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Biden's Ambitious Policy Agenda Shows No Signs of Slowing; Biden Makes Economic Case for Fighting Climate Change on 2nd Day of Summit; Missing Submarine with 53 On Board Will Run Out of Oxygen in Hours; SpaceX Rocket Carrying 4 Astronauts Launches from Florida; Tennessee 3rd Graders Face Being Held Back Over Reading Loses. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 23, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: He's focused on the climate, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, and convening a world climate summit that is going on as we speak with 40 other world leaders including Russia and China.

Speaking of foreign relations, Biden has promised our allies, quote, "America is back," while slapping Russia with new sanctions.

He's also begun the process of withdrawing troops out of Afghanistan. He vows to have that completed by September 11th.

On immigration, he has introduced a comprehensive plan which offers millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

He has paused construction of a wall along the southern border. And he's ended President Trump's travel ban affecting mostly Muslim countries.

He also recently unveiled a massive $2 trillion plan that would improve the nation's infrastructure and slowly shift the U.S. towards green energy.

And next week, we're learning that during a joint session of Congress, President Biden will outline another huge initiative.

A sweeping plan that centers around childcare, paid family leave, and free community college. It's being billed as Biden's Human Infrastructure Plan.

And he's been trying to do all of this as the nation is heaved from crisis to crisis, a pandemic, an epidemic of gun violence, ongoing racial reckoning, and a humanitarian crisis at the border.

CNN chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is live at the White House this morning. Kaitlan, what does all of what I just laid out say about how Biden

operates? And is he meeting expectations?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it says, Ana, that it's been a very busy three months here at the White House now with President Biden in office.

And I think that, as you look at all of these other campaign promises that he had, all of these other pledges that he made, and what they're looking to get accomplished and when, really the overarching aspect of the first 100 days of Biden's presidency, which we will reach next week, has been the coronavirus pandemic.

And so when you ask if he's meeting expectations, I think that was what a lot of people were looking for when they elected Biden.

Of course, after that election, what they wanted was leadership when it came to the pandemic.

Because of course, we had pointed out time and time again, the holes in Donald Trump's leadership, and when he was in office and what that looked like.

And so I think the biggest testament you see White House officials point to when they talk about what has marked these first three months is the state of vaccinations and what that has looked like.

And now they're getting to an area where soon they believe we will be at the part where demand is not as big as -- supply is not the issue. It's the demand that's the issue and vaccine hesitancy as they're looking to the next 100 days and what that's going to look like.

I think when it comes to that sense, that's where President Biden has kept his promises, which is getting people vaccinated and focusing on the economic recovery from pandemic.

He has done the other things, like you talked about, when it comes to Afghanistan, what he has talked about with immigration.

Of course, climate has been the focus for the last 48 hours here at the White House.

But as President Biden revealed in the first press conference, he says, when you are president, timing is everything. You have got to make sure you keep your priorities in order.

There have been these crises that have popped up with immigration and guns. But I think overall, far and beyond, his number-one effort and focus has been the pandemic and getting out of it.

CABRERA: Kaitlan Collins, at the White House, thank you.

Let's talk more about the president's climate summit happening right now. Today, Biden is making the economic case for his big plans.

I want to bring in CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. Vanessa, President Biden is promising to create millions of good-

paying union jobs. How do these new jobs compare to the fossil fuel jobs he's trying to wind down?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: A green job can be anything from an autoworker who makes electric vehicles, a line worker who is creating infrastructure for clean energy, or it can be a research position at a university.

But these jobs are really designed to in some ways sort of play out the roles of fossil fuel jobs.

So let's compare. You look at right there, $56,000 for a coal mine worker. Compare that to a solar panel installer. That's the fastest- growing clean energy job. There's a $10,000 difference. So that green job actually pays less.

But this is what's key, Ana. You want to look at the growth potential. And according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, coal mining jobs are only going to grow by about 2 percent over the next eight years.

But go look at solar panel installers, that's a 50 percent increase in job growth. So that is a little bit more promising, obviously, than a coal miner position. But there's that pay disparity.

But of course, you're looking for longevity. And President Biden thinks these clean energy jobs will have longevity into the future -- Ana?

CABRERA: Which states are leading the way when it comes to these clean energy jobs already?

YURKEVICH: Well, it's important to note that no state has a very high percentage of clean energy jobs. All the states are just below 5 percent of their workforce.

But the top states are actually on the northeast of the country. So you're looking at Massachusetts, Maryland.

Vermont is actually leading the way on this. They have the most amount of clean energy jobs as it compared to their workforce.


But if you see what's missing, metropolitan cities like New York, California. These are big polluting cities.

Also, if you think about cities that have fossil fuel jobs, states, rather, like Kentucky or West Virginia or Pennsylvania, they're not on the map either.

It's important to know that the leaders of fossil fuel industries realize that these clean energy jobs are the future. The question is, how soon are they going to get there?

Some say that it's going to take decades. But if you have President Biden saying this is an important issue for him and there's money behind it, Ana, we could start to see the jobs come online faster than we think.

CABRERA: It is really interesting to see the current breakdown and what the potential is out there.

Thank you very much, Vanessa Yurkevich.

Right now, four astronauts are strapped into the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, they're hurdling through space, heading toward the International Space Station. We'll talk about their mission and more on their launch just ahead.



CABRERA: Time is running out in the search for a missing Indonesia submarine about 25 miles north of Bali. If it is not found, the 53 people onboard that vessel will run out of oxygen just hours from now.

The U.S. is now stepping in to help, sending watercraft and rescue gear to assist in the search.

CNN's Barbara Starr is joining us.

Barbara, crews from all over the world are jumping in to help. What is the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so many military forces and maritime forces in the region, the Australians, the Malaysians, many other countries directly in the region, trying to help Indonesia locate its 53 sailors onboard this submarine that they lost contact with on Wednesday.

There is some indication of some kind of metal object perhaps, as you say, just north of Bali in the waters off Indonesia.

The U.S. also trying to lend a hand, sending a Navy P-8 maritime aircraft. This is an aircraft with high-tech gear onboard that can try and discern objects in the water deep under the water. It is, in particular, it's essentially a submarine hunter.

Additionally, three aircraft, transport aircraft, will be loaded at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware today, we're told. They will carry that additional gear, watercraft, engineering gear, water equipment, to try and get there and help.

Look, it is a very difficult situation. Everybody understands that the oxygen is running out.

These assets, these U.S. assets, in particular, will be there if and when this switch is to become a recovery mission to try to recover the submarines and recover the souls on board and get them back to their families.

CABRERA: What a situation.

Barbara Starr, thank you for that reporting.

And now to another history making moment for NASA.


NASA ANNOUNCER: Five, four, three, two, one. Zero. Liftoff.


CABRERA: Right now, four astronauts are on a first-of-its-kind mission to the International Space Station. This trip marks several firsts, including the first time people have been launched into space by a reused rocket booster and spacecraft.

CNN's Rachel Crane is live at Kennedy Space Center.

Rachel, explain why this is such a big deal.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION & SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a huge deal for SpaceX and NASA because this was the first time that a reused system.

The Falcon 9 booster that flew here today, as well as the spacecraft Endeavor, they had already been flight proven. They had already flown to space.

SpaceX has been reusing those Falcon 9 boosters for quite some time now but never on a crewed mission. So this was the first time that they hit that milestone, proving reusability in terms of these crewed missions.

But, Ana, I want to bring you up to speed on an event that has happened that we were closely following right now.

It's just been brought to our attention that there's a potential late- stage conjunction. Meaning that there's some debris, that it could be coming in close proximity to the spacecraft, Endeavor.

So the astronauts have been asked to get back in their seats. They're wearing their pressurized suits. They have been asked to lower their visors.

This is an evolving situation. We're following it closely. We'll bring you all the updates. But at this point, we do not know if they are planning an avoidance maneuver.

But we do know they're taking all the precautions and going through all the paces that are necessary in order to ensure that astronauts stay as safe as possible -- Ana?

CABRERA: Rachel Crane, please keep us posted. Thank you.

[13:44:33] Should it be up to a state law to decide whether your child is held back a year? After struggling to teach their kids at home, some parents aren't so sure.


CABRERA: They are feelings I think all parents have shared during the pandemic -- guilt, fear, worry. If you're in Tennessee, let me give you another one -- powerless.

That state has passed a new law that essentially says that if a third grader cannot read at a certain grade level as measured by a standardized test, that child will be held back and forced to repeat a grade.

Now, Tennessee is just the most recent state to pass a law like this. At least 16 other states plus D.C. have similar statutes and the pandemic learning loss is going to test them.

In Tennessee, for instance, the governor says data shows there has been a 50 percent drop in reading proficiency during the pandemic.

So what we could be facing here is tens of thousands of kids across the country being required by state, by the law, to be held back.


David and Dorothy Scruggs are Tennessee parents, and they have a first and second grader. And like so many others, they have been taking on the role of substitute teacher while also continuing to work their own full-time jobs.

So I know it's not easy.

Thank you both for joining us.

David, let me just ask you first, how concerned are you about in the new law in Tennessee?

DAVID SCRUGGS, FATHER OF TWO CHILDREN IN REMOTE LEARNING: I'm very concerned. Because we really don't know at this point, you know, where they are, how much was gained, how much was lost.

And so this law, like many other parents, it will impact us, possibly once the testing is done. That concerns me a lot.

CABRERA: Dorothy, teachers and parents alike have been stretched to the limits. What do you think has been lost in the last year in terms of your kids' education?

DOROTHY SCRUGGS, MOTHER OF TWO CHILDREN IN REMOTE LEARNING: I would say -- I would think that's what's been lost is probably the one-on- one with the kids being in the actual classroom and making sure they are actually receiving -- you know, actually retaining what they are learning on the virtual learning. That would be something that I would think would be important for the

kid. They may not feel like they have -- the virtual learning, the classes are not as long.

The teacher only has so much time to cover a certain thing and they have to move on. That would be my concern.

CABRERA: And what you said, David, about just not really knowing where your kids stand in terms of academic achievement because you haven't had to teach before. You don't necessarily know what the benchmarks are.

I can relate to that feeling of thinking, gosh, I hope we're accomplishing what is necessary at this grade level.

How have you been able to do some kind of personal assessment of how your children are doing?

DAVID SCRUGGS: Well, I would say, you know, me and my wife, we both are college graduates and things like that. But like you said, we're not teachers. We're basically relying on what we've been taught.

We're just trying to do our best to just teach them the things we know, the basic things, to try to reinforce what's been taught virtually. But it is a struggle, you know.

But that's the only thing we can rely on is our education, our experiences and our knowledge. Just because we have those things that don't mean -- it doesn't make us effective teachers.

And so that's -- again, that's the scary part because we're not teachers.

CABRERA: Yes, I hear you.

I want to read part of a statement from the Tennessee governor, Bill Lee:

"Data suggests that Tennessee third graders are facing an estimated 50 percent drop in reading proficiency and a projected 65 percent drop in math proficiency. And that is not acceptable -- or not an acceptable path for our kids."

That was a direct quote from the governor. That data is apparently what's driving this new law.

Dorothy, what's your reaction to that?

DOROTHY SCRUGGS: Well, with the new law, I would want to know with that being enforced and since this is something that wasn't, you know -- the parents didn't get a play in that decision.

What's the plan going forward once they hold the kids back? You're going to have all the kids mixed together.

Are you going to have adequate teachers to teach the children to get them up to par where they need to be? What's that plan look like?

That's my concern. Because then you have a larger classroom for -- you're going to have multiple classrooms for different grades, I would think, to catch everybody up and make sure they are all on the same level.

CABRERA: And, David, what's your biggest fear if your son or daughter does have to repeat a grade because of this law?

DAVID SCRUGGS: Well, I don't think that, you know, data or anything like that supports -- or show is any type of positive proof that holding back kids will, you know, propel them. You know?

And so, we wouldn't want him to be held back. We don't even know if that's something that he will have to do at this time but he hasn't been tested yet.

But I just think that the education system, you know, it has been, you know, failing for a long time.

A lot of the schools that I personally went to, you know, they're schools that don't rank too well in proficiency, things like that.


And so I just think that should be another plan that there should be something where the kids can -- where the system can meet them where they are --


DAVID SCRUGGS: -- and try to attempt to bring them up to speed.

CABRERA: Well, David and Dorothy Scruggs, thank you for sharing your story. And clearly, you are great parents. Your children are so lucky you care and are invested in their education and wellbeing.

Thank you for being with us. I'm wishing you very best.



CABRERA: Thanks to all of you at home for joining me today. You can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera. I'll see back on Monday. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

NEWSROOM continues next with Alisyn and Victor.