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Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) is Interviewed about Build Back Better; Dr. Nicole Lurie is Interviewed about the Testing Shortage; David Pepper is Interviewed about Gerrymandering. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 29, 2021 - 08:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Soon release a plan for executive action, specific.

So, can you tell us more about this plan and what it will entail?

REP. MARIE NEWMAN (D-IL): Well, first of all, thank you for having me this morning and good morning.

AVLON: Good morning.

NEWMAN: Yes, we've been working -- since Mr. Manchin made this announcement that he would walk back his promise to the American people. And, John, at the heart of it, that's what this is, is he's betraying the country and certainly his state. His state is the one -- to the tune of 70 percent of his state has said we want paid leave, we want our taxes cut through the child tax credit, et cetera.

So, we have asked the president, what can we get done in terms of executive action, particularly on climate action. We think that a lot can be done on the executive action side. But we do have a plan and package and working closely with him, but we asked the president to take action now.

AVLON: Well, I just want to get specific about that because, obviously, the Constitution mandates that Congress has the power of the purse strings.

So, specifically, what do you think that President Biden can do via executive action that would have been included in a more expanded version of Build Back Better specific to the climate? What specifically are you going to call on the president do by executive action?

NEWMAN: Well, I think, first things first, right, is the most powerful climate action we can take is making sure that we're working with companies to reduce emissions. And we think that we can do that by executive action.


NEWMAN: We can also mitigate significant things like lead pipes, as well as mitigate significant affordable housing issues where we can create greener, affordable housing.

So there are a wide variety -- remember, climate action isn't just one silo of things. It affects housing, employment, how we address climate justice in at risk communities and on and on. We think a lot of that can be done via climate action, or, excuse me, executive action

AVLON: I appreciate you getting specific and -- because there has been a lot of confusion about such a bold call. But what you're saying is basically a lot of the agencies may be able to do this through regulation. Now, presumably, that may delay implementation through the courts, but that's a level of specificity we haven't seen, so thank you for that.

I want to ask you also just about the overall effort. There's been debate about whether maybe they should be broken up. There's questions about how you bring Manchin back in if you're going to get this done through reconciliation because it doesn't look like Republicans are going to help you.

I know progressives have compromised a lot in an attempt to get this done. But, you know, David Axelrod, one of your home state colleagues, fairly wise guy himself, said in an op-ed in "The New York Times," you can't always get what you want, to paraphrase Roosevelt, it's a rendezvous with destiny, reality and a fight for what is possible.

How do you think -- where are the outlines for common ground given this unexpected bush back pitch by Joe Manchin at the 11th hour? How do you see a grand compromise being able to get this done through reconciliation for Democrats?

NEWMAN: Well, I think Mr. Manchin has to feel the pressure, right, is that, first of all, the American public, to the tune of 65 percent to 70 percent of the nation wants things like paid leave, the extension of the child tax credit, making sure that we have affordable housing, making sure that we have climate action. The nation wants this. But just as importantly, he has -- the president has about 99.9 percent of the party pointed in the right direction to get a reconciliation package done. So all we have to do is make sure that Mr. Manchin can get on this bus and make sure that this gets done. I've got to believe in his heart of hearts he cares about the country.

AVLON: Of course, Of course.

NEWMAN: And so I beseech him -- I beseech him to think about that each and every day when he wakes up. When moms and dads wake up and they have to go to work sick because either they're stick or their child is sick and they don't have paid leave, when, in fact, we've reduced poverty between 30 percent and 35 percent as a result of child tax credits, he's got to understand that he's in, I think, the sixth most poverty stricken state in this nation.


NEWMAN: So, I beseech him to think about his moral values.

AVLON: Congresswoman Marie Newman, thank you very much for joining us on NEW DAY.

NEWMAN: Thank you so much.

AVLON: Be well.

Up next, fighting the omicron wave. Will millions of at-home Covid tests make a difference?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: But first, friends, collaborators, legends. Carole King and James Taylor in an unforgettable concert film, "Just Call Out My Name," Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.

Here's a preview.


ANNOUNCER: Friends, collaborators, legends. Their music shaped a generation. They came together for the tour of a lifetime.

CAROLE KING AND JAMES TAYLOR (singing): And it's too late, baby, now, it's too late

ANNOUNCER: James Taylor.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His songs were amazing, his voice was amazing, and his demeanor.

JAMES TAYLOR: Yee-haw (ph).

ANNOUNCER: And Carole King.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carole King, one o the greatest songwriters of all time.

TAYLOR: And I asked her to be a part of my band.

TAYLOR (singing): I've seen fire and I've seen --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four years have passed sense the first time we played.

KING: I love every experience we have had together.

CAROLE KING AND JAMES TAYLOR (singing): You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running.

ANNOUNCER: "Just Call Out My Name," Sunday at 9:00, on CNN.




COLLINS: President Biden is ending his first year in office still dealing with an issue from the early days of his presidency, testing.

Joining us now is Dr. Nicole Lurie, former assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services. She's also the director of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, all titles that are very important, obviously, now.

And, Doctor, I want to talk to you about what the CDC director just told CNN when it comes to testing and the shortages that we've seen in the United States. This is what she said.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: Right. So we now have 20,000 sites where you can get a PCR on-site and more and more federal new testing sites coming online in the current moment. The administration is doing a lot to make sure that those rapid tests are affordable and accessible. And I know with this bringing of half a billion rapid tests that are coming in January, there will be free rapid tests at sites so that people can easily access them.


COLLINS: So that plan there that she's talking about is a new one from the administration, distributing half a billion free tests to people who sign up for them online. And I'm wondering if you think that's a good step, really a significant enough step, I guess, given what we've seen with the shortages so far.

DR. NICOLE LURIE, FORMER HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE: Well, I guess I think it's a great step. But, to be honest, I don't think we really need to wait for rapid tests and all these diagnostic tests to know what to do. We know that if you're sick, you need to stay home, and that if you go out, that you need to wear a mask. And so the idea that we have to wait for these tests to be available, to take the kind of actions that we need to take, doesn't quite add up to me. So, I think we're creating a huge controversy over something that doesn't need to be as controversial as it is.

COLLINS: Well, what about the affordability of the test as well. Because they've said in January that's when they will be plentiful, they're hoping. That is what they're aiming for right now, trying to get these back on the shelves so you can just walk into a drug store and get one easily.

But they're still not that inexpensive when it comes to, if you have several children or you're buying a lot because of your job and your line of work. They're still pretty expensive.

LURIE: You know, that's right. And it would be terrific to have free or extremely low-cost diagnostic tests. We know that in every aspect of getting medical care in this country, that cost is an issue. So getting them to be free will be really critical. But that doesn't change the fact that if you're sick, you should stay

home if you can. And if you can't, you should be wearing a mask.

COLLINS: What do you make of the new CDC guidance that shortened that isolation period, if you're asymptomatic or what it said on the CDC website, the language was, if your symptoms are resolving?

LURIE: You know, I think it's really well intentioned. And I think you always have to balance the science, the uncertainty, the public health need and getting society to continue to function. I think that's what CDC was trying to do. I don't think that they communicated it very well or very clearly. So, right now, a lot of the public is pretty confused.

COLLINS: Do you think a lot of that has to do, though, with the public just not willing to do whatever it is that the CDC recommends? Because it seems inevitable that at any point there will be some people who don't want to do the recommended isolation or what they do leave (ph), what you've been talking about that's so important, wearing a good mask when you're out in public, a lot of people we've seen don't want to do that or just don't do it.

LURIE: Well, I think that's exactly right, they don't want to do it. And, in some sense, they feel forced to do it. I didn't see the CDC telling people they were forcing them to do anything. I didn't hear anything about a mandate. What I heard was, if you're sick, it makes sense to get a test. If you're positive, you should stay home and not expose others. And particularly if you are not vaccinated and you're exposed, it's important for you to be wearing a mask, for you to get tested, and to take care of yourself. And if you're positive, and you're unvaccinated, you're at a lot higher risk of getting sick and ending up in the hospital. So you're going to want to know if you have Covid so that you can get appropriate treatment. I didn't hear anything about a mandate. What I heard was, this is what makes good common sense. It just was not communicated very clearly.

COLLINS: Yes, of course, these are guidelines, recommendations from the CDC on what's best. They have been updating them.

Dr. Nicole Lurie, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

LURIE: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Up next, the legal showdown in Ohio as Republicans are looking to redraw the congressional map.



AVLON: Gerrymandering, the dark at of politicians picking their people rather than people picking their politicians, continues unabated in America. Yesterday, though, we saw some rare evidence of non-partisan redistricting success in Michigan and Virginia. But in Ohio, where voters passed a constitutional amendment to have a non-partisan process put in place just a few years ago, the state GOP rammed through hyper partisan maps that could give them a built-in 13-2 congressional seat advantage. Well, yesterday, that plan got its day in the Ohio State Supreme Court.

And joining me now to discuss it is David Pepper, he's the former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party and the author of "Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call from Behind the Lines."

So, David, thanks for joining us on NEW DAY.

Tell us what happened in this hearing yesterday, which I should note included the son of the current governor sitting in judgment after refusing to recuse himself.

DAVID PEPPER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Yes, that was sort of symbolic of how broken Ohio's politics is. Such an egregious conflict of interest. So we have a pretty balanced Supreme Court at this point. We have three Democratic endorsed justice, three Republican endorsed justices. And a chief justice who voted against the last gerrymandering in 2011. So, the argument yesterday was about the congressional map that, as you said, would be rigged to be about 13-2 or 12-3.

Incidentally, the breakdown in Ohio is somewhere around 53 percent Republican, 47 percent Democrat. So a fair map would be around 8-7. You know. 12-3, 13-2 is outrageous.

And so they faced tough questions yesterday. We'll now wait. Hopefully, you know, this week or soon we'll get an outcome. And then if the court strikes the map down, obviously I hope they do, then it would go back to the statehouse to get their act together and start trying to follow the constitution.

AVLON: Yes, what a novel idea.


AVLON: And I'll say, you know, those stats you just -- registration stats, doesn't even count for the independent voters that make up a plurality of voters in the state of Ohio.


PEPPER: Right. Well, the formula is you're supposed to take the last ten years of statewide elections and do the math and figure out where your breakdown is. The Republicans -- by the way, the Republicans were caught using two sets of book. Internally they had data that showed them that this was a really good map for them, but then they would present public numbers that they actually weren't using to make it sound like it was competitive. And in the briefs from the people challenging the map showed that they were literally using public books to make it look good, private books to assure all these congressmen, don't worry, we've got you taken care of.


PEPPER: And I think that's one of the biggest problems they face in front of the Ohio Supreme Court is, they were basically lying to the public about what the map would actually do.

AVLON: Well, look, you know, we've seen states push through these hyper partisan maps from Republicans in Texas to Democrats in Illinois, some of which are being now challenged in court, as you're doing. But what do you make of the success of these non-partisan processes in Michigan and Virginia yesterday? We don't usually get to talk about the good stuff in that regard.

PEPPER: Yes, I've always said. if you took, you know, ten randomly selected citizens, and had them draw a map, it would be always far better than the politicians. And Michigan proved us right yesterday. You know, Ohio tried a constitutional amendment for an independent commission and it failed 70-30. That's why we went with the changes that ultimately passed.

But there's no doubt that if you get the politicians out of the room completely, that the average citizen --

AVLON: Things will be better.

PEPPER: If you pick seven viewers, they would do a better job because they don't have the inherent conflict of interest of people trying to rig their own election.

AVLON: Sure.

Before we go, I want to talk about your book "Laboratories of Autocracy." It's about the way state legislatures divide the country. Tell us about the state of play and, more importantly, you know, when it comes to things like election subversion, what you think can be done about this.

PEPPER: So, yes, I mean the title basically is describing the reality in our country today, which is state houses and many of them, like Ohio's, have essentially become undemocratic and they're pulling down the entire nation's democracy.

AVLON: Lower case d.

PEPPER: We have to fight back. If we don't, they'll succeed. There's federal solutions, like the Freedom Vote Act. But as I put in the book, there are many things individual citizens can do -- you know, the way I think about it, we're going into '22, make a new year's resolution that part of your personal mission statement will be to fight for democracy every day. And the book goes through all the ways you can do that, whether it be, you know, registering people to vote.

One of the reasons these state houses do so much damage is, no one's paying any attention to them.


PEPPER: Well, pay attention. Figure out who's your state rep, figure out if they're doing good things or bad things for democracy. If they're doing bad things, make sure they're challenged.

AVLON: David Pepper --

PEPPER: The other thing we have to start doing, the national party, those who believe in democracy, they've got to understand that politics these days is a 50-state battle for democracy. And everything should be shaped from that. We shouldn't only fight for it in a few swing states, in a presidential year, we have to fight for democracy every year at every level.

AVLON: And every day.

PEPPER: School boards, state house, you name it.

AVLON: David Pepper --

PEPPER: The people fighting democracy are doing it every year all over the country.

AVLON: We're going to have to leave it there, David.

We're going to have to leave it there, but you're dead right, decisions are made by people who show up. Thank you so much for joining us, David. Be well.

PEPPER: Thanks, John.

COLLINS: Time now for the "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

A record number of new Covid cases in the United States. More than 265,000 as omicron and delta variants fuel the surge. The number of hospitalizations not rising at the same rate as that. But hospitalizations of children are up about 50 percent in just one week.

AVLON: Former Democratic Senate Header Harry Reid has died. He spent 30 years representing the state of Nevada in Congress. Reid lost his four-year battle with pancreatic cancer on Tuesday at the age of 82.

COLLINS: Legendary NFL coach, Hall of Famer and cultural icon John Madden has also died. His Oakland Raiders won the Super Bowl XI in 1977. He then transformed himself into a beloved analyst and broadcaster for 30 years. John Madden was 85.

AVLON: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is on a rare trip to Israel. He's holding talks with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Ganz, his first working meeting there since 2010.

COLLINS: A record December snowfall in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. They received nearly 17 feet of snow this month.

AVLON: And those are the "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Go to You can get it wherever you get your podcasts.

COLLINS: "The Good Stuff" is next, and you don't want to miss it.

AVLON: Oh, I love "Good Stuff." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COLLINS: It is time for "The Good Stuff."

And it's a story that could warm anybody's cold heart.

A FedEx driver in Maine was able to go home to his family in Jamaica for Christmas thanks to the kindness of the people whose packages he delivers. It started when Vivian and Chase Murphy gave Roger Ingram a bottle of water. It ended with them rallying together with other families in their neighborhood to help him go home for Christmas by paying his plane ticket in full.


ROGER INGRAM, FEDEX DRIVER: It was kind of emotional because I didn't expect it. So, this act of kindness can go a long way.

Yes, they're my buddies now. They're my buddies.



COLLINS: It was Ingram's first time visiting his family in Jamaica in a couple of years. One of those little kids that he delivers to also dressed like him for Halloween. I think we could all do with a little more of that, John.

AVLON: I love it, kindness can change a person's life.


We need more of that.

COLLINS: Yes, more of that, fewer of those plane, crazy meltdowns that people are having.

AVLON: Yes, I'm with you.