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CNN Poll Shows 61 Percent of Americans Support Biden Relief Bill; Fauci Says, CDC Guidance Soon on What Fully Vaccinated Can Do Outside Homes; Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) Says, I Don't Understand Big Rush to Get Rid of Masks. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning, I'm Jim Sciutto.


Another lifeline for struggling Americans, lawmakers are on the House floor right now. They are debating ahead of a final vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. The package is expected to pass on a party line, handing the administration its first major legislative win.

The bill is set to reshape the U.S. economy in several ways. It is broadly popular with the American people. Look at these new numbers from our latest poll. 61 percent of Americans support this.

President Biden will begin touting the win during his primetime address, his first one to the nation. That's tomorrow night. This as the White House prepares to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, yet one more Republican delay here now, another one of these votes to adjourn. Is that the last one? I mean, when is the actual vote going to happen?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there could be more. We expected this vote to take place around noon Eastern, but it's now being delayed because of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman Republican from Georgia, who has made a motion to adjourn the chamber. This is actually the fourth time she has done that in recent days.

In talking to Republican members of the House, I can tell you patience is wearing thin over that particular tactic. But, nevertheless, one member can do that to delay the process here, and that's exactly what she is doing. What's interesting, actually, on this actual procedural vote where more than two dozen Republicans have voted against her, so showing the signs of frustration within her own caucus.

But, nevertheless, she can't delay the inevitable, which is passage of this bill. We do expect it to pass sometime this afternoon. We do expect virtually all Democrats to support it. Perhaps one could vote against it. Jared Golden of Maine voted against it the last time. But one Democrat who voted against the first version of the bill. Kurt Schrader of Oregon has indicated that he does intend to support this plan.

So Democrats feel confident that they can ensure that this bill passes. They can't afford to lose more than four votes on their side of the aisle, assuming all members are present and voting, and we do expect all Republicans to vote against this plan.

Despite what the polls say, they argue that this plan is unwieldy, too big, and it's just unfocused and unneeded at this time. And the party is united in opposition on this particular proposal. So this party line vote on this sweeping measure expected to happen this afternoon, and then we'll see how quickly it can get to the president's desk. Maybe today, maybe a few more days, because sometimes it takes some time for that paperwork to get over to the White House, guys.

HARLOW: Manu, thank you for the update, we're keeping a close eye on the House floor there.

The White House today will also announce these plans to buy another 100 million of doses of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

SCIUTTO: CNN's White House Correspondent John Harwood joins us now from Washington. So, John, this purchase, will it help boost supply nationally? Because that's the real issue now, a lot of demand, right, getting enough shots into people's arms.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will boost supply but not immediately. Johnson & Johnson has had some issues in ramping up their own production. That's why the administration brokered this deal with Merck, a very powerful pharmaceutical manufacturer, to try to ramp up that production.

The administration is already saying that it will have enough vaccines to vaccinate every adult, every American by the end of May. But what this does, even if these vaccines comes in later in the end of the year, it's building both redundancy, the possibility if health authorities decide they need a booster shot for Johnson & Johnson, that provides some additional supply for that, but also generates a sense some momentum behind this vaccination rollout.

As the conditions improve with coronavirus, we've got the bill passage, as you were just discussing with Manu, and as Poppy noted at the top of the segment, our new CNN poll shows 61 percent of Americans support this COVID relief bill, 60 percent support Biden's handling of the pandemic, 51 percent give approval for his job performance overall. That is underwhelming except by comparison with President Trump who never hit 50 percent.


But, obviously, if the COVID situation improves, as it's happening, if the economy improves, as the White House predicts from passage of this bill, President Biden is seeing or hoping that approval rating ticks up from 51 percent.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. John Harwood at the White House, thank you.

Joining me now is Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming. Senator, thanks so much for coming back to the program.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Great to be with you. Happy birthday. It was in Playbook this morning. You were the lead star, so it has to be true.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's very kind of you. I'm not counting anymore, just to be clear, and I won't be challenged numbers.

Let's start, if we can, on the stimulus. I'm sure you're aware the polling, new CNN poll out today shows 73 percent of Republicans here, not the public, but Republicans favor the larger tax credits in the stimulus bill. 55 percent of Republicans favor money to return to the classroom. 55 percent, again, of Republicans favor sending out stimulus checks.

I just wonder, given that public support there, why not a single Republican vote for this stimulus bill?

BARRASSO: Well, you know, this is basically a liberal wish list and the Republicans I talked to in Wyoming this past weekend are very disturbed that we're adding $1.9 trillion to the debt. So I think the more people hear about what's actually in this, and that only 9 percent of the money go to coronavirus relief, I think the less popular this is going to be as time goes on.

When they hear about the bailouts --

SCIUTTO: Well, you know that 9 percent figure, Senator, is misleading, right, because a large portion of it goes to relief for the economic consequences, right, of the pandemic, including the stimulus checks and other aid. So 9 percent doesn't reflect exactly the portion of this bill that is going to the economic consequences of the pandemic.

BARRASSO: Well, don't forget, so much of this money even for education doesn't even start going out until long after the pandemic is gone. It doesn't start going out until 2022. And it didn't have to be this way. We've had five bipartisan coronavirus bills passed, signed into law. Ten Republicans went to the White House to visit with President Biden, and basically his staff kept shaking their head no, and this has gone in straight party lines, which is regrettable. You want to find ways to work together with a new president coming in to office.

We don't have this now, and it's a result of the way this has been done. We want to help people truly get back to work and kids get back to school and put the disease behind us. We have a wonderful vaccine. There is a better way to do this.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about the deficit, because you bring up the cost of this, and that is, right, $1.9 trillion, but it's notable that the Trump and Republican tax cuts passed again through reconciliation in 2017, but by the estimates, both of the Non-Partisan Committee for Responsible Federal Budget but also the CBO, they added exactly the same amount or in the same range to the deficit. So why the willingness to add to the deficit for tax cuts but not for economic relief?

BARRASSO: Well, you know that revenue actually went up as a result of the tax cuts and the regulatory relief that we've had under Republicans and under President Trump, but spending actually went up --

SCIUTTO: Not in terms of how much is determined for the deficit.

BARRASSO: Spending went up more than income came in. The income went up by about 3 percent, spending went up by 7 percent.

We have a big spending problem in this country, a lot of Washington wasteful spending that we need to get under control, and both parties have not been able to do that to the degree that's necessary in the long-term best interests of our country.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about infrastructure, if I can, because that's next up on the Biden agenda. And this is one of those issues that under Trump, too, right, that both parties talk about supporting money going to infrastructure. Is there a figure, is there a plan that you believe Biden could get propose that would get Republican votes?

BARRASSO: Well, in terms of infrastructure, I chaired the committee in the last Congress in the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee. We successfully, in a bipartisan way, came out with a highway bill passed unanimously from the committee. I voted for it, Bernie Sanders voted for it. We sent it to the House. The House ignored it and they said, no, we're going to do the Green New Deal instead.

So part is the price, but the other are the priorities and what goes into the policy. So I think you have a really willing group of people who want to work together in a bipartisan way.

But I just have to tell you, Jim, it doesn't help bipartisanship when Chuck Schumer goes on Anderson Cooper, as he did last night, and attacks the most bipartisan member of the United States Senate, who is Susan Collins, attacked her by name, and essentially said she was responsible for five years of a recession under President Obama. I mean, that's not a way to work together with people or find common ground solutions.


I hope President Biden speaks out and opposes what Chuck Schumer has said about Susan Collins. I'll tell you, she has a spine of steel, she's a hard worker, she's not going to be bullied or bribed by Chuck Schumer, and that doesn't work in the way he does politics in his own caucus.

SCIUTTO: Well, to be fair, as we're sitting here waiting for a vote on stimulus, there is another Republican motion to adjourn, right, to delay the final vote when the votes are there. I mean, I think you could say that the failure for bipartisanship that both parties probably share some of that blame.

I do want to ask you about the party itself because you're a member of GOP leadership. As you know, Trump is now demanding that campaign donations go to his PAC, Political Action Committee, over the RNC, and there is even a battle between Trump and the RNC over whether the RNC could use his name to fundraise. I just wonder, is that good from your perch for the Republican Party?

BARRASSO: The thing that's really uniting the Republican Party right now is the Biden administration and Biden policies. What we see happening at the border is uniting Republicans. What Biden has done with his executive orders in terms of energy and jobs and the economy, the fact that gasoline prices are up 60 cents a gallon, those are the things that are going to continue to unite Republicans as we focus on the 2022 elections, which I think is going to be a very good year for Republicans.

SCIUTTO: I noted you did not say that President Trump is uniting the Republican Party. Is he? Is he uniting or dividing it?

BARRASSO: He is a very influential member of the party. I mean, nobody can get the crowd on their feet like President Trump can and will continue to do. I'm saying the single uniting factor is our opposition to the sort of the things that Joe Biden is doing with spending, with the crisis at the border. I know his administration doesn't want to call it that, but that's exactly what is going on there. And the jobs that are being lost in American energy as well as our influence in the world by his executive orders and the target that he has painted on the back of energy.

SCIUTTO: I get the turn there, and let's be frank, but, clearly, Biden's policies have united Republicans in voting against for the stimulus. I'm just asking you, is the president attacking -- today, he's talking about Republicans in name only. He's primarying a number of Republicans who voted against him, voted to impeach. Does that help unite the Republican Party?

BARRASSO: We're going to be united in 2022. We're going to continue to work together and continue to try to stop some of these policies that all of us believe are bad for the country.

SCIUTTO: Senator John barrasso, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

BARRASSO: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, a Republican governor has rebuked a Republican-led effort to lift a statewide mask mandate, slamming the move as ridiculous. Why the big rush? He's going to join us just ahead.

HARLOW: Also, Dr. Fauci says new CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people is imminent. That could include new travel guidelines. And a hunger crisis exasperated by this pandemic, children of undocumented immigrants suffering as many of their families are too afraid to raise their hand for help. Now, a new immigrant in this country is doing all she can to help her hungry neighbors.



SCIUTTO: Well, many more Americans are getting vaccinated. Now, CDC guidance on what fully vaccinated Americans can do outside their homes is coming soon, those words from Dr. Anthony Fauci just this morning.

HARLOW: That's right. Travel, seeing family, big topics. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us. Good morning, Sanjay.

So, this week, we learned people who are vaccinated can get together for small gatherings. What do you think we're going to hear next, and we're interested in what it means for you and your family, personally.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think like everybody else, I miss seeing my own family, my parents, and we've been mapping this out in terms of, you know, when we can get together, as soon as the new CDC guidelines came out. I think I was on your program talking about this. My parents called me right after, what does this mean?

So, they're vaccinated, I'm vaccinated, my wife and children are not. But if you look at the CDC guidelines, we could get together. I mean, they're very well protected against getting sick. They're older. That's them, by the way, waiting in line for their vaccines. They were number 288 and 289 out of 300 vaccines that were available. So they waited all night and got their vaccines.

The big question, and you alluded to this, is they live in a different state, so they fly to see us. And right now, the recommendation, whether you're vaccinated or not, it doesn't matter, they're really recommending against non-essential travel. Because despite the fact that the numbers are coming down, they're still pretty high in terms of people who are newly infected. And the concern is that if people are traveling and things like that, you could add to the overall viral spread.

Having said that, and I talked to a lot of people, I think within the next couple of weeks, I think we probably will see a loosening of guidelines and recommendations on airline travel as well. There haven't been big outbreaks related to airline travel. I think they'll take that into consideration along with the fact that more and more people are getting vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: All right. There is new research out this morning that says that the B117 variant, the one first discovered in the U.K., does appear to be more deadly than first thought, on the flipside, another data that shows that the vaccines do pretty well against it.

[10:20:04] So, tell us what the bottom line is.

GUPTA: I think that is really the bottom line. First of all, it's hard to say for certain that this virus is more deadly than another virus unless you follow people for long periods of time in large populations of people. With this study, they basically followed 100,000 people. 50,000 of them had the more wild type or the circulating coronavirus that we know, and 50 percent, roughly 50,000, had the variant.

And what they found was that in the group that had the variant, the mortality rate was higher versus those with the other coronavirus.

it's hard to know, to really make a lot of sense out of that, but the bottom line is that we do know these vaccines have been very good at preventing hospitalizations and deaths regardless of whether it's the U.K. -- so-called U.K. variant or the wild type.

HARLOW: Sanjay, you know, you've got the one-year mark coming right up for this pandemic. Dr. Fauci was on CNN earlier today. He said, clearly, we're not out of the woods yet. And he's a little anxious about the plateau we're seeing. When can that anxiety for all of us pass about another surge?

GUPTA: Yes, it's a really great and interesting question. I've talked to so many people about this. For the last year, we have talked about everything from the lens of mitigation. Basically this idea that we just want to just try and slow things down and keep up as much as we can, flatten the curve, slow things down.

There is a phase before mitigation, which is called containment, and these terms are going to sound familiar, but we haven't said them in a long time, but test, trace, isolate, all those sorts of things. People aren't doing as much testing because everyone is waiting in line for the vaccines nowadays.

HARLOW: Right.

GUPTA: But here is the point. When you get to 1 in 100,000 roughly new infections per day, so that would be about 3,500 a day in this country, that's a point where, as a public health system, we feel like we now have got this contained, we can get our hands around this. We can find the newly diagnosed people, we can isolate them, we trace their contacts and, eventually, we just stamp this thing out.

We're not there yet, but I am optimistic. It's been a tough year, but I am optimistic that we could get to that point over the summer and get the numbers really low.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, just to talk about that prospect, it's like a weight being lifted from your shoulders, right? Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, as Texas becomes the latest state to lift its mask mandate, one Republican governor is asking, what's the big rush? West Virginia Governor Jim justice will join me next to discuss.



SCIUTTO: As of today, Texas has now lifted its major COVID restrictions, ending a statewide mask mandate, also allowing all businesses to open 100 percent. My next guest is Republican governor of West Virginia who says he doesn't understand the big rush.

Joining me now, Jim Justice. Thanks so much for taking the time, Governor.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): No, thank you, Jim. I appreciate you having me here.

SCIUTTO: It's good to have you.

You've seen states like Texas lift the mandate now. I wonder, when you look at that move, particularly given the progress on vaccinations, we're getting close to having a big portion of the country vaccinated here. Are these governors endangering their residents by lifting these things now?

JUSTICE: Well, Jim, my feelings are just this. You know, I really, truly do think I'm surrounded by a medical team that's terrific. You know, from the standpoint of getting in a great big hurry -- and I can't stand these masks, either, and I'd love to just get rid of them.

But at the same time, I think the prudent thing for us in West Virginia, if we don't watch out, the old adage, one robin doesn't make spring and all of a sudden, before you know it, you've got a winter storm in your hand again.

And so I think we're doing the right thing. We've been right in West Virginia all along. We've led the way in nursing homes, on the vaccines, we have absolutely led the nation over and over and over.

And I think this is, right now, from the standpoint of opening, we've -- for all practical purposes, we're open 100 percent, but we still really think we should wear a mask and be cautious about the number in our gatherings and so on.

SCIUTTO: Do you think that some Republicans underestimate people's willingness just to stick with masks a bit longer? I mean, we talked to a business owner in Texas a short time ago who said, listen, he's happy to reopen fully, but his customers actually want to keep the masks on because they actually feel more comfortable coming in.

JUSTICE: Well, I don't want to make a gigantic issue out of this. And I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you, Jim, but with all that, my feelings are just what they've been. I'm not going to be a politician. I'm going to just tell you what I think, and what I think is that, you know, our medical team and West Virginia led the way with this.

I don't think that we ought to be in public buildings and everything today without our mask on.


But I'm very, very hopeful with what's going on with the vaccinations and everything that we'll be able to get rid of that really soon.