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Biden To Give Omicron-Focused Speech On Tuesday; Documents Show Trump Loyalists Urged Him To Stop Jan. 6 Attack; Democrats Shelve "Build Back Better" Plan Until Next Year; Democrats End 2021 On Sour Note As Top Priorities Stall; Omicron Is Spreading Fast; Will Pandemic Parents Be The Key Swing Vote In 2022? Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 19, 2021 - 08:00   ET





PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST (voice-over): America braces for the next big COVID surge.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: We are going to see a viral blizzard over the next three to eight weeks. We could be talking about millions of cases in our communities.

MATTINGLY: Health officials say the protection needed is readily available.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you want to be optimally protected, get boosted. That's the message.

MATTINGLY: Plus, Biden's year end agenda falls short leaving a 2022 scramble.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It's healthy that the senators are going home to eggnog and fruitcake. Maybe that will improve their attitudes.

MATTINGLY: And more evidence that the Trump coup attempt was real.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): How we address this is a moral test of our generation.

MATTINGLY: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


MATTINLY (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Abby Phillip.

It is a sobering here in the Sunday for what we think could be the biggest COVID wave yet.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's a tsunami coming. This omicron variant is extraordinarily contagious. It's as contagious as measles and that's about the most contagious virus that we've seen. This may be the most contagious virus that civilization has faced in our lifetimes.


MATTINGLY: If you want to get a sense of what the doctor is talking about, look at the cases in the U.K. and Denmark. Doctors and policymakers fear those spikes are what's coming here. The World Health Organization says omicron cases can double about every two days.

The omicron fueled surge probably giving a lot of people flashbacks to the start of the pandemic. But keep this in mind, there's more testing. There's much better treatments. And, of course, there are vaccines, which means most of us are safer now than then by a long shot.

However, if you're among the tens of millions of Americans still refusing to take a lifesaving shot, a grim warning from the president.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death unvaccinated for themselves, their families and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm. But there's good news, if you're vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death.


MATTINGLY: Joining me now with their reporting and insight, "The Washington Post", Seung Min Kim, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times", CNN's Jeremy Diamond, and Catherine Lucey of "The Wall Street Journal".

J-Mart's wearing a bow tie. You know it is a festive holidays season, no question.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Ho, ho, ho, Phil. Merry Christmas.

MATTINGLY: Some positive news to start a not so positive block.

MARTIN: Exactly.

MATTINGLY: So, Jeremy, you heard there was a very intentional message we heard from the president right there. He didn't questions at that spray, been very clear, he had one message he wanted to get out. They didn't want to muddle it at all.

We know the president is going to be doing a speech this week. What's the White House thinking right now? What are they going to try to lay out on Tuesday?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the speech you're going to hear from the president on Tuesday is going to sound like an extended version of that short clip that we just heard there from the president, and that is delivering two messages at the same time. One of them focused on the fact that this omicron variant is extremely serious.

If you are unvaccinated, you will face severe illness, hospitalization and death but if you're vaccinated, particularly if you're boosted, that will be a big point of emphasis for the president on Tuesday, you are protected from serious illness and hospitalization.

That is the dichotomy that this White House is now dealing with, and at the same time, I've also been told that White House officials have been looking at ways to kind of shift the public focus to hospitalization, severe illness and death rather than just this case count which is going to rise astronomically in the weeks ahead. But that doesn't mean that the hospitalizations and the deaths will follow in the same way that it did in previous portions of the pandemic.

MATTINGLY: And that's actually something I want to touch on, because you and our stellar colleague, Kevin Liptak, had a really good piece on this, where you quoted, Xavier Becerra, the secretary of Health and Human Services, says, quote, we're getting to the point where it's about severity. It's not about cases, it's about severity, which seemed like a preview of what the White House is going for here to some degree.

And, Catherine, I guess that's the question right now. Can that message -- there's nuanced. Can they get that out? How does it apply to day-to-day life for Americans right now?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that's the question. I mean, we're all dealing with this right now. You know, what is safe to do? What is not safe to do? Should people be canceling small gatherings, large gatherings?


How are mean to be approaching the holiday season as this, you know, new variant, you know, crashes into us? And I think that's the other piece of what we're hearing is some guidance about how people are thinking about this.

But we're also dealing with a public that is exhausted after two years, is overwhelmed by conflicting advice. A lot of people who really thought that, you know, as this administration said, this Christmas will be different. And now, it seems like maybe it won't be different.

How are people going to take in another set of different information? I think that's a real question.

MATTINGLY: Real quick because this is a really good point. This is what the president said in February of 2021. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: By next Christmas, I think we'll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today. A year from now I think that there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear masks, et cetera, but we don't know. So I don't want to overpromise anything here.


MARTIN: Yeah. He throws in the "I don't know" there at the end. But the clip is the clip. You know, obviously that's now on tape. It's not ideal for the White House.

But part of the change now is that this disease, unlike March of '20 when it first emerged in the states, has become so politicized. So the president, Dr. Fauci and everybody else in government can say distance, wear a mask, get vaccinated, 1/3 of the country is just not going to do it.

So, you can issue these mandates, but in a lot of states and localities it's not going to happen. That's the real challenge we're going to deal with. This has become thoroughly part of the country's tribal political wars. Because of that the precautions now that we're going to take on omicron are basically going to be dismissed by a lot of people in this country and there's no easy answer for that for policymakers.

MATTINGLY: That's the biggest question. You have to Chuckle with pure cynicism when they say the president promised he was going to shut down the virus, he promised he was going to stop the virus and a lot of the same Republicans are saying you don't need to get vaccinated or making it clear vaccination isn't necessarily something you have to be doing. But you look at the effect on the president's poll numbers as it pertains to the COVID, long his strongest area in any poll --

MARTIN: He's taken a hit.

MATTINGLY: -- and he's taken a hit. Biden's approval from handling COVID, in December, 54 percent. In April, it was 66 percent.

If you talk to White House officials, they believe COVID is the net reason his overall numbers have dropped over the course of the last couple of months. How does the White House handle that when you're putting the things into motion that would address this but 1/3 of the country isn't taking them up?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's been fascinating to watch how much the White House is trying to do in terms of the steps they have taken to get this pandemic controlled but how so much of it is out of their control. Obviously, the tribalism in the country with so much of the Republican Party refusing to either get vaccinated or to take other mitigation measures, like wearing masks indoors which we all do when we are, you know, when we are indoors and not work or whatnot, has been a major hurdle for the White House. Also, the courts have been a significant hurdle for the White House.

Obviously, they've put forward their vaccine or test mandate. Obviously, they did have a little bit of a success late last week when an appeals court upheld it. So, certainly, almost going to the Supreme Court, but the courts -- there's so many factors out of their control that are really hampered the Biden administration's responsiveness.

They are kind of running out of options beyond just repeating what they have done over and over, telling the public to get vaccinated, putting further mitigation measures in place. And also again, like Catherine said, like, other, you know, further lockdown measures, further mitigation measures are not going to work for a public that is really tired and exhausted with this virus.

MARTIN: And, sadly, tragically, the breakthroughs that we're going to see, people who get COVID even if they're vaccinated or boosted are going to reinforce this sort of view among some folks on the right of, well, why even bother getting boosted or vaccinated? You're getting COVID.

We know the answer to that. Well, because the impact's a lot less. You're more likely to have mild symptoms than go to the hospital or die.

But just that fact we're going to see so many breakthroughs is going to be a real PR challenge.

MATTINGLY: You're saying people don't recognize they won't (INAUDIBLE).


MARTIN: Shocking.

MATTINGLY: Jeremy, I want to finish this block with one thing in particular. We heard Vice President Kamala Harris where she said, we didn't see delta coming. I think most scientists did not -- upon whose advice and direction we have relied. We didn't see delta coming. We didn't see omicron coming and that's the nature of what this is, this awful virus has been and which turns out has mutations and variants.

The vice president's office proceeded to explain what they thought she meant there, but what it gets there, less than the quote itself and the vice president herself, is if you like in delta, they weren't prepared, they weren't ready, and they did get caught on their back foot.


In omicron's case, I feel like they were much more out front. The president has been out in front. The warnings have been real. What needs to happen is real.

Will that have an effect unlike perhaps what happened with delta?

DIAMOND: Yeah, we'll see. I mean, I think that is the key point, though, is that we saw at the very beginning when omicron emerged, you saw the president come out and started talking to the public. We say Dr. Fauci and other public health experts starting to give a message about this, saying, we don't know everything yet but we will know more soon.

That was a stark contrast to what we saw with delta. I think, again, the challenge here for the White House is that so much is still out of their control as Seung Min was just saying. And, you know, we'll see whether the president can lay out more tips that will make a difference, but it's going to be a huge challenge for this White House. And it will determine where the president's approval ratings go from here and in part how the Democrats do in the midterms.

MARTIN: That quote is fodder for Republicans. Saying we didn't see this coming? That's going to go into mail pieces and ads next year.

LUCEY: I mean, the president ran as someone who would get the economy under control and get COVID under control.


LUCEY: And 2022 is going to be defined by whether he can do those things. And if the public doesn't feel like he's getting COVID under control, you know, nothing is going to matter.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, one doesn't happen without the other. The White House always made clear, COVID getting it under control was the key to the first year, the first four years.

All right. Coming up next, the Trump allies who downplayed January 6 now have pleaded with him to help stop it as rioters stormed the Capitol.



MATTINGLY: New documents from Mark Meadows reveal those who have whitewashed the January 6th insurrection were actually pleading for the former President Donald Trump to stop the insurrection as they were happening.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): All of my colleagues, all of them knew that what happened on January 6th was an assault on our Constitution. They knew it at the time. Yet, now, they are defending the indefensible.

Whether we tell the truth, get to the truth and defend ourselves against it happening ever again is the moral test of our time.


MATTINGLY: Among the documents Meadows turned over, texts he received from the insurrection from Trump allies, like Trump's son, Don Jr., who told the chief of staff that Trump needs to, quote, condemn this blank ASAP. Blank. To Fox News hosts like Laura Ingraham, quote, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home, this is hurting all of us, he's destroying his legacy.

Now, Ingraham responded by downplaying her messages from nearly a year ago.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Both publicly and privately I said what I believe, that the breach of the Capitol on January 6th was a terrible thing.

The more they talk about January 6th, the stronger Trump and the GOP are becoming in the polls.


MATTINGLY: Cool. I don't really care about that or them. What I care about is what this week meant for the January 6th Committee.

You know, I'm at the White House, on the hill a lot, you're at the White House. I'm admittedly not totally clear on where this committee is going, what the endgame is, but it seems like in the last five or six days, they're significantly further along than any of the impeachment efforts really ever were in terms of getting key documents from key people.

KIM: Right. And also what has been so interesting too is that they have been much more methodical, and rolling out their information, which is why I think that the text messages that the committee disclosed on Monday night just hit the public so strong. We weren't expecting it. We got a couple of hints that something big could be coming in terms of Meadows' documents he turned over to the committee.

But they have been very strategic in how they have tried to knit together this narrative to the public about what they know so far about who was doing what on January 6th. Obviously, they are still running into several hurdles, you have key witnesses who are not cooperating with the committee, Steve Bannon, chief among them, and his own legal processes.

That may mean he never talks to the committee. And, obviously, this commission is working on a very limited timetable here. I think we can all kind of -- if we were all betting men and women, we would bet that Republicans would take back the House majority in 2022 in their first vote I bet would be to shut down this commission.

So, I think the numbers, the staff involved know they have a limited amount of time and trying to make the most of it and trying to make as much impact before they -- while they still can.

MATTINGLY: And, J-Mart, how many Republicans do you think end up getting swept into this. One of the interesting elements of this is we -- CNN reported that one of the texts that were released, I'll put it up right now, it is a little difficult to read, it is from Rick Perry's cell phone, which may explain why sometimes it is difficult to read.

Here's an aggressive strategy, why can't the states, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, other R controlled state houses declare this BS, where conflicts and election not called that night and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.

Pro-coup, great. But you also had Jim Jordan was forwarding a specific thing, from an individual to Mark Meadows. And I think Scott Perry is in there to some degree.

MARTIN: There are a lot of members of Congress not named in there. I have a feeling that the names are going to come out in the weeks and months ahead. I think it will further implicate a variety of actors.

Now, you're asking the one question, I'll give you a different answer, which is politically I'm not sure how much of that is going to sting them, depends on their districts.

But I think clearly, this is going to be an issue that sort of shadows calendar year '22. The challenge they have is to your point something about the clock ticking, you know, how much are they going to want to wrap this thing up next year, versus for the courts? A lot of people are not going to cooperate until the courts make them. That takes time.


MARTIN: Yeah, that's something to watch. They move faster, more limited report, or take more time, go towards the end of '22 to get a more comprehensive report because they have more cooperation from people that are forced to by the courts.


MATTINGLY: Jeremy, one thing that stood out and "Politico" did a really smart piece on this. The difference between impeachment, which we spent a lot of time covering, oftentimes in the basement near SCIF, for hours on end, those committees versus this committee. And one point that is made was because there are no Republicans like Jim Jordan constantly trying to gum up the works, constantly trying to stop the process, constantly doing XYZ, they're more fluent in how they're doing things.

How bad did McCarthy mess up here by not putting Republicans on the panel and basically giving nine members a united front to push forward, keep the narrative intact, not allow a leak, all that type of stuff?

DIAMOND: I mean, I think we're talking about this when he made that decision in the first place, which was both hold on, he's missing a big opportunity here to influence the panel. At the same time, I think that because he's expecting that Republicans will regain control of Congress, and he wants to shut it down as quickly as possible, this gives him the opportunity to say, well, we weren't even playing ball here, we weren't participating. So, easy for them to shut that down. I think that what is interesting here is that ultimately a lot of this

say big Rorschach test for the country. I mean, Republicans who want to downplay January 6th who don't believe it was a coup, they're going to continue to believe that no matter the revelations we have seen this week. And Democrats who believe the opposite are only going to be further emboldened by this.

So, you know, in large part, what this committee is going to do at the end of the day is going to be interpreted completely differently by different parts of the country. And I just think that's important to --

MATTINGLY: It is through that prism I thought it was an interesting op-ed in "the Washington Post," your publication. Three retired general officers and part of that op-ed is, quote, in short we're chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time, the potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines from the top of the chain to a squad level is significant and should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the rightful commander in chief cannot be dismissed.

That's chilling to say the least. Is that the moment that the country is actually in right now?

LUCEY: I mean, that's chilling and I think that there are a lot of people concerned about what this means for future elections and what sort of ground work, I guess, I would say is laid in 2020 and the capitol riot. I think one of the things we can see, and Jonathan mentioned this as we look at the politics around country, you see Republican candidates who really are backing Trump's claims, won't say that Biden won the election.

And so, you see these divergent views locking in. So, what does that mean as we go forward if people -- we don't have an agreement on who won elections, you know, that's I think -- that's pretty scary to a lot of folks.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. It's pretty unsettling. It is going to be interesting. We're a couple of weeks away from the anniversary. It would be interesting how that all plays out.

All right. Coming up next, Democrats head home from Washington after failing to pass their biggest agenda item. Can they get it done next year?



MATTINGLY: Joe Biden and Senate Democrats wanted to end the year with some big new legislative victories and then the reality of the year kind of slapped them in the face to some degree. There was no way to pass a voting rights bill unless all 50 Democrats agreed to shift the filibuster. They didn't. And there was no way to pass the Build Back Better plan by Christmas, not without Senator Joe Manchin raising new concerns about the cost and structure and any number of other things that he may have been doing behind the scenes. So they punted.

Now, President Biden insists he and Manchin will make a deal on that big social spending and climate change bill. But the how remains unclear. And Democrats, well, they are frustrated.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): We can have one person or two people just stop everything and that is why people in our country should know a 50/50 Senate sucks and we can't get things done. I'm hopeful that Joe will change his mind.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No one pressures me. I'm from West Virginia.


MATTINGLY: I'm from Ohio. No one pressures either.

Look, there is a couple of ways to look at this that I've been kind of chewing over the last couple of days. A 50/50 Senate for Democrats is better than a 48/52 Senate, which very much could have been before the January 5 Georgia runoffs. In the course of this year, they've got a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal that past presidents have tried and couldn't get.

There was no debt ceiling crisis, the government is funded, those all seem like positive things. They just locked in 40 judges by hammering through a couple more district noms. Those are all very good things.

However, when you set expectations as high as expectation were set, and I want to specifically bring up the Build Back Better plan, $1.75 trillion, the House has passed its version of it, Joe Manchin has made clear he thinks it is too expensive the way it is structured, doesn't like the short-termism of some of the proposals, the child tax credit, $185 billion to extend it for one year. He said needs to be extended for ten, it would be about $1.6 trillion the CBO says.

OK. So, pass the $1.75 trillion, Manchin wants CTC extended for all ten, which would be $1.6 trillion.



So let's take a look at what's in the original Build Back Better Plan and what would be able to stick.

MATTINGLY: So if you keep the child tax credit you basically would have to get rid of universal pre-k. Well, you can keep that. Maybe half of climate change. Free community college is already out. Subsidized elder care and child care probably would have to go. Medicare expansion probably have to go. Immigration reform, probably (INAUDIBLE) out. Paid family leave is already out. Maybe higher Obamacare subsidies. You basically have to choose between climate change and Obamacare subsidies.

Everything else would go if you want to do 10 years of CTC. Ten years of CTC is not something they're going to be able to do.

Jeremy, how does this end?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, I'm so glad you came to me.


DIAMOND: I don't have an answer but what I can tell you is that the White House despite all of that somehow keeps having a pretty optimistic take on things and believing that ultimately they will get to a deal.

They haven't yet explained the how. I don't know if they've explained it to you yet, Phil. We're still trying to get there.

I think what is interesting here though is that the White House has spent the last month really trying to go after some of the key arguments that Joe Manchin has been making about why he wants to stall the process on this, on inflation in particular is what I'm thinking about.

The White House, whether it's President Biden, Vice President Harris, all of them have been talking about the ways in which BBB they believe will lower costs for American families. And despite that just this week we were hearing Joe Manchin once again, continuing to talk about inflation and his concerns about that and also raising this concern about expanding the child tax credit.

So it is hard to see how they are making progress, nonetheless, White House officials insisting to you and me that these talks have been productive and that things are moving forward.

There's still no roadmap though and I think that's what raises a lot of eyebrows.

MARTIN: Manchin was clear months ago. He said that he wanted to have a pause on this and that op-ed that came over the summer pushed it to '22. That's what's happening right now.

And the question is did they pare down the bill even more significantly to get this through with Manchin's vote and 50 votes or do they consider the alternative, which is take some of these bills, these elements out and work on them individually?

They don't want to do that obviously but they want this big grand salami accomplishment. But some of this stuff actually could have bipartisan support if it's taken out and done individually.

Now, I know you're going to say that's tough to do in an election year and that's a big risk but that may be the only alternative if Manchin is going to demand if they pare this thing down very significantly.

MATTINGLY: Yes. But if you're separating it, you lose reconciliation and then you lose -- you have to get 60 votes.


MARTIN: I get the why, right, yes.

LUCEY: There's a view that there's one vehicle to do this.

MATTINGLY: Don't come at people who know about parliamentarian procedure here, J Mart, I've got some of them on the panel too.

MARTIN: What's the alternative then.

MATTINGLY: But here's the question though.


MATTINGLY: With a 50-50 senate, take a listen to progressives who I know you talk to quite often, their view of Manchin right now.


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): You've got two people saying hey if you don't do it my way, I don't care what the president wants, I don't care what 48 of my colleagues want, it's my way or the high way. And that I regard as arrogance.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We did take the president's word that he would get 50 votes in the Senate. We are trusting his word. He does need to deliver on this because it is 85 percent of his agenda.


MATTINGLY: This is always the balance, how do you keep Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin on the same bill here? How do progressives manage the next couple of months here as they try and figure this out?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think you saw a little preview of it with Congresswoman Jayapal's comments. They're really putting pressure on the president to deliver because it was the president's assurances ultimately that got the progressives to kind of decouple that bipartisan infrastructure bill from this broader reconciliation Build Back Better package, because they felt assured or at least enough for the vote on the infrastructure bill to move forward that Biden would be able to deliver.

Now President Biden has not been able to deliver just yet, partly because president -- or Senator Joe Manchin just does not feel any urgency. And I just -- I felt that so much more just chasing around him 30 million times around the Capitol this week.

This is a man who is not in a hurry. You spent all this urge from you know, key Democratic lawmakers, obviously progressives, the White House to get this done, get this done as expeditiously as possible.

But not Joe Manchin because he is hearing from people back in West Virginia who are worried about inflation. I also want to point to what Jeremy said earlier when White House officials talk about how Build Back Better would combat inflation. They always qualify that by saying "in the long run".

MATTINGLY: Long term. Yes.

KIM: And voters don't care about things in the long run. They want their problems solved now. And I think that's what Manchin is hearing a lot from back -- from his conservative voters back in West Virginia. And that creates a really big problem for the White House in trying to get this done.

LUCEY: Well, one thing --

DIAMOND: And the White House has very little leverage with Manchin, too.



LUCEY: Yes. Well -- go ahead.

MATTINGLY: I just want to ask one thing because we're running out of time. Voting rights, there was a push on that the last couple of days. The president had a closed doors -- closed doors meeting with a number of Senators, talked about it in a commencement address as well. What's the future of it?

LUCEY: I mean the White House is really trying to, you know, escalate the rhetoric on this. You heard the president say this is a top priority but it remains unclear how they're going to move forward with this, you know, given the 50-50 senate unless they do something on a filibuster.

And, you know, we've heard some conversations. And there are some Democratic senators talking about are there ways to do a carve out, or some kind of rules change?


LUCEY: The president in a CNN event this fall suggested some openness to that. We haven't really heard of that and pressure is increasing on the White House and Democrats.

You've heard from a lot of activists. They don't want to see a Martin Luther King Day come without any action here. But I think we're going to have to wait and see if there's anything they really think they can do.

MATTINGLY: Yes. We'll see. Jen Psaki said they're going to lay out what he meant by that soon, well four weeks ago.

All right, up next. Omicron is spreading like wildfire in parts of Europe. The U.S. is next.


MATTINGLY: The omicron variant is already spreading like wildfire across Europe and it has the U.S. in its sights. The weeks ahead will be hard.

But if you're vaccinated and boosted you're unlikely to get very sick. The problem here is that just one in six Americans are boosted. And that's the part of the pie in purple that you're seeing right there.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says we have the tools to get through this if we use them.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We've got to do the things that are available to us. Vaccination, boosting, masking when you're in an indoor setting, prudent, careful traveling.

I think we need to look at it in the fact that we are at war with a very formidable enemy. And we're going to win the war because we're better than the virus.


MATTINGLY: Dr. Megan Ranney joins us now. She's an E.R. doctor in Rhode Island and Associate Dean of Brown's School of Public Health. Dr. Ranney, thanks as always.

Look, cases and hospitalizations have doubled since we had you on the show last month. Rhode Island's governor has reinstituted a statewide mask mandate. The omicron wave has seemingly barely begun. What are you seeing right now on the ground in your hospital and does this feel like March of 2020?


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF BROWN'S SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: You know, this feels distinctly different from March of 2020 for a couple of reasons.

First, our hospital is completely full. With all the folks that put off care over the last two years and are now coming in with what could have been preventable emergencies.

On top of that, we're filling up with new COVID hospitalizations but as opposed to March 2020 when we could pull out and staff from around the country, there is no pop-up valve, there is no surge plan, there are no alternative care sites.

So our waits in the emergency department are through the roof and although our COVID hospitalizations are lower than what they were in 2020 and although we, as health care workers, are better protected, the system overall is in a much worse spot.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned the overall system but I just want to focus on you and your colleagues right. You've been working nonstop for the last two years more or less.

I want to pull up a survey that was published in a medical journal last week. 74 percent of health care workers report symptoms of depression, 38 percent report PTSD, 15 percent report recent thoughts of suicide or self harm.

I guess the question as we confront yet another wave is -- can health care survive what's about to come given what everyone has done for the last two years?

DR. RANNEY: So that is one of my biggest worries on a daily basis. I have new friends from across the country, texting, DM'ing me or posting on social media that they've had enough and are ready to leave.

The moral injury, the demoralization of our health care colleagues is almost indescribable. I can't explain what it's like to walk into an emergency department, have 60 patients waiting, know that some of them are quite sick but there's inadequate staff and inadequate beds to be able to take care of them appropriately.

What it's like to take care of COVID patients who are yelling at you that they're not actually infected and what it's like to have your own community attack you for asking for masks or vaccines.

I'm hearing this not just from doctors and nurses but from medics, ambulance drivers, from nursing homeworkers, from school nurses and social workers and psychologists who are also burnt out.

I worry about the implications not just for the next month but for the next years to come for our system.

MATTINGLY: It's both remarkable and sad to hear that. Is there something the government can do here? Is there a role for the federal government to try and address these issues that you're laying out right now which I think are far more existential than you know, one patient or patient count or anything like that.

DR. RANNEY: There are a number of things they can do and they started to do it in their last announcement. I'm hoping that in the Biden speech on Tuesday that this will be addressed head on.

We need to increase surge capacities that we don't have folks working overtime and unable to care for the sick. This is the time to bring in the National Guard to nursing homes and clinics across the country. Staff up testing sites. Help us provide basic care so that we don't have people sitting in the waiting rooms of our emergency departments.

We can also invest in training some of our lower level, more easily trained health care workers, things like certified nursing assistants. The training doesn't take long. We are so universally short on CNAs. Having more of them would make a huge difference.

And then things like allowing physicians to work across state lines, increasing reimbursement for tele health. There are some other basic strategies that were used in the beginning of the pandemic that could be used again to help stem the overwhelm a little bit right now.

MATTINGLY: Just switching to the pandemic response specifically. There's been a lot of questions about testing right now. You can't really go to a supermarket and find tests that you can buy at home which I think everybody is wanting.

Take a listen to what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not just make them free and give them out and have them available everywhere?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Should we just send one to every American?


PSAKI: Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost and then what happens after that?


MATTINGLY: Look, I get there's nuanced complexities on the testing front. But what's the answer right now. What's the reaction to that and what's the answer right now on testing?

DR. RANNEY: My -- and most of my colleagues -- reaction to that was, yes, we should be sending one to every house along with some high quality masks and we should have low cost or free rapid-antigen tests available at every drugstore, grocery store, clinic, post office.

These are part of our multi--layered strategy for stopping this tidal wave of omicron that is about to hit us and the ongoing delta surge that is still overwhelming so many hospitals. Rapid testing are an essential part of the strategy to stop the spread of this disease during this holiday season.


DR. RANNEY: And the government needs to get that DPA going and get those free or low-cost tests available, otherwise they say (ph) something that only those of us with privilege can access because I'll tell you, even at Walmart $14 a box for two, it gets real expensive real quick.

MATTINGLY: Yes. There's no question about that.

Dr. Megan Ranney, as always, thanks so much for your time and what you're doing.

DR. RANNEY: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All right. James Carville said, "It's the economy, stupid." But what are the other issues that may make a very big difference at the ballot box in 2022?



TIFFANY JUSTICE, FOUNDER, MOMS FOR LIBERTY: 2022 is going to be the year of the parent at the ballot box. So if legislators are watching this, hopefuls are watching this, start paying attention to parents.


MATTINGLY: And after the Virginia's governor race, you can bet the White House is certainly paying attention.

Democrats are mindful that pandemic parents could be the key swing voters next year. Frustrated moms and dads have been dealing with shorter school weeks and COVID exposures pretty much the entire semester. So will 2022 be different?

Seems unlikely at this point. At Friday's White House briefing, the CDC director however announced that new evidence shows tests to stay, where kids could stay in school after COVID exposure with testing works to keep children learning safely.

So I think that I want to do here is kind of walk through a couple of potential sleeper issues as we head into 2022. I don't even think education is a sleeper issue anymore, J Mart. You obviously covered the governor's race.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTINGLY: What's your sense right now? Look, when Biden took office 46 percent of schools were open. Now 99 percent of schools are open but every parent is looking around with trepidation right now, wondering if that's about to change.

Where does education rank in terms of what we should do obviously in '22.

MARTIN: I think it's significant. I think you're going to see a lot of parents more involved in the politics next year. A lot of the attention has been on the issues of curriculum. But I think this is going to be much more about school safety revolving around COVID and continuity.

And I think there's great frustration among parents and that tends to be taken out on the in party. Whenever voters are mad, they take it out on whoever is -- who's currently controlled government. And that doesn't bode well for Democrats.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Jeremy, another issue that I don't think has quite popped yet but I think it's definitely about to and that's the issue of student loans. You know, you look at -- there's Harvard Youth (ph) poll beginning in December. I think it had Biden up 46 percent approval to 18 to 29-year-olds.

Not every 18 to 29-year-old is dealing with student loans but a lot of us are still dealing with student loans. February 1st, the student lone forbearance is done. The Biden administration has made that very clear. It was pandemic driven. What's the Biden administration doing to address student loans?

DIAMOND: I mean look, they came under a lot of pressure to extend that forbearance and they chose ultimately not to do that. And that is a potentially worrying sign for Democrats as they head into the mid terms.

Look, they're always looking for base issues that they can, you know, rev their folks up around and young people, of course are key parts of the Democratic base. So how exactly that will impact that we'll see. The White House may be looking at additional steps that they can take to help on the student loan front as well but again, that is something that could be a potential warning sign for them.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's just -- it's fascinating to watch. This is such a huge issue I feel like in the '20 election when it came to the youth vote.

Biden's made clear, if lawmakers send him $10,000 -- a bill to wipe away $10,000 he would sign it. He doesn't think he can do it unilaterally.

The other issue is crime. Crime has been kind of in and out of the news for the better part of this year. The Biden administration, a couple of months ago made it a very big focus and the president had made clear, he's the exact opposite of the Defund the Police Democrat.

And I want you guys to listen to what Mayor London Breed said, a mayor who proposed shifting money away from law enforcement budgets in I want to say July of 2020. Take a listen.


MAYOR LONDON BREED (D) SAN FRANCISCO: It's time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city. It is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant of all the bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that has destroyed our city.


MATTINGLY: It's an interesting moment because historically, crime rates are not anywhere near their highs but murder rates in cities -- big cities in particular are up. You see constant on the news smash- and-grabs and larceny, things like that. How big of an issue is this overall?

LUCEY: I mean it's an issue in these cities obviously and it could become a real midterm issue. You know this. I mean this is an issue that Republicans really utilized in the last cycle.

And I think as you see -- if you see those murder rates stay in the same place you're going to see a lot of focus from GOP about are Democrats emphasizing policing enough? Are they investing enough in police? Are they investing enough in public safety?

And so it's something that I think we're going to see them really focus on and you're going to see leaders in the cities, too.



MARTIN: Yes. And the jump, too, in the politics of and Breed is the obvious example of summer of 2020 to winter of '21 and the change in rhetoric tells you everything about the political assumptions and the Democratic mayors are making about the issue.

LUCEY: You saw too this week, in recent days the -- in Philadelphia the district attorney had to walk back some statements about, you know, crime rates in the city, when there was concern that he wasn't taking it seriously enough.


LUCEY: So, you're going to see that.


MARTIN: Yes. They're reflecting their voters.

MATTINGLY: Yes. You can tell when the public comments. And that was why the White House this summer started to focus on this. They were seeing something that made them realize they needed to try and address it and get in front of it.

MARTIN: Eric Adams winning and New York office --




MATTINGLY: That's the one that everybody points to.


MATTINGLY: SMK, one final one that I want to get to and that's the issue of abortion. Obviously, everyone is watching the Supreme Court. But everybody before the Virginia governor's race was ostensibly (ph) paying attention to the Texas state voting law.

There's a quote, really I thought astute (ph) quote from Julia Regensky, who is an adviser to Governor Phil Murphy. Said, quote, "Abortion hasn't moved people to the polls in places like Virginia and New Jersey this year. I wish we lived in a world where outrage mattered. But I think we live in a post outrage world and voters today are affected only by what which affects them. Which is why the economy, affordability, cost of living is such a major issue for so many people." There's been this perception that if the Supreme Court strikes down or revises in a significant manner Roe versus Wade this would be a huge, (INAUDIBLE) issue for Democratic voters. Do you think that's the case?

KIM: It depends first of all on where they are. Because right after the oral arguments in the Mississippi case, you saw particularly the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and these Democrats who are running for re-election in these sort of swing senate states really lean into the issue of abortion.

And Gary Peters, the chair of DSCC, told us that he thinks this will be a galvanizing issue particularly for female voters in these states. But if you're talking about swing states or particularly swing districts in the house where this isn't as big of an issue, where voters are more focused on the economy affordability issues, it may not matter as much.

And I will tell you, Republicans have told me they're waiting for Democrats to kind of overreach on abortion, kind of a -- kind of a replay of the Cory Gardner/Mark Udall case in 2014. And they're banking that they go kind of too far and too away from what the voters are really caring about right now.

MATTINGLY: It's going to be fascinating to watch. Those are just four issues. We have about 400 I think that we're going to have to pay attention to.

All right.


MATTINGLY: Thanks to the panel.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Join us back here every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time and the week days show as well at noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Senator Bernie Sanders and Governor Chris Sununu.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning. Have a fantastic day.