Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

President Biden Tackles Economic Crisis with New Executive Orders; Fight Over Filibuster Stalls Power-Sharing Agreement in Senate; President Biden Calls for Wartime Approach to Battling Pandemic. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 22, 2021 - 06:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And NEW DAY continues right now.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to take months for us to turn things around. And to a nation waiting for action, let me be the clearest on this point. Help is on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be building on things. We're not going to be destroying it. We're not going to trash anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running out of vaccine, and we're not getting any assurance of major new shipments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looming over everything on Capitol Hill, the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It will be soon. I don't think it will be long, but we must do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can come up with an agreement with Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer and do this in a collaborative way, that's the way to do it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, January 22, 6 a.m. here in the East.

Breaking news, the White House unveiling two new executive orders in just the past hour to try to help struggling Americans, including a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers.

The Biden administration will spend time today touting these proposals, but, of course, the real challenge is behind the scenes with Congress. The president is calling for a $1.9 trillion economic relief package that he hopes can be bipartisan, though this morning, Congress is having a hard time even agreeing on the rules that will govern the Senate. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing overnight, the CDC updated its

guidelines about how long you can wait to get your second dose of the coronavirus vaccine and the possibility of getting doses from different manufacturers.

A new study finds that six in ten Americans don't even know where to go or when they can go to get vaccinated. We will speak to Dr. Anthony Fauci in just a moment.

We begin, though, with CNN's Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House.

And Jeremy, the president wants to focus on the economy today. He wants bipartisanship in terms of this relief deal. As I've said, I want a pony. Will either of us get what we want?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is the big question, John. And certainly, President Biden is trying to focus on bipartisanship. And he will need it if he wants to get that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed through Congress.

Yesterday, we saw the president focus on the health crisis confronting the country. And today, we will see him with more executive actions, but this time focused on the economy.


DIAMOND (voice-over): After unveiling a national strategy to combat the pandemic, today President Biden turning to the economic crisis it has wrought.

Biden will sign two more executive orders today. One to help people who are unemployed or struggling to buy food. The second to protect federal workers and contractors.

This will set into motion a future executive order, which will require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave, nearing the nationwide minimum wage increase Biden is seeking as part of his $1.9 trillion relief package.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: His preference and priority is a bipartisan package and working with members of both parties to come to agreement. This crisis is dire, and it requires immediate action. And we hope and expect members of both parties to work together to do that.

DIAMOND: Few congressional Republicans have signed onto Biden's proposal, but House Democrats say they want to pass the president's bill as quickly as possible.

PELOSI: It's what the people need. It's what the country needs to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people, and honor our heroes.

DIAMOND: Biden used his first full day in office Thursday to unveil a national strategy to get the pandemic under control. BIDEN: We didn't get into this mess overnight. And it's going to take

months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear. We will get through this.

DIAMOND: Releasing a nearly 200-page plan and signing ten executive actions. Among them, using the Defense Production Act to increase supplies for vaccines and testing, ramp up production of PPE, and extending mask requirements for interstate travel on buses, planes, and trains.

BIDEN: Our national plan launches a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production and protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it. And when I say wartime, people kind of look at me like, wartime? Well, as I said, last night, 400,000 Americans have died.

DIAMOND: And when pressed about whether his goal of 100 million shots in his first hundred days was enough, Biden gave this answer.

BIDEN: Come on, give me a break, man. It's a good start, 100 million.

DIAMOND: Dr. Anthony Fauci noting the United States is in a very serious situation but also hopeful the new administration will help regain the public's trust.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is, and know that's it, let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.


DIAMOND: And President Biden will sign those executive actions this afternoon, focused on -- on the economy.

But at the same time, the White House's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, making very clear that the ultimate big goal is that $1.9 trillion package. He said that these economic actions, the executive actions we'll see today are simply a critical lifeline, but they are no substitute for comprehensive legislation -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House.


To get comprehensive legislation, the kind Jeremy was just talking about, he will need Congress to come along. But this morning, we're seeing something of a Mitch McConnell muscle flex in the Senate. Think of that.

CNN's Lauren Fox, live on Capitol Hill with the very latest. What are we seeing, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, we are seeing a U.S. Senate at a standstill at the moment, because there is still a disagreement on how to even organize this new 50/50 split in the Senate.

Remember, Democrats have a slight majority, because they won the White House. That means Kamala Harris can break any ties that the U.S. Senate has when it comes to moving forward with any nominees.

But it's important to remember that, in the construct of these negotiations, what you have is a minority leader, Mitch McConnell, the new minority leader, insisting that Democrats make a promise to preserve the filibuster. That is the 60-vote threshold that ensures, essentially, that lawmakers can't just pass legislation with a simple majority. It really protects the minority party's rights in the U.S. Senate. It's what makes the Senate different than the House of representatives.

But Chuck Schumer, in a very difficult spot, because he doesn't want to make that promise on paper, and essentially, limit his ability and the tools at his disposal to move forward legislation in the future.

Right now, there are not the votes to blow up the filibuster. You have moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin, like Kyrsten Sinema, making it clear they don't support that effort right now.

But in a couple of months, does that change if Republicans are standing in the way? They don't want to put anything in the organizing resolution about the filibuster, and that is really creating problems, because without that resolution, you can't essentially change hands of the committees and which party controls them. So it's really holding up the legislation, and it's holding up nominees.

Now, the other big thing on the agenda is the question of when this impeachment trial is going to get started. Last night, you had a late- night effort, again by the new minority leader, Mitch McConnell, to suggest they delay moving forward with the Senate trial for a couple of weeks.

Essentially, what that would do is thrust this all into the middle of February, and it would give, in McConnell's words, some time for the former president, Donald Trump, to settle in with his new legal team and try to make a case for why he should not be convicted on these impeachment trials.

Now, I am told by Democratic aides that the Democrats are looking closely at this. Because, remember, they have incentive to delay this in an effort to try to get some nominees moving, try to get that legislative agenda moving.

But it's still an open question. A lot of negotiations that have to happen between McConnell and Schumer, really testing their first days in their new reversed roles -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Lauren, thank you very much for all of that information.

Joining us now, we have CNN senior political analyst, Ryan Lizza. He's the chief Washington correspondent for Politico.

Ryan, great to see you. RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, guys.

CAMEROTA: I understand old habits die hard. I understand that Republicans don't go along with President Biden just because he snaps his fingers and wants bipartisanship.

But I mean, in terms of the relief package, what is it that Republicans object to? Why is Senator Roy Blunt saying that some of this is a nonstarter? Is it the more money for vaccines and testing? Is it the direct $1,400 payments for Americans? The more money for the CDC? I mean, what do they object to?

LIZZA: I think the first thing you're seeing is this return by Republicans to a kind of small -- to small-government arguments, which like clockwork, happens when there's a Democratic president.

You know, you guys have been watching this -- things like this for a long time, like me. And under Barack Obama, Republicans were all about limiting spending. Under Donald Trump and George W. Bush, they were not very concerned about deficits and the national debt. Donald Trump, of course, racked up more national debt than any previous president.

So I think that's part of it, is they're just returning to the opposition and Democratic control in Washington. So their arguments are going to be much more about limiting spending than when they had a Republican president. You can call that hypocrisy, and it certainly is, but that's going to be a key political dynamic this year.

BERMAN: I think one of the other interesting things, beyond the Republican recalcitrance, is the rising Democratic impatience with Joe Biden, President Biden, trying to do things in bipartisan ways.

I will note, we're like six minutes into this, so the idea of being impatient, I'm not sure it's quite that time yet, but we're already hearing it. We heard from Jeff Merkley yesterday, from Ed Markey yesterday.

Biden, the president, seems to be operating by this old Clinton world maxim. And I don't mean the double entendre, but I mean Clinton used to say, he wants to get caught trying to do something. He'd rather try and fail to do it than not bother at all. Why is it politically advantageous, and maybe practically advantageous, for Joe Biden to get caught trying to do things in a bipartisanship fashion?


LIZZA: Yes, that's a great point, John. Because look, he did run on this message of unity. He has promised to reach out to Republicans. And I think there are a lot of people on the left watching that to say, wait a second, is this just -- is this just a slogan and he doesn't really mean it, and he's waiting for the point where he, himself, will be in favor of getting rid of the filibuster and abandoning, you know, requiring bipartisanship for every victory?

Or is he genuinely serious about this and believes that he and Mitch McConnell can forge some kind of alliance on centrist legislation? If you read Barack Obama's recent memoir, he talks a lot about the

same dynamic in 2009 and regrets defining victory as bipartisanship, because it handed over so much power to his Republican opponents on the Hill.

And, you know, I think everyone's waiting to figure out what -- what's in the back of Biden's mind? Does he genuinely believe he has a path to 60 votes in the Senate for his big legislative items, like immigration reform and the COVID bill? Or is this just so he can at some point say, Look, I tried. The only way to get things done is the nuclear option and to get rid of this filibuster.

And he certainly wants to have that in his back pocket, at least as a threat, which is why McConnell wants to take it away, as Lauren pointed out, in her report, and wants that completely off the table.

CAMEROTA: And then couple all that with the impending Senate trial for Donald Trump, and here's the timeline, as laid out by what Senator McConnell would want.

January 28, the summons to President Trump. February 4, he gets to answer the articles of impeachment. February 11, he would submit a pre-trial brief. February 13, the House would submit its rebuttal pre- trial brief.

The point is, is that, you know, with every day, it appears that some of the horror of what the lawmakers experienced cools, for some of them --


CAMEROTA: -- a little bit. And at the same time, every day, more information about the insurrection comes out. More of these rioters are arrested and say things like that they felt directed by President Trump. And so, hard to know what the timeline will mean in terms of outcome.

LIZZA: And look, there are going to be plenty of Democrats that think -- well, first of all, what is McConnell up to? Wait a second. Because they'll start to find themselves perhaps agreeing with McConnell that, yes, delaying a little bit is OK, because we want to get Biden's team in place.

Remember, that's what they were talking about a few days ago, is how do you dual track? How do you get some of the legislation moving and get his nominees in place, and have a Senate trial simultaneously?

So McConnell has given -- given them an offer that will be enticing to some people.

At the same time, it -- it does kick this down the road a little bit. It means that Donald Trump and what happened during the transition will dominate the first hundred days in a way that, frankly, the Biden team never wanted it to dominate.

Remember, Joe Biden never -- when they were impeaching Donald Trump, Joe Biden never came out publicly and said he wanted to do that. And you know, he was always ambiguous about that.

So, it's like, we can't quit 2020, right? All of the hangover of the Trump administration is now dominating Joe Biden's first hundred days. The last two days of first -- of executive orders, the majority of them were about undoing executive orders and actions of the Trump era. And this means that we'll be talking about Donald Trump and paying attention to the drama of the transition for quite a bit longer now.

BERMAN: Ryan Lizza, great to have you on. Thanks for waking up with us. Can't wait to read the "Playbook" this morning.

LIZZA: Hey, thanks to both of you. See you soon.

BERMAN: In the meantime, the pandemic doesn't sleep, and neither does Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's up early and will speak to us next.



BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to NEW DAY. Seventeen past the hour on the East Coast.

Joining me now, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is President Biden's chief coronavirus medical adviser.

Dr. Fauci, we really appreciate you waking up and joining us this morning. Great to see you, as always. So listen --

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: -- new data out this morning. Hospitalizations -- the hospitalization rate has continued to tick down. There is a real discernible downward trend in hospitalizations. That's good news.

But Professor Michael Osterholm and others are looking at the new variants we're seeing around the world, and in some cases, here in the United States. And they are concerned that we could see a new surge, a new wave from these new variants.

How real should that fear be this morning?

FAUCI: Well, you always have to maintain that as a possibility, John. I'm not exactly sure that that's going to happen.

We do have variants in this country right now. The U.K. variant is in several states. It has not become dominant. It might. That's the reason why you have to watch it carefully, as we go from January into February and really take a good look.

The good news about all of this is that we are seeing a plateau in the number of cases. As we do that, that doesn't mean that, all of a sudden, everything is going to even off, because we're still going to have a lot of hospitalizations, even though they tend to be plateauing and coming down. And we'll still have a lot of deaths. What we're hoping is that, as we come to the end of January, we'll

start to see that plateau, and things will go down. But as Dr. Osterholm said, and we all realize, there's a possibility that, with the variants here, we may have a dominance of those strains that tend to transmit more efficiently.

The best thing you can do about that is to continue to uniformly adhere to the public health recommendations that we've spoken about time and again, from the wearing of masks to the washing of hands to avoid congregant settings. That's the kind of thing that prevents surges, regardless of what the type of virus, the mutant of virus or what have you is there.


That, together with an increase in the rollout of vaccines, is the thing that we should be concentrating on. At the same time that we always take seriously when you get new strains or mutants or variants of the virus that you have to keep an eye out on.

BERMAN: Does the increase in the rate of transmissibility change the target? How does it change the target of the number of Americans, the percent of Americans you think need to get vaccinated in order to turn the corner?

FAUCI: Not -- not very much, John. You know, when you talk about what the real level is going to be of herd immunity, you don't know that until you're in a situation where, when people get below that level, you start to see the uptick.

That's the reason why we can pretty accurately say what it is for measles, because we've been in situations where you've completely suppressed measles and then, all of a sudden, there's certain groups in the country that diminish their vaccination rate, and then you get outbreaks of measles. We're not there yet with regard to accurate calculations regarding SARS COV-2.

But you can make an estimate, and that's the reason I've said, all being modest that we don't know the exact number, that it's probably somewhere between 70 and 85 percent of the people. And I think when you get to that level, which I hope we will with our vaccination program, that in fact, we will achieve herd immunity within a reasonable period of time. And I had said, hopefully, that will be as we enter into the fall and in the summer.

BERMAN: There's one more question on the new variants. In Germany, there's so much concern about the increased transmissibility they're requiring people to wear the N-95 masks on subways. I wonder what you think of that?

FAUCI: Well, you know, what they're trying to do is ratchet up a bit more, because N-95s, clearly, those are the ones that I use when I'm in the hospital under certain -- under certain circumstances. You know, they are very well-fitted. In fact, you can't just take an N-95 mask -- when -- when I go into the hospital and see our patients with communicable diseases, we just have one person from the respiratory department make sure it fits perfectly well and it's really snug. So an N-95 that's well-fitted clearly is the best that you can do.

Early on, the difficulty with that was there weren't enough N-95 masks around, and if people started wearing them, it would take away from the people who really need them, who are taking care of patients. But that's changed now. We're many months beyond that. So you could get production of that at a much higher rate now.

BERMAN: So do you think Americans should consider wearing N-95s more often or double masking? Is that something you'd recommend?

FAUCI: Well, you know, I don't want to be making recommendations now, John. It just -- what they do is follow the CDC recommendations and guidelines. If you can get an N-95 mask, fine, but I'm not sure that should be at the point of a recommendation. I would leave that to the CDC.

BERMAN: Johnson & Johnson, we're going to see some data from the third stage of their trial soon. With Moderna and Pfizer, both those vaccines have 90 percent efficacy. What's the target where you would consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be helpful?

FAUCI: You know, John, I would like to see it right around that. If it's one or two or three percentage points either way, can't go much better than 94, 95, which is where Moderna and Pfizer are, but I would like to see the Janssen or J&J product come around near there, just maybe a few off.

If you see it 20 less than that, then you've got to be a little careful of that. There's going to be some eyebrows raised about which one are you going to want to use. But if you can get it within the ballpark, you know, 90, 89, 88. Don't like to guess ahead of time.

But there are some advantages of the J&J one. It has a better cold chain (ph) profile. But also, it's a single shot. You know, so if you really want to figure out the difference, you can get a shot of the J&J and, you know, 10, 14 days later you're already starting to have a substantial amount of protection.

So even though it might be a little bit lower than the 94 to 95, you know, that's a pretty high bar. But if it's a bit lower, I wouldn't be concerned about it, as long as it's in the ballpark.

BERMAN: Any hints, any early hints about where it may land?


BERMAN: It doesn't work like that?

FAUCI: It's one of those situations, John, you just -- no, you've got to look at the data. The data will speak. You know, no guessing, no figuring out. Just look at the data and go with the data.

BERMAN: All right. A hundred million doses in a hundred days. That's the target of the Biden administration.

There were more than a million vaccines administered yesterday. So if we did not get to 100 million in a hundred days at this point, it would mean backsliding. It would mean something went wrong. It would mean that we started doing worse than we did yesterday.

FAUCI: Right.


BERMAN: So I want to put the question to you in this way. If we got to April 30, which is a hundred days in --

FAUCI: Right.

BERMAN: -- and the exact number of Americans vaccinated was 100 million, how satisfied would you really be?

FAUCI: You know, I mean, obviously, you want to do as best as you possibly can. I'd like it to be a lot more. The goal was set, but you don't want to get fixated on, was that an undershoot or an overshoot. You go for 100 million over a hundred days. If we do better than that, which I personally think we likely will, then great. I just don't want to get fixated. Because I saw that yesterday. There was that back and forth between that.

We're just going to go for it, for as much as you possibly can. When you set a goal, if you do better than the goal, that's terrific. I hope we do.

BERMAN: So the White House released its new coronavirus strategy yesterday, and they came out with this 21-page summary of it. And the No. 1 thing, the No. 1 goal of the new Biden White House in terms of battling the pandemic is to restore trust with the American people. Why is it necessary to say that?

FAUCI: Well, I think that that was really good making that No. 1. Because what we've had, John -- there's no secret -- we've had a lot of divisiveness. We've had facts that were very, very clear, that were questioned. People were not trusting what health officials were saying. There was great divisiveness. Masking became a political issue.

So what the president was saying right from the get-go, you know, let's reset this. Let's everybody get on -- on the same page, trust each other, let the science speak.

And he said that multiple times. Not only before the cameras. He said it to us in the meeting that we had in the White House yesterday, right before I went into the press conference. Just that. It's got to be, science is driving what we're doing.

You know, John, that's what I've been saying with you every time I've been on the program here. If we can do that, get people to trust in each other that we're all in this together, forget the divisiveness. We have a serious opponent here.

The president made the analogy of a war. Yes, I mean, if you look at the numbers, over 400,000 people dead. That's quite comparable to World War II. I mean, that's the reason why we've really got to restore trust and restore a unified approach.

BERMAN: Did the lack of candor, did the lack of facts, in some cases, over the last year cost lives?

FAUCI: You know, it very likely did. You know, I don't want that, John, to be a sound bite, but I think if you just look at that, you could see that when you're starting to go down paths that are not based on any science at all -- and we've been there before; I don't want to rehash it -- that is not helpful at all.

And particularly when you're in the situation of almost being in a crisis with the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths that we have. When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful.

BERMAN: So the new White House coronavirus coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, told our M.J. Lee, for almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy. How fair is that?

FAUCI: Well, you know, there -- there was a strategy that we had when I was on the coronavirus task force. It wasn't articulated well, but there was a fractionation of it, John.

There was a strategy that we knew that we were talking about. But the separation of the federal government and the states, I thought -- and I had said back then, months and months ago -- I thought that was really a lesion. You don't want the federal government to do everything and you don't want the states to do everything. But what we saw a lot of was saying, OK, states, do what you want to do.

And states were doing things that clearly were not the right direction. And that's unfortunate.

So, the best thing to do is to have a plan, have the federal government interact with the states in a synergistic, cooperative, collaborative way, helping them with resources and helping them with a plan. At the same time respecting the individual issues that any individual state might have. That's the way to go.

Not, You're on your own, good-bye, see you around, later. That doesn't work. And a lot of states did not like that. They want to have the capability of making their own decisions, but they also need resources, and they need help.

So, I mean, if you're saying, that's not a good plan if you have that fractionation, it's true. If you have a plan and everybody pulls together, I think that's the way to go. I know that's the way to go.

BERMAN: What's the one thing that you would like to see today? What's the one thing that could make a difference today into getting more shots in people's arms?

FAUCI: Well, you know, it's a complicated issue. What I think what we really need to do is we've got to go into the trenches -- and I've said this so many times -- and figure out, what is it that's the cause of what we're hearing, that sometimes doses are not being given and they're hanging around; and another state is saying, we need more doses. We have so many people.