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State of the Union

Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL); Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 03, 2021 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Left turn. Progressives in Congress hold the line on the president's priorities.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Our position is exactly the same as the president's.

BASH: Forcing the speaker to delay a planned vote for the second time. Is the left the new power bloc in Democratic politics?

The woman leading the charge, House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, will be here.

Plus: Dem on Dem. After a very public week of infighting, Democrats go back to the negotiating table, but, as disagreements remain over what's in, what's out and how much, can they deliver on President Biden's agenda? Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin ahead.

And staggering milestone, more than 700,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID, but:

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We are starting to see a turning around of the curve and coming down.

BASH: As the U.S. looks to approve a new COVID pill, how safe are you now? Dr. Anthony Fauci will join me.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the State of the Union is watching to see if President Biden can deliver.

The new clock starts now for Democrats, after a week of frenzied infighting and two delayed votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a new deadline for her party, writing in a letter to her caucus Saturday the bipartisan infrastructure bill must pass before October 31, which means the party must also reach consensus on the larger social policy bill, the centerpiece of President Biden's agenda.

Because, Friday, President Biden made clear now that he believes those two packages are linked, saying that to all House Democrats during a rare trip to Capitol Hill to try to calm tensions in the party. And while his negotiating skills may have worked in the short term, there are signs his decision to side with progressives by endorsing the move to delay the infrastructure vote may have actually caused real damage with the moderate wing.

Saturday, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, of two Senate holdouts on the social policy bill, released a scathing statement, calling the move to delay infrastructure -- quote -- "inexcusable" and accused Democratic leaders of eroding trust within the party.

Now the question will be whether there is enough trust left for President Biden to make significant cuts to his cornerstone legislation to win support from moderate holdouts without losing votes from the powerful progressive bloc.

Joining me is the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me.

It was a really extraordinary week. I have covered Washington for a long time, and this is the first time I have seen progressives have the numbers and the power and the will to use that power to hold the line on the issues that you're pushing.

What do you think this week says about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party?

JAYAPAL: Well, Dana, it is great to see you and great to be with you.

What I think is happening right now is, progressives have helped push back onto the table, back onto the agenda President Biden's agenda. I mean, this is really what happened. There was a Build Back Better agenda that the president laid out to Congress five months.

It had infrastructure, roads and bridges, but it also had, 85 percent of it was around these other important programs, child care, universal child care, paid family leave for 12 weeks for everybody, making sure we're taking on the climate crisis, expanding health care, and, of course, taking on the challenge of giving a path to citizenship for immigrants.

All of that ended up in something called the Build Back Better Act. And, all of a sudden, Dana, we thought we made clear three-and-a-half months ago that the two had to move together, because we don't want to pit roads and bridges against child care.

And we know that the president doesn't want to do that either. But when that changed, and, suddenly, a small group of people, 4 percent of the entire House Democratic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus, said, we only want the bipartisan infrastructure bill to go...

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: And that's after five months of negotiating. BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: We had to stand up and get the whole thing back together.

And that's what I think has happened now. We have put the bills back together, as was the original agreement, and we are going to deliver both bills, the infrastructure bill, which is important.

BASH: Right.

JAYAPAL: And the Build Back Better Act.

BASH: Well, not everybody agreed that that was the agreement. I will get to that in a second.

I'm sure you have seen Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, both moderate Democrats. They released scathing statements over the weekend. Gottheimer accused you and your fellow progressives of employing Freedom Caucus tactics. Senator Sinema called your move an ineffective stunt, saying the delay further erodes trust and that she does not trade her vote for political favors.


Those are pretty harsh words. Those are fellow Democrats.


It's unfortunate, because we believe that it was a bad move to put an arbitrary date on this infrastructure bill and to delink the two to start with. We have been very clear for three-and-a-half months. And I have said to news media. When they say, well, it's -- there are two senators, I say, listen, we have got a very slim majority in the House as well.

And we should be clear that this was a majority of our caucus. So it's not just a few people. We had over 60 votes.

BASH: Right.

JAYAPAL: And that number was increasing of people who were desperately committed to the idea that we're not leaving anybody behind.

BASH: Right, but at least Senator Sinema is opposed to some of the substance of what you're pushing.

And with a 50/50 Senate, every...


BASH: You have leverage in the House.

JAYAPAL: Absolutely.

BASH: They have leverage in the Senate. So, now the pressure is on for you to deliver.


BASH: And you know that, I'm sure.


BASH: I want to talk about negotiations.

Some top Democrats and White House officials are floating a $2.1 trillion package, a lot smaller than what you are currently at, $3.5 trillion. Are you open to $2.1 trillion?

JAYAPAL: Well, what we have said from the beginning is, it's never been about the price tag.

It's about what we want to deliver. The price tag comes out of that. So, we understand that we the 3.5, we thought was negotiated already, is clearly not negotiated. We understand we have to get 50 senators on board, and we have to keep everyone in the House on board.

And so we are now going back to make sure, what is the way that we can get all of the critical programs that we had identified, those things I talked to you about, child care, paid leave plan...

BASH: Yes. And I'm going to get to that in a second.

JAYAPAL: Yes, how do we get all of those things in, but -- and -- but perhaps for a shorter period of time, and be able to get then to the number from that?

The critical thing is, let's get our priorities in, and then we will figure out what it actually costs.

BASH: And I understand that, but there is a lot of focus and a lot of the negotiating is on that top-line number.

Is -- for example, is $2 trillion, $2.1 trillion, your absolute floor?

JAYAPAL: We're not thinking about the number.

And the president said this to us too. He said, don't start with the number. Start with what you're for. And that's what he's asked them for. And then let's come to the number from there. So, that's how we're thinking about it.

BASH: And that makes sense. But you -- you have been looking at this for a long time. You have been looking at the policies and what it adds up to and how you can do it.

I mean, this is what your focus is, almost solely.

JAYAPAL: Yes. Yes.

BASH: So, you, I'm sure, have looked at whether or not you can do what you want to do for $2 trillion.

JAYAPAL: Well, we don't know what the number is yet. There's no -- there's no number on the table yet that is -- everyone has agreed to.

It's not like they have come to us and said...

BASH: But what do you think?

JAYAPAL: I don't feel the need to give a number, because I gave my number. It was 3.5. So, if you're in a negotiation, you need to have a counteroffer before you bid against yourself.

BASH: So, if we're not looking at numbers, what about 1.5, like, what Senator Manchin...

JAYAPAL: Well, that's not going to happen.

BASH: But why is that...

JAYAPAL: So it's going to be somewhere...

BASH: Why won't it add up to that number?

JAYAPAL: Because that's too small to get our priorities in.

So, it's going to be somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5. And I think the White House is working on that right now, because, remember, what we want to deliver is child care, paid leave, climate change, housing.

BASH: Yes.

And I want to get to that, but I just -- so, 1.5 is too small, but you won't say if $2 trillion is too small?

JAYAPAL: Because I don't have a definite number yet. I mean, I don't have a counteroffer.


JAYAPAL: It would be like buying a house, Dana, and going into make an offer, and then somebody says, well, what's the lowest number you would take? Why would I do that?

BASH: Yes. OK.


BASH: Let's talk about the substance that does matter more than anything right now.

JAYAPAL: Yes. Yes. Right.

BASH: And because there's so much that you're talking about, I want to put up for our viewers on the screen some of the specific policies.

JAYAPAL: Yes. BASH: Universal pre-K, child care, tuition-free community college, paid medical and family leave, the child tax credit, making it permanent, dental and vision, hearing coverage for Medicare, home care for seniors and sweeping climate provisions.

So, looking at all of that, Congresswoman, what is your strategy to negotiate? Are you thinking about keeping all of those programs in and just making the time that you're going to allow them to be out there shorter? Are you going to cut some of those programs? What's your plan?

JAYAPAL: Well, that's -- the things that you mentioned are priorities. So our idea now is to look at how you make them funded for a little bit of a shorter time.

And we're also going through some of the smaller things that were in there just to see, what are those things and do they need to be in there as well? That right there will probably cut out a decent amount, small things that were in there or things that we might be able to fund through an appropriations process.

BASH: So, for example?

JAYAPAL: So, going through and looking at all of that.

BASH: What do you think will be big cuts...


JAYAPAL: You know, we're not quite there yet in terms of what, but there are a lot of items that were $2 billion, $3 billion, that, if you put them all together, they add up to a bigger number.


They might have been put there to keep somebody happy, so we have to be careful as we pull them out of who we're going to lose. But I think that's the process we're going through right now.

BASH: Anything in there that's absolutely non-negotiable, must be in there for a 10-year period?

JAYAPAL: Our -- for a 10-year period?

I think that the clean electricity standards really do need to be in there for a 10-year period, because it takes time to cut carbon emissions. And we need to have that certainty in order for the market to move in that direction. So, that, I think, is one that really does need to be there for 10 years.

BASH: And what about means testing? Are you comfortable with means testing? That's what Joe Manchin wants, meaning people who can afford it won't get these benefits.

JAYAPAL: Well, all of the research shows means testing actually doesn't target it more, but it does create a lot of administrative burden and a lot more cost.

BASH: So, is that a no?

JAYAPAL: So, it's not -- it's not what I want to do.

I'm -- actually just had a staff member do a paper for me on all the reasons why means testing is not a fiscally prudent thing to do or a policy prudent thing to do. But let's see. The negotiation is just starting.

BASH: Senator Joe Manchin said this weekend that this reconciliation bill -- this is the bill that we're talking about -- must include the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal dollars to go for abortions.

He said -- quote -- "Yes, we're not taking the Hyde Amendment off. Hyde is going to be on. It has to be. It has to be. That's dead on arrival if it's gone."

I know this is personal for you.


BASH: You shared your experience with abortion in congressional testimony this past week.

Can you vote for a bill that does -- that has the Hyde Amendment in it?


BASH: So, what happens? How do you compromise on that?

JAYAPAL: I mean, let's just -- we're -- this is a negotiation. And we have got to continue to move this forward.

But the Hyde Amendment is something that the majority of the country does not support. One in four women have had an abortion and need to have reproductive care in a very, very important time, when those protections are being rolled back.

That is nobody's business. It is our business, as people that carry the babies. And we have to be able to make those choices during our pregnancy.

BASH: So, just to be clear, you want to have legislation -- in this legislation, you want to allow federal dollars to be spent for abortion?

JAYAPAL: No, none of the -- none of the dollars here are going for that. I mean, we already have...

BASH: Because that's what the Hyde Amendment bans. So how would -- so...

JAYAPAL: Well, I think that the reality is, I think what he is asking for, from my understanding, is something even more than that. And so let's just -- let's just continue to see where we are. But I

think the important thing here is, this is the beginning of a negotiation.

BASH: OK, thank you so much for coming in.

JAYAPAL: Thank you. Yes. Yes.

BASH: I really appreciate it.

And Congress blew past two self-imposed deadlines this week, so October should be fun. The man in charge of counting Democratic votes in the Senate on how they're going to get it done, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, is next.

Plus, a potential breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci is coming up.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There's a lot of good stuff in this bill, like 12 weeks of paid family leaves.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Six whole days of paid...



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Unpaid six whole days.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Six nights of unpaid family, happily -- it's not a bad compromise, right?



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

"Saturday Night Live" is back with a lot of comedic fodder from Democrats, as the party struggles to come together and pass President Biden's agenda. Now the president and congressional Democrats have just one month to cut trillions of dollars from a bill stuffed with progressive priorities, all to secure the votes of at least two members of their party, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who won't sign on to the current plan.

Joining me now is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who joins me from Illinois.

Thank you so much for joining me.

So, as you well know, top Democrats are floating $2.1 trillion as a potential compromise. But it would still require you to scale back significantly. You just heard Congresswoman Jayapal tell me that $1.5 trillion won't do, it's too small. That is where Senator Manchin is right now.

So how do you get from where Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema are, $1.5 trillion, to a deal with progressives?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Well, Dana, let me tell you at the outset I support the $3.5 trillion. I believe that the elements of it have been stated over and over again. They're good for this country, and they're needed by families and by our nation.

But I'm a realist too. I went through the Affordable Care Act. And you remember that debate 10 or 11 years ago, where we made concessions. And I think those concessions will lead to a different number. I just want to make sure that we come up with the right result, not the biggest number, but the most effective number to help families and this economy move forward in a responsible way.

BASH: What do you think that number may be?

DURBIN: I don't know.

I know that's the question of the day for every reporter on Capitol Hill. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked, what's your number?

I can tell you, as whip, working with Chuck Schumer, we sit down, we look at the priorities, we listen very carefully to every single member. Every vote counts when it comes to getting to this majority.

And concessions will be made. And we're certain of that. Thank goodness we have two other players who are really committed to this with the president arriving in the House last week. That was historic. It shows he wasn't going to stand on the sidelines and issue tweets. He rolled up his sleeves and walked down -- walked to Capitol Hill -- traveled to Capitol Hill.

BASH: So...

DURBIN: And Nancy Pelosi, I mean, never underestimate Nancy Pelosi, because I saw her deliver the Affordable Care Act. I know the power she has when she gets to work.


BASH: So, let's talk about the substance and the policies that you're describing.

And I'm going to put on the screen, just so our viewers can see it -- and we talked about it with Congresswoman Jayapal -- but everything from universal pre-K, to child care, to community college tuition- free, all the way to adding benefits for Medicare and climate provisions.

So do you think Democrats should eliminate any of these specifically, just kind of excise them, or scale -- keep them all in and scale back all of them, maybe do it through means testing or shorter timelines?

DURBIN: There's the question.

And it's one that we're going to face in next four weeks, because October 31 is our new target date, certainly to get the debt ceiling done long before that, but also when it comes to this issue, reconciliation and the infrastructure bill, to have that as our target.

And we have to ask that very fundamental question. Should we do everything to a limited degree, or should we really invest ourselves in the most important things and try to make that decision? It's a hard one.

BASH: What do you think?

DURBIN: As I said, I support the entire agenda.

BASH: Yes.

As somebody who supports the $3.5 trillion, the full thing, what do you think should be done?

DURBIN: I think the American people are looking for us to come up with effective ways to help them in their daily lives, working families, for example.

We want to get more people back to work and applying for jobs. Well, I can tell you that child care is essential to that. The reason that women are holding back is, the schools are not open fully, and there's uncertainty about the pandemic and there's uncertainty about the availability of child care.

So, we want a work force that's responsive and building the economy. We have got to give mothers and fathers the confidence that where they're leaving their children is safe.

BASH: So you're saying child care should stay in there.

Anything that you think could be delayed for another package?

DURBIN: Well, there are some -- I'm not going to go through a list of them. But there are some that can be, I guess, scheduled in a different way as to when they go into effect.

BASH: Can you give me an example?

DURBIN: No, I'm not going to, because that kind of argues against my case, I do support the entire agenda. But I'm listening to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, as Chuck Schumer

is, every single day and deciding, what will it take to bring them across the finish line?


DURBIN: We absolutely need them.

BASH: Senator Joe Manchin said this week that this reconciliation bill is dead on arrival if it does not include the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal dollars for most abortions.

As you know, President Biden changed his position on this during the campaign to oppose the Hyde Amendment, which means he's OK using federal dollars for abortions. You just heard Congresswoman Jayapal say that that's a nonstarter, she will not vote for a bill with the Hyde Amendment in it.

So what's going to happen?

DURBIN: Dana, I can't tell you how many times in my senatorial career we have seen major pieces of legislation founder on this issue.

So I don't want to say anything now to jeopardize the negotiation. But I hope that will keep in perspective that what we're trying to do is going to have a positive impact on families and children. And we should move toward that goal together. We have got to find ways to deal with this issue honestly.

But I hope it is not the decisive issue when it comes to the future of this package.

BASH: So, you're not just collecting votes. You are a vote.

Would you, Senator Dick Durbin, vote for legislation with the Hyde Amendment in it?

DURBIN: Well, I will tell you, I have voted for both in the past, because I have to measure it against the value of the package itself.

Build Back Better is the future for many working families. It gives them a chance to finally break away from the inequality in our economy and to have some optimism about the future. So I don't want to let the entire package break down over that issue.

BASH: OK. I take that as a yes.

Let's move on to Senator Kyrsten Sinema. I'm sure you have seen she released a scathing statement yesterday. She said: "Democratic leaders" -- and you're obviously one of them -- "have made conflicting promises that could not all be kept," and that canceling the infrastructure vote further erodes that trust.

The Republicans and Democrats who negotiated this infrastructure deal took the president at his word a couple of months ago when he explicitly told them that these bills are not linked. So, did the president go back on that promise?

DURBIN: No, I don't believe he did.

I think what we're witnessing is a strongly felt belief by Kyrsten Sinema and others that this bipartisan infrastructure package, what passed the Senate with a good, strong vote, and it's needed in the future, and we got to move with it.

At the same time, it's a fact that it's linked in time with the reconciliation package. And we need to deal with both of them together. I just hope that we will all take pause for a moment, as the president suggested, and look at the agenda ahead of us. We can do both of these. We should do both of these things.

And the sooner we do them together, it'll be good for this American economy.


BASH: Let's turn to another crisis on Capitol Hill, and that's the debt limit.

The government will no longer be able to pay its bills on October 18. Republicans say they're not going to help you at all and you're going to need to raise the debt limit via what's known as reconciliation, so just with Democratic votes.

But Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi say they're not going to do that. So, are you unequivocally ruling out raising the debt ceiling with only Democratic votes through reconciliation?

DURBIN: The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is playing games with a loaded weapon here.

He has demanded that the filibuster be applied to the debt ceiling. It may be the first time in history that that's happened. And we have been warned by not only the Treasury secretary, but by all of the financiers across America, this would be deadly to our economy. It would cost us six million jobs.

Why? What Schumer has said to McConnell is, if you're not going to lead, if you're not going to follow, then get the hell out of the way. Let the Democrats accept the political responsibility of extending the debt limit. And McConnell says, no, I want to let -- play this game out.

Well, he's doing it at the expense of this economy. We're going to get this done. And we're going to do it in a responsible way and face this as soon as we return next week.

BASH: So, yes or no, can you guarantee that the United States of America will not default on its debt on October 18?

DURBIN: Well, apparently, if Senator McConnell has his way, we will not do that. And that would be a disaster, a financial disaster, for this country. BASH: But you guys are in charge? Will you make sure it doesn't


DURBIN: Dana, I want to just add quickly, you're a student of the game. To say the Democrats are in charge of the Senate is to ignore it's a 50/50 Senate and we need 60 votes if McConnell insists on a filibuster on the debt ceiling.

I think he will come to his senses. I hope he will, if he will listen to the people back home and around this nation, who warn him of the dire consequences of this strategy.

BASH: OK, but this is a man who held up Merrick Garland's nomination for many, many months.


BASH: And that was unprecedented. He has been known to say something and stick with it, despite the pressure that is on him.

So I'm guessing you understand him -- you're a student of Mitch McConnell as much as anybody -- that that's not going to happen, and that the reality is that Democrats are probably going to have to figure this out on their own. Fair?

DURBIN: Well, as I said earlier, Schumer has said to him, you don't want your fingerprints on the debt ceiling, even though you voted for all the spending bills that have created this debt ceiling extension, well, then step out of the way. Let us do it by majority vote, by a Democratic vote. We will accept that responsibility.

The future of our economy is at stake here. And if he thinks he's going to score political points by defaulting on America's debt for the first time in history, Senator McConnell is wrong.

BASH: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin joining me from Illinois this morning, I really appreciate it.

DURBIN: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And a new pill that could cut COVID-19 deaths in half, how is that going to change the course of the pandemic here in America?

Dr. Anthony Fauci joins me next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

America just hit another painful milestone, more than 700,000 U.S. lives now lost to COVID-19, that grim statistic as health officials suggests we have started to turn the corner on the Delta surge. And now a new COVID pill could help future deaths -- cut them in half.

So, could the end of the pandemic actually be in sight?

Joining me now is the president's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining me this morning.

First, I just want to get your reaction to the milestone I just mentioned, 700,000 deaths. That happened over the weekend from coronavirus. And that number would have been unthinkable 18 months ago.

What's your reaction?

FAUCI: Well, it's a very painful statistic, Dana.

Obviously, because of the enormity of the challenge of this outbreak and this extraordinary virus that spread so rapidly, many of those deaths were unavoidable, but many, many are avoidable, were avoidable, and will in the future be avoidable.

The number itself is staggering. You're absolutely correct. But, hopefully, that will then spur us to realize that we do have interventions, in the form of a vaccine, to prevent infection, to prevent severe disease, to prevent death.

So, when you see a number like this, I would hope people would say, well, we have a tool to not let that get any worse. Let's utilize it. And I refer to something we bring up all the time, that we still have 70 million Americans in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated yet.

So we don't want that number to continue to go up. And we can blunt it very, very well with vaccination.

BASH: Merck announced this week that its new COVID-19 pill cuts the risk of hospitalization and death by 50 percent. It would be the first pill authorized to treat COVID-19.

You have spent your career trying to find treatments for viruses. So how much of a game-changer is this?

FAUCI: It's extremely important, Dana.

The reason is, as you mentioned, it's a pill that is given by mouth, so you don't need anything special than just taking a pill the way to take any other pill. And the results are really quite impressive. As you mentioned, it decreases the likelihood of getting hospitalization or dying in people who early in the course of their infection take this particular medication.


In addition, there's another part of that study that is really impressive. Among the deaths in the study, there were eight deaths among the placebo group and no deaths among those who took the medication. That's very impressive.

So we really look forward to the implementation of this and to its effect on people who are infected.

BASH: Yes. And it obviously has a lot of importance when it comes to viruses in general.

But you mentioned vaccines before. Are you worried that people hearing about this might say, oh, I will just take the pill and not get a vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, I'm sure there are people that are going to say that.

And I would just reach out to them and say, it is not a situation where it is OK. It is never OK to get infected. You heard the numbers. It decreased the risk of -- this pill did, of hospitalizations and death by 50 percent.

You know the way to decrease the risk by 100 percent? Don't get infected in the first place.

BASH: So, some states and cities, like where we are in Washington, D.C., they are seeing thousands of new requests for religious exemptions to the coronavirus.

Do you know of any major religion -- and this, of course, getting a vaccine for the coronavirus. Do you know any major religion that opposes a vaccine? And how worried are you that people are abusing religious and medical exemptions in order to not get a vaccine that either their -- the local government or their company requires?

FAUCI: Well, Dana, we looked at this years ago, when people would -- were claiming religious exemptions to avoid getting measles vaccines, when we had the measles outbreak in certain clusters of undervaccinated people.

There are precious few religions that actually say, you cannot do that, I mean, very, very few, I mean, literally less than a handful. But people sometimes confuse a philosophical objection with a religious objection.

When you talk about actually established religions, there are so few of those that actually will not allow you to get vaccinated.

BASH: So, how do you, though, tell somebody that their faith doesn't -- if they say, this is my faith, and it doesn't fall into that traditional religion?


BASH: And then, on the flip side, how do you kind of tell whether or not that's just an excuse?


No, Dana, that that's going to be very difficult. I would hope that people would understand that all of this is for their benefit, for the safety of themselves, their family and their societal responsibility.

Other situations locally have dealt with that. There was a situation back in California years ago, when Governor Jerry Brown was the governor, and he said no religious exemptions because of the fact that it was being abused. I'm not sure how it's going to roll out.

I just would encourage people to realize the importance of this to get this outbreak under control. The idea of getting vaccinated, for example, getting children in school vaccinated, which has gone right now with Governor Newsom in California, things like that are not new.

I mean, there are school situations where I know my own children had to get vaccinated...

BASH: Yes.

FAUCI: ... with a variety of vaccines in order to be able to go to school.

BASH: And real quick...

FAUCI: So, there's nothing new about that.

BASH: ... should other states follow California's lead and require kids to get vaccinated for the coronavirus to go to school?

FAUCI: You know, I'm not going to be recommending things to other states. I will let the leaders of those states.


FAUCI: But I think what the governor did in California was something that was sound judgment.

BASH: Dr. Fauci, stick around, because we have a lot more to discuss, including a surprising reason many Republicans believe COVID-19 is spreading, and it has nothing to do with vaccines or masks.

Stay with us. We will be right back.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

We're back with President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

So, Dr. Fauci the FDA advisory panel will meet October 26 to consider whether to recommend Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Only one-third of those parents say that they will get their child vaccinated right away.

What's your message to parents who are hesitant? And, also, will the shots go into arms of children by Halloween? FAUCI: Well, let me answer the second question first, Dana, is that

if you don't want to get ahead of the FDA.

They said that they will look at the data, and their VRBPAC will meet. I believe that, if the recommendation is to go ahead, that the FDA will move expeditiously. So, I can't predict whether it's going to be before Halloween or into November. I think it's going to be as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. And the FDA will do their usually good job.

My message to parents would be that, although it is very clear that a child getting infected has less of a chance of getting a severe outcome than an elderly person or a person with an underlying condition, but it is not completely, unequivocally a benign situation and children.

We are seeing now very clearly, if you go to pediatric hospitals, that although this risk is less than the adult, there are children in hospital who are getting seriously ill.


In addition, there is an issue which we call long COVID, which means that some people, including children, get infected, recover, and may even get minimal symptoms who have a lingering of certain symptomatology that is not comfortable, that can be disruptive of their lives.

So you want to protect your child, but you also want to make the child a part of the solution, namely, so that there's not spread of infection, either within your own household or to other vulnerable people. That's what I would try to articulate to parents to convince them that it is a very positive, good thing to get their children vaccinated.

BASH: Dr. Fauci, a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll asked Americans this week what they thought the major reasons for high coronavirus spread are. And the top reason that Republicans gave in this poll was immigrants and tourists bringing COVID-19 into the U.S.

Are immigrants a major reason why COVID-19 is spreading in the U.S.?

FAUCI: No, absolutely not, Dana.

I mean, if you just look at the data and look at the people who have gotten infected, look at the people who are in the hospital, look at the people who've died, this is not driven by immigrants. This is the problem within our country, the same way it's a problem with other countries throughout the world.

I mean, the idea, when you have 700,000 Americans dead, and millions and millions and millions of Americans getting infected, that you don't want to look outside to the problem. The problem is within our own country. Certainly, immigrants can get infected, but they're not the driving force of this. Let's face reality here. BASH: The CDC director said on Friday that the agency is reevaluating

what's known as Title 42. That was an order done on an emergency basis that allows the U.S. immigration officials to expel migrants more easily because of the pandemic.

You have talked about this. There are widespread vaccines and testing now. As a public health official, do you see a medical reason still to continue to impose that rule?

FAUCI: You know, I'm not going to -- I'm sorry, Dana, but I am not as familiar with the intricacies of that to make any comment about that rule.

I just -- my feeling has always been that focusing on immigrants, expelling them or what have you, is not the solution to an outbreak.

BASH: So, before I let you go, President Biden got his booster shot this week. He did it in public. Former President Trump said this weekend he would get his booster shot if he felt it was necessary.

Would it be helpful if the former president got his booster shot on camera, in public?

FAUCI: Well, first of all, I would think everybody should get their boosters anyway, whether the president does it or not.

I am sure that there are people who religiously follow what former President Trump says and does, that that -- they may look at that and say, OK, I will get vaccinated.

We will see. I don't know. I just think we need to appeal to the rationale of why it's important, whether Trump gets vaccinated or not. There are very, very good reasons, beyond someone specifically getting vaccinated, for people to get vaccinated with a booster shot.

The protection is waning, as we know. And boosters are going to be something that will be very helpful to contain the outbreak and to protect people.

BASH: Yes.

FAUCI: That's the reason why they should get boosted.

BASH: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Dana. Thank you for having me.

BASH: Thank you.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And 1 in every 500 Americans has died of COVID- 19. And a moving art installation gives the families who are grieving a voice and a place to go. The messages they are leaving to honor their loved ones may surprise and move you. That's next.

(Commercial Break) BASH: We have lost so many lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's hard

to comprehend the number. A stunning two-week exhibit on Washington's National Mall closing today tries to do just that.

(Begin Video Clip)

BASH: It's hard to capture this on camera. It's even hard to capture it with your eyes --


BASH: -- when you're here --


BASH: -- like you and I are, because it's so vast. It goes down --

FIRSTENBERG: To the World War II Memorial now.

BASH: -- to the World War II Memorial.

Suzanne Firstenberg is the artist behind In America: Remember. A temporary exhibition on the National Mall. Each flag represents an American life lost to COVID-19.

FIRSTENBERG: When I bought flags in June, I bought 630,000. I thought never would we use that many. I've reordered twice.

BASH: Visitors come by not just to observe but to participate, volunteers write dedications for loved ones submitted online.

FIRSTENBERG: One flag, there was a 99-year-old who died, and the flag reads, he refused a ventilator. He asked that it be used for someone younger.

BASH: When the exhibit opened September 17, there were 670,032 deaths. Since then, thousands more died. Each day she's increased the number to reflect that.

FIRSTENBERG: So I check the numbers every day because it's important that we honor those people who we just lost the day before.

BASH: And it's a lot of people.

FIRSTENBERG: It's an incredible number of people.

BASH: This weekend that number hit an unthinkable milestone, 700,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.

FIRSTENBERG: There are a lot of flags that say if only you would have listened, or I wish you had gotten vaccinated.

BASH: Look at this one here, dear Mom-Mom, you're a woman of strength, love and kindness that radiated from you. This period around the holidays is the hardest without you. FIRSTENBERG: What I didn't realize was just how much emotion people

would bring to this. I created the art, but they've brought the content, the stories, the sadness. Oftentimes they'll tell me this is the first I've had a chance to cry.


BASH: Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.