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Senate Approves Budget Plan; Government Sends Ventilators to Florida; Dangerous Times of Pandemic for Kids; YouTube Suspends Rand Paul. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 09:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Back on the road expected in late September to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Skid Row's second album, "Slave to the Grind."

In the meantime, you can catch him on reruns of "The Gilmore Girls."

Great to see you, sir.


KEILAR: CNN's coverage continues right now.

BACH: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill. Poppy and Jim are off today.

A major step, first step toward another historic win for President Biden's agenda. Early this morning, after a more than 14 hour vote-a- ram in the Senate, Democrats voting along party lines to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution.

That framework means Democrats can now begin the budget reconciliation process, which would ultimately allowed them to approve the final plan with no Republican votes in the Senate and pass the president's sweeping economic package which would massively expand the nation's social safety net and advance many Democratic priorities. On issues ranging from health care and immigration to climate change.

Let's bring in now CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

So a late night. Now here we are this morning. What happens next, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it gets even actually more complicated from here on out. Even as hard it was to get first the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package done, which passed along bipartisan lines yesterday with 69 votes, 19 Republicans breaking ranks. That moves over to the House.

And then to the separate track. The larger track that you just described. The -- after passing the budget resolution, which actually sets the stage for moving forward on that larger $3.5 trillion plan, they have to write the details and get all Democrats online -- in line in the Senate to get this through. All 50 Democrats, even though there are serious divisions about what the proposal is and about the price tag, right?

The -- a major warning sign this morning came from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Democrat, raising concerns about the price tag. He put out a statement saying, given the current state of the economic recovery, it is simply irresponsible to continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a great depression or great recession, not an economy that is on the verge of overheating. He says he has serious concerns with that price tag, echoing the concerns of Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who said she will not spend that much.

But the challenge for the Democrats is that many liberals, particularly in the House, want to go that big or say they should even go bigger. That is going to be the challenge for Nancy Pelosi. After the House is expected to approve this Senate budget blueprint on the week of August 23rd, then they're going to have to write the details of the larger plan, get the left and the right in line, put that together and try to jamb it through the House and the Senate in September, potentially into October.

But getting those -- all 50 Democrats is going to be the challenge there just on the basis of that statement. And we'll see how they ultimately put this together. Still a question about whether Joe Biden can see this on his desk.


HILL: Yes, we are looking for that.

Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.

So, yes, big road ahead, as Manu just laid out for us. But, John Avlon, we can't ignore the historical significance here. How big of an accomplishment is this for President Biden at this point in his first year?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Huge, and I think that's the way to think about this. What are the historical comps, if any, to this? Well, I don't think any Democratic president has had a more impactful first year legislatively since LBJ. In terms of any president, I think you've got to go back to Reagan's first year where he was able to pass with bipartisan margins a budget plan that changed the trajectory of American politics in fundamental ways.

This is a huge win, not just for Biden's promise that he could make government work again and cobble together bipartisan consensus on the infrastructure bill, which is a huge deal. $1 trillion after Republican killed his $60 billion infrastructure bill just a decade ago. But then in this broader budget.

And, yes, there are still hurdles ahead, but there are going to be negotiations within the Democratic conference. So in many ways the mostly difficult hurdle has been passed and it is a historic day for the Biden administration and a vindication, in many ways, of the president's vision that he could get things done again in Washington despite all the divisions.

HILL: You know, in many ways I think now the question for the president, John Harwood, is, how does he harness that, right? How does he harness that bipartisan win when there's already been this swift pivot that we saw to passing this, you know, massive budget proposal on purely partisan lines?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's a huge challenge when you have the narrowest possible congressional majorities to manage both of these tracks at the same time. You've got 19 votes from Senate Republicans yesterday for the infrastructure bill. He got all 50 despite the reservations that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed. He got all 50 to vote for that budget resolution, which sets a $3.5 trillion outline.

Difficult negotiations ahead. He's got to deal with concerns about overheating and inflation that Joe Manchin expressed just this morning.


The administration's out with letters expressing concern and trying to mobilize the government to do something about high gas prices. Yesterday the economic team of the president sent a letter to lawmakers trying to make the argument that this package, both parts of this package, would not be inflationary. So there are challenges.

But when you step back and think of it, as John Avlon just indicated, for years and years we have been talking in this country about the need to upgrade America's physical infrastructure and to do something about inequality and the inability of the U.S. economy to deliver for many families, working class and poor families. And in these two bills, if he can get them on his desk, and the odds look pretty decent at the moment, he would make very large steps toward dealing with both of those issues.

HILL: You know, a lot of this, correct me if I'm wrong, John Avlon, is going to come down to messaging, right? So there's already the messaging from Joe Manchin that's been put out this morning that Manu ran through for us. He has serious concerns.

He's talked about the price tag, as John Harwood just mentioned too. But it is going to be about that, right, leveraging the Democratic message of, this is going to benefit you, the American people, in ways you haven't seen in decades, versus very real concerns, right, next to those benefits from Republicans and some Democrats. This is a massive, massive price tag. AVLON: Yes. But I think, first of all, you know, look, this is going

to get done via some old-fashioned horse trading. Politics is perception. That's just a reality. But the fact that this is going to be done in reconciliation, yes, everyone's going to have to give a little bit. Ultimately it's going to come down to constituencies.

It's going to come down to -- you know, Joe Manchin is concerned about the economy overheating, but he also sees the opportunity for a lot of poor folks in West Virginia who have been struggling, who are now going to get Internet broadband throughout the state, who are going to get some real incentives to make the daily lives of working folks much easier.

So there will be common ground that will be fought. Will it shrink? Will it evolve? Sure. This is where the politics come in. And this is really a moment that, frankly, Nancy Pelosi probably has been waiting for to use all of her parliamentary skills.

But make no mistake, there are hurdles ahead, but this is a huge deal in terms of advancing a very different direction for government, and it is a signature day for the Biden administration. One for the history books.

HILL: You know, there is the Nancy Pelosi argument in terms of like -- in terms of, rather, harnessing everyone.

John Harwood, as we look at this, though, just based on even this early statement, perhaps not unsurprising from Joe Manchin, can Chuck Schumer hold on to all 50 Democrats?

HARWOOD: The signs so far suggest that he can. Let's just look back at what's happened this year. He got all 50 behind that very large COVID relief bill in March to enact that. That helped fuel some of the economic recovery and to some degree some of the inflation that we're seeing now as well.

You could watch what politicians say or what they do. Joe Manchin, last night, voted for that budget outline. So did Kyrsten Sinema. As Avlon has just indicated, lots of back and forth. The price tag will probably come down some. Big challenge will be holding Democrats behind the tax increases, which are popular if you look at the polls, but it's difficult to get politicians to vote to raise taxes on wealthy people and corporations because they've got very strong lobbying apparatuses in Washington.

But if they can, in fact, hold the revenue part of this, then the price tag becomes a little bit less significant if it's not deficit spending. That's a challenge for Schumer. It's a challenge for Biden and for Pelosi. So far they've passed the tests that have been in front of them.

HILL: John Harwood, John Avlon, appreciate it. Thank you both.

AVLON: Take care, guys.

HILL: Up next, as Florida's governor downplays of explosion of COVID cases in his state, he may be unaware, it seems. The federal government is sending his hospitals hundreds of ventilators.

Plus, a former U.S. attorney who abruptly resigned in the midst of Trump's election attacks, he's testifying in front of senators today. New details on who else the panel may call.

And New York set to have its first female governor. Now that Governor Cuomo has announced his resignation, Kathy Hochul will speak out today for the first time. A Democratic leader who knows her well joins me live.



HILL: As students head back to the classroom, one doctor says reopening without masking is a formula for disaster, as another expert calls this one of the most dangerous times of the pandemic for children.

Now, despite that, Republican governors continuing to downplay the virus in some states. In Texas and Florida, leaders there battling to prohibit mask mandates. This as both states are asking for help and resources. Hundreds of ventilators, we've learned, have been sent to Florida as hospitalizations surge, though Governor Ron DeSantis said he had no idea the state needed them.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I did not know about that. So I have not heard about that. So I have to check to see whether that's true or not. We have -- I mean I would honestly doubt that that's true, but I'll look because we have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the Department of Emergency Management. I have not had any request across my desk. I have not been notified of that.


HILL: CNN's Amara Walker is following all of this for us from Fort Lauderdale.

So what more are you learning this morning, Amara?


Well, despite what Governor Ron DeSantis says, we know from a health administration official that 200 ventilators were sent to Florida earlier this week from the Strategic National Stockpile. And if you just look at the numbers and here the anecdotes, what's happening here in Florida is just really concerning.


It is seeing one of the highest hospitalization rates in the country. We know, according to the Florida Hospital Association that nine out of ten ICU beds are currently taken. And this was as of last Friday. So perhaps those numbers may have gone up by now.

We know that children's hospitals in the area are saying they are feeling overwhelmed. In fact, the CEO of the Children's Hospital Association that represents more than 220 hospitals around the country says that pediatric intensive care units are nearing or exceeding capacity.

So with that in mind, the Broward County School Board voted yesterday to require masks in schools for everyone regardless of vaccination status. And I want you to listen to doctor -- or, excuse me, Rosalind Osgood, who is the chair of the school board, and she said that these mask mandates are about protecting lives.


ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIRWOMAN, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: I'm just not willing to risk or play resolution roulette with somebody's life, especially not a child. A five-year-old, a four-year-old child that can't get vaccinated, come into a school, catches the coronavirus, goes home and infect the people in the house, the people on the bus (ph). Lord knows how many people we have (INAUDIBLE) impacted with this pandemic if we are irresponsible policy (INAUDIBLE).


WALKER: Now, Osgood also said in that interview to CNN that she would not be bullied by Governor Ron DeSantis. She is referring to an announcement that he made saying that superintendents and school board members could risk losing their salaries if they do impose mask mandates. And a total of three school districts in Florida have done so without giving parents the option to opt out.

President Biden, yesterday, announcing that they are looking into whether or not he has the presidential authority to intervene in these states that have prohibited mask mandates. But, lastly, Erica, the concern is this from health officials. They're saying, look, if PICUs are full right now, before school even starts, what's going to happen when school's in session?


HILL: Yes, that is the big question.

Amara Walker, appreciate it. As always, thank you.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, former acting CDC Director Dr. Richard Besser. He's the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

You know, always good to have you with us.

As we look at this, as Amara just pointed out, there are these concerns as to what happens, right? Much of the country already back to school or about to be in the next week or two. And I know you've said that you think this fall is going to be really challenging and we could even see more schools be forced to close, maybe return to online learning.


DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, you know, Erica, I think it will be challenging. And the reason for that is that the delta variant is so much more contagious than the strains that we've been faced with -- with so far.

And so I'm thrilled that kids are going to be back in school learning. I think that's the way to go. I think we can do that safely. But there will be cases that occur in schools. And some of the strategies that we used last year of trying to contain spread in a school to a particular classroom, are going to be much harder with the strain that is so -- so contagious.

So what -- I think it's important to get parents' expectations in line with what we will likely see. And that's that schools will see some cases, they may have to shutdown briefly before they can reopen. And so being able to think about your life in terms of work and the ability to have the flexibility to take care of kids who are in school for part of the time and needing to come home for part of the time, that will be the reality this fall.

HILL: I mean just adjusting your expectations in general, right? If you want your kids in school, you know, here are the things that we need to do.

And to that end, as we're seeing this push in some states to ban masked states (ph), we are seeing some districts, like we just saw with Broward County in Florida, Dallas, Austin, in Texas as well bucking the governor there, the governors in both states, and saying we're going to require masks in schools.

Just put it in perspective for us, why would it be so important for kids and staff to be masked in schools?

BESSER: Yes, in order to get children back in school safely, schools are taking a layered approach. So there's a lot of things that they're doing to try and keep children, staff and teachers safe. They're encouraging, in some cases requiring, teachers and staff to be vaccinated. They're improving ventilation. They're separating children -- children's desks. And they're -- some are doing testing protocols.

But a key part of this is wearing masks because masks will help protect those people who are exposed to someone with COVID. They'll protect staff who may have been vaccinated but may have an immune problem so they don't have protection. And leaving it up to parental choice implies that it's only a decision around your own child's health. And it's not. It's a critical piece for the health of everyone in the school, everyone around your child.

And I -- you know, one of the things that gives me hope is that I have seen governors -- we are seeing governors in both parties who had said we are not going to put mask mandates in place, who have changed their mind, you know, in Arkansas and other states, in saying, you know what, the situation is different and I'm going to share (ph) the leadership to change what I had said before because it requires it right now.


HILL: You know, there's some back and forth, which I think we dealt with pretty early on in the pandemic, but it's come back at this point, are -- as masks are coming back in many ways, and that's, what works as a mask? Does a two-ply cloth mask still work at preventing the delta variant?

BESSER: Yes, you know, I would encourage people to go back to the CDC website, look at what they're saying there around masks, how to wear a mask properly, what the material should be made of. You know, while this is more contagious and we are going to see continued spread through our community, the same rules should apply.

The virus hasn't changed significantly in that respect. But many of the things that we thought we could do before in terms of not wearing masks indoors, in particular in crowded places, we can't do. And a lot of that is because the vaccine coverage rate around the country is not as high as we'd like it to be, and in many places it's very patchy. So you can have a state with an overall high vaccine rate, but in particular communities it's low. And so you have to be aware of that.

HILL: Right. Yes, and I will say, I was just looking at the CDC mask guidance again this morning. It was last updated in May. But they are sticking with a two-ply cloth mask is effective if worn properly, as you point out. Now, that guidance is on the website.

There's this new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, as we're talking about kids and masks and vaccines here with finds, a majority of parents do want unvaccinated kids to mask up at school. In the same poll, 58 percent of parents of kids ages 12 to 17 years old say they don't want schools to require COVID vaccines. This is going to become, you know, more, I would say, more of an issue once there is full FDA approval.

BESSER: Yes, I think it will become more of an issue. And, you know, I encourage parents to talk to a health provider that they trust. I'm a general pediatrician. I have these conversations. It's really important that you get your questions answered.

You know, as I look at the data and I look at the information, I am convinced that these vaccines are incredibly safe, incredibly effective, and that the best way to protect everyone is to increase the vaccine coverage rate. And I encourage my patients who are 12 and older to get vaccinated.

The issue in terms of mandates is one that will be fought out over -- you know, across the country. That is something that is decided on a state-by-state basis. The CDC can make recommendations, but it's really something that is left to the states to determine in terms of vaccine mandates.

HILL: Dr. Richard Besser, always good to have you here. Thank you.

BESSER: Thank you so much. HILL: Speaking of masks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been kicked off YouTube after posting a video encouraging people to ignore public health guidance, claiming that cloth face masks don't work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joining me now with more on this decision by YouTube.

So how is YouTube explaining this decision on the suspension?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, yes, this is really quite a remarkable decision from YouTube to shutdown the account for seven days of a sitting U.S. senator.

Paul posted videos about telling people not to wear masks. Essentially to go against public health guidance.

And here is what YouTube said. They said, the videos resulted in a first strike on the channel, which means it can't upload content for a week per our longstanding three strikes policies. We apply our policies consistently across the platform regardless of speaker or political views and we make exceptions for videos that have additional context, such as countervailing views from local health authorities.

YouTube also pointing to one particular part of the video that claims -- in Paul's videos that say most of the masks you get over the counter don't work. They don't prevent infection.

Of course, this is all very confusing for people who are online who are seeing one piece of guidance from the CDC and hearing something else from elected representatives.

Paul, for his part, pushing back last night on Twitter, a platform he is still able to access, saying that it was a badge of honor to get this suspension from YouTube.

And, finally, Erica, just a reminder here, you know, this is not the only member of Congress who has run afoul of social media rules this week. Marjorie Taylor Greene has a seven-day suspension from Twitter for tweeting that the vaccines are failing. She has consistently posted a lot of anti-vaccine messages on her Twitter and she now is facing a seven -- now is in the middle of a seven-day suspension.

Finally, one thing I should just say is that, in both Paul and Marjorie Taylor Greene's cases, they -- these -- both YouTube and Twitter work with strike systems. So it's possible if they continue to break, run afoul of the social media platform rules, they could suffer the same fate on social media as Donald Trump, who is, of course, been kicked off all major platforms.


HILL: Donie O'Sullivan with the latest for us.

Donie, thank you. Later today, testimony from a former DOJ official could provide new insights into former President Trump's attempts to overturn the election. We'll tell you about that.

Plus, we're just moments away from the opening bell. Futures up. This comes after the release of a key inflation report which shows that prices increased last month. On Tuesday, the Dow and the S&P 500 climbed to fresh all-time highs. We're going to keep an eye on those markets for you.

Stay with us.