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State of the Union
Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Interview With Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 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): Viral blizzard. The winter surge is here, as the Delta and Omicron variants drive U.S. cases to new highs.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death if you're unvaccinated.
TAPPER: President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu are here.
And build back later? Congress heads home for the holidays with little to show on President Biden's key priorities.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): A 50/50 Senate sucks, and we can't get things done.
TAPPER: Can Democrats resolve to get it done in the new year? I will request Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley exclusively next.
Plus: Aggressive strategy? Damning texts shed new light on the push to overturn the 2020 election.
One of only two Republicans on the January 6 Select House Committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, on where the investigation goes from here ahead.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is expecting to get COVID.
Once again, Americans are waking up to news of postponements and cancellations, sports games, theatrical performances, holiday parties, schools, family plans, as COVID-19 cases hospitalizations and deaths are rising again throughout the country, hospitalizations and deaths especially hitting the unvaccinated. New York City and Washington, D.C., have both reported two days of
record high cases. And health experts are warning of a tough month ahead. Still, the world in 2021 is different than it was in March 2020. Officials say they are better prepared for the surge. They point to vaccines and boosters as the best way to control the virus and prevent serious illness.
All true. And yet this fourth wave is exposing real weaknesses in how the U.S. has dealt with the virus, especially when it comes to testing. On Tuesday, we're told President Biden will give a speech on the Omicron variants, not where he thought we would be a year ago, when Biden predicted Christmas 2021 might feel close to normal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I believe we will be awfully close to that, if not there. It's not going to be quick, but I think, by next Christmas, we will be close to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me now, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us.
If you could go back in time to president-elect Biden in that clip, would you tell him that we need a bigger multinational effort to vaccinate the world so as to stop mutations, we need to flood the country with free at-home rapid testing, we need to enlist as many Trump allies as possible to promote the vaccines, and that we should not declare independence from the virus in July, even if things look good?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I think I would say all of the above.
I mean, the idea about hoping and having an aspiration to be independent of the virus after a period of time is understandable and reasonable. But the one thing that we know from now almost two years' experience with this virus, that it is really very unpredictable, very much so, particularly with the element of variants, the idea of having multiple waves, not only in our own country, but throughout the world, first an Alpha, and then a Delta, and then now an Omicron.
It really is something that is very much unprecedented when you think about the terms of outbreaks. So, it is understandable how one could say they would hope, aspirationally, to be at a certain point, and then find out you're not. And the best thing to do then is to just keep going and putting all your resources, including what you just mentioned, getting as many people vaccinated as we possibly can and absolutely boosted now, because, when you look at Omicron, and what it's doing, the protection from like a two-dose mRNA vaccine is quite good, particularly against severe disease.
But you get to Omicron, the protection significantly goes down. But the good news is, when you boost someone, it goes right back up. And that's the reason why there's such an emphasis on the part of all of us. I know I have been saying it every day multiple times a day, the importance of getting boosted, particularly in the situation that we're in with Omicron.
TAPPER: Well, that's why some people say that the boosters should now just be included as fully vaccinated. They want to change the definition, so as, when people are fully vaccinated, that means that, after six months, they get the booster. But the administration hasn't gone that far yet.
FAUCI: Well, I mean, in some respects, Chuck, it really is semantics.
As far as I'm concerned, I make it very clear that, if you want to be optimally protected, get boosted. Whether the definition for legal and other purposes dealing with the OSHA situation that you have, that's a different story.
But if you want to look at it and say, when am I optimally protected, there's no doubt that that's when you get boosted.
TAPPER: I know you're doing a round-robin this morning of all the Sunday shows, but just a reminder, I'm Jake, not Chuck.
So, Vice President Harris told "The L.A. Times" this week that the administration did not anticipate the variants -- quote -- "We didn't see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not upon whose advice and direction we have relied didn't see Delta coming. We didn't see Omicron coming. And that's the nature of what this awful virus has been, which, as it turns out, has mutations and variants."
Obviously, nobody can anticipate the specific next variant to come, what the protein will look like, et cetera. But, in a more general sense, did you not see variants coming?
FAUCI: We did, Jake. We definitely saw variants coming.
I think what one referred to, what was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, which is really unprecedented. It kind of came out of nowhere, where you have a virus that has 50 mutations, 30 of which are in the spike protein, and 10 or 12 of which are in the receptor binding domain.
I mean, to me, that's really quite unprecedented. So that's something you would not have anticipated. But we certainly were anticipating that there were going to be variants, because when you have so many viruses -- so much replication going on in the community, if you give a virus enough opportunity to replicate, you know it's going to ultimately mutate.
And, sometimes, those mutations wind up being a new variant. And that's exactly what happened with Delta. And, certainly, that's what happened with Omicron.
TAPPER: The Biden administration does seem to be falling short when it comes to testing. As these cases are spiking, many Americans are stuck in long lines, many pharmacies are sold out of the rapid at-home tests, not to mention, of course, they're expensive.
The White House has even mocked the idea of sending tests to every American. Is the state of testing in the United States acceptable to you?
FAUCI: Well, we got to do better. I mean, we are doing better.
If you look now compared to what we were a year ago, it's extraordinarily much different in the positive sense. We now have multiple, multiple at-home tests available, when we virtually had none a year ago. But we do need to do better.
The government now, the federal government, has been investing now several billion dollars to make anywhere from 200 million to 500 million tests available per month, many of them free. There are going to be at 10,000 centers that are going to be giving out free tests.
So we're going to be going in the right direction. We do. And I have said that myself many times, Jake, that we really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them, particularly when we're in a situation right now where people are going to be gathering. Even though they are vaccinated and boosted, they may want to go that extra step, that extra mile to know that, when we have people coming into the home, where they are going someplace, that you can know in 15 minutes whether or not you're positive.
TAPPER: President Biden said the unvaccinated are -- quote -- "looking at a winter of severe illness and death." Michael Osterholm says a viral blizzard is coming.
Where is the pandemic headed right now? Do you expect new record high numbers for cases? And what about hospitalizations and deaths?
FAUCI: Yes, well, unfortunately, Jake, I think that that is going to happen.
We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination, which is one of the reasons why we continue to stress the importance of getting those unvaccinated people vaccinated.
This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days. Right now, in certain regions of the country, 50 percent of the isolates are Omicron, which means it's going to take over. And if you look at what it's done in South Africa, what it's doing in the U.K., and what it's starting to do right now, the president is correct.
I mean, I was with him when he said that. And I spoke to him about that, that we are going to be in for some serious difficulties right now. And we better be doing more to mitigate against that. And it's never too late to get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, go get boostered. And be prudent in everything else you do.
When you travel in your indoor settings that are congregate, wear a mask. It is going to be tough. We can't walk away from that, Jake. We can't, because, with Omicron that we're dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.
TAPPER: For individuals who are vaccinated and boosted, what are we supposed to do?
I mean, should schools close if all the students and teachers are vaccinated, and, in the case of the teachers, boosted? I mean, we saw the intense damage done to kids educationally, psychologically, emotionally when schools shut down or went to 100 percent virtual learning.
What are you recommending?
FAUCI: Well, right now, we can keep the children in school safely, Jake. We can do that. We have brought back -- like, 99 percent of the schools were open now.
We're in a very difficult situation. What the CDC came out with literally just a day or two ago was a test-to-stay situation, where it does work where, if you are exposed to a child in a school, rather than having to quarantine or take all the children out of school, you can test the children. And, if they are negative, they can stay in school.
We are trying as best as we possibly can to keep the schools open, for the reasons that you just gave, correctly, of the deleterious effects of having to close the schools down.
So, I believe, even with the stress of what we're dealing right now, for the most part, we can keep the schools open.
TAPPER: Pfizer says its two-dose regimen for 2-to-5-year-olds -- there's still no vaccine approved for them -- did not prove -- produce enough of an immune response.
So, now Pfizer is studying whether to give those children a third dose. What does this mean for the timeline of when shots could go into arms of kids 2 to 5? Do you think that those kids those age will be fully vaccinated in time for school next fall?
FAUCI: Well, certainly, next fall, I believe they will.
Right now, we were hoping to get the younger group that you just mentioned vaccinated clearly in the first quarter of 2022. Right now, with the requirement or pulling back and saying that it is likely a three-dose regimen for the children is clearly going to delay the availability of vaccines for children in that age group. So it likely will not be until we enter the second quarter of 2022.
Not quite sure, but when you're going and pulling back and saying, we have to rethink this, we want to make sure we get it right, we want the children optimally protected, then, if that requires a three-dose regimen for the children, it is going to prolong the time until we get the full approval for those children.
TAPPER: For people who have done everything right for the last two years, according to what the health officials have said out there, people who are vaccinated, people who are boosted, people who wear masks when they're indoors among a lot of people, and they feel right now frustrated and deflated about what's happening, can you explain what the goal is right now?
Are we just trying to take a pause to get a handle on the Omicron variant, trying to protect the millions of unvaccinated? What are we trying to do here?
FAUCI: Well, first of all, we trying to get a veil of protection over the country with vaccination that's optimal. And we're not there yet. We still have about 50 million people who are unvaccinated who are eligible to be vaccinated.
But we have got to realize that it is more than just getting vaccination. Vaccination is an absolutely essential part of this process. But there are other things. And that's the reason why we stress the idea about masking and testing.
People think that vaccine is the answer to everything. We can't do it without vaccines, Jake, but we can do a lot more with other things, and testing, for example, both yourself and your family when you're getting ready to do something, go out into the community, or when you're going to have people over your own house.
And that's the reason why we're stressing and part of the president's winter plan is expanding greatly the availability of testing for people, particularly the point of care that you can do yourself and get a result in 15 minutes.
FAUCI: So, it's more than one thing. It's a comprehensive approach.
TAPPER: Got it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you so much. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and best wishes for 2022. Hope we put this pandemic behind us.
Thank you very much, Jake. Thank you for having me.
TAPPER: Do mask mandates unfairly punish those who are vaccinated? We're going to talk to one Republican governor who says yes next.
And some huge news today. Senator Joe Manchin says he will not support President Biden's social safety net package, the Build Back Better Act.
Senator Bernie Sanders will respond.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Once again, governors across the country facing the challenge of how to control soaring COVID-19 cases in their states.
Here to discuss, Republican Governor Chris Sununu of the great state of New Hampshire.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to put up a chart of hospitalizations in your state. You're familiar with it already, I know. You're at a new record high, almost 500 hospitalizations, even worse than last winter.
Given these skyrocketing numbers, how worried are you? And what are you considering to do to protect the people in your state, mask mandates, vaccine mandates? What are you thinking of?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): So, unfortunately, we have kind of known this winter surge was going to be upon us for quite some time.
So, even back in July, August, September, we were planning for the winter surge. We were planning for new variants. We were planning for what might come, because, as governor, you have to kind of plan for the worst and hope for the best.
We were traveling to other states while they saw their surges last summer, learned from their hospitals. We brought CEOs of our hospitals across the country to kind of learn how they were managing internal surge plans. And now we're really kind of releasing that plan, if you will.
So, as Dr. Fauci talked about, testing is huge. We are the first state in the country to allow -- a million home tests in just a day went out the door, which is awesome. As he referenced, to be able to get that type of information immediately helps reduce the transmission rates.
We have done a lot with flexing beds within our hospitals, moving elderly into long-term care faster, streamlining the Medicaid process, bringing in teams from outside of our state, where, in the South, right now, it's 75 degrees. It's warm, of course, their levels are low.
And so we're being able to draw on and borrow some of those health care workers, so all very, very important pieces. But my sense is, we probably still have a few more weeks of seeing very elevated levels, probably through the holiday. And then, hopefully, in January, we start seeing that downward trend, similar to what we saw last year.
But being New Hampshire and New England, we're kind of at the tip of the spear of winter, right? And now you're seeing numbers increase all across the Mid-Atlantic and, ultimately, probably into the South in the Western regions of the country as well.
TAPPER: So you have been pushing folks to get vaccinated for a year now. A new poll this week showed that 96 percent of Democrats nationwide say they're vaccinated, but only 54 percent of Republicans say they're vaccinated.
Why do you think it is that so many Republicans are still refusing to get vaccinated? I understand -- I don't want to talk about mandates right now, but just willingly. Why are so many Republicans unwilling to do so?
SUNUNU: Well, I like to be careful. I don't think it's Democrat vs. Republican, males vs. females, older vs. young.
I have talked to young Democrat women who are schoolteachers and nurses, and they're concerned about getting the vaccine because they might get pregnant, which there's no data to support that. And we tell them to talk to their doctors and to be smart about it.
So I don't think it's a party thing. I don't think it's a political thing. I really just think it's a matter -- it has to be a personal choice, of course. I think the media -- and not to not to just put the blame anywhere. I think we all, as a society, take a bit of the blame in terms of polarizing and politicizing something that absolutely shouldn't be.
It should be data-driven. We watch data. We watch trends. We're incredibly transparent. I'm on television all the time showing folks what data we're looking at.
So my biggest hope is that we look at the data, we engage with our doctors, we engage with the health care providers who know best to make that decision. But I tend not to just look at it as a Republican vs. Democrat thing.
As this -- as a country, we all have to get on board, get vaccinated, get our boosters, and making sure we're promoting that positive message.
TAPPER: I want to turn to the economy, because more than 200,000 children and their families in New Hampshire are receiving currently more than $53 million in federal child tax credits every month, as you know.
You have talked about how much families are hurting because of inflation. Do you support extending the federal enhanced child tax credit for these families in your state and nationwide?
SUNUNU: Well, look, tax credits are great, and they can come in a variety of forms.
Our economy is incredibly strong right now, right? People aren't wanting for jobs. In fact, we -- businesses are moving into New Hampshire at an unprecedented rate. And so there's incredibly high- paying jobs available for everyone. There's opportunity everywhere.
So it's not just about supporting one child tax credit or another. It's about making sure that the opportunity is there. That's what governors are designed to do, create doors of opportunity.
So, again, if Washington wants to push another child tax credit, I don't have a problem with that. This Build Back Better bill, I think, is an absolute disaster. They don't even know how they're going to implement the infrastructure bill. We're still trying to figure out the rules on the ARP bill.
So I know Washington is just all about pushing this money out for political reasons. At the end of the day, you have to make sure that every state has the right balance.
I'm not going to speak for New York or California or even Massachusetts. I can tell you what's happening here in New Hampshire. We have a lot of opportunity. We have economic opportunity. I think a lot of the focus, as opposed to just a child tax credit, needs to go to things like child care, being -- making sure that the nurses and the teachers can actually have a place for their kids to get supported.
We have a lot of rental assistance, but we don't have a rental assistance problem. I want that money to be turned into more actual bricks-and-mortar housing. We're trying to get Washington to give some flexibility there.
So I guess my overall argument is, Washington could set these opportunities, but leave it to the states to help design and have the flexibility to build the systems to best meet their needs.
TAPPER: Skyrocketing home heating costs are another major issue for many New Hampshire residents.
The government estimates that Americans will spend 30 percent more to heat their homes this winter. How concerned are you about this for the good citizens of New Hampshire? And what more would you like the Biden administration to do to help?
SUNUNU: Absolutely huge, huge issue in New Hampshire, all across especially the upper Midwest of the country as well.
These inflationary prices are having an absolute crippling effect on an individuals. If you're elderly and on fixed income, you're nervous about how you're going to heat your home. If you're a lower- or moderate-income family, you're worried about the fact that you got to pay $3.75 a gallon for heating oil.
[09:25:11] So, what happens is, you get a chain -- a domino reaction of bad effects. You have folks that wait longer to make their -- to ask for the delivery. We have a shortage of CDL drivers at the same time. A lot of folks are now paying more and the deliveries are coming late.
So the issue is really about inflation. The issue is about -- and what I talked very directly to the president about when he visited a couple of weeks ago, the fact that we need to open up more opportunities on fuel, on opportunities.
In New England, we're kind of at the end of the line, right? We don't drill for our own oil or natural gas. So all of our natural gas and oil come directly through New York, frankly. So the prices tend to be a little bit higher here. And they hit folks even harder.
And they're folks that really can't afford it. Whether you're wealthy or you're on a lower-income scale, you got to pay $3.50 at the gas pump as everybody else. And that translates to home heating fuel as well.
TAPPER: OK, we're almost out of time.
But I do want to ask. You supported then-President Trump in 2020. He has been teasing another run in 2024. Can he count on your support if he decides to run? Or are you keeping your mind open?
SUNUNU: Not even looking at '24.
Look, I'm a big believer, if you spend all your time looking at what happened in 2020 and all your time thinking about 2024, as a Republican Party, we're going to miss 2022. And that's where you got to hopefully inspire new folks to step up to want to run every for everything from governor to the town planning board, right?
You want folks that believe in that local control, that believe in contributing, as opposed to the polarization you see in politics, so not even considering '24. I think, if we do that, whether you're Democrat or Republican, you're really missing the boat.
My job is to manage today. I got COVID. I got inflation. I got home heating oil issues to deal with.
SUNUNU: I have hospitals that are really at capacity. We're managing this kind of stuff every single day.
I don't want to say I don't care about '24, but the furthest thing down on the priority list, as you can imagine.
TAPPER: All right, I hear you.
Governor Sununu of New Hampshire, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
President Biden's big policy priority, the social safety net bill, it appears dead. That's according to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin this morning. He says he's a hard no.
Senator Bernie Sanders is here to respond next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Breaking news this morning: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has just said he is a no on President Biden's cornerstone legislation, Build Back Better. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't.
I have tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: You're done? This is this a no?
MANCHIN: This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining us now exclusively to react, the man managing the legislation, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
So, Senator Sanders, Chairman Sanders, Senator Manchin says he can't get there, this is a no, he's tried everything.
What's your reaction?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I think he's going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia to tell him why he doesn't have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs, why he is not prepared to expand home health care.
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home, are forced into nursing homes. He is going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn't want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses.
I have been to West Virginia a number of times, and it's a great state, beautiful people, but it is a state that is struggling. And he's going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he's rejecting what the scientists of the world are telling us, that we have to act boldly and transform our energy system to protect future generations from the devastation of climate change.
What's going on now, Jake, in Washington is the big money interests are pouring hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure that we continue to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, that the rich do not start paying their fair share of taxes.
And I would have hoped that we could have had at least 50 Democrats on board who had the guts to stand up for working families and take on the lobbyists and the powerful special interests.
We have no Republicans. Not one Republican in the United States Senate or the House, for that matter, is prepared to stand up to the drug companies or the insurance companies or the wealthy. I would hope we would have had 50 Democrats.
But if that is the case, that I hope that we will bring a strong bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as we can. And let Mr. Manchin explain to the people of West Virginia why he doesn't have the guts to stand up the powerful special interests.
TAPPER: Oh, so you want to vote on it, no matter what, even if...
SANDERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
The American people have got to understand what is at stake. For decades now, what Congress has been doing, given tax breaks to the rich, not standing up to the drug companies, so that we end up paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, ignoring climate change, the president of the United States and almost every Democrat is trying, finally, to address these issues.
If Mr. Manchin doesn't want to support us...
TAPPER: Did this you know this coming?
SANDERS: Well, look, we have been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month.
But if he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.
TAPPER: So how do you tell somebody out there watching wondering, how come you couldn't get Joe Manchin on board?
SANDERS: Well, as I have indicated, we're taking on not just Joe Manchin.
We're taking on -- you know how much money the pharmaceutical industry has spent in the last year on lobbying alone? Over $300 million, plus campaign contributions, plus all kinds of advertising.
Fossil fuel industry is spending a fortune. Let's not kid ourselves. We got a corrupt -- we have a corrupt political system dominated by big money interests. And, finally, some of us are saying, let's stand up for working families. Average workers have not seen a pay raise in inflation accounted for dollars in 45 years, while the rich are becoming phenomenally richer. Corporate profits are an all-time high.
And what some of us are saying, maybe, maybe we will stand up for working families for a change. But, apparently, we don't have the 50 votes that we need. And I think we take that message right into the 2022 campaigns. Which party, with the exception maybe of one or two people, which party is prepared to do the right things for the elderly, for the children?
And, by the way, we talk about kids. I want everybody out there to know, if Mr. Manchin votes no, those $300 tax credits that have gone a long way to reducing childhood poverty in America, they're gone. That's over. We cut childhood poverty by over 40 percent, an extraordinary accomplishment.
Manchin doesn't want to do that, tell that to the struggling families of West Virginia and America.
TAPPER: So, he's -- you're suggesting he doesn't have the guts to stand up for working families and to take on the moneyed interests.
If Senator Manchin were here, he would say: My state is a state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. What I'm doing and going after in opposing this legislation will be popular.
And Manchin has said he thinks that all this money -- he's saying all this money is going to make inflation worse.
SANDERS: Look, I told Joe Manchin -- well, let me talk about -- Joe Manchin voted for a huge increase in military spending.
Manchin voted for an infrastructure bill which added $250 billion to the deficit. The truth of the matter is that, if you look at the military budget, 770 billion, times that by 10 years, it is four times higher than what the Build Back Better plan is.
Now, Mr. Manchin says he's representing the people of West Virginia. OK, why don't you do a poll? At CNN, do a poll. And you ask the people of West Virginia whether or not they want to lower the cost of prescription drugs. You ask them whether they want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses. You ask whether they want to continue that $300 payment to help working parents in these very difficult times bring up their kids with dignity.
Ask them if they want to deal with climate change. On all of those issues, I suspect people of West Virginia, like every other state in this country, will say, yes, do the right thing for working families.
TAPPER: Is there a...
SANDERS: And I challenge -- I told Manchin, by the way, I will pay for the damn poll in West Virginia on those issues, see how the people of West Virginia feel.
TAPPER: Is there a strategy forward? Is there a way to pass parts of this legislation piecemeal, assuming that you do bring it forward for a vote and assuming Joe Manchin is one of 51 who vote against it? SANDERS: Well, the problem that we have is that, obviously, you need
60 votes -- we have no support from Republicans -- to pass standing legislation.
So it has to be done through reconciliation. So I haven't thought about that yet. But all I do know is that the dividing line in this country is going to be very clear. On one side of the -- one side of the equation, you're going to have Republicans, and I suspect Mr. Manchin, who say, yes, it's OK. We don't have to deal with the fact that billionaires in some cases don't pay a nickel in federal taxes.
We don't have to deal with climate change. We don't have to deal with childhood poverty. We don't have to deal the high cost of prescription drugs. And on the other side will be those who say, yes, we do. And that tells me that we need a lot more than 50 Democrats in the United States.
TAPPER: So there was this deal-making that went on before this, because there was the bipartisan infrastructure deal that the Biden administration wanted, and so did moderates and Democrats and also some Republicans.
And then there was the Build Back Better Act. And progressives were -- they wanted them both passed in tandem. You wanted them passed in tandem. And then there was this agreement, pass infrastructure, and then we will -- we will get to Build Back Better. And President Biden said he would get the 50 votes.
So, in retrospect, was it a mistake to do that deal?
SANDERS: Well, the people -- I and people in the House who said that they have to go in tandem, for precisely this reason, because we feared very much -- not that we were against a strong infrastructure built. I wanted that very, very much.
But we understood that if we didn't keep it together, there would be those who would pay the infrastructure bill and not deal with the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country.
That was the fear. That fear, if Manchin continues along this path, turned out to be justified.
TAPPER: So -- and Senator Manchin is opposed to getting rid of the filibuster, which is something a lot of progressives want to do, so it only takes 51 votes, instead of 60, to pass legislation.
So what's your message to the millions of Americans who were hoping for the enhanced child tax credit extension, new child care programs, health care subsidies, paid family leave, environmental measures, et cetera? Is the Biden agenda dead?
SANDERS: Well, let me say this also, when you talk about getting rid of the filibuster. On top of all of that, Jake, we have the issue of protecting American democracy and stop what Republican governors and legislatures are doing all over this country. And that is denying people of color, people with disabilities, young people, older people the right to participate in our democracy.
What is terribly important is that we pass the voting rights bill we have been discussing for a number of months now, to say that states all over this country cannot deny people the right to vote.
SANDERS: Trump has propagated this big lie, and a lot of governors and legislators have picked it up and are really now trying very hard to suppress the vote, go forward with extreme gerrymandering.
And we're going to need 50 votes to do that. And if Manchin does not want to do that, then what he's really saying to the American people, that's OK. Democracy and the preservation of the foundations of American democracy, right of one person, one vote, that's not very important.
I don't know where he's coming from on that, but that would be a tragedy as well.
TAPPER: Last question for you, sir.
I know there are a lot of young voters who are very worried about climate change out there. And this was, this bill, in all likelihood, the last, best hope to pass something that would deal with climate change, at least in the near future.
What's your message to all these young people who might be incredibly disappointed and deflated and think politics isn't worth it?
SANDERS: Well, that's -- I think they're going to have to rise up and understand that politics is exactly where it is, and to tell the Republican Party and the Manchins of the world that they want a planet that is healthy and is habitable. And they have got to continue the fight.
And they have to make sure that we are electing members of the House, members of the Senate all over this country who understand that what the scientists are telling us is right. We have to act boldly right now to transform our energy system.
So the answer is, don't give up. Get even more involved than you have been.
TAPPER: I should note you were just in Michigan rallying with Kellogg's workers who are on strike. Union members are poised to vote today on a possible agreement to increase wages by $1.10 per hour and a cost-of-living adjustment.
Do you support this new deal? Do you think the Biden administration is doing everything they can to help these workers? Or can they do more? SANDERS: Well, I was proud to be there, because what Kellogg's has
done is exactly the kind of corporate greed that we're seeing all across this country.
They give their CEO $12 million in salary and compensation, yet they have a two-tier wage system, where younger workers earn substantially less than older workers and fewer benefits. And, meanwhile, they are continuing their effort to send good-paying jobs to Mexico.
So I was delighted to go down with these great people. They have been on strike now for over two months. They have lost their health care. They are standing up to the greed of this corporation, Kellogg's, but they're really representing working people all over this country, who are sick and tired of CEOs making a fortune while there are cutbacks on the needs for workers.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont. Good to see you.
And happy holidays. And happy new year to you too, sir.
When President Biden asked House Democrats to pass his infrastructure bill and trust him on the rest, there were six House progressives who told the president, no deal.
So, what do they say now?
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The day after last year's election, then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows received this text message urging him to pursue the -- quote -- "aggressive strategy" of appointing essentially fraudulent electors in three battleground states while the votes were still being counted.
Three sources tell me and CNN's Jamie Gangel that the January 6 Select House Committee believes that former Texas Governor and Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry sent that text. Perry denies it, even though CNN has confirmed that the texts did come from Perry's phone number.
And joining me now, one of only two Republicans on the January 6 House select Committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
I know you can't confirm or deny that that text came from Rick Perry's phone, but is the committee planning on bringing Perry in before the committee to answer questions?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, I think, if we do that, if we decide he's somebody we want to talk to, that he can provide information that one of the 300 other witnesses we have interviewed so far haven't, I think certainly that would be on the table.
But here's an interesting thing, regardless of where that text came from, because I can't confirm or deny anything, is, you look at, no matter all the numbers of texts that are that are coming out, or what people have been saying, and you kind of get a peek into the window of their world, didn't seem like a lot of these texts were saying, hey, let's just figure out who got the most votes and declare that person president.
It was everybody with this new kind of scheme and trick to get around the Constitution or to use a technicality of the Constitution. And I think we have to sometimes step back and say, I do believe there are probably some real kind of "Did we break the law?" questions here.
But even bigger than that in my mind is, what does that say about the future of democracy, if we -- do we truly believe in it, or is it all about win at any cost?
TAPPER: That's interesting.
The committee released some truly remarkable texts, as you noted, sent to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows while the Capitol was under seize that he that he gave to the committee. They came from politicians, FOX personalities, even the president's own son, pleading with Meadows to get then-President Trump to call off that mob.
Explain to our viewers why these texts don't just make for dramatic reading, but are materially relevant to your investigation.
KINZINGER: Well, so it's materially relevant for a number of reasons.
Obviously, we have a trail of Mark Meadows being aware now of what was happening at the Capitol, not just, maybe I knew, maybe I watched news. And everybody may know that that wasn't true, but you now have proof of it, people desperately pleading for him to get the president to be involved because the president, for something like 182 minutes, nobody heard from them, nobody knew what he was up to, despite this being all over the news.
And we know he watches the news. I also think it's important, particularly with the FOX News side of things, is, they went on TV that night, some of those people, and said, this may be Antifa, this may be the FBI, and in the last 10 months have continued that narrative.
So they had such a chummy relationship with the chief of staff of the president and then, in some of those texts, said, this is making us look bad, not this is making you look bad or America look bad. This is making us collectively and our movement look bad.
And so, for the next 10 months, they're going to go ahead and obfuscate. But that's why that's so important as well.
TAPPER: I want to play something your fellow Republican on the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress' official proceeding to count electoral votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, in that question, she appears to be deliberately referencing the language in a criminal statute -- quote -- "Whoever corruptly obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding or attempts to do so shall be fined or imprisoned, not more than 20 years, or both" -- unquote.
Do you believe that Donald Trump committed a crime? And is that something that committee is explicitly investigating?
KINZINGER: I don't want to go there yet to say, do I believe he has.
I think that's obviously a pretty big thing to say. I -- we want to know, though. And I think we will, by the end of our investigation and by the time our report is out, have a pretty good idea. We will be able to have out on the public record anything Justice Department needs maybe in pursuit of that.
Nobody, Jake, is above the law. Nobody, not the president. He's not a king. Not former presidents. They aren't former kings. Nobody is above the law. And if the president knowingly allowed what happened on January 6 to happen, and, in fact, was giddy about it, and that violates a criminal statute, he needs to be held accountable for that.
I'm not ready to go there yet. But I sure tell you I have a lot of questions about what the president was up to.
TAPPER: So you are looking into that?
KINZINGER: Yes, we're looking -- so, look, here's the thing with the report.
January 6 is a very important day. We will get every bit of detail that we can possibly get on that. What I think -- so that's important for the president's role. But what I think is almost more important is, what led up to January 6? What is the rot in the democracy that allowed the six to happen? And have we corrected from that since?
Because what really matters to me is, I want to hold the people guilty accountable, but I want to make sure this never happens again. Otherwise, January 6 will have been, yes, a failed trial run, but, sometimes, a failed trial run is the best practice to get one that succeeds, a coup that would succeed in toppling our government.
TAPPER: Republican Congressman Jim Jordan acknowledged that he sent Meadows a text. He forwarded on the language from a former Pentagon official. And that text laid out how Pence, as vice president, could allegedly reject unconstitutional electoral votes. Obviously, that's a scheme, as you mentioned earlier in the show,
Jordan is set to become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans take back the House next year. Can Jordan credibly chair that committee?
KINZINGER: Can he credibly chair it? No. Can he chair it? Yes.
And I think, very likely, he will, because, two years ago, three years ago or so, the Republican Party saw these non-serious legislators, these bomb throwers, these let's just get attention as not real contenders. Now they basically run the Republican Party.
I mean, what's Kevin McCarthy been doing the last year? Basically, whatever Marjorie Taylor Greene tells him to do. And that's -- I look at that and go, yes, he could not credibly head the committee, but he certainly could head the committee.
And, look, as a party -- and I say this to fellow Republicans. Do you really think this is a winning solution for the future? Yes, it may make you feel good because you're owning people and getting all angry and all that stuff. You think it's a winning thing for the future?
I don't. But we will see.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thanks so much for being with us. Merry Christmas, and happy new year to you and your growing family.
KINZINGER: Thank you, Jake. Back at you.
TAPPER: Back to the breaking news this morning, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, saying he will vote no on President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.
Let's go now to one of only six House progressives who rejected Biden's requests last month to trust him that he would be able to get all 50 Democrats to pass the bill and to push forward on the infrastructure bill.
Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
So, Congresswoman, you were right. Let's get your reaction to the news that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin says he's not going to vote yes on Build Back Better.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Jake, to be clear, my lack and deficit of trust was about Senator Manchin.
He has continued to move the goalposts. He has never negotiated in good faith. And he is obstructing the president's agenda, 85 percent of which is still left on the table. And in obstructing the president's agenda, he is obstructing the people's agenda.
I was listening to his interview earlier today, and he said it's a mammoth bill. You're right. It's a mammoth bill to address mammoth hurt, to lower the cost of eldercare, child care, prescription drug costs, the child tax credit, which is so critical in combating child poverty.
West Virginia, I believe, is seventh in the country when it comes to child poverty. So, by not advancing the Build Back Better Act, not only do we fail to meet the needs of the American people, their mammoth hurt in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic and pandemic- induced recession, not only that, but we are going to put in his district, in his state 50,000 more children at risk of going back into poverty by not advancing the Build Back Better Act, because the child tax credit is in that.
And it expired on Friday. Moreover, in his interview, he spoke about inflation. We know that there is inflation because of the impacts of this pandemic. So the most responsible thing that we can do is to pass the Build Back Better Act.
We cannot allow one lone senator from West Virginia to obstruct the president's agenda, to obstruct the people's agenda. Jake, all I want for Christmas is a senator that has compassion for the American people, and not contempt.
TAPPER: Well, you heard Bernie Sanders earlier in the program saying that Senator Schumer, the Democratic majority leader of the Senate, should bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote anyway and force Manchin to vote no.
Do you agree?
PRESSLEY: I do, absolutely.
TAPPER: Do you think President Biden, in telling progressives -- and I realized you were one of the six who were skeptical, not of Biden, but of Manchin -- but do you think President Biden broke his promise?
He said: I will give you my word as a Biden we're going to get all 50 Democrats on board.
PRESSLEY: This is about Joe Manchin obstructing the president's agenda, obstructing the people's agenda, torpedoing our opportunity to advance unprecedented advancements, to address the hurt that this pandemic-induced recession has caused, and to get this pandemic under control.
So, if he's serious about inflation, if he's serious about the pandemic, if he's serious about child poverty, then we need to advance the Build Back Better Act, so that we can, in fact, Build Back Better. This is 85 percent of the president's agenda which has still been left on the table.
Jake, that was not a vote that I took lightly. But I had great concerns, and I take no joy in those fears playing out in real time that, by decoupling these bills, that we would cede all of our leverage.
And that has everything to do with my credible concerns, based on lived experience, with Senator Manchin changing the goalposts continually.
TAPPER: Is there a strategy now to break up Build Back Better into smaller pieces and try to get 10 Republicans on board for some of them, for instance, paid family leave?
Is there a way to get, for instance, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, just north of you on board with a smaller paid family leave build that can get 60 votes in the Senate? Is that a strategy, given the fact that it looks like Build Back Better is dead?
PRESSLEY: Jake, this is all happening in real time. And I'm not one to cede defeat quickly.
So I remain focused on keeping the pressure up on Senator Manchin, the White House using the full weight of this presidency to lean on this senator to show solidarity with this Democratic Party and with the American people, and to stop obstructing the president's agenda, which is the people's agenda.
This is a mammoth bill to address a mammoth hurt. Let's get it done.
TAPPER: So, Senator Sanders said just a few minutes ago that this would create a stark difference in the 2022 midterms, where Democrats are on one side pushing for lower prescription drug prices, child care, et cetera, the things that are in the Build Back Better, and Republicans opposing it.
But I wonder if you think it might actually have the opposite effect of suppressing and depressing progressive voters, younger voters, voters counting on some of the things in the Build Back Better Act, and actually causing them to be disillusioned, disappointed, and not turn out to vote in 2022, even more than Democrats normally do not turn out to vote in the midterms?
PRESSLEY: Jake, it was a multigenerational, multiracial movement of the most marginalized, black, brown, AAPI, indigenous, LGBTQ, disabled, who made this Democratic majority possible, and many of them issues-based activists, championing the need for police reform, to dismantle mass incarceration, to combat the climate crisis, to actualize racial justice, to cancel student debt.
It is incumbent upon us to do everything possible to meet the needs of that most marginalized movement, which made this majority possible.
PRESSLEY: We run the risk of risking the majority not by going big, but by playing small.
TAPPER: All right.
PRESSLEY: So, of course, I have concerns about us not keeping our promises.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, thank you so much.
And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. We want to wish you and your family a very, very merry Christmas. Stay safe this holiday season.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.