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House to Take Final Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill; Duchess of Sussex Files Formal Complaint to U.K. Broadcaster Over Piers Morgan's Comments About Her; FBI Releases New Security Footage of Suspect Placing Pipe Bombs Outside RNC and DNC Headquarters; House to Take Final Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill; Biden to Deliver First Primetime Address Tomorrow Night; Interview with Jared Bernstein about the American Rescue Package. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


Help is on the way. Right now House lawmakers are gearing up for a final vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. The new administration's first major legislative achievement expected to pass on a party line vote by the end of today. That means $1400 checks could hit some people's bank accounts in just days.

The bill also extends unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and expands the child tax credit, Poppy, that, you know, by some estimates will reduce childhood poverty in this country by as much as a half.

HARLOW: Yes. It's a huge deal. The package is also something that includes funding for cash-strapped states. A lot for schools. It is broadly popular with the American people. A brand-new CNN poll shows 61 percent of Americans support it.

The bill is expected to reshape the U.S. economy in a lot of ways. President Biden will tout it in his first primetime address. That is tomorrow night.

Let's begin this hour with our Lauren Fox. She joins us on Capitol Hill.

What's the timeline, Lauren, for the final vote?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect the debate is just about to get under way in the House of Representatives. Then we expect a vote right around the noon hour today. Of course, this is the last stop for this $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill before it gets signed into law by the president of the United States.

Now Biden had made this a huge campaign push. Now 50 days into his first 100 days, he is going to be able to finally sign this bill into law. We expect, of course, that the White House and Democrats are going to be constantly reminding Americans of what is inside this package. And you touched on a few of those items. An expansion of the child tax credit. $1400 checks to individuals making $75,000 or less.

Of course, more money for vaccine distribution. More money to get kids back to school. More money for small businesses. All of that included in this massive package that we expect to be passed out of the House of Representatives in just a couple of hours -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you very, very much for that.

Well, President Biden is planning to hit the road in the coming weeks to try to build more support on the heels of this big legislative win for his administration.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us now live from the White House.

Jeremy, I wonder where he's planning to go, what his plans are. Talk as well of a news conference. Is that right?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. And so much of this is going to begin, in fact, as soon as the president signs this into law. Tomorrow evening, the president is set to deliver this primetime address which is going to focus on the coronavirus pandemic one year since the World Health Organization declared this officially a pandemic.

The president not only looking backwards at all of the sacrifices that Americans have had to endure over the last year but also looking forward. And part of looking forward will be touting this $1.9 trillion piece of legislation which the president is expected to frame as part of the way that America gets back to some sense of normalcy.

And then after that, you will see the president hopping on Air Force One more and more over the coming weeks heading to different parts of the country to try and highlight some of the direct impact that this piece of legislation is going to deliver. Whether that's helping schools open more quickly, getting vaccination centers up and running with the billions of dollars in funding for that vaccine distribution effort.

And then as you mentioned, Jim, the president is also expected this month to hold his first news conference. Now we should note that he has waited longer than any other president in the last 100 years to hold his first news conference but nonetheless expected to do so.

Now this effort to sell this bill comes even though it is already pretty popular. 61 percent of Americans telling CNN in a new poll that they do indeed support this $1.9 trillion piece of legislation. And when you look down at some of the individual components of the legislation, many of those even more popular among both Democrats and Republicans.

You look at larger tax credits. Those expanded child credits for example. Money for return to classrooms. Stimulus checks. Support for local governments, though perhaps the one where you see the most partisan split there.

The president does have some work to do on his own approval ratings, though, in this new CNN poll. You can see that his approval rating stands right now at 51 percent. 41 percent disapproving. That is higher than at any point in Donald Trump's presidency but it is lower than other recent presidents, President Obama, Bush and Clinton, where they stood at this point in their presidency.

And one last note to make here is that so much of this effort to sell this coronavirus relief bill that we will see over the coming weeks is informed by what didn't happen in 2009.


President Biden himself has talked about the fact that he felt that President Obama didn't do enough to travel around the country and sell that 2009 stimulus bill. That will be something that the president will be mindful of over the coming weeks as he looks to sell that not only in anticipation of the 2022 midterms but also keep in mind so many of the provisions in here whether it's health care subsidies or some other provisions in this bill like the expanded child credit, they expire in a year.

And so the president will look to drum up support to get those extended through an act of Congress and hopefully to get some Republican support to do so as well -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: And Jeremy, before you go, a source tells CNN that the White House is planning to purchase another 100 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses? Is that right?

DIAMOND: That's right. A White House official telling me this morning that the president will announce during this meeting that he's hosting at the White House this afternoon with executives from Johnson & Johnson and Merck, that pharmaceutical company that is helping Johnson & Johnson manufacture its vaccine. He will announce that he is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to purchase an additional 100 million doses of that vaccine.

Many of the details of how quickly those doses will arrive will need to be worked out with Johnson & Johnson. It is not expected to speed up that timeline to get enough vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May. But it will be to anticipate more things down the line. Like, for example, vaccinations for children or potentially even boosters for some of these coronavirus variants that we're seeing crop up -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The supply of the Johnson & Johnson one has been sluggish to this point. We'll see if it accelerates. Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

So once this bill lands on the president's desk and he signs it, when will that money land in bank accounts?

HARLOW: Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent, is with us. Are we talking days? CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, for those

stimulus checks, potentially days here. Some timing here for these three critical benefits that many Americans are going to feel right away. For some Americans, it'll be thousands of dollars in their bank accounts. Those checks, those $1400 checks. We've had two rounds of these already.

So presumably if they can get this signed quickly, it will be a matter of days or a couple of weeks before those checks hit bank accounts. Remember there's a couple of changes here. Adult dependents now qualify. So if you have an elderly parent or a college age kid living at home with you you'll get $1400 for that person, too. But narrow eligibility. There'll be six million or seven million people who got checks last time who won't, who are on the higher end of the income span.

The child tax credit, well, this is going to be tricky because the Treasury Department is going to have to figure out how to get the money out every month to working families instead of just returned in their tax refund. So we'll look to see how the Treasury Department is going to be able to sort out the mechanics of that as the law requires.

And then these jobless benefits, guys, the clock is ticking here. 11 million people, their benefits start to expire this weekend. Needs to move quickly here. I know that some states have already started working through how they're going to do an extension here. But they're waiting to see what the language is to see if there's, you know, substantial differences in the language of this particular part of the relief.

Also the first 10,200 of these checks, these jobless benefits are going to be tax free. I'm not sure what that means if you've already filed for 2020 or 2019. So there's going to be a little bit of a tax juggle here for some folks who've already filed trying to get the best of their benefits.

HARLOW: OK. Christine Romans, thank you for all of that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Let's bring in a member of the president's economic team, Jared Bernstein, serves on the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Good morning and thanks for being with us.

Always a pleasure.

HARLOW: It's a big day, and I don't think anyone questions if this package is going to help a lot of people, it is. What even some of your Democratic colleagues are questioning, though -- Democratic economists is, is it too big? Did it need to be this big? And you know there are two big concerns. One, an inflationary spike if we have a quick recovery. And, two, their second concern is, do we overheat? Right? And I'm not just talking about Larry Summers. I'm talking about Olivia Blanchard, I'm talking about Jason Fuhrman.

I guess my question to you is, is your assessment here, Jerod, that this is the right size and not too big and you don't have those risks, that this is actually going to be a slow exit from this pandemic in terms of recovery?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Certainly that's my broad view. I think to drill down a bit in a way that's responsive to the very important question you ask, there is always risks of downsides and unintended consequences. The risk of overheating in terms of price pressures is considerably smaller than the risks of doing too little to finally put this crisis behind us and set American families and businesses up for a lasting and durable expansion that hasn't yet been able to occur because of the virus, to safely reopen schools, to get the kinds of benefits out that you were just reviewing.


Now in terms of inflationary pressures, you have to think of what I'm now calling the three S's. Spend out, savings and slack. The spend out of the plan is slower than some of the overheating folks think. Now that's not the case with the checks and the unemployment insurance. They get right out the door. But some of the other parts of plan, spend out more slowly, putting less pressure on prices.

Some of the benefits will be initially saved to help people offset some of the debt they're accumulating, particularly around rent and mortgage forbearance. And the third is there's still a lot of slack in this economy. Black unemployment rates are almost 10 percent, Poppy. That is absolutely unacceptable to this president.

HARLOW: A hundred percent it's unacceptable. I just -- it sounds like you're not concerned at all that you're going to have all this quick money sloshing around the economy, potentially raising prices and risking another recession.

BERNSTEIN: Well, let me push back very hard on that --

HARLOW: You're not worried at all about that?

BERNSTEIN: Let me push back very hard on that because when you're a White House economist, there's absolutely nothing you're not concerned at all about. We -- I literally obsess on inflation statistics.


BERNSTEIN: Including looking at the ones that came out this morning which by the way show core prices, which is the most important gauge, year over year, 1.3 percent. Now that's backward looking.

HARLOW: Right.

BERNSTEIN: I think you have to look at inflation expectations. They remain well anchored which is the way the Federal Reserve says that people expect inflation to stay in the kind of range that it's been. And that's very helpful for actually keeping it there. But let me tell you, it's not that there is no risk of downside problems.


BERNSTEIN: It's that we've balanced the risk and the bigger risk is not doing enough.

HARLOW: Yes. We've just never been in a pandemic-driven recession. So you acknowledge the risk. We're going to have to see how this plays out.

There is this I think important under covered concern that actually comes from your fellow progressive Democrat, and that's Congresswoman Katie Porter from California, that the child tax credit is not applied equally to married couples and single parents.

Let me give you an example. If you are a family with three kids between 6 and 16, you make $90,000 a year. A married couple would get a $9,000 tax credit for their children in a year. A single parent with as many kids would get $8200. OK. And it's increased. It's a $3,000 differential if you're talking about $150,000 income.

Here's what she told my colleague Erin Burnett last night.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): We need to give the same child tax benefit to each household regardless of the parent's marriage status. And that's something that simply, I think, until I raised the issue, a lot of people hadn't thought about.


HARLOW: Is the Biden administration concerned that single parents are not being treated equally here on a child tax credit even with equal number of children?

BERNSTEIN: Certainly any equitable concerns like that are foremost in mind for us. The child tax credit, which by the way, as you recently pointed out in the intro to this segment, is expected to reduce child poverty by more than half in one year. You've never gotten anywhere close to such a progressive result. I have a little more to say about that when we get to it because we have some new numbers on its impact.

It's keyed off a family income and of the number of kids you have and of those kids' age. A, so if you have the same number of kids in the same income and those kids are the same age, the child tax credit should be the same. So I need to look more closely at the examples --

HARLOW: But it's not. OK. Come back, we'll keep talking about it because Katie Porter, as you know, pretty smart on this topic and she's done the math.

BERNSTEIN: Very smart.

HARLOW: And we did the math this morning and it's not the same for those families but come back, we'll talk about that more and see if there's an adjustment you guys might make.

So here's a concern about the middle class from Republican Congressman Liz Cheney.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): It's a real tragedy. We know that the result of that package is going to be middle class tax increases. We know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted. They're not temporary. They're not related to COVID. And it didn't have to be this way.


HARLOW: She's really worried that the amount you spend on this is going to result down the line in middle class tax increases. Can you guarantee the Biden administration is not going to raise taxes on the middle class?

BERNSTEIN: So, you know, I disagree with almost everything she said right there. And the president has been extremely firm and forthright about the following point. I've never heard him either publicly or privately say anything but the tax measures that he intends to propose do not hit families below $400,000 AGI, adjusted gross income. And that line in the sand is well above anybody's conception of the middle class. So, you know, a hard no on that point.

HARLOW: So that's a guarantee?

BERNSTEIN: I -- this is the -- this is what the president has consistently said.


BERNSTEIN: Another thing that I think -- wait, let me just say. Another thing that, since you played the clip, give me a chance to respond to it. Another thing she said that I think is just patently wrong is this idea that there are all these measures in the bill that don't apply to the crisis. I mean, in fact, if you look at the targeting of the American Rescue Plan.


I just saw some new numbers, 35 percent of the benefits go to the bottom quintile or the bottom fifth, the poorest fifth of families. If you look at the bottom half, something like 60 percent of the benefits go to the bottom half. What part goes to the top 1 percent or the top 0.1 percent? Zero. Zero percent of the benefits go up there. So, this is a much better targeted bill than she suggested, and the elements of it are all geared toward putting this virus behind us, launching a recovery and meeting the needs of families and businesses and doing so quickly.

HARLOW: I'm aware of that, where the money goes. And you're right, the majority goes to the bottom. I don't think that's what's being questioned here, it's about the other things in there that Republicans are saying are tangential and not directly COVID related.

BERNSTEIN: So give me an example.

HARLOW: But we only have a -- we only have a minute. I am happy to have you back, we'll talk about those examples. But I do need to ask you this final question because it's very important. There's this new independent report that I'm sure you've seen, came out this week, and it found that China's alleged actions in the Xinjiang region have violated every single provision of the United Nations genocide convention. I'm talking about the Uyghur population there. The Biden administration has said Beijing has committed crimes against humanity, they've committed genocide. The State Department on Monday said China must be met with serious consequences.

Of course, the Chinese government denies all of these allegations. But I wonder, will the Biden administration further sanction China, given the ongoing genocide being carried out there?

BERNSTEIN: Look, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I'm just not going to go out of my economics lane on this. You mentioned the State Department? There are so many stakeholders within our administration on that issue, starting with the president himself who has been a consistent and loud critic of China or anyone else human rights violation. But in terms of policy in that area, it would just be, you know, very inappropriate for me to lead into that without many more consultations with my colleagues.

HARLOW: OK, Jared, we welcome anyone from the State Department on to talk about that, and thank you for talking about the American rescue plan. I know it's a big day for you guys and for the country --


HARLOW: On this front. Come back soon.


HARLOW: Thank you. Still to come, Dr. Fauci tells CNN this morning, the CDC guidance on what people can do that are fully vaccinated outside of their home will come imminently. What should you expect? Also this morning, we are learning that Meghan; the duchess of Sussex filed a formal complaint against British news anchor Piers Morgan. This follows his comments about her and Prince Harry. We'll have the latest from London.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Plus, the FBI has released new security camera footage and new clues about the suspect who placed pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the RNC and DNC on the eve of the January 6th insurrection. Stay with us, we'll have more.



HARLOW: As of this morning, people all across the state of Texas are no longer under a statewide mask mandate to wear them in public, not to mention all businesses can reopen a 100 percent fully without masks.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Dan Simon, he is in Houston this morning. Dan, I wonder how people are responding to this. Are they keeping their masks on, but also businesses, right? Because many businesses have chosen to keep asking folks to leave their masks on when they come in.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Jim and Poppy, so the bottom line is Texas is fully open, at least, symbolically. You know, what Greg Abbott did by issuing this order is telling people, Texas is fully open and we're open for business and signaling that to the world. But in reality, the effect is much more muted, right? Because you have businesses telling people we still want you to wear the mask, and then you have several cities like Austin and Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso. They're still requiring people to wear masks on city property. Austin even going a step further, saying that we want people to wear the mask in public, period, although it's not clear how that's going to be enforced. And I want you to listen now to how one restaurant owner here in Houston is defending the continuing use of the mask. Take a look.


ARNALDO RICHARDS, OWNER, PICOS RESTAURANT: All my employees support my decision. I mean, these are the guys that they're in front of the grill, 400 degrees grill with a mask on, eight, nine, ten hours a day. I mean, these are the people that understand what's happening because they don't want to go and expose their families as well.


SIMON: So, that's a pretty common sentiment. In fact, I tried to actually find a restaurant here in Houston that says you can come in without a mask. I simply could not find one. So right now, this does appear to be symbolic, and once again, we talked about this yesterday. Critics say that this is totally a misguided policy coming from the governor, especially in light of the fact that Texas still remains -- still has a very high positivity rate nearly 15 percent. Guys, we'll send it back to you.

SCIUTTO: Wow, 15 percent is high. That's a high positivity rate. Remarkable. Dan Simon, thanks very much. Well, Dr. Anthony Fauci is now pleading with Americans not to let their guard down, particularly as we approach Spring break. Here's what he told "NEW DAY" earlier this morning.



ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Whenever you get a situation where you're going to have people traveling to go to a separate location, whether it's going to be congregate setting, a festive atmosphere, it's totally understandable that people want to do that, but that's something we really got to be careful of. We want people to have a good time on Spring break, but don't put your guard down completely. Just be prudent a bit longer. We are going in the right direction. We're almost there.


HARLOW: We're almost there. Welcome words. Dr. Fauci also revealed, and this is important that the CDC will imminently release guidelines on what fully vaccinated people can do outside of their homes, also meaning travel. This week, the agency emphasized people shouldn't travel even if they're vaccinated. Is it going to change? Let's bring in Dr. Jeffrey Gold; chancellor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Good morning, Dr. Gold, it's really good to have you.


HARLOW: So, right now, the CDC says don't travel even if you're fully vaccinated. That may change when they come out imminently, Dr. Fauci says with this new guidance. What do you think?

GOLD: Well, this gets down to the question, Poppy, about herd immunity because masking, vaccination, social distancing, et cetera, not only protects an individual and your immediate family, of course --


GOLD: But also protects others in the community. And right now, as we continue to work towards herd immunity, either through previous infection or through vaccination hopefully, we will get closer to that time, that travel and other normal types of things that our country appreciates being able to go to church, participate in choir practice, school, athletic events. All of the things that really form our infrastructure and, of course, opening our businesses fully, are going to depend on that goal of herd immunity.

SCIUTTO: How close do you believe we are to herd immunity? Because, you know, there's a school of thought that many more people, perhaps four times as many or even more, have been exposed to this than the infection numbers show at about 30 million. Add to that, the tens of millions of Americans who have now been fully vaccinated. Do you think this country might be closer to herd immunity than the numbers show?

GOLD: I think the current thinking by our public health leaders across the country is that it's exactly the case, Jim. That if we're --


GOLD: You know, let's say 30 million confirmed cases, perhaps we're off by a factor of three to four, that would be over 100 million Americans previously infected. Add to that, nearly 100 million with one shot of vaccine right now. Of course, some overlap in those two groups. But until we have the science that shows that these vaccines are really durable for 6 or 12 months, until we know that we're not going to be dealing with the variants very much, and, of course, don't forget, we really are waiting with bated breath to find out about the use of vaccines in pregnant women and young children. Those are pieces of science that should be forthcoming in the next several weeks to months, which should allow us to answer your questions more fully.

HARLOW: Speaking of pregnant women, your medical center has just recently in the last two weeks, I believe, started this extensive study of the Pfizer vaccine on pregnant women, and you'll study their babies as well once they're born. I know, it's early days, you don't have the conclusive data. I'm just interested in what you're looking at most closely. And I assume your advice still is for pregnant women, they need to ask their individual doctor if they should get this, right?

GOLD: Yes, that is the current advice because every pregnancy is different, of course. But the purposes of the trial are really to, of course, look at short-term safety and efficacy, meaning prevention of COVID infection. But also to look at the ability to transfer antibodies either transplacentally during the pregnancy or during breastfeeding after birth. And those are very important considerations as we plan towards this herd immunity.

HARLOW: Dr. Gold, thank you very much. Come back soon.

GOLD: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, we are learning Meghan, the duchess of Sussex is fighting back against comments Piers Morgan made about her revelation that she thought about committing suicide. This morning, Morgan abruptly left his show. We have details ahead.

SCIUTTO: We are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, U.S. futures pointing higher as the house prepares to vote soon on the COVID relief package, investors keeping a close eye on that as well as February's inflation numbers. This is the Nasdaq, had its best day in four months, we're going to keep a close eye on the markets.