Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Interview With U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Interview With Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH); Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D- MN). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 18, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Pandemic of the unvaccinated. COVID cases rise in every single U.S. state, as President Biden pokes social media platforms for letting misinformation spread.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people.
BASH: Can America turn things around? I'll speak to the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, next.
And make or break. Senate Democrats set a deadline for a key infrastructure vote, as growing Republican opposition puts the bipartisan compromise in jeopardy. The latest with the chief Republican negotiator of the deal, Senator Rob Portman, who joins me exclusively next.
Plus: on the road. Democrats go local to promote voting rights.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): There are many routes to success here.
BASH: But roadblocks remain in the Senate. So how will anything change? I will speak to the committee chair holding that hearing, Senator Amy Klobuchar, ahead.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is seeing red.
Coronavirus cases are surging across the country once again, as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., are now seeing rising cases. That's the first time that has happened since January.
As many of us know by now, the COVID vaccines are extraordinarily effective at preventing serious disease. And 99 percent of those who are now dying of COVID are unvaccinated. This new wave did not have to happen. The United States is a country where the vaccine is readily available and free, yet less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID. And, as vaccine hesitancy turns into vaccine hostility and health
officials brace for more avoidable pain and death, some local leaders are encouraging, or, in the case of L.A. County, mandating the use of masks indoors, regardless of people's vaccination status.
While the Biden administration tries to tackle false information about the vaccines, President Biden is saying flat out -- he said it on Friday -- that social media platforms are killing people by allowing vaccine lies to spread, as the U.S. surgeon general took an extraordinary step of labeling vaccine misinformation a serious threat to public health.
And joining me now is the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning.
So, new cases in the U.S. have tripled, tripled in the last three weeks. We know that hospitalizations and deaths tend to follow, unless you're vaccinated.
So, are you bracing for a rise in deaths from COVID in the coming weeks?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, thanks, Dana.
I am worried about what is to come, because we are seeing increasing cases, among the unvaccinated in particular. And while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately, that is not true if you are not vaccinated.
We're seeing 99.5 percent of deaths right now from COVID-19 in our country are happening among the unvaccinated. And so that's why it is so important that we take every measure possible to make sure people have the information they need about the vaccine, to make sure they have access to the vaccine, and to help them get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
It is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic, Dana.
BASH: Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says that the rise in cases can be traced back to the CDC's abrupt decision to lift mask guidance for vaccinated individuals.
And your predecessor, Jerome Davis -- excuse me -- Jerome Adams called that messaging premature, says that you should hit the reset button on that guidance.
Should you? And was ending the mask guidance a mistake?
MURTHY: Well, and, Dana, let's talk about what's driving the rise.
What's driving the rise of infections actually is the Delta variant. This is the most highly transmissible virus that we -- variant of COVID-19 that we have seen to date, and it is spreading quickly in the United States, as it did in the United Kingdom and in other countries as well, including India. So, that is what is driving the situation we're seeing on the ground
But, with that said, I think the CDC guidance around mask was intended actually to give flexibility to individuals and to localities, recognizing that, in this next phase of the pandemic, as we move into more of a local and regional response, based on people's vaccination rates in communities, that that guidance around what to do with mitigation measures like masks would also be tailored locally.
And so when you see places like L.A. County and other parts of the country, where you see counties making decisions about masks that may be different from other counties, that's OK. They're doing that based on what's happening in their communities, based on vaccination rates and case counts.
And I should just say also, as far as individuals are concerned, there's a similar flexibility there, that, even though your risk of getting sick, and especially seriously ill or transmitting the virus to someone else, if you're fully vaccinated is low, there are some people who may decide that they want to continue wearing masks.
Maybe they live in a community where there's a lot of virus. Maybe they have unvaccinated people at home, and they want to be extra cautious. And that is OK. The CDC guidance gave flexibility to counties and individuals. And that's why you see differences in what people are doing across the country.
BASH: Well, let me ask you personally.
I know you have young children. They're too young to be vaccinated. So you are vaccinated. Do you wear a mask all the time because of that?
MURTHY: Well, it's a good question.
And it depends on my setting. My -- I do have two children at home. They are unvaccinated because they're too young to be eligible yet for a vaccine. So, if I'm in an area where I think there may be a lot of folks who are unvaccinated, out of an abundance of caution, I will wear my mask in indoor settings. I don't wear my mask when I'm outdoors.
And when I'm in settings where I'm with people who are fully vaccinated, I don't wear a mask either. And that's my personal choice based on my individual circumstances at home and based on the fact that I spend a fair amount of time in parts of the country where there is a substantial amount of virus circulating.
But each of us is going to make our own decision here, based on our risk tolerance, based on our home circumstances, based on what's happening in our neighborhood and our county.
BASH: We're hearing about vaccinated, again, vaccinated individuals experiencing breakthrough infections. Just some examples, a Yankees-Red Sox game was canceled because six
vaccinated players caught the virus, three vaccinated Texas Democrats who met with top officials here in D.C. also infected. I understand the vaccine prevents serious disease and death, but what's your recommendation for the 160 million vaccinated Americans? Should we be living our lives any differently than we normally would?
MURTHY: Well, the good news, Dana, is not only is the vaccine highly effective at preventing severe infection, like hospitalizations and deaths, but even if you do have a breakthrough infection, which, again, happens in a very small minority of people, it's likely to be a mild or asymptomatic infection, given, again, that the vaccines don't just prevent infection, but they reduce the severity of breakthrough infections.
So, my hope is that people will feel reassured by that. I certainly am fully vaccinated, and I feel reassured by that data as well. It's what makes me feel comfortable going out and resuming so many other activities that I have missed over the last year.
But, with that said, if you're in a community where there is a lot of viruses spreading, some people may choose to be more cautious, in terms of how they use masks or in terms of their engagements. And that's OK to do.
We have got to realize getting back to -- quote, unquote -- "normal" and to what life was like pre-pandemic is going to be a process. We're not all going to move at the same pace in terms of our comfort with going back to the way things were, whether it's changing our mask practices or whether it's reengaging in group settings.
So it will take time.
MURTHY: But the good -- what we have got to do is make sure that science is guiding our process here.
BASH: Let's talk about the misinformation out there about vaccines.
You announced a new advisory this week to combat misinformation, specifically on social media. After President Biden said that social medias are killing people, here's what a Facebook official said to CNN in response -- quote -- "In private exchanges, the surgeon general has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID- 19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals."
So, that Facebook official is accusing you of saying one thing in public and another behind closed doors. Is that accurate?
MURTHY: Well, I have been very consistent in what I have said to the technology companies that I have spoken with, a number of them, over the last many months, and my team has as well.
And what I have effectively said is, when we see steps that are good, that are being taken, we should acknowledge those. And there have been some positive steps taken by these technology companies. Some of them have worked to try to up-promote accurate sources, like the CDC and other medical sources. Others have tried to reduce the prevalence of false sources in search results.
But what I have also said to them, publicly and privately, is that it's not enough, that we're still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online.
And we know that health misinformation harms people's health. It costs them their lives. I have seen that as a doctor over the years, as patients have struggled with health misinformation.
And here's the key thing to remember. Health misinformation takes away our freedom and our power to make decisions for us and for our families. And that's a problem. And this -- the platforms have to recognize that they have played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading.
BASH: And what about the specific accusation that you're making Facebook and other social media platforms a scapegoat?
MURTHY: Well, my concern as surgeon general has been consistent from the beginning.
We saw misinformation flowing around COVID-19 from the beginning. And we have raised those concerns to these companies. And I spoken about my concerns about misinformation publicly numerous times over the last many months.
My concern is that we're not seeing nearly enough progress here. And that's one of the reasons I issued this advisory. It's not entirely about the tech companies. I issued this advisory to call the entire country to action, recognizing there are steps all of us can take.
Technology companies have an important role, particularly when it comes to being transparent with the public about how much misinformation is flowing on their sites.
MURTHY: But think about individuals, Dana.
Each of us has a decision that we make every time we post something on social media. And I'm asking people to pause and to see, is a source accurate? Is it coming from a scientifically credible authority? And if it's not, or if you're not sure, don't share.
BASH: Yes. And to that point, you said that disinformation coming from so-called bad actors is also to blame for this.
And I want our viewers to have an idea of disinformation being spread on the right. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: There's nothing more anti-democratic, anti- freedom than pushing an experimental drug on Americans against their will.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: The idea that you would force people to take medicine they don't want or need, is there a precedent for that in our -- in our lifetime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like a vaccination, in a weird way, is just generally kind of going against nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I wonder if that person has ever flown in an airplane or a car or taken an Advil.
But, besides that, President Biden did accuse social media platforms of killing people. Do you think conservative media, like FOX News, are doing the same? Are they killing people, too, with rhetoric like you just heard?
MURTHY: Well, Dana, I think all of us, including the media, including individuals, health professionals, have a responsibility to share the truth about health, as science dictates, as science informs us.
And unless we do that, unless we are honest about the consequences of our communication with people, unless we are rigorous about ensuring that what we communicate is actually sourced from science, and not from an opinion, on critical issues like the vaccine, then we are going to ultimately put people at risk.
And that is my great worry, Dana. There are people all across our country, and I hear from folks all the time, who are struggling to make decisions about their health after this very difficult year we have been through. People deserve to have access to accurate information. They deserve to hear that from their leaders. They deserve to hear that from the media. They deserve to see that on platforms online.
And that -- they need that information to be able to make decisions to protect themselves and their families. That's the least we can do for them. And my worry is that all this misinformation that's floating around is having a real cost that can be measured in lives lost. And that is just tragic.
BASH: Dr. Murthy, before I let you go, quickly, on a different topic, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation this week to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
From a health perspective, do you support that?
MURTHY: Well, when it comes to marijuana, Dana, I think we have to let science guide us.
And we know that the science tells us that there are some benefits to -- from marijuana from a medical perspective. But there are also some harms that we have to consider. And we have to put those together as we think about the right policy.
Now, when it comes to decriminalization, I don't think that there is value to individuals or to society to lock people up for marijuana use. I don't think that serves anybody well. And so -- but I do think that, in terms of our approach to marijuana, I worry when we don't let science guide our process in policy-making.
And, as surgeon general, that is -- that's my role, is to work with policy-makers, to work with members in the community and the general public to help people understand what science tells us and, where you have gaps, to help fill those gaps with research and with honest inquiry.
BASH: Dr. Vivek Murthy, thank you so much for joining me this morning. Appreciate it.
MURTHY: Thanks so much, Dana. Take care.
BASH: And a critical week for President Biden's agenda on issues that could chart the course for this country, from rebuilding America to choosing its leaders.
I will speak to Republican Senator Rob Portman next and Democrat Amy Klobuchar coming up.
BASH: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
It is a pivotal week for President Biden, with trillions of dollars and cornerstones of his agenda at stake.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduling a test vote Wednesday on two Biden priorities, including a bipartisan $1.2 trillion deal to upgrade the nation's roads and bridges, which has run into some Republican opposition, as negotiators try to flesh out the details.
Joining me now exclusively is the lead negotiator on the infrastructure deal, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
Thank you for joining me this morning, Senator.
I know that you and your colleagues are working through the weekend to try to finalize this bipartisan infrastructure bill. Will it be ready by Wednesday?
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Well, we're still working on it. It's more important to get it right than to meet an arbitrary deadline.
And we are still negotiating. In fact, last night, I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House. And, later today, we will be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who have come together to put this bill into a track that's very unusual for Washington.
People are used to legislative -- legislation being on the Republican side or the Democrat side. And this is a little confusing for people, because it's actually 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats putting this together.
Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill, nor is Mitch McConnell, by the way. So that's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready.
And it's incredibly important legislation. We have a situation now in our country where we do have crumbling infrastructure. It's hurting our efficiency, therefore our productivity and our competitiveness. China spends about three or four times more on infrastructure than we do as an example.
So, everybody knows that. Every president in modern history has said we have got to have a massive investment in our infrastructure, President Bush, President Obama. President Trump actually had a $1.5 trillion proposal in his budget, so significantly more than we're talking about.
So it's important that we get it done. It's been talked about for years. And yet it's got to be done in a thoughtful, bipartisan way. We don't want to rush this process and make mistakes.
BASH: I'm going to ask you about the substance of it in a minute.
But you say that Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, is trying to give an arbitrary deadline. I have covered lots of legislative battles in the Senate. And what he's saying is, let's just start debate. He's not saying, let's have a final vote on a bill.
So what's wrong with that?
PORTMAN: Start debate on what? We don't have a product yet. And we won't have a product until we can finish the negotiations properly.
Again, this is a complex bill. It involves several committees. It involves a lot of very tough issues, because we have got to resolve them between us first. So, again, we're meeting today. There are 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans working on this. And we're moving as fast as we can.
Dana, think about it. When we came together with the general framework agreement, it was decided that we would then get into the details. We have had one week of legislative session since then for a bill that, as you indicated earlier, is -- over a 10-year period over a trillion dollars, over a five-year period, which is what it's for, it's $579 billion.
It makes historic investments in our infrastructure. We want to get it right. So it's not too much to ask that we have the time to do that. Again, I was on with the White House last night negotiating some of the final details. So, we're still very much in that process.
We will push as hard as we can. We're working all weekend again. And that's important.
PORTMAN: It's important to get it done, because it's an urgent matter. But we ought not to have an arbitrary deadline forcing this process.
BASH: So, let...
PORTMAN: We ought to be sure that we're doing it in a way that ends up with the best product.
BASH: So, let's talk about some of the sticking points that I know that you're working through.
One of the proposals is to improve IRS enforcement of existing laws, which is estimated to increase revenue by up to $100 billion without raising taxes. A number of your Republican colleagues, though, they are coming out against this approach. Senator Ted Cruz called it a foolish and dangerous idea.
So is IRS enforcement still part of your proposal or not?
PORTMAN: Well, one reason it's not part of the proposal is that we did have pushback. Another reason is that we found out that the Democrats were going to put a proposal into the reconciliation package which was not just similar to the one we had, but with a lot more IRS enforcement.
PORTMAN: So, that created quite a problem, because the general agreement is that this is the bipartisan negotiated infrastructure package, and that we will stick with that.
And President Biden, to his credit, said that we will not be renegotiating these items in the reconciliation package. Remember, originally, the infrastructure package....
BASH: Go ahead.
PORTMAN: Originally, the introduction package that President Biden put forward was twice as big as ours in terms of core infrastructure.
So they have different ideas on this. So we have a bipartisan process here. It's a compromise between both sides. Both sides make concessions. We want to stick with that.
And in terms of IRS reform, or IRS tax gap, which is what was in the original proposal, that will no longer be in our proposal. It will be in the larger reconciliation bill, we are told. And that's the two tracks here. We have the infrastructure bill separately from the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that is a strictly partisan exercise, more typical of Washington, frankly.
Ours is the one that's unusual. And I think that's one reason you see this difference between what Senator Schumer wants to do in terms of timing and what we must do on behalf of country.
BASH: So, if that's off the table -- if that's off the table...
BASH: ... how are you going to pay for the $1.2 trillion plan?
PORTMAN: Well, that's one reason we're having additional meetings today and had more meetings over the past few days on this topic.
And there are other ways to do this. There's legislation, one called the Medicare rebate rule, that provides significant revenue. I have been on the phone a lot with the Congressional Budget Office and with the Joint Committee on Taxation over the weekend. And we have a number of pay-fors.
And that's important, that it be paid for. It's also important to recognize this is about long-term investments in infrastructure, which is different than government spending for a new social program, as an example. This is spending that will be spent not next year, and it won't be spent, for the most part, until the next five to 10 years or more.
And it goes into long-term assets, which may last 50, 70 years. Think of a bridge or a port or an airport, waterways. The water infrastructure part of, this is very important, the broadband part of this.
So this is about long-term investments, more like capital expenditures in the private sector. Second, because it's good for the economy to make these kinds of expenditures, it will increase the economic growth of our country, therefore, increase revenue. So, by more efficiency in our economy, higher productivity, you will get taxes coming back into the economy because of this.
PORTMAN: So, we take that into account as well, as we should.
PORTMAN: I'm excited about it because it's about our long-term growth as an economy and our competitiveness.
BASH: Senator, I want to ask you about COVID. But, before I do, you just acknowledged that there is a large partisan
Democratic bill that is working in companion with yours. So, are you comfortable with that now?
PORTMAN: I'm not comfortable with their legislation at all, $3.5 trillion...
BASH: But linking the two?
PORTMAN: ... largest tax increase in American history.
They are -- they are not linked. And they cannot be linked. And to President Biden's credit, he has said that they are not linked. They're totally separate.
PORTMAN: Ours is a bipartisan process.
And it is, again, about infrastructure only, which is a different kind of spending than what the Democrats are talking about. Theirs is a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, meaning they only need 50 votes. Ours requires 60. And theirs is about substantially new spending on new social programs, and then huge tax increases.
PORTMAN: And, no, I'm not for that. I think it's a terrible idea for our economy coming out of the pandemic. And I hope that they're not successful.
But ours is on an entirely different track. And everyone acknowledges that.
BASH: Senator, let me just ask you about COVID.
Nearly all new cases, hospitalization, deaths are among unvaccinated Americans. But polls show that nearly half of Republicans, your fellow Republicans, still don't intend to get the vaccine.
I want to play a clip of something that happened last weekend at CPAC's gathering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX BERENSON, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR: They were hoping, the government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated.
And it isn't happening, right?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BERENSON: There's a -- younger people...
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: What you just heard there are people in the CPAC audience celebrating the U.S. falling short of its vaccination goals.
And they're doing that in part because of misinformation coming from the right. So, do your fellow Republicans need to stop questioning the vaccine and start pushing it instead?
PORTMAN: Well, the vaccines are a miracle. I mean, it's amazing.
And, by the way, it's President Trump's administration that started this effort with Operation Warp Speed. And it is something we should all celebrate. The vaccines are safe. The vaccines are effective.
As you know, Dana, I was in one of the trials. And I'm still in the trial, the Janssen J&J trial. So I got my vaccine early to show my constituents that I trusted the vaccines, that they were safe and effective.
And the numbers are overwhelming. If you have been vaccinated, you have a level of protection that is, again, extraordinary. It really is amazing how well it's working. And I -- plaudits to the Trump administration and to the scientists and researchers that worked overtime to prepare these vaccines.
This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, by definition. Surgeon General Murthy just talked about that, that the vast majority, 99 percent or more, of those who unfortunately are dying out from this terrible pandemic are people who are not vaccinated.
So I do encourage people to get vaccinated. I don't think it ought to be something where we're going door to door and mandating it on people. I think what we should be doing is a much more effective and massive public media campaign talking about the facts...
PORTMAN: ... giving people the scientific facts on this.
And, if so, I think we will be able to get that number up. By the way, about 60 percent of the adults in my state and nationwide have been vaccinated. So, we're on track to...
BASH: Those are good numbers. And I...
PORTMAN: ... get to 70 percent, I hope.
BASH: We have to end it here.
But I think the public media campaign is a great idea. The problem is the right-wing media putting out disinformation. So, hopefully, you can talk to them about maybe stopping some of that as well.
Thank you so much, Senator Rob Portman. Appreciate your time this morning. PORTMAN: Thanks, Dana. Thanks for having me on.
BASH: Senators taking the fight over voting rights on the road to hold a rare hearing outside of D.C. in a key battleground state.
Senator Amy Klobuchar on her strategy to pass voting rights -- next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
A Senate committee will hold its first hearing away from Washington in two decades tomorrow to hear from Georgia voters about the state's new election law, which many Democrats say will suppress minority voters in that state, the one that President Biden flipped in 2020.
The chair of the Rules Committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar, joins us live from Atlanta, where she will be holding a voting rights town hall today with Stacey Abrams.
Senator, thank you so much for joining me.
So, you well know you still need 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done right on anything.
KLOBUCHAR: That's right.
BASH: And that includes voting rights, when it comes to legislation, I should say.
Some Senate Democrats are still not willing to sidestep the filibuster on this issue. Is your hearing in Georgia going to change that?
KLOBUCHAR: We have seen a concerted effort across the country.
You know this, Dana, over 400 bills introduced, 28 signed into law, including this really bad one in Georgia, that not only denies voters water when they're standing in line, but also reduces the run-off time to 28 days.
And guess what? You have to register 29 days before. This is clearly a focus by the Republicans in Georgia on limiting people from voting. So we're doing this hearing, yes, to build pressure to pass basic federal voting rights. And that is the For the People Act, the John Lewis bill, you name it.
And so, if we were just to concede and say, OK, we had one vote, the Republicans blocked it, so we're taking our marbles and going home, well, that's sure not fair to the people of Georgia. That sure not fair to the people of Texas.
So we're not giving up. And there are many ways to proceed here, including the upcoming infrastructure packages that was just discussed with Senator Portman. I'm happy to answer. I think we need a deadline that Senator Schumer set. I think we need to get going.
But election infrastructure could actually be in the Democratic package. And that's part of the solution. The House is starting their hearings this fall on the John Lewis Act. And we are moving on that bill.
Then we have a very aggressive Justice Department. This is no longer Bill Barr's Justice Department. This is one that contains people like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke that is ready to go and enforce these laws.
BASH: Senator -- Senator, I just want to follow up on something you just said, because one way to pass the legislation you're talking about, voting rights legislation, with only 51 votes, is through a process known as reconciliation.
And House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn has been floating the idea of trying to pass voting rights that way. Are you saying that you think Senate rules would allow you to pass at least some of the voting rights proposals and provisions through reconciliation?
KLOBUCHAR: That process, to be clear, is no substitute for the For the People Act. It isn't, because the For the People Act is grounded in the Constitution that says Congress can set and alter federal rules for elections.
BASH: But if you can't get that done?
KLOBUCHAR: But if you can't -- OK, just to go, what you can do with infrastructure, which is not in the bipartisan package -- and I'm glad they're continuing to negotiate and make progress -- what you can do is put election infrastructure in there.
You could tie it to certain things as incentives for states to do same-day registration, to do the mail-in balloting. But it is no substitute for putting the basic federal rights in place.
What I'm saying is, you have got to do all these things at once.
BASH: OK. And I want to ask about President Biden, because he gave a big speech pledging to do everything possible to push back on efforts to restrict voting rights.
But he still hasn't supported calls from Democrats, including yourself, to bypass the filibuster in order to pass the broad legislation that you're talking about. So, are you urging the president to change his stance?
KLOBUCHAR: The president is going to make his own decisions.
And he's done an incredible job pushing out the vaccines and building the support for these very important infrastructure packages to help people with child care and housing in the Democratic package.
But what I think we should do, myself, having been here the last decade and seeing exactly what's going on, we need to abolish the filibuster. If you want to move on immigration reform, if you want to move on climate change, as the fires are going in the West and as we have seen record heat, 120 degrees, up in Canada, I think we know what we need to do.
That being said, I'm here today on voting rights. And Senator Manchin has worked with me over the last few months on what is a very good package in terms of some basic federal voting rights, commended by Stacey Abrams, commended by Barack Obama.
And that's the first step. The second step will be to find a way to get this through. Number one would be to get Republicans. I personally don't think that's going to happen.
So, the second thing is to say, well, Senator Manchin has indicated some interest in the standing filibuster. That is one way to do it. We could have it focused on voting rights only. So we're continuing to work with him and many others to get this done.
BASH: So, you think...
KLOBUCHAR: But I'm here in Georgia to tell people we're not giving up just because of some archaic rule in the Senate that basically has -- was set up for not good purposes and has -- and is once again blocking legislation that would help the people of this country.
BASH: So, since you're saying you don't think Republicans are going to come on board, in your conversations with Senator Manchin, you do think it is possible to convince him that, on just this issue of voting rights, to sidestep the filibuster?
KLOBUCHAR: It's not just my conversations. It's people like Senator Warnock, Reverend Warnock, who I'm about to see at his church.
It is people like Jon Tester in Montana, who are in very red-purple states, and who understand what's going on, where they're basically messing around.
BASH: But all of those conversations are having an impact on him?
KLOBUCHAR: I think Joe Manchin listens, and I'm not giving up. I will just leave it at that. I am not giving up.
New topic, Senator. I want you to hear what President Biden said about social media giants and misinformation this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: They're killing people.
I mean, it really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And that's -- and they're killing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you think Facebook should face consequences? And should Facebook be broken up?
KLOBUCHAR: Social media has greatly contributed to this misinformation. There's no doubt. Look at the numbers from the Kaiser Foundation.
Two-thirds of the people who have not gotten vaccinated say because they have got something off of social media. Come on.
So I really appreciate President Biden calling this out. And for months now, I have been taking on the dirty dozen, 12 people responsible for something like 60 percent of this misinformation. Some of them have been taken off of their accounts. But there's more to do.
I think we also should look at changing the liability standards when it comes to vaccine misinformation. Senator Warner and Hirono and I already introduced a bill that would focus on discriminatory content and the like.
When we have a public health crisis and people are dying every day, enough is enough. These are the richest companies in the world. They are, Dana. There's absolutely no reason they shouldn't be able to monitor this better and take this crap off of their platforms that are basically telling people, oh, hey, there's problems, when we know science proves there isn't.
And so I feel very strongly about this, because of the fact that you are literally seeing, as the surgeon general said, over -- that people who are vaccinated, they are the ones that aren't dying. People who aren't vaccinated are really, tragically, dying.
So part of this is Republicans standing up, like Rob Portman just did, and commending the vaccines and asking people to get it, and more Republicans doing that, and more people who maybe didn't even vote for Joe Biden standing up and telling the truth.
KLOBUCHAR: But it is also about the misinformation out there on the social media platforms.
And breaking them up, part of this is, they have gobbled up so many companies, that you don't even have the chance that other media platforms could do this on social media.
So, I am a fan of using antitrust to look back and see if they should divest assets, so we can get true competition against the dominant platforms.
BASH: Senator, before I let you go, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told my colleague Joan Biskupic exclusively this week that he hasn't made a decision on when he will retire from the court.
I know you know your fellow Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal says he's very concerned about the liberal wing of the court being sustainable. So, is Justice Breyer making a mistake by not retiring?
KLOBUCHAR: I'm not going to speculate on his retirement.
But, in your exclusive interview from CNN, it was very clear that he said two reasons. One is health that he would look at and, two, the court.
Well, when you look at the court, he has to be concerned about the makeup. And you have to be concerned about how you get a justice on the court with all of the manipulation that Mitch McConnell has engaged in. So that would lead me to say, sooner, rather than later.
He makes his own decision about if he's going to retire, but he's going -- if he's going to retire, it should be sooner, rather than later, if you are concerned about the court, because what happens in the U.S. Senate matters.
BASH: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you so much for joining me this morning from Georgia. I appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
BASH: Yesterday marks one year since the death of civil rights icon, Congressman, and good troublemaker John Lewis. An anniversary commemorated by solemn remembrances and candle light vigils. The Navy even christened a new oiler ship, the USNS John Lewis.
A lot has happened in the year since Lewis' death. Donald Trump lost the election. President Biden won. The former president's refusal to concede and rhetoric propagating the big lie fueled of violent insurrection on the Capitol, where Lewis served, and where he was the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the rotunda as part of his funeral one year ago.
The 2020 election conspiracies are also prompting Republican-led legislatures in dozens of states to move to limit voting access, the very access Lewis repeatedly risked his life as a young man to fulfill.
In 2018, I was privileged to join John Lewis on his annual pilgrimage back to Selma, Alabama and walk with him on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where he was beaten almost to death in a 1965 march for voting rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Why is it so important to come back and to keep coming back every year?
JOHN LEWIS, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It is a must to come back. This is the place that gave us the Voting Rights Act, made it possible for hundreds of thousands and millions of people to be able to participate in the democratic process.
People in Selma, all across Alabama, in Mississippi and other states that are south struggled for and died for the right to vote. In Selma, in 1965, only 2.1 percent of Blacks of voting age were registered to vote. People were asked to count the number of bubbles (ph) on the wall (ph), so the number of jelly beans in a jar. So we have to come back to remind people of the changes that we've made and changes we still must make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: At that time back in 2018, Mr. Lewis was pushing to rework the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck down a key part requiring states to get federal approval before changing their election laws. And earlier this month, the Supreme Court chipped away at a different part of that landmark Voting Rights Act that Lewis and so many others shed blood to achieve.
In both decisions, the court said it is up to Congress to rework the law. Well, since 1965, reauthorizing voting rights protections has been a bipartisan endeavor. It was extended and amended by Congress and signed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, all Republican presidents, bipartisan efforts. That is the real history. The ball is firmly in your court, Congress.
We'll be right back.
BASH: That's it for us today. Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.