned out in force for Democrats throughout the Trump administration feel quite as motivated to come out or frankly they're just burnt out.

COVID, schools, it's been a long pandemic for all of us. And they spent a lot of time during it in the state of alarm about the country and now when I interview them, I hear from a lot of them, they just want a break.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And look, if Democrats are spreading even on women or even on some of the subgroups that you're mentioning, Democrats have a very big problem but, you know, there is still time.


ZELENY: I'm told Jill Biden is going to get involved in this race and she'll be campaigning for Terry McAuliffe this week. Just learning that during the show.

MATTINGLY: That's scoops in real time. Real reporters at the desk. That's why this show is awesome.

All right. Coming up next, why is Kyrsten Sinema threatening to upend the Democrat's agenda? But first, here is "SNL's" take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do I want from this bill? I'll never tell. Because I didn't come to Congress to make friends. And so far, mission accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine, let's focus on the two things that polled best with all Americans, lowering the price of prescription drugs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not raising taxes on billionaires.

All right. Then, just tell us, Kyrsten, what do you like? What is good to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yellow star bursts, the film "The Polar Express" and when someone eats fish on an airplane.




MATTINGLY: Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, they are the two senators that really hold the key to the Biden agenda. But they are also a study in contrasts and the senator from Arizona's recent moves have upset some of her constituents and former supporters.


LOU ZICCARELLI, ARIZONA VOTER: The thing about it is, it's one thing to go against your party but you have to be transparent as to why and let people in you party and your constituents know why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you now with the senator?

EMILY KIRKLAND, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROGRESS ARIZONA: Incredibly frustrated. Just so angry and disappointed in part because it feels like she is just doing what corporate donors want and she is not listening to voters.


MATTINGLY: So I think the most interesting thing about this is, one, Manchin and Sinema are always coupled together. They are extraordinarily different in their approaches to policies that they care about, how they actually operate. I think people are starting to figure that out right now.

Bres, tell me what Kyrsten Sinema wants right now.

BRESNAHAN: That's a really good question because she --

MATTINGLY: -- answer to that question.

BRESNAHAN: Because she, well she doesn't talk -- you know how she is. She doesn't talk to the press. She's not telling us what she wants. Now she's met repeatedly with President Biden and senior White House staff.

It's clear she's not going to support some of the full corporate tax cuts that Biden is pushing. That's clear she's not going to go all that way.

It's clear she's got problems with Medicare expansion that's being pushed by Bernie Sanders. So you know, she does -- she is good on global warming which is something the Democrats are putting into the reconciliation package, funding for fighting global warming.

So she's good on that issue, but there's a lot of stuff that's in there especially on the tax side that she does not support.

MATTINGLY: I think -- that's the interesting thing, right. There are significant policy issues that needs to be (INAUDIBLE). But there's also the senator herself. You know, we have seen over the course of just the last nine months she is a little bit different in terms of her approach.

You had, obviously everybody knows when she walked onto the Senate floor to vote no on the minimum wage increase which was a fairly dramatic picture that I think we can show.

And then shortly thereafter she also posted something on Instagram that had something I think Bres says on a fairly regular basis, a ring that said "bleep off". And you can fill in the bleep.

Laura, when you talk to senators, or even house members who've talked to her, deal with her, try and figure her out, what is their sense of who she is as a senator, her approach to the chamber?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, moderates, you know, and Republicans clearly enjoy working with her. And I think Sinema enjoys working with Republicans She basked in the glow of getting that bipartisan infrastructure deal with the White House and with Republicans.

But a lot of lawmakers also don't know what she wants and they're trying to figure that out. On prescription drug pricing, she -- sources told me that she does support that. She doesn't even at this point support a moderate version of that which would be a lot smaller than what is being proposed currently by the administration.

And that's a huge piece of this social spending package for Biden. It's something that he's really touted and talked a lot about when he's traveled the country and given speeches at the White House.

There's also this week, there was White House sources that were telling us they were frustrated with Sinema and Manchin because they just felt like they couldn't figure out exactly what they were willing to move on in terms of the substance of the package.

MATTINGLY: Yes. A roller coaster is how one White House official described the staff meetings over the course of the week. One thing I was struck by, (INAUDIBLE) again, everybody is trying to figure who she actually is, how she operates. In part of the column I want to read says, "People who think they understand her or get her, let me tell you, you can't. One politico in her inner circle pulled Maureen Dowd. It doesn't work that way with her. She doesn't think in a linear process, like ok, will this impact my re-election?

She beats her own -- she beats her own drum. When she leaves in the middle of something and says I've got stuff to do it's because she has plans, sometimes she's just more interested in training for an ironman. More power to her, man. It's like watching a movie."


ZELENY: Well, we'll see how the movie ends. But the reality is -- I mean she won in 2018 with 51 percent of the vote against a very Trump- friendly candidate, Martha McSally. So look, Arizona, yes, Joe Biden won it just barely after a review of -- it's such a split state.

So she does face some issues of being too cute by half here on her left flank. No question about it. She could be primaried. It's unclear -- I mean there's no way if she is -- I mean she must be concerned about that, of course.

But she's focused on trying to stay in the middle here. So her politics are interesting. 2024, presidential year, it's going to be very tough for her regardless. So for now she is an interesting movie to watch but she's frustrating to the White House, no doubt. But Republicans actually enjoy watching all this.

And you were mentioning working with her on a bipartisan infrastructure, Senator Rob Portman, the Republican Ohio really enjoyed working with her to craft this bill. So she's emerging as a serious legislator.

We'll see, you know, she's frustrating Democrats but they need her. Bottom line is they need her.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you one thing? Since she's probably so close to anybody -- a primary challenge in Arizona, we have heard a lot of talk about it. People raising money for it, we don't actually know what it means. Is it realistic?

LERER: I mean it's really far away. Right? There's three PACs right now, that are starting up their talking about primary challenging her but we have a really long way to go before 2024.

We have midterms, a presidential primary so I mean it is really hard to game that out. But I think Jeff's point is a good one. Arizona is a fiercely independent state. It's not all that purple. It is purple. But it's so -- you know, purplish -- red purplish.

A third of the voters there are registered Independents and it is one of the sates where those voters decide the outcome of these races and they have this history of this sort of maverick McCain thing. So it does feels like she is trying to cultivate a bit of that. I'm not sure I believe any politician totally never things about their reelection as much as my colleague may have pointed that out in a really good column.

So I think that that independent streak, the fact that her voters in that state reward that has to be in her mind somewhere.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it. She's interesting to watch.

We're all going to be watching her a lot in the weeks ahead.

All right. Thanks for joining us. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Join us back here every one Sunday at 8:00 a.m. eastern time and the weekday show as well at Noon eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests include Congressman Pramila Jayapal and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning. Have a great rest of your weekend.