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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Interview With Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 19, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Boosters for some.
Third shots are on track for select Americans, leaving others to wonder, what about me? Was the Biden administration wrong about boosters? President Biden's top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is here.
And state of emergency, as millions of Americans still resist even their first shot. The president is calling out governors, such as Tate Reeves of Mississippi, who oppose federal mandates.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I proposed requirement for COVID vaccines and the governor of that state calls it -- quote -- "a tyrannical-type move"?
TAPPER: We will talk to Governor Reeves, who state now has the highest COVID death rate in the country. That's next.
Plus: moment of truth? Democrats' major policy priorities on the line this week, as a divide in the party throws the president's agenda into question.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): We ought not be talking about these numbers. Let's talk about what needs to be done.
TAPPER: But can Democratic leaders get it done? I will speak to the House majority whip, Jim Clyburn, ahead.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper, where the state of our union is trying to figure out if we're going to need to get boosters or not.
As President Biden tries to refocus on his legislative agenda, pushing toward a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill that could define his presidency, the Biden administration is coming off yet another difficult week. Tomorrow, September 20, marks the week that Biden administration had planned to begin giving COVID booster shots to the general public. Instead, an advisory panel to the FDA voted no on Friday, no on recommending booster shots to everyone after six months, recommending instead boosters only for those 65 and older and those at high risk of severe disease.
And they're only furthering confusion for so many Americans, as the pandemic hits another horrifying milestone this week. One in 500 Americans have died from the virus, more than 673,000 people represented here on the National Mall, with flags for each death.
This debate over boosters comes says as the Biden administration is on its heels, with a number of crises of its own doing, facing a devastating acknowledgment from the Pentagon Friday that the drone strike in Afghanistan killed tens civilians, including seven children, a surge of migrants at the Southern border, leaving thousands of people, mostly from Haiti, huddled under a bridge as they wait to be processed, and a diplomatic breakdown with American ally France, after a new national security partnership with the U.K. and Australia.
But we begin today with the pandemic and this booster debate.
TAPPER: Medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, you have been a proponent of booster shots for the general public, but the FDA Advisory Committee overwhelmingly disagrees with you. Do you think that Advisory Committee made a mistake? Do you think the FDA officials should ignore the Advisory Committee's recommendation?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, not at all, Jake. I don't think they made a mistake. And the FDA absolutely should not ignore them.
As we said in the beginning, we would want to plan for the possibility of vaccinating all those who have gotten their initial vaccination with Pfizer. And it was always pending the evaluation of all of the totality of the data, from the United States, from Israel, and any bit of data that we could get, by the Advisory Committee to the FDA.
They did that in the proper, deliberative process, and they came up with a recommendation, which I think is a good recommendation, because, if you look at everyone over 65, and people from 18 to 64 with underlying conditions that make them more likely to have a severe outcome, and those who are 18 to 64 who, by either institutional or occupational situation, put them at a higher risk for exposure and infection, you're going to get a pretty good chunk of the population.
So, I don't think they made a mistake. But the one thing I think people need to realize, that data are coming in literally on a daily and weekly basis, and a decision based on the data that was seen by the committee was a decision that we've just mentioned.
They're going to continue to look at this, literally in real time. More data will be coming in on both safety for younger individuals, efficacy, both from Israel, other countries, as well as our substantial cohorts, that the CDC is following.
FAUCI: So, the story is not over yet. I think people need to understand that. This is not the end of the story.
TAPPER: On Wednesday, you said in an interview -- quote -- "If they say, we don't think there's enough data to do a booster, then so be it. I think that would be a mistake, to be honest with you."
So, on Wednesday, you said it would be a mistake. So -- but now you're saying you don't think it was a mistake?
FAUCI: No, I mean, I -- you know, what I was saying a mistake, my own personal, looking at this -- again, just because I look at the data and say I would do it this way -- that's the reason why we have qualified groups of people who together, as a committee, examine all the data and make a decision.
So I have no problem at all with their decision. The thing that I'm saying is that data will continue to come in. And I believe you're going to see an evolution of this process as we go on in the next several weeks to months.
TAPPER: You said there are indications that the vaccines lose some effectiveness over time.
So, you still believe that as some point the general public will need booster shots, just the FDA Advisory Committee is not there yet?
FAUCI: Jake, what I believe -- and, again, this is my opinion as a scientist and a public health person -- that it is entirely conceivable, and maybe likely, that, ultimately, when we look back on this, the proper regimen for protection, optimal protection, and durability of protection would be more than just the prime and the boost followed by three to four weeks, that it might actually entail a third boost.
That is entirely conceivable because, remember -- remember, Jake, when we did the initial studies, what we did was we had to move very, very quickly, because we were dealing, and still are, with an emergency situation.
So, the prime, followed by a boost in three weeks for Pfizer and four weeks for Moderna, has already saved millions of lives globally. But that doesn't mean that that's the optimal regimen.
What I'm saying, when all is said and done, an optimal regimen may be three shots for everyone. But, right now, based on the data that was examined by the Advisory Committee, their decision, which I respect, is to go the way we just said, with having some limitations on it, remembering always that data keeps coming in on a weekly basis and we're going to see likely an evolution of this decision.
TAPPER: You're in a high-risk group. I believe you're 80. Is that right? Have you gotten your booster?
FAUCI: That -- no, I am 80 and I'm an elderly person, certainly eligible. I will certainly get a booster, yes.
TAPPER: You will get one, but you have not gotten one yet?
FAUCI: Yes. Yes, right.
TAPPER: I want to play what President Biden said about this booster idea one month ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The plan is for every adult to get a booster shot eight months after you've got your second shot.
Pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC's committee of outside experts will be ready to start these booster -- this booster program during the week of September 20.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Dr. Jesse Goodman, the FDA's former chief scientist, told CNN on Friday that Biden making that announcement a month ahead of time, before the FDA, before the CDC made theirs, was quote "backwards and not helpful."
And, at the very least, even though he did say pending approval of the FDA, this is causing more confusion.
Wasn't it a mistake for the president to announce this before the FDA and CDC issued their guidance?
FAUCI: Jake, I don't think so.
The president was very clear, as was the medical group, when we said we are planning to do this, and it was always said in his official statements, in the official written statement from all of us, including the FDA and the CDC, that was pending and on the condition of the examination of all of the data by the FDA.
It's understandable how there could have been some confusion, but what was said was pretty clear, Jake.
TAPPER: Many healthy, fully vaccinated Americans are already going out and getting booster shots without waiting for government approval.
What happens if that trend continues, people just enjoy -- ignore the FDA Advisory Committee recommendation? Are there risks involved in that?
FAUCI: Well, we are strongly recommending that people do not do that, that they abide by the recommendation, and, in this case, as you know, greater than 65 and certain people 18 to 64 with different conditions and different circumstances in life. I mean, obviously, people are going to do that. It is not recommended.
We recommend that people wait until you get to the point where you fall into the category where it's recommended. But you're right. People will be doing that. But that's human nature. Not much you can do about that.
TAPPER: But there's not a risk involved? There's not necessarily anything that -- bad that will happen to them, or is there?
FAUCI: You know, there's always a theoretical risk because the studies have not been done to look at the safety and the immunogenicity of doing that right now for everyone.
But, I mean, people who get J&J will be coming in asking to get Pfizer and Moderna, et cetera. Theoretically, if you look at things, it is very unlikely that there's going to be a risk there. But, scientifically, you don't want to go by unlikely. You want to have some scientific proof. And that's the reason why, right now, we recommend that people go by the guidelines according to the FDA approval and the CDC recommendations.
TAPPER: So, those who have been fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who are over the age of 65 or are at high risk, you're saying do not go out and get the booster unless you've gotten -- unless you're a Pfizer person? Moderna and J&J, wait -- wait for more information for your boosters?
And that wait, Jake, is not going to be very long. We fully anticipate that, within a period of a couple to three weeks, that there will be enough information on the data that will be presented to the FDA by J&J and by Moderna that we'll be able to proceed and get those data analyzed to be able to move with the booster in those categories. We don't believe it's going to be a considerable period of time.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about people who were previously infected with COVID, who -- you and I have discussed this before -- have some lingering antibody protections.
I understand that vaccination offers stronger protections, but what's your answer when people say, why does Biden's new federal vaccine mandate have to apply to people that have had COVID, given that they have some protection already?
FAUCI: Yes, it is true they do have protection.
The one thing that we are not aware of yet -- and, hopefully, we'll get that data -- is what the durability of protection is and, looking ahead, whether or not that type of protection that's induced by natural infection, how that will be against the variety of variants as they arrive. I'm not denying at all that people who get infected and recover have a considerable degree of immunity. We also know -- and I think we should not let this pass without saying it -- that when you get infected and recover, A, you get a good degree of immunity, but, B, when you get vaccinated, you dramatically increase that protection, which is something that's really quite good.
TAPPER: One in 500 Americans have now died from COVID.
And we are, as a nation, about to surpass 675,000 Americans. That's the number of Americans who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Do you think that the United States could see a million deaths due to COVID before this is all over?
FAUCI: Well, I certainly hope not. I hope not.
I don't believe at all that that is something that is an inevitability, by any means. We have the capability within our own power, with our vaccines which are highly efficacious and effective in the real world and safe, that, if we get the overwhelming proportion of our population vaccinated, we're not going to see that at all.
Remember, we have about 70 million people in the population who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. If we can get most of those people vaccinated, the -- when I say the overwhelming majority, we will not see the kinds of deaths that you just mentioned.
TAPPER: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much for answering our questions today.
FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: President Biden is accusing our next guest of putting people's lives at risk with his COVID stance.
The governor of the state with the highest COVID death rate will join me next.
And could Democratic infighting end up tanking President Biden's agenda? A key deadline comes next week.
Democratic House Whip Jim Clyburn is coming up.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Forget boosters. In some states, a majority of people still haven't gotten their first shots, such as Mississippi, where just 42 percent of people are fully vaccinated, ranking just 46th in the nation. And that's partly why Mississippi now has the highest death toll per
capita from COVID-19 in the entire United States. About one out of every 320 people in Mississippi have died of coronavirus.
TAPPER: And the Republican governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, joins me now.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
Take a listen to President Biden singling out your state in a speech on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: In Mississippi, children are required to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and more.
I proposed a requirement for COVID vaccines and the governor of that state calls it -- quote -- "a tyrannical-type move"?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, Governor, I understand the distinction between the federal government imposing a mandate and state law.
But just stepping aside from the idea of President Biden imposing this, why are you and the Mississippi legislature willing to impose mandates for other vaccines, but not when it comes to the COVID vaccine that you yourself have gotten?
GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): Well, the Mississippi legislature has enacted laws, Jake -- and, again, thanks for having me on today.
The Mississippi legislature has enacted laws for many years regarding vaccines of many types. It is unique to kids and their ability to go to our public schools. It's not vaccines mandated in the workplace.
But the question here is not about what we do in Mississippi. It's what this president is trying to impose upon the American worker. The president very much wants you and everyone else to believe that this is a fight between politicians.
The reality is, this is an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians, who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm and their ability to feed their families. And I just believe that's a false choice.
The president does not have the authority to do this. He knows he doesn't have the authority to do this, in my opinion, but he wants to change the political narrative away from Afghanistan and away from the other issues that are driving his poll numbers into the ground and focus on anything, particularly a political fight, other than those issues.
TAPPER: Well, I mean, the virus has killed more than 660,000 Americans.
You're calling the move tyrannical. Just so our viewers understand it, President Biden says he's using a workplace safety law called the Occupation -- Occupational Safety and Health Act to justify the mandate.
That law says that the government can impose an emergency order if it determines -- quote -- "that employees are exposed to great danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger."
I mean, if there ever were a reason to use this law, wouldn't it be during a pandemic, with almost 2,000 Americans dying every day?
REEVES: Well, again, Jake, over 9,000 Mississippians have passed away with COVID, and every single one of them breaks my heart. It is -- it is a very difficult situation that we, as Mississippians, and we, as Americans, find ourselves in.
But we also have to understand that, as we look forward, if this president has the ability to mandate vaccines, what powers do we not grant this president? What does he not have the ability to do?
And for my friends on the left, I just want to point something out. This should scare as you well. This should scare Democrats just as much as it scares Republicans, because the fact is, if we give unilateral authority by one individual to do anything that he wants to do, whether it's a jab in the arm or anything else, then this country is in deep, deep trouble.
And that's not something that I'm willing to stand by and allow him to do. Obviously, we have made it very clear that we are prepared to sue once we actually see the rule.
REEVES: That's another point that I think your viewers need to know, Jake, is that we haven't seen the actual rule itself. All we've had is a press conference. It was 10 days ago or so...
REEVES: .. when this initially came out.
And so let's see what the rule actually says, or let's see if it's like the eviction order that the president signed on to, knowing that he was going to get thrown out by the Supreme Court. And, of course, he certainly did.
TAPPER: Let's talk about what you and the legislature in Mississippi is doing, because I'm sure I don't need to tell you Mississippi this week became the state with the worst number of coronavirus deaths per capita.
In fact, if Mississippi were its own country, you would be second in the world, only to Peru, in terms of deaths per capita. That's a horrible, horrible, heartbreaking statistic.
So, with all due respect, Governor, your way is failing. Are you going to try to change anything to change this horrible statistic from what you're doing already?
REEVES: Yes, well, obviously, the -- in Mississippi, our legislature is a part-time legislature.
I -- sometimes, I wonder if in America if our Congress was part-time, we wouldn't be in a better position.
But let's talk a little bit about...
TAPPER: Better position than what?
REEVES: ... Mississippi and where we are with the virus.
TAPPER: Your state is second worst -- second worst in the world.
I mean, I -- how can you say that?
REEVES: Let's talk about where we are and why -- well, Jake, let's talk about where we are and why we are there.
In large part, just like the summer of 2020, it was the Sunbelt states that saw the initial surge from the Delta variant. It started -- the first state that I saw seeing upticks was Missouri, and then it was Arkansas, and then it was Louisiana. And now it's Mississippi.
Our surge went from less than 100 cases per day in Mississippi to 3, 600, much like what happened in the country of Israel, much what -- like what happened in the country of Great Britain and in England. We saw a very quick spike, and now we're seeing a very could -- a very, very quick decline in the total number of cases.
We spiked at about 3, 600. We're now half of that in our state.
As you know...
REEVES: .. unfortunately, fatalities is a lagging indicator when it comes to the virus. It is a lagging indicator.
And so timing has as much to do with where -- with that statistic that you used as anything else, as we see in 2021 what occurred in 2020 as the Delta variant moves around the country. and it's going to happen.
The president wants you to believe...
REEVES ... that this is -- the Delta variant is only affecting Republicans in red states.
TAPPER Are you going to change anything?
REEVES: That's just not true. That is not a fact.
TAPPER: I understand. I understand. But you're -- you're...
REEVES That is just not true.
And so what you're going to see...
TAPPER: Mr. Governor, my point is this.
REEVES: What you're going to see, Jake, is the...
TAPPER: You compare yourself to Israel. Israel has something like the...
REEVES: ... Delta variant is going to continue to move around the country.
REEVES And you're going to see fatalities rise in other states.
And so here's what we need to focus on, Jake, OK? Let's focus on this.
TAPPER: But my question is, what are you going to do to change...
REEVES The best way in which America...
TAPPER: What are you going to do to change this?
REEVES The best way that Americans -- the best way -- the best thing for Americans to do to protect themselves from the virus -- and, again, we believe in personal responsibility.
Individual Americans and individual Mississippians...
TAPPER: So, you're not going to change anything?
REEVES ... can take -- make those decisions to take care of themselves.
The best thing that Americans can do, number one is to talk to their doctor about potentially getting the vaccine because...
REEVES ... in our state, some 89 percent of those hospitalized and some 87 percent of those who are of the deaths are actually coming from those who were unvaccinated.
So, the number one thing that you can do is you can get -- you can talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.
REEVES: The number two thing is if you get the virus -- and this is very important -- if you get the virus, please talk to your doctor about the monoclonal...
TAPPER: So you're not doing anything?
REEVES ... antibody treatment.
TAPPER: You're not going to change anything?
REEVES: That is the best way in which to do that.
And, unfortunately, the Biden administration continues to try to reduce the allocations of the red states like Mississippi and Florida of that monoclonal antibody treatment.
TAPPER: OK, Governor.
REEVES: It's outrageous.
TAPPER: Governor, if Mississippi were a country, you would have the second worst per capita death toll in the world.
And I'm saying, are you going to do anything to try to change that?
REEVES: Jake, as I mentioned earlier, deaths, unfortunately, are a lagging indicator.
Our total number of cases went from 100 to 3, 600 and, over the last two weeks, has declined. They have been cut in half from 3, 600 to 1, 800.
When you wanted me to come on...
TAPPER: So you think it -- so you think this is successful?
REEVES ... three or four weeks, you wanted to talk about our number of cases. And then you want to talk about our hospitalizations. Now you want to talk about a lagging indicator, which is sad.
And -- and it's true.
TAPPER: I'm trying to talk about the dead in Mississippi, is what I'm trying to talk about.
REEVES: And I -- my heart breaks for all 9,000 Mississippians that have passed away.
But let's put this in perspective, Jake. I mean the reality is, Mississippi accounts for 1 percent of the U.S. population. We account for 1.1 percent of the total number of cases in America. And we account for 1.29 percent of the total number of fatalities in America.
REEVES: And so the reality is, the Delta variant is very transmissible, and it is moving around the country.
If you want to talk about cases right now, talk about Kentucky or West Virginia or what's happening in North Carolina, or moving into Southern Virginia. This virus is very transmissible.
TAPPER: I'm asking you about your state. But -- I'm not going to ask you about West Virginia or Kentucky. I'm going to ask you about your state.
And I'm just saying, you seem to be very, very activated when it comes to fighting the mandate from the federal government. And I understand the arguments you're making.
But what President Biden is trying to do is save lives. Now, you can think that policy or it's unconstitutional, and that's fine. We can have that discussion. We already have. But he's trying to save lives.
I'm saying to you, your way's not working. And whether you say it's a lagging indicator or whatever your argument is, Mississippi now has, if it were its own country, the second worst per capita death rate in the world, behind only Peru.
And I'm saying, are you going to try to do anything to change that? And I'm -- I'm not hearing an answer.
REEVES: Well, what I have said to you repeatedly, Jake, is that Mississippi has taken action.
Mississippi has seen a significant uptick in the total number of Mississippians that have gotten the vaccine. We've seen -- our case numbers have fallen dramatically in the last two weeks.
And so, ultimately, as I've said, deaths, unfortunately, is a lagging indicator. We've seen cases, again, cut in half in Mississippi. In these other states that you refuse to talk about, perhaps because they have Democrat governors, you don't want to talk about them.
But the reality is that you and the president and so many other people...
REEVES: ... want to make this about politics.
TAPPER: The governor of West Virginia is a Republican.
REEVES: This virus is not just attacking Republicans in red states.
This -- this virus is not just attacking Republicans in red states. This virus is attacking Republicans and Democrats in red states and in blue states.
REEVES: And what we ought to be talking about is, what can we do to minimize the deaths going forward?
The president's not focused on saving lives. The president's focused on a -- taking unilateral action to show -- to show his power, to show that he's doing something, but that's not going to solve things.
The governor of West Virginia's a Republican.
But, Governor Tate Reeves, I'm obviously not going to have a governor come on to talk about other states. I'm going to talk about your state.
But we hope that the case rate continues to go down and that the death rate follows and also goes down.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
REEVES: Thanks for having me on, Jake.
TAPPER: The coming week is critical for the Biden legislative agenda. House progressives are warning they could sink a major bill. How will Democratic leadership respond?
We will ask Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
One week, that's how long Democrats have to come to an agreement on two bills they have tied together, two bills that total more than $4 trillion in new spending.
But with some senators saying they only support one of those bills, and progressives in the House saying it's both bills or nothing, Democrats now risk passing neither of them.
TAPPER: Joining us now, the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
So, dozens of progressives in your caucus, in the Democratic Caucus, say they're going to vote no on the bipartisan infrastructure deal on September 27, if a sweeping $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill isn't also passed by then.
Given the fact that you currently don't have 50 votes in the Senate either, it therefore seems pretty unlikely that the reconciliation package will pass both the House and Senate in just the next eight days, don't you think?
CLYBURN: Well, thank you very much for having me, Jake.
Well, you know, we are negotiating. And, of course, we have a pretty big tent in our party. We have progressives that are very, very important, not just to the party, but to the country.
And we have more moderates. And that's how it should be. We reflect what this country is all about. And we have a pretty evenly divided country these days. And all of us are working through that.
So, I know that everybody in our party understand that the country is at a point that we must do some things that we would not do ordinarily. And some of these things are going to be pretty -- pretty expensive.
But the expense, real expense is in not doing them. We cannot continue with this pandemic. We've got to spend the money that's necessary to get beyond it. We have got to do something about our infrastructure. Bridges are breaking down all over, and we've got to do something about it.
TAPPER: But the progressives are going to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure plan when it comes to the House floor on September 27 unless it also comes with the $3.5 trillion budget deal.
You're not going to have that passed by September 27, are you?
CLYBURN: Well, we can. That's my point, unless -- let's make sure that we never get to that point.
And that's why we have so much work going on now. Our leadership is on this. We are working with everybody in all corners of our party. They're trying to get to a common ground on all of these issues. And I feel very comfortable that we are going to get there.
TAPPER: So, you're certain the House will still vote on this bipartisan infrastructure bill on September 27 and that it will pass? Or is it also possible you'll delay the vote?
CLYBURN: Well, there's always a possibility that the vote would get delayed.
But the question is, are we going to work to get to our goal for September 27? Yes. We are going to work hard to reach that goal. And, sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal. We'll do what's necessary to get there.
TAPPER: You suggested on CNN last week that the reconciliation bill could be less than $3.5 trillion.
Senator Manchin said on this show last week that he wants a price tag closer to $1.5 trillion. At the end of the day, where do you think this is ultimately going to land, $2 trillion, $2.5 trillion?
CLYBURN: Well, I have no idea.
I also said last week that we ought to stop focusing on the number and start looking at what needs to be done. And if we are comfortable that we are doing everything that needs to be done for the American people, then let the experts put the number on it, and that will determine how much we need to spend.
And so it may be 3.5. It may be close to that, or it may be closer to something else. So, I think that we ought to really focus on the American people and think about what it takes to get us in a good place, and then let the numbers take care of themselves.
TAPPER: Well, that's a nice sentiment, but you have Manchin in the Senate saying he wants it closer to $1.5 trillion, and progressives in the House, like Tlaib, Bowman, and Jayapal, Cori Bush, they're suggesting they won't go lower than $3.5 trillion at all.
I don't need to tell you, you only have three votes to spare in the House. Are you confident you're going to have the votes to pass a reconciliation bill less than $3.5 trillion?
CLYBURN: Well, let's just say I'm comfortable with where we are.
Yes, I believe in our party. I believe in our leadership. I believe in all of the members that make up this great tent that we operate under. I think we'll get there.
It's going to take some work, and we are going to do the work. I don't know that there's anybody in our party who feels that we cannot get there. They just want to make sure that all of the I's are dotted, the T's are crossed and that we are responding to the American people's needs and aspirations.
TAPPER: Are you telling both the moderates and the progressives in this debate that they need to compromise, or is it just Joe Manchin, for example, who needs to compromise? Or is it just the progressives who need to come down from the $3.5 trillion?
CLYBURN: Well, you know, I've been in this business a long time.
You know, one thing I have found out, that, in politics, as in families, you sit down and you find -- try to find common ground. Now, some people may call that compromise. I call that doing what is necessary to maintain the integrity of the whole body.
And that's what we're going to do. You're going to find common ground. And you may want to call it compromise, but that's what I call it, finding common ground. TAPPER: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. may hit its debt limit next month.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will not vote to raise the debt limit. Will Democrats just fold it into a continuing resolution for -- on the budget or the reconciliation plan and pass it with only Democratic votes? What's the plan there?
CLYBURN: Well, I don't know that we have a plan to do that, but I certainly would advocate doing that.
You know, when I was whip before, we had the responsibility of keeping the country from going under after the Great Recession back in 2008. And the Republicans, the majority then walked away from that.
And we filled in the void and did it as a party, and we'll do that again. The full faith and credit of the United States of American should not be compromised on the altar of politics. And I would hope that our Republican friends would get beyond politics and do what's necessary to keep this country moving forward and keep us, financially, integrity in place.
TAPPER: But you're not relying on your Republican friends to vote that way, right? You're -- you're fine with it passing in a Democrats- only vote?
CLYBURN: No, I'm not fine with that. But if that's what it takes, that's what it will take. The American people will see what the Republicans are doing on this front as well.
They're doing enough on the social front to destroy the integrity of this country's fabric. And they will see them doing the same thing on the financial front. I think we ought to do what's necessary and message to the American people exactly who is trying to destroy this great democracy that we hope to keep in place.
TAPPER: I do want to ask you about what we saw yesterday.
It was a fairly paltry turnout for the Justice for January 6 rally in support of the insurrectionists. Thankfully, it was not particularly violent. There were only four arrests.
But you were there at the Capitol on January 6 when this riot, this attempted insurrection, happened. What is it like to see not only Americans protesting in support of these criminals, but so many of your colleagues in the House of Representatives express support for their cause?
CLYBURN: Well, you know, they made some political calculations that paid off last year in many parts of the country. But I think the American people, in the last several months, have begun to look at exactly what's going on here, and they are rejecting that.
Now, I know that people talk about California as being the left coast, or whatever they may derisively call it. But California's result, I think, shows that the American people are sick and tired of the posturing. They are sick and tired of the lying.
They want to see this country in a place that they can leave something for their children and grandchildren, as their forbearers left for them. And that's where we are.
And so I think that what you saw on Saturday is a more reflection of that. What you see with these many Republicans not choosing to run again, some switching parties, all of those things are reflections of the fact that the American people see in the Democratic Party the future of what this country ought to be and where this country can go.
And I believe you're gong to see that time and time again.
TAPPER: Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the number three House Democrat, thanks so much for being with us today.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you very much for having me.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The anti-democracy undertow in Republican politics sadly continued unabated this week, drowning the career for now of one once-promising conservative congressman, Representative Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, a staunch conservative, who supported former President Donald Trump in every way but one -- Gonzalez stood against the Trump attempt to undermine the election, refusing to go along with the election lie and voting to impeach the former president for his role in inciting the deadly January 6th insurrection.
For that Gonzalez was targeted by Trump for defeat and by Trump supporters with threats of violence. Citing the toxic dynamics within the Republican party and calling Trump a cancer on the country, the Cuban-American former-Ohio State football star, who also cited the demands of his young family decided it just wasn't worth it.
One down, nine to go was Trump's response, noting the 10 House Republicans who had voted to impeach him. But the truth is it's not just those 10 House Republicans that the former president and his minions are looking to get rid of, they want to destroy anyone who stood in their way to subvert democracy. Trump loyalist Congressman Jody Hice, who is all-in on Trump's election lie, is now seeking to defeat Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger in Raffensperger's Republican primary because Raffensperger refused to take this order from then President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I want to do is this, I just you want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Not content with having asked Raffensperger to find votes, to flip his loss in that state from a loss to a win, a matter now being investigated by law enforcement, Trump on Friday wrote to Raffensperger demanding that he invalidate 43,000 absentee ballots, citing a false claim on a far-right wing website and calling President Joe Biden illegitimate. Again, what Mr. Trump is asking is that legal American voters be disenfranchised based on a lie so Trump can claim he won. It is purely anti-democracy.
As was, of course, this -- these violent criminals you see here trying to storm the Capitol to stop Congress from counting the Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden president. A small rally was held in D.C. over this weekend, protesting the prosecution of these criminals, a prosecution that began, we should note, at the Justice Department under Trump. Trump Thursday said, quote, "Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly."
He's referring to a group of people including violent criminals attacking the police. And while it's good news that very few people came out in support of the violent criminals of January 6th at the rally over this weekend, the toxin is in the body politic.
A CNN poll this week showed that 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say that the false belief that Trump won the 2020 election is important to being a Republican, 59 percent. Now, these voters have been lied to by Trump and MAGA politicians and MAGA media for about a year now about the 2020 election and the lie has set in, and the big lie continues. Here's one of the more unhinged adherence, Mike Lindell of MyPillow, meeting this week with the Alabama secretary of state.
Of more consequence on Wednesday, the Republican legislature in Pennsylvania began pushing another bogus audit, this one funded by tax dollars, to prove widespread fraud that did not happen. A state Senate committee issued subpoenas to get the personal information of about 90 million Pennsylvania voters, including partial Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers.
Here's Republican Philadelphia City Council Member Al Schmidt, who has been forcefully condemning the election lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SCHMIDT, PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: Well, it's really very circular when you look at it. You have lawmakers lying to constituents, you have deceived constituents demanding that lawmakers do something about this -- about this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Keep in mind, Republican members of Congress from Pennsylvania and the state legislature from Pennsylvania, they were elected on those same ballots, but in their view, nothing fraudulent happened when it came to their elections that same day on those same ballots cast by those same voters. Why would that be, do you think?
Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been making it very clear that the issue is not just that Trump and his minions once attempted to undermine democracy, it is that they will try to do it again. They're trying to take out the key Republicans who abided by the rule of law, such as Gonzalez or Raffensperger or Cheney, so next time they will succeed.
Also this last week, we learned from an excerpt of the new Bob Woodward/Robert Costa book "Peril" that then Vice President Pence was under so much pressure from then President Trump to overturn the election and declare Trump the winner in the January 6th Electoral College count, with powers he does not have. Pence sought the advice of his fellow Hoosier, former Vice President Dan Quayle. "You don't know the position I'm in," Pence complained. "Mike," said Quayle, "you have no flexibility on this, none, zero. Forget it. Put it away."
Now, in the end Pence did the right thing. But what if he had not? Ask yourself what might have happened to the United States and the American experiment, our democracy, had someone else been in that role, had Kevin McCarthy been the House speaker? What if the chairman of the joints chief of staff or secretary of defense had been Mike Flynn, who had started for calling for Trump to invoke partial martial law to enforce new elections in states that Biden won?
The threat of violence, it's no longer an abstraction. Trump on Thursday called the insurrection a, quote, "protest concerning the rigged presidential election." That's language that seems to, at least in Trump's mind, justify the violence.
None of this is a secret. It's all playing out right in front of us. There are two sides here, those in favor of the healthy, Democratic body politic and those rooting for the man Congressman Gonzalez called a cancer on the country. The cancer remains in the body.
The news continues next.