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Stocks Tumble on Delta Variant Fears; Texas Resumes Voting Restrictions Debate; Surfside Turns from Rescue to Recovery; Construction Industry Needs Workers. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired July 8, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Just about a minute into trading on Wall Street. Stocks down this morning. Looking there close to 400 points. Futures have been pointing as high as 500.

A couple things going on here. One, worry that the global economic rebound could be slowed down or worse by the emergence of the delta variant. Also concerns about interest rates.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins me now.

Listen, the market's, like, breaking records every other day until this point.


SCIUTTO: I mean how concerned are folks that you speak to that this is a key turning point, or is this -- is this something more short term?

ROMANS: And that's really important context. We've been setting record highs here and the S&P 500, which is probably the -- the stocks in your 401(k) probably reflects the S&P, it's up 16 percent this year.

But all these headlines today, Jim, that you've been rattling off here, the Tokyo Olympics will be under a state of emergency with no spectators, the delta variant is a real problem in some of these states, in 24 states in the U.S. have 10 percent increases in cases over the past week, and you have these five big clusters of unvaccinated people where potentially that could be breeding ground for more variants in the United States.

So the fear here is that the market is priced for perfection and that the delta variant could very well put a crimp -- you know, jeopardize just the pace of this very strong economic recovery.

SCIUTTO: That's a good point, price for perfection. Tell us about what we gleaned from the Federal Reserve on the

possibility of interest rates going up at some point in the near future.

ROMANS: Well, you know, if the economy is roaring, as it has been, then why does the Fed have emergency supports in the economy? At some point they're going to have to stop buying up all of these bonds and keeping interest rates super, super low.

The fear is these really low interest rates are actually making it harder in the housing market for people to get a house because of just the bubble in the housing market. So the Fed will have to eventually start talking about taking away those supports and start talking about raising rates to more normal levels.

And that -- that freaks, you know, the markets out a little bit from time to time.


ROMANS: But that's in the future. And the Fed changing its policy, Jim, is a good thing because it means that the economy can stand on its own.

SCIUTTO: Yes, everybody likes free money, right? At some point you've got to -- you've got to end (ph) that end.


SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks very much.

Well, this morning, the battle over voting rights back in the national spotlight. Hours from now, Texas lawmakers are going to try again, return for a special session. On the agenda, a somewhat revised version of the Republican packed election overhaul bill that would add, we'll say it straight out, a slew of new voting restrictions. That would include bans on drive-thru and 24-hour voting. It would also make it a felony for election officials to send unsolicited mail- in ballot applications. A felony. Partisan poll watchers also would be further empowered. And there would be new ID requirements to vote by mail.

The bill is, however, somewhat different from the one that failed to get through the legislature there back in May. It has eliminated one of the most controversial provisions that would have lowered the standard for overturning elections. That's a big deal.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed that the restrictive voting measure would be revisited this summer after Democrats staged a walkout during the first go-around to block it. According to the Brennan Center, as of June 21st, 17 states have enacted 28 new laws that restrict voting access for you to vote.

Joining me now to discuss, Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fisher. He's one of the Democrats who led that walkout.


Representative, it's good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: I wonder, when you look at the changes in this bill, Republicans are going to try again, such as banning drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting, a felony -- a felony to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications.

In your view, are these changes deliberately intended to reduce Democratic voter turnout?

FISCHER: Well, you know, voting is the most patriotic things we can do, but Texas seems to over and over again Republicans want to criminalize voting behavior. And, obviously, that doesn't encourage people to want to go out and vote. We're talking about simple mistakes.

We're talking about criminalizing behavior if you give somebody a ride to go vote, criminalizing behavior if you help somebody apply for a mail ballot so they can vote absentee. Republicans want to make that a crime. That certainly is going to discourage voting. And, as you know, we already lead the nation with lowest voter turnout in America.

SCIUTTO: You helped lead the walk-out that blocked the first attempt at these restrictions, and granted, as we noted, one of the more controversial changes has been taken out. But do you and your fellow Democrats intend to block this one as well? Can you?

FISCHER: I certainly would. All those options are on the table and are resolved and we're more united than we ever have been. I mean, listen, the eyes of the nation are watching us here in Texas. We are holding the line. We are, you know, reaching out to our federal counterparts to give us a national voting rights law, to give us a fair standard. And so, listen, we are in this for the long haul, and we are going to stand up and fight for our constituents because that's what they expect us to do.

SCIUTTO: Fair. But, as you know, it's happening now. It's happening in the courts. It's happening in state legislatures. It's also happening, or not happening, I should say, in Congress.

You were part of a group of Texas Democrats who went to Washington to lobby Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin, who, to this point, still resists filibuster reform to get through some of these national voting rules you're talking about here.

Are you disappointed that Manchin and Sinema as well are refusing to do this, particularly as you see these things getting rolled back already?

FISCHER: You know, I am disappointed and I'm also very fearful for our country. We see the voting rights act of 1965, signed by fellow Texan, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, just being eroded, just page by page. You know, we lost part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Chief Justice Roberts said don't worry, Second II of the Voting Rights Act will be in place to protect voters from discrimination. Last week that provision was gutted in an Arizona case.


FISCHER: You know, meanwhile, we have the United States Senate deadlocked at 50/50. This is a now or never moment. The president wants voting rights reform. The United States Congress wants voting rights reform. It is up to our U.S. Senate and everybody in America should be speaking up because this is the time to do it and we need it now.

SCIUTTO: Are you disappointed in the efforts so far by Democrats at the national level, including President Biden, but also in the Senate, in terms of getting these changes through?

FISCHER: Well, you know, I'm trying to be patient. I think the country is trying to be patient. But we recognize that we're really running up against a clock of -- and you just see this -- you know, obstructionism from Republicans refusing to negotiate, refusing to deal in good faith.


FISCHER: And, at some point, we have to stand up for America. And it's a bold step.

Leaving the Texas House of Representatives was a bold step. That was the fourth time in the history of our state that we've ever done something like that.


FISCHER: And so, listen, it is time for us to really step up and do our job for America.

SCIUTTO: I -- just a few moments ago I spoke to U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy, of course, a Democratic House member. She's on the committee to investigate January 6th. But I asked big picture about, is it time to give up on President Biden's and others push for bipartisanship. And she said something to the effect of, you know, Republicans play by their rules, we play by our own rules.

I wonder if, in your view, that's -- that works, or is it naive, right? Has it proven to be a failure, that strategy?

FISCHER: You know, Jim, it's unfortunate, but this is our reality. I mean when you have, you know, Leader McConnell talking about doing everything he can to deny President Biden a successful term, everybody's playing politics to the 2022 elections.

Republicans are fighting like they have everything to lose, and it's time for Democrats, we need to come together and recognize that and we're going to have to put bipartisanship on the sideline so that we can protect America, we can protect our voting rights, and if Republicans want to come to the table, well, let's give them a seat at the table. But, if not, we have to stand up for voting rights in America.

SCIUTTO: Representative Trey Martinez Fisher, thanks so much for joining us this morning.


FISCHER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, what started as a desperate, hopeful search and rescue mission in the condo collapse in Florida has now become a recovery effort. We're going to take you live to Surfside, next.


SCIUTTO: Well, in just minutes we are expecting an update from Miami- Dade officials as search teams there acknowledge that they're no longer searching for survivors. The hope, gone.


This is really a recovery effort now for human remains.

CNN's Leyla Santiago, she is in Surfside.

What more are you hearing from officials in the recovery effort? I mean one thing we're seeing is really an acceleration in finding some of the victims as they -- as they get further down.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And we're seeing more heavy machinery making its way to this site, or on-site working, digging through the rubble, something we were told last night by firefighters to expect today as they shift into -- as they shifted into the recovery mode right around midnight.

This morning, as we have been here at the building collapse site and very close to the memorial site, I can tell you, it is a very somber mood. This is a community that was waking up after a very tough, long night and trying to sort of still process and mourn after officials made that announcement.

I was there yesterday when that announcement was made, and people just started gathering at the memorial site. You could see a lot of tears. People lighting candles. People hugging, holding each other.

And even while they were praying in unity, you could, you could hear in the background that machinery still working, still digging while folks were trying to comfort each other just a block -- half a block away.

I spoke to one firefighter who told me, you know, they had a moment of silence right around 7:00 last night. But immediately after that was over, and they took a moment to reflect and honor those who they have not been able to find, and those who they have found, he said we went right back to work because even though this operation is shifting, their mission is not changing at all.


CAPTAIN KEN PAGUREK, PENNSYLVANIA TASK FORCE 1/WORKING AT SURFSIDE COLLAPSE SITE: Our job is to do the best that we can as quickly as possible, to remove anybody, any victim that's remaining in that building so that we can bring them home to their loved ones and that we can go home to ours.

SANTIAGO: What's been the toughest part?

PAGUREK: Um -- oh, the lack of survivors.


SANTIAGO: Every single time we talked about the victims, the survivors, the families, he had tears in his eyes. You can tell the emotional, the physical toll this is taking on the search and rescue teams, and on this community.

Jim, in a little under half an hour, we are expecting to hear from officials for the latest on the search and recovery effort now.

SCIUTTO: And you can forget how hard it is for them. The substance of the job they have to do now.

Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.

And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, stocks are down this morning amid concerns that the delta variant could derail the economic recovery. Also, concerns about a labor shortage. Right now the U.S. needs 430,000 construction works to meet current demand and another 1 million in the next two years.

Business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich looks at what the construction industry is doing now to attract the workers it needs.




Might need to nudge it a little bit.

YURKEVICH: Matthew Messer is spending the day on the roof of this home on Long Island repairing solar panels with his lead technician. He's the owner of New York Solar Maintenance.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Is it normal for you to be climbing a ladder, getting on the roof with your guy doing the work?

MESSER: No, this is not the perfect way to be spending my time right now, but it's what needs to happen.

YURKEVICH (voice over): That's because Messer says he can't find anyone to hire.

MESSER: It's as bad as I could imagine it being right now.

YURKEVICH: It's part of an industry-wide problem. The June jobs report revealed there are 238,000 fewer jobs in construction than in February of last year.

MICHAEL BELLMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATED BUILDERS AND CONTRACTORS: The pandemic has really tossed in a lot of volatility to the supply, demand, labor relationship. We project that we'll need 430,000 workers this year and potentially another million or more over the next two years.

YURKEVICH: Demand for residential home construction boomed during the pandemic.

MESSER: The phone is ringing off the hook. I am expanding as quickly as I can, but right now that's governed by the amount of skilled technicians can I bring on.

YURKEVICH: Despite the average hourly pay being nearly double a restaurant or retail position, construction companies continue to increase wages. Messer has upped entry level by pay by 40 percent in just the past four months.

MESSER: I was offering $18 to $22 an hour and I got no applications. I increased it to $23 and I got none. I increased it to $25 and they're starting to trickle in right now.

YURKEVICH: Schimenti Construction has 51 active projects, mostly in the commercial space. They're looking for 20 people to fill open positions at every skill level.

MATTHEW SCHIMENTI, OWNER, SCHIMENTI CONSTRUCTION COMPANY: It is a constant challenge, to a point where we've actually gone and have two internal recruiters full time.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Have you had to turn down business because of the labor shortage?


YURKEVICH (voice over): The industry shut down for just a few months during the pandemic, but in that time many workers moved on with no new talent coming in.

SCHIMENTI: People made decisions in their lives to leave the region, leave the industry, and it was like putting a puzzle back together to restart where he literally called a timeout.


YURKEVICH: Demand for commercial construction is expected to increase as the U.S. moves to return to pre-pandemic times.

YURKEVICH (on camera): What's the fix? What's the answer here?

SCHIMENTI: Well, I think we have to just continue to be proactive, you know, in all spaces and try to keep people in the industry and we wish it was just a bad dream and it would go away and everybody would just come back. That's not going to happen.


YURKEVICH: Now shop classes (ph), which were once offered readily in k through 12 schools, were actually a great way to attract young students into the industry. It was oftentimes when children would first see a tape measure or learn to use a power tool.

But since those classes are no longer being offered in the way that they were, construction company recruiters are now having to go to school, they're targeting colleges, and what they're saying is, construction is not all about physical labor. There's a technology element that goes along with it. They're hoping that that attracts, Jim, the millennials and the gen z-ers and brings them into the industry and hopefully they'll stay for decades to come.


SCIUTTO: Well, they also seem to be paying more. That's a good thing.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks very much.


SCIUTTO: Breaking news this morning, CNN is learning there will be no spectators at Tokyo venues for the Olympics. We're going to take you live to Tokyo, next.