Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) is Interviewed about Infrastructure; U.S. to Fall Short on Vaccination Deadline; Bezos Flight into Space. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired June 7, 2021 - 09:30   ET





President Biden set to speak with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito again today as the White House works to reach they hope a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. It is not clear if the gap between Democrats and Republicans, though, is one that can be bridged. The real key new sticking point now is new money versus repurposing funds already doled out to states.

Let's talk about all this with Congressman John Garamendi, Democrat of California, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which means you are right in the middle of all the important issues on infrastructure. So thank you and good morning.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Good to be with you, Poppy.

Let's just begin with, you've got the White House that wants a trillion in new spending. You've got the Republicans that want about $300 billion in new spending. That's a really big $700 billion gap. But you've got even liberals, Democrats like Larry Summers, who suggest, you know, let's repurpose money that was doled out in terms of COVID relief to states and let's repurpose that for part of the infrastructure spending.

Why shouldn't unused COVID relief money be used toward infrastructure?

GARAMENDI: Well, it certainly should but that's not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is, how much are we actually going to spend on the elements of the infrastructure program? How much money do we really need to rebuild our freeways, roads and streets? How much money do we really need to enhance our public transportation systems, Amtrak? And you go piece by piece, add up each one of those pieces and you'll find out that what we spent in the past is woefully inadequate. So now we're talking about new money.

Larry Summers is talking about where are we going to get that money? Yes, there's surely going to be some unspent money because Biden has been extraordinarily successful in getting the vaccination programs rolled out and that has allowed the economy to reopen much faster than anybody anticipated.

HARLOW: OK. It seems like you're open to compromise on new money versus repurposing money. You're in a state that is enjoying right now, luckily given the markets, more than $75 billion budget surplus. It just -- it seems like this is a place where you could come together.

So I guess what is your message to other Democrats that may not -- I mean there have been letters from Democratic-led state treasuries to the Biden administration saying, no, don't use this surplus money that a number of states have right now towards infrastructure. It seems like you're saying, yes, do.

GARAMENDI: Well, what I'm saying is, first of all, the legislation before us is how much money do we need to spend on specific infrastructure programs, broadband, research programs, how much money do we need to rebuild the grid and we must also go green. We've got to have a green electrical system in America. Those elements, you add each one of those elements up and you come up with old money, that is how much we're already spending, and then how much more do we need to spend? That's one side of the equation.

The other side of the equation is what they're talking about is, where do you get the money? Clearly there is going to be unspent money from the COVID relief programs all the way back and certainly on the rescue program. That money can then be used to pay for the new expenditures for infrastructure. So there are really two different sides of the equation.

One is where are you going to get the money? And, yes, you can get it from unspent money in the COVID relief. And the other side of the equation is, how much do we need to spend to build a modern infrastructure program in America that provides for future economic growth and social justice.

HARLOW: I wonder, because you've said in recent days, you know, essentially, and I'm phrasing here, if we have to go it alone as Democrats we will. And you're talking about the reconciliation process. But you know to do that you need all 50 senators in the other chamber of Democrats. It's not clear at all now that you have Joe Manchin as a yes on something that has no Republican support.


GARAMENDI: Well, it's very interesting. There is Republican support. In fact, the Senate is about to put out maybe this -- certainly this week a very significant infrastructure bill. It has to do with building the American manufacturing sector.


GARAMENDI: Research programs. Money for DARPA, money for research programs, all of those things are in that bill. And it's about a quarter of a trillion dollars. How much of that is new money? Well, I don't know for sure but I guarantee some of it is. And Republicans and Democrats are going to put that out, probably with 70 percent, 80 percent of the 80 senators voting for it.

So, yes, there is progress being made if we look at the individual elements in it. On the House side we will be taking up the surface transportation bill Wednesday, Thursday of this week. We'll mark it up. I would expect to see Republicans voting for that because they've got road problems, they've got transportation problems, bridges that need to be built and so forth. If they don't then, yes, we can put that bill out of the House of Representatives without Republican support. Rather not do that.

Also, there's going to a lot of Republican earmarks in that bill. It will be interesting to see if Republicans are voting against it on the earmark. Perhaps they will.

HARLOW: Congressman, before you go, I do want to switch topics here and just talk about gun violence in America. I mean we just had reporting from our Natasha Chen and Josh Campbell that sweet six-year- old little boy Aiden killed in your state in a road rage event.

Look, you have this federal judge ruling in California on Friday that overturned the state's assault weapons ban saying it's unconstitutional. And I want to read everyone the first line of his opinion. Here is what it reads.

Like the Swiss army knife the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect come of a home defense weapon and a homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle. And then he points to two Supreme Court decisions, the Heller (ph) decision and U.S. versus Miller, saying, California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle, therefore this court declares California statutes to be unconstitutional.

You wrote the California assaults weapon ban in 1989 after that horrific mass shooting in your district at the Cleveland schoolyard in Stockton that killed five children, wounded 29 others.

What do you do now in California?

GARAMENDI: We stay the course. It is absolutely crazy what this judge is saying. The assault weapon is designed to assault an enemy position. That's what it is. It's designed to throw out a whole lot of lead in a very, very rapid way and kill people.

That's what it is. Home defense? That is -- that is stupid. This weapon has been used in every way except a home defense. It has been used to kill hundreds of people. I want you to think about Las Vegas. I want you to think about El Paso and more recently here in California. This weapon --

HARLOW: Aurora, Parkland, San Bernardino. I could go on.

GARAMENDI: It's -- on and on and on. It is a sick decision. And we've got to simply fight back. There ought to be a national law. There was during the entire decade of the '90s, there was an assault weapons ban. Unfortunately it expired. We have to have this. This is not a home defense. This is an assault weapon to kill people. Not in the -- not to defend your home.

I -- just find one incident where this weapon has been used to defend a home. I've heard of none. Maybe there is somewhere out there in the great American system. But we cannot allow these weapons to be on the streets. You see folks on the streets carrying these weapons. It is -- it is -- it is wrong. It is deadly. It's murderous and it has to -- the current law in California has to stand.

Yes, I did write the original bill. Fortunately, the leadership of the California state senate took it over and it became law and Senator Feinstein then enacted a national law. We can -- we can be a much safer America without this weapon. With this weapon, none of us are safe. Hundreds will die. They'll take it into some form, which they already have, and they'll just randomly shoot and kill dozens and dozens of people.

HARLOW: Congressman Garamendi, for our viewers who don't know, you are a current gun owner. You have been for most of your life.

Thank you.

GARAMENDI: Well, all of my life. I grew up on the ranch. And, yes, I am a gun owner.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

It's important context for people to have. Thank you for your time this morning.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.



SCIUTTO: Still ahead, a classified report on the origins of coronavirus. Now the new focus of several probes into that lab in Wuhan, China. Was that the source? That's next.

And a quick programming note, President Obama joins Anderson Cooper for a rare one-on-one about his life post-presidency. An "Anderson Cooper 360" special "Barack Obama: On Fatherhood, Leadership and Legacy" airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


HARLOW: Well, there is some disappointing new numbers out that show the U.S. may actually fall short of President Biden's goal of having at least 70 percent of American adults with at least one shot by July 4th. Nearly 300 million vaccine doses have been administered across the U.S., but vaccination rates have fallen really sharply since their high in April.

[09:45:08] SCIUTTO: And it's a shame, there was so much momentum. And it's an issue across the country. The decline in vaccinations especially evident in the south and Midwest. Last week in Alabama just four people per 10,000 residents, four per 10,000, got vaccinated.

Joining us now Dr. Carlos del Rio, he's executive associate dean of Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

Dr. del Rio, always good to have you on.

I mean there's a clear red state, blue state split here on this for, you know, confusing reasons because the science is consistent. You and I have talked about, we have talked about, you know, among the vaccine hesitant in the country, you have folks who are very strongly opposed to the vaccine and others who are just enthusiastic.

And the Biden administration has been focusing efforts on that second group there, for instance, reaching out to GPs, people's personal doctors, because they tend to listen to them. They say they'll listen to them over, you know, say government health officials. Is that strategy working and is that the right strategy?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Well, Jim, it's going to be really hard to know exactly what strategy is going to work. And I suspect there's going to be more than one strategy.

I think clearly reaching out to the people you trust the most is going to be most important, whether that's your GP, whether that's going to be, you know, your neighbor, maybe that fire -- you know, fireman who sits in church with you on Sundays. I mean you really need to find what's the right trusted messenger to get the message to you.

But the reality is, that as we see cases come down nationwide, a lot of people are asking themselves, why should I get vaccinated? And I think we need to emphasize that rates of infection among those unvaccinated are still pretty high. So, in fact, every unvaccinated person is still at high risk of getting COVID.

HARLOW: Can you talk about why that matters? Because there are some -- even some state leaders who have pointed to 70 percent as sort of an arbitrary number. It doesn't look like we're going to hit that given the decline we've seen in recent weeks, unless something changes dramatically. Why does it matter so much?

DEL RIO: Well, Poppy, it matters because, again, the more people that you have susceptible -- potential susceptibles to an infection, the more likely you are to have spread. And with some of the new variants spreading, you know, particularly, for example, the one coming out of India, the so-called delta variant and others that are rapidly spreading, you want to limit the pool of susceptible individuals as much as possible.

And we know that the currently available vaccines that the FDA has given an EUA are highly effective to prevent you from getting infected with the variants in circulation. So the best way you can do right now is to be prepared is to get -- is to get protected.

SCIUTTO: Dr. del Rio, the more we learn about the origins of the COVID-19, there are more -- Democrats and Republicans have been briefed on this -- who at least find the lab leak theory credible today. And there are a whole host of political side issues to that. But from a health perspective, what is the importance of knowing that and does it help you respond I mean beyond your responsibility, if it's true, of the Chinese government downplaying this, right, or lying about it early on?

DEL RIO: Well, I think, you know, pathogens, high risk pathogens leaving labs is not the first time it happens and it wouldn't be necessarily, you know, intentional. It could be totally accidental.


DEL RIO: This can happen because, again, you're dealing with this pathogens and labs and potentially has thing could happen, it has happened with many or pathogens in the past.

I think the most important thing is to prevent this from happening again in the future. And I think again it really talks about the importance of scientific cooperation, but also of transparency. If you cannot have transparency about this issue, it's really hard to prevent it from happening again.


HARLOW: Dr. del Rio, thank you.

DEL RIO: A delight to be with you.

HARLOW: Well, this is quite a headline. Jeff Bezos, the CEO, founder of Amazon, is headed to space for real, just days after he officially steps down as the head of Amazon, he will be on a literal rocket, next.



SCIUTTO: Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos is set to be the first billionaire in space. Blue Origin, the aerospace company he happened to own himself, has released the passenger list for its first manned flight right there on the manifest, Bezos himself, not me, Poppy, unfortunately, jealously noted.

HARLOW: You're brave enough. I would be hiding under this desk. I have no desire to go to space. But guess who knows all about this stuff. It's our Rachel Crane. She broke the story. She joins us now.

Not just Bezos but his brother?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And, you know, I wish I was in this -- on this flight manifest here on the passenger list. But Bezos in probably the coolest gift that has ever been given among siblings, choosing to bring his brother on this historic, first crude flight of their new Shepard (ph) space vehicle, their spacecraft.

Now, this is a suborbital flight. It will go more than 60 mile above earth. It's an 11 minute journey. They'll have a few minutes of weightlessness. The -- Bezos, you know, he founded his aerospace company, Blue Origin, more than 20 years ago. The company has been working on their new Shepard system for more than six years. It's set to take flight on July 20th, which is the 52nd anniversary of Apollo 11's moon landing.


So quite poetic there.

But take a listen to what Jeff Bezos had to say about actualizing on his life long journey to getting to space.


JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: You see the earth from space and it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It's one earth. I want to go on this flight because it's a thing I've wanted to do all my life. It's an adventure. It's a big deal for me. I invited my brother to come on this first flight.

MARK BEZOS, BROTHER OF JEFF BEZOS: I wasn't even expecting him to say that he was going to be on the first flight. And then when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck.


J. BEZOS: If you're willing. If you want to.

M. BEZOS: Yes.


CRANE: So, Poppy, Blue Origin is auctioning off an additional seat in that spacecraft. The going price right now is $2.8 million. So, unfortunately, that's a little too pricey for me.


CRANE: But for space enthusiasts out there, if you have the big bucks to pony up, you possibly too can be in that spacecraft on this historic journey.


CRANE: That's my gift to you, Sciutto, with a lot of crowd funding.

SCIUTTO: Just wait for -- the next Christmas in the Bezos family and Jeff will be like, hey, but I took you to space, you know, what --

CRANE: Right. HARLOW: What do I get?

SCIUTTO: You got me this sweater?

Rachel Crane, when you tell us how to get on that flight, please do come back on the show. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, next hour, right now Vice President Kamala Harris is on a three day tour through Guatemala and Mexico trying to address the core issues behind the immigration surge at the southern border. We're going to be live, next.