September 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
September 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: President Biden calls on world leaders and global business
to go big to get the globe vaccinated and combat COVID.
Then: the Democratic divide. A leading progressive lawmaker on conflicting priorities, as the
fate of President Biden's agenda is uncertain and a possible government shutdown looms.
Plus: after Ida. How Louisiana is struggling with an energy and housing crisis in the wake
of the storm.
BRITANNY GAUNO, Louisiana Resident: We're still without everything. We have actually
seen nobody to come and help. And it's -- nothing's changed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Bob Woodward and Robert Costa talked to more than 200 people in the
Trump and Biden administrations about one of the most tumultuous transitions in American
history. They join us to discuss their new book, "Peril."
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The
Biden administration today announced a new step to try to ease the massive global inequity
around access to lifesaving COVID vaccines. The president announced that the U.S. would
purchase an additional 500 million doses from Pfizer and donate it to other nations.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: It brings our total commitment of donated
vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated.
Put another way, for every one shot we have administered to date in America, we have now
committed to do three shots to the rest of the world. And, as we do so, we should unite
around the world on a few principles, that we commit to donating, not selling, donating,
not selling doses to low- and lower-income countries, and that those donations come with
no political strings attached.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to William Brangham, who has more on this and on several
other pandemic developments -- William.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's right, Judy.
There is so much going on with the pandemic right now, including, dare I say, some actual
goons on the horizon. First off, the WHO reported that, last week, the number of COVID cases
and deaths had declined from four million to 3.6 million. That's globally.
Secondly, there have been some positive predictions here. There's a modeling group that works
with the CDC. And they're saying that we might see similar declines here in the U.S. throughout
the fall and into the winter.
As you know, deaths have been climbing all summer. There are about 2,000 people in America
dying every day from COVID. Their prediction is that we might see a similar dip back down
into the hundreds of deaths only by March this winter.
Now, there's a lot of caveats involved in that, including the fact that we have to get
a lot of kids vaccinated, but could be very good news.
On this vaccine front, you remember, last week, the FDA said that the evidence for booster
shots, Pfizer booster shots, for the general population were not recommended, but they
did recommend them for 65-year-olds and up and vulnerable populations.
The CDC is now looking on that and debating how that might roll out. We should hear from
them at the end of the week.
But back to this Biden announcement that we just heard the president from, this is what
critics have been saying all along that he needs to be doing, to ramp up -- rich nations
need to ramp up the spread of these vaccines to poorer nations.
Even so, some critics are looking at today and saying it's still not enough. For example,
just about an hour or so ago, I talked with Thomas Frieden. He used to run the CDC, the
Centers for Disease Control, and he now runs a group called Resolve to Save Lives. And
we talked about this exact issue.
Dr. Frieden, always good to have you on the "NewsHour."
President Biden today said that we're not going to get out of this pandemic with what
he put it as half-measures or middle-of-the-road ambitions. And then he made this announcement
of an enormous purchase of Pfizer doses to donate to the world.
Does it meet that bar?
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Former Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Well,
there's a lot to like in the administration's announcements from today, but, unfortunately,
it's too little and too late.
We need a different approach. We're billions of doses short, and the missing link here,
William, is Moderna. The United States taxpayers paid for the invention that Moderna is selling.
Moderna is a small company. A year ago, it had less than 1,000 employees.
And yet the safeguarding to have the world is dependent on their technology and Pfizer's
scaling up massively, because mRNA vaccines really are our insurance against variants.
They are our insurance against production failures. They're our most hopeful way to
get the world through this disaster.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I'm going to get back to the pharmaceutical companies in a second.
But back to the president. Too little, too late. What else do you want him to be doing?
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, first, give credit where credit is due.
It's true the U.S. is doing it in hundreds of millions of doses. They're accelerating
the schedule. They're, very importantly, also funding the delivery of vaccines, education,
administration programs, not just buying the vaccines and dumping them and hoping it'll
So that's all very important. But the real challenge here is that there are too few doses
being produced. And because of that, we're likely to have a real shortage of the most
effective vaccines through 2022. And because of that, we will have more risk of dangerous
variants, slower recovery of travel and trade, more political instability, and, most importantly,
millions of lives lost that could be saved.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You have in the past already also been very critical of the pharmaceutical
I'm going to read something you said recently. You said -- quote -- "People are dying because
of the choices of Moderna and Pfizer, their boards and shareholders."
It is a very serious allegation. I mean, again, what are the things that they could do to
speed this effort more?
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: The way it works, really, is that governments do a lot to make things
possible for pharmaceutical companies that sell vaccines. They do the science. They buy
the vaccines. They indemnify them against legal challenge. They educate doctors and
patients. They buy the vaccines at high cost, in the case of the U.S.
And what many vaccine manufacturing companies do, but not these two, what many do is understand
that they have a responsibility. And that responsibility includes technology transfer
when they cannot meet global need immediately.
I think what has to happen is a combination of legal pressure, support incentives, and
ensuring that they transfer technology to entities that are able to scale up production
of their vaccine much faster than is currently being scaled up.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, the companies, in their defense, argue, we're making vaccine
as fast as we can. We didn't decide who we sold them to. We sold them to the first buyers
that came, and those were the Western nations, and that, on some level, that these criticisms
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, it is true that these companies have done a great job making
a great vaccine and scaling up within their capacities.
The problem is, we can't be held hostage to two companies and what they can do and the
one-off deals they can make with other companies. In truth, both the companies and the Biden
administration are doing a lot. But what's needed -- and what's needed is not easy. It's
It means forcing the companies to do something they don't want to do. It means threatening
legal action. It means sending people who know about production to the factories. It
means finding willing partners.
But you know something? The stability of the world depends on it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, and now president and CEO
of Resolve to Save Lives, always good to see you. Thank you.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we now take a different look at just how critical these vaccines can
Indonesia has recorded more than four million COVID cases. And the virus has killed more
than 140,000 people there.
Nick Schifrin explores how the U.S. and its allies are trying to achieve vaccine inroads
in China's backyard.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In Indonesia's newly dug COVID cemeteries, the grievers are barely old enough
to wear a mask, row after row, column upon column, from the air, all symmetrical, as
But, on the ground, these graves were dug so quickly, the names are written in pen.
The flowers and the heartache, are fresh. At the pandemic's peak this summer, grave
diggers in head-to-toe PPE buried more than 200 bodies here a day. Across the country,
the daily death toll was 3,000.
At first, the medical savior was China. Indonesia was the first country to approve Sinovac outside
of China. China sent Indonesia its first Sinovac shipment in December 2020. In January, President
Joko Widodo received the vaccine on live TV.
It's a pattern repeated worldwide. China exported nearly one billion Sinovac doses to more than
100 countries. It's created Sinovac plants in 15 countries. Indonesia has bought 125
million doses. But then health care workers started getting sick and dying.
DR. VERA IRAWANY, ICU Doctor: The cases made us feel overwhelmed. We feel like we want
to scream. It's very exhausting because we are still racing. It's still a marathon.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dr. Vera Irawany is an ICU doctor in Jakarta. She's seen firsthand Indonesia's
strained health care system. Between January and June, more than 350 health care workers
caught COVID. Dozens died. The majority of them had received Sinovac.
DR. VERA IRAWANY (through translator): Many patients came to us with critical conditions,
even though they have been vaccinated. We were surprised because, even though these
people were vaccinated, the results were still bad.
NICK SCHIFRIN: A University of Hong Kong study published last July found the Pfizer vaccine
produced 10 times the level of antibodies as Sinovac. Another study shows Sinovac's
efficacy rate is only 50 percent.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: I'm happy to announce that the Sinovac-CoronaVac
vaccine has been given WHO emergency use listing.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But even though China never released efficiency data, in April, the World
Health Organization approved emergency use for Sinovac in a vaccine distribution program
know as COVAX.
DR. CHRIS BEYRER, Johns Hopkins University: I would say that, at this point, putting forward,
donating or contributing Sinovac to COVAX is no longer supported by the scientific evidence.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Chris Beyrer is an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins university. He says the Pfizer
and Moderna mRNA vaccines are new technology, while Sinovac uses traditional technology
that uses an inactive SARS-CoV-2 virus. Scientists say the Chinese company over-inactivated the
virus, decreasing its efficacy.
DR. CHRIS BEYRER: It's a very old-school technology, and it turns out that it just doesn't generate
the same level of immune responses, but particularly as the coronavirus as changed and evolved
over time with these new variants of concern.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In April, China's top disease control official admitted Chinese vaccines
- - quote -- "don't have high protection rates."
But earlier this month, Chinese officials claimed the vaccine was effective against
Delta in preventing severe cases and death.
ZHENG ZHONGWEI, Chinese National Health Commission (through translator): The current vaccines
remain effective against all variants of the virus.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dr. Dicky Budiman is an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia and advised
the Indonesian government.
DR. DICKY BUDIMAN, Griffith University: Indonesia has 270 million population. Even the commitment
from China is not even fit with half of our total population.
But, still, that's a very, very significant and very important step for Indonesia to start
with their vaccination program.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Indeed, initially, Sinovac was Indonesia's only choice, and Indonesia's
first trials showed the vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness and
death, although it dropped from April to June to 79 percent.
DR. NADIA TARMIZI, Indonesia COVID-19 Vaccine Program: Can you imagine if we don't we need
to wait and then we don't have any protection? It will be very worse for Indonesia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dr. Nadia Tarmizi is the spokesperson for Indonesia's vaccine program.
DR. NADIA TARMIZI: We think, if we don't have any protection with the vaccine, or, for example,
if we need to wait until mRNA vaccine available in our country, we will have been facing a
problem worse than the condition. At least there is still protection.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: The United States will purchase a half-a-billion
NICK SCHIFRIN: But Sinovac's lower efficacy created a diplomatic opening. In June, the
U.S. donated 500 million doses to COVAX, including three million to Indonesia. Last month, Dr.
Irawany received a Moderna booster. Others have received Pfizer.
DR. VERA IRAWANY (through translator): We hope to get the best. If we talk about evidence,
data, then the mRNA vaccines are what is the best for now and are proven to be effective.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But vaccine diplomacy remains a competition. Last month, on her first trip
to Southeast Asia, Vice President Kamala Harris planned to announce the U.S. would donate
one million vaccines to Vietnam.
But during a three-hour flight delay, China stepped in and announced it would donate two
million of its own vaccines. And, today, most of Indonesia still only has access to Sinovac.
DR. NADIA TARMIZI: Whatever vaccine that's available, it will give you protection. So,
of course, Sinovac will be still available.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The vaccine competition continued this week. Yesterday, Chinese President Xi
Jinping promised to export another one billion vaccine doses this year.
JOE BIDEN: The donations come with no political strings attached.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, President Biden announced the U.S. would donate an additional 500 million
vaccines across the world.
But global health experts say that's not enough. For Indonesia right now, only 16 percent of
the population is fully vaccinated.
DR. CHRIS BEYRER: Until now, we have had a lot of wealthy countries, of course, pre-purchasing
vaccines and hoarding vaccines, so that COVAX, even if it had the money, didn't have the
ability to purchase the high-efficacy vaccines.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And so the gravediggers continue their work. Indonesia's cases are down from
their peak, but in areas outside the main cities, scientists warn that the worst wave
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The U.S. Federal Reserve signaled that it may
raise a benchmark interest rate in 2022. It had said rate hikes might start in 2023, but
they could be needed sooner to control accelerating inflation.
Chairman Jerome Powell blamed continuing supply chain problems from the pandemic.
JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: Those seem to be going to be with us at least for
a few more months, and perhaps into next year. So, that suggests that inflation is going
to be higher this year and a number -- I guess the inflation rates for next year and 2023
were also marked up, but just by a couple of tenths.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Powell also warned Congress that if it fails to raise the debt ceiling
and defaults on the national debt, the economy could suffer severe damage.
That fight over the debt ceiling remains stalemated tonight. A Democratic bill to raise it passed
the U.S. House of Representatives last night. But Republican opposition in the evenly divided
Senate could prevent action.
Party leaders argued again today over who's responsible for the debt and a potential national
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If they choose to vote in favor of the default by a cynical
political blame game, it will ultimately be the American people who will pay the price.
And the American people will know who did this, the Republican Senate.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): My advice to this Democratic government, the president,
the House and the Senate, don't play Russian roulette with our economy. Step up and raise
the debt ceiling to cover all that you have been engaged in all year long.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, President Biden met with top Democrats to bridge divides between
moderates and progressives. The divisions threaten a giant spending package totaling
Senate talks on police reform also hit a wall today. Democrats said they have ended bipartisan
negotiations to try to make officers liable for abuses and to collect data on use of force.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said the talks were going nowhere.
President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to meet next month to smooth
tensions between the two governments. They center on Australia's decision to buy U.S.
submarines and cancel a deal with France. The two presidents spoke by phone today. Macron
also agreed to send the French ambassador back to Washington.
There is word that large numbers of Haitian migrants are being released into the U.S.
The Biden administration had said they faced immediate expulsion. Instead, the Associated
Press is reporting many have been told to report to immigration offices within 60 days.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggested today there aren't enough available planes
for quick deportations.
JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: There are a range of flights, as you know, going
to different parts of the world, depending, and those are in process.
So, if we're not -- if there isn't a flight ready yet, those are -- those individuals
may be placed in alternatives to detention.
JUDY WOODRUFF: By some estimates, the camp at Del Rio, Texas, held more than 14,000 people
at one point.
The World Health Organization is warning that air pollution can cause harm at lower levels
than previously thought. The agency revised its guidelines today for the first time in
15 years. It likened air pollution to poor diet and smoking, and it said 90 percent of
the world's people are at risk.
And on Wall Street, stocks held their own - - held their own, despite the Federal Reserve
news that interest rates may rise next year. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 338
points to close at 34258. The Nasdaq rose 150 points. The S&P 500 added 41.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": a bumpy road ahead for the Biden agenda in Congress; how
residents in Louisiana are still struggling with critical needs after Ida; Bob Woodward
and Robert Costa unpack their new book on the chaos around last year's election; plus
President Biden's call to the president of France today attempted to ease tension over
a deal with Australia and the U.K..
Nick Schifrin is back with the European Union's top diplomat.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Judy, President Biden says he is launching a new era of American diplomacy,
in coordination with the U.S.' closest allies.
But there are real disagreements between the U.S. and Europe as they confront major challenges,
including Afghanistan and stalled nuclear talks with Iran.
To discuss that, I'm joined by Josep Borrell, the high representative for foreign affairs
and security policy and vice president of the European Commission.
High Representative, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you very much.
In their joint statement today, Presidents Biden and Macron say -- quote -- "The situation
would have benefited from open consultations among allies."
The two will meet at the end of October. President Biden acknowledged the importance of France
in the Indo-Pacific and the importance of stronger European defense. This week, he expressed
solidarity with France.
Does this call and statement repair the damage?
JOSEP BORRELL, European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yes, I think that the statement
has paved the way in order to overcome these difficulties.
I had a meeting with the Secretary of State Blinken, and I have to say this statement
was more or less what I had to say to him. So it was quite easy after the statement to
NICK SCHIFRIN: I want to reach out beyond the sub deal. And President Biden says he's
prioritizing allies, but European diplomats have told me that the Biden administration
didn't listen to them on Afghanistan, on COVID vaccines, on a travel ban, on Trump era tariffs
that are still there.
France's foreign minister said Biden's method is similar to Trump's, but without the tweets.
Do you agree?
JOSEP BORRELL: Well, this is a sharp sentence.
It represented needs of the French. And I can agree on that, from the point of view
of what does it represent? A lack of communication. But we have to try to overcome this situation,
because we cannot afford to be divided, because this is going to be used by people who are
not exactly our friends, and also the recognition that the Europeans have to have a stronger
military capacity in order to share a more important part of the burden that represents
the defense of the Western world.
NICK SCHIFRIN: On that question of stronger European military capacity, you have talked
about an independent force of 5,000 European troops.
Do you foresee a day when you would actually deploy those troops over U.S. objections?
JOSEP BORRELL: Why not?
You know, the U.S. rightly have decided to withdraw. President Biden said in the United
Nations yesterday that it is for the first time in 20 years that the U.S. is not at war
anywhere in the world.
And we, Europeans, we have, as I said, to share a part of our responsibility. And for
doing that, we have to have the capacity of deploying troops, like you, Americans, are
able to do. Thanks to you and thanks to your troops and to your military, it was possible
to secure the airport at Kabul.
So it will be problems in our neighborhood in which you will not intervene, and we should
be able of doing that by our own.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you acknowledge that U.S. and NATO officials would be concerned by that
statement that you just made?
JOSEP BORRELL: They should not.
I don't understand why a stronger Europe can represent a concern for NATO. The stronger
Europe will be, the stronger the NATO will be, because we are part of NATO. Nothing about
changing one thing by the other. As the two presidents said today, the military capacity
of the Europeans is a complement to NATO, a complement, not an alternative.
We have to be able to have by our own in the situations, in the cases, in the places where
we cannot expect the U.S. intervene or the NATO intervene. We have to share our part
of responsibility, and we have to be able to act alone, if needed.
NICK SCHIFRIN: On Iran, sir, it's been about four months since Europe and Iran have met
with any substantive dialogue.
It's been about two months since Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran. Do you acknowledge
that it is Iran that is unwilling to engage in serious dialogue today?
JOSEP BORRELL: Well, two months, but to be honest, you have to recognize that only 25
days since the new minister of foreign affairs is in office.
I had the opportunity to meet with him yesterday in person, a long discussion. He assure me
that they will go back to the negotiation tables in Vienna, in Austria. As coordinator
of the nuclear deal with Iran, I will do my best in order to make this -- to renew the
deal, and the U.S. to go back to the deal and the Iranians to fulfill fully their nuclear
NICK SCHIFRIN: The Iranians have said they'd resume these negotiations in the past, and
they clearly haven't made that step yet.
Do you believe there needs to be more leverage or pressure on Iran in order to make sure
they resume these negotiations?
JOSEP BORRELL: It's not a matter of pressure.
I think it's a matter of convincing them that they need an agreement. And Iran economy and
society is in very bad shape. They have been paying a high price for the closing of their
capacity to support oil. And they need an agreement in order to restart the economy
And the only way you're having this agreement is going back to the negotiation table.
High Representative Josep Borrell, thank you very much.
JOSEP BORRELL: Thank you to you. Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress is again mired in a logjam. It must act soon just to keep the
federal government functioning.
Democratic leaders are navigating internal divides as they try to pass two bills that
would together dole out trillions of dollars toward infrastructure, child care, and combating
Lisa Desjardins is here to walk us through what is happening.
It is a lot to follow. And I know you are.
So, Lisa, help us understand. So Congress is tangled up over these two different issues,
each of which could shut down the government.
LISA DESJARDINS: Let's start there.
We're talking about two things, government spending, and then also the debt ceiling.
Now, I want to remind people that the debt ceiling is not like a credit card limit. Instead,
if we hit the debt ceiling, what it would mean is essentially freezing most of America's
bank accounts, so we would not be able to spend in the future.
So let's talk about how these are related. Let's look at what we're talking about here.
First of all, these right now are the deadlines. Government spending, that funding deadline,
September 30 is when that runs out. The debt ceiling, we don't know exactly, but likely
would be hit in early to mid October.
Here's what's going on now. There's a government funding extension that has bipartisan support
in Congress. The debt ceiling, however, Republicans in the Senate have vowed to vote no. You generally
need 60 people in the Senate. Without Republicans, very hard to pass things like this.
So Democrats have this plan. This is what they passed last night. They put that government
funding, bipartisan idea, together with the debt ceiling plan. They passed that out of
the House. That big blob of a bill now works its way toward the U.S. Senate, where Republicans
plan to block both of them at one time, likely on Friday.
So these two fiscal crises, fiscal nightmares, Judy, are tied together. And we're seeing
kind of -- we have to watch very closely for what the off-ramp is. Democrats may have to
again separate those bills, it looks like.
Government shutdown, less likely. Debt ceiling, I have to be honest, this is the closest I
have seen the two sides come to really toying with this very dangerous lever, not just for
our country, but others.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
LISA DESJARDINS: Maybe there's some off-ramps, but we're going to watch it day by day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And then meanwhile, Lisa, you have this other big-stakes tangle. Now, this
is just among Democrats. This is over the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and then
the much bigger health care, child care and climate bill.
LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.
So, let's again go through and try and unpack all of this to make it simple and understandable.
This is the Democratic divide. On Monday, this coming Monday, September 27, the House
will -- is planning or set -- has a deadline to vote on that infrastructure bill already
passed by the Senate, bipartisan, generally popular.
Moderates, that's their priority, this infrastructure bill. It's going to affect mostly every part
of this country. Progressives, their priority is what you just talked about, Judy, that
larger bill, the Build Back Better Biden agenda. We sometimes call it reconciliation, because
that's how they plan to pass it, using just 50 votes in the U.S. Senate.
So what's happened is, progressives have said, we will not support that infrastructure bill
in the House until the reconciliation bill moves to the Senate. Well, that's playing
quite a gamble with both of these bills, especially because, the truth, the reconciliation bill,
Judy, it's not fully formed in either chamber. And it is not clear that where it stands right
now, at $3.5 trillion in concept, can make it through the Senate.
That has a bumpy road. And because of it, so does the infrastructure bill at this moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so it's not only all this, Lisa.
We also learned today that the negotiations that have been going on for months now over
police reform have fallen apart.
LISA DESJARDINS: This was incredibly significant news. I think, because it was a surprise,
it's not a bigger headline. We will see it in headlines tomorrow.
Essentially, Democrats, Senator Cory Booker, told me and others that he just felt that
the two sides were too far apart, him and Senator Tim Scott, the Republican of South
Carolina. And he says it's not over the big issues anymore. He says Democrats long ago
gave up on their kind of centerpiece issues of police immunity, making police more accountable.
He said it was over things they thought were basic, even just kind of basic systemic reforms.
They felt that Senator Scott was to the right of President Trump, and that they just didn't
- - he didn't think he could look victims' families in the eyes and say, I will prevent
another loved one's death.
Democrats now going out on their own for the moment, something we will monitor closely.
Tim Scott says he wants to keep working too, but the talks have fallen apart.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of concern over that issue, clearly, across the country.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.
And earlier today, we spoke to a key figure in Congress' efforts around reconciliation
She's Democratic Congresswoman from Washington state and chair of the congressional Progressive
Caucus Pramila Jayapal.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you very much for being with us.
You have laid down what has been described as an ultimatum, that unless the Senate passes
this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, you and other members of the Progressive Caucus
will not support the infrastructure legislation, which we know there is support for in both
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Judy, thanks so much for having me on.
The key here is, we are willing and able and ready to vote for both bills that deliver
the entirety of the president's agenda to his desk. That is both the infrastructure
bill and the reconciliation bill.
But the agreement was made in the Senate -- and, in fact, just today, 11 senators put out a
statement saying that the only reason they voted for the bipartisan bill out of the Senate
was because they had a commitment that the reconciliation and the infrastructure bill
would continue to be tied together and that we would not pass the bipartisan until the
reconciliation bill was passed.
We are sticking to that agreement. That is actually something we have said for the last
three months. And a majority of our members feel strongly that we can't allow one piece
to go forward, the roads and bridges, which is important, but a much smaller package,
and then not allow child care to go forward, not allow paid leave, not allow people to
have affordable housing, not to take on climate change.
Those are the things that are in the Build Back Better Act that are the president's agenda,
the Democratic agenda that we ran on. So we have been very clear that we are ready, willing
and able to vote for both bills. But, first, we need to pass the reconciliation bill. And
then we will vote for the infrastructure bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you know, Congresswoman, moderate members of your party are calling
this -- I mean, one of them use the term political grandstanding.
They say that you are at least within shouting distance of getting that bipartisan infrastructure
bill, but you're jeopardizing that because of the demands you're making about the larger
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Well, I would just say, respectfully, to my colleagues, there was
an agreement made, and because people wanted to grandstand, they put an artificial date
of Monday, September 27, on the table to vote for both these bills.
Now, we have not gotten the entirety of the reconciliation package determined. And so
we need a little bit more time. There's nothing specific about Monday, September 27. Why wouldn't
we just continue the work to get these bills both done, make sure the reconciliation bill
is agreed to, and then we will all happily vote for both?
But the reality is, if you remember, the bipartisan infrastructure bill was supposed to be done
three months before it got done. But it kept taking longer and longer.
So why is it that we allow that to go forward with more time, but now, when it comes to
the reconciliation bill, about 70 percent of the priorities, meaning that women can
go back to work and get child care and paid leave and health care for everybody and community
college, all these critically important things, that suddenly there's an arbitrary date of
Monday the 27th?
Let us finish our work. Monday is an arbitrary date. Let's finish our work. And let's get
both bills to the president's agenda, because this is the Democratic agenda.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the president, you are headed to the White House this afternoon,
along with other members of Congress, to talk to the president about all this.
He's clearly going to try to reach some kind of a compromise. Are you prepared to give
ground, to agree to a smaller number, for example, in the bigger reconciliation bill?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Actually, $3.5 trillion was the smaller number.
If you remember, our original request was for $6 trillion. And 3.5 was the agreement
that was -- that we made and that the senators made.
But I will just say this. I like to think about this, first of all, as a $0 bill, because,
Judy, all of it is going to be paid for by taxes on the wealthiest corporations and wealthiest
individuals, something, by the way, that makes the package even more popular across the country
when you tell people that the richest people in this country are going to pay their fair
Secondly, I would just say that the number is not arbitrary. It comes from being able
to provide universal child care, paid leave, all of those things. So if somebody wants
to propose that that's too much, tell me what you're going to cut out, because, unless I
see that, I have no way to make a determination.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly, one more question on this.
Do you think it's possible you could see both bills go down because of this disagreement?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: No, I really think that we're all one -- part of the same team.
What I say all the time is, there are a lot of my members who don't like the bipartisan
bill. It's not just that they think it's too small and that it doesn't do enough. But they
actually think that there are some provisions in there that they would -- that would hurt
some of our goals around climate justice and climate -- taking on climate change.
And yet they are willing to be big adults in the room and say, I know I'm not going
to love everything, but I need to get the reconciliation bill so that I can address
all these other priorities and make transformational changes.
We need others, conservative Democrats, to do the same thing. They wrote the bipartisan
bill. We did not. We are working on the reconciliation bill. They're going to have to also come to
the table and recognize it's the Democratic agenda, the president's agenda that we are
JUDY WOODRUFF: One separate issue I do want to ask you about, Congresswoman.
And that is, we learned today that negotiations between the two houses and between the two
parties have to come up with an agreement on a police reform bill have fallen apart.
What can Democrats do now on their own, if anything, on this important issue?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: It is just heartbreaking to know that.
I know that Senator Booker and Karen Bass and others worked so hard on this agreement
to get it to be bipartisan, to try to get 60 votes.
But let me just say that this is another example of how the filibuster is preventing movement
on this critically important issue of police accountability, of fairness and justice in
policing. And we passed the bill in the House. The problem is in the Senate.
And I understand there's some good Republican senators who tried to work on a deal. But
getting 10 additional votes from a Senate that has not been good on civil rights, not
been good on voting rights, is a pipe dream. So I think we have to reform the filibuster
for issues around -- well, I think we need to reform it, period.
But we should at least have carve-outs for things like voting rights, police reform,
and so many other important civil rights and constitutional rights issues.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, filibuster certainly enough for another conversation.
We're going to leave it there. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House Progressive
Caucus, thank you very much.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Ida left a devastating wake. Power outages, extreme heat, and a housing
crisis continue to take a toll.
"NewsHour"'s community reporter, Roby Chavez, has this report.
ROBY CHAVEZ: For Britney Gano, it feels like Hurricane Ida hit Southeast Louisiana three
weeks ago and never left.
BRITANNY GAUNO, Louisiana Resident: We're still without everything. We have actually
seen nobody to come and help. And nothing's changed.
ROBY CHAVEZ: You're feeling a bit forgotten?
BRITANNY GAUNO: We are forgotten. It is not a feeling. It's factual. Like, you can see
it for your own self.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Gauno lives in the Senator Circle public housing complex in Houma, about 60
miles from New Orleans.
Ida tore through here with winds of at least 150 miles per hour. There were over a million
power outages across the region, crippling an already vulnerable grid. The lights are
back on now for many. But Gauno, her partner and their 3-year-old son are among the thousands
still in the dark.
BRITANNY GAUNO: Like a Third world country, basically. But, I mean, we know how to survive,
and that's that's exactly what we're doing, surviving. We're not living life happy or
anything. We're just surviving.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Last week, the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority, which is responsible for
this complex, put a message on Facebook saying residents could not return.
That note, Gauno said, is all they have heard from the authority. Representatives did not
return our request for comment.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, an emerging housing crisis grows. Hundreds have been forced
from their homes, others now living on porches, in tents, or even in their cars. Dozens remain
HANNAH ADAMS, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services: These people literally have nowhere to go.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Hannah Adams is a staff attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which
helps low-income tenants.
HANNAH ADAMS: A lot of people are faced with this really difficult choice, right? Are they
going to sleep in the car, sleep in a two-bedroom house with 16 relatives? Or are they going
to drive eight, 10 hours away to a place where they can actually find an apartment and/or
a hotel room, but where they're going to lose their job?
ROBY CHAVEZ: So, you have been living here?
JOSEPH HEBERT, Louisiana Resident: Yes.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Joseph Hebert is now living in a tent where his family's trailers were badly
damaged. He's not going anywhere, no matter the living conditions.
JOSEPH HEBERT: We have lost houses before. We're from Louisiana. We're going to get through
Take care of one another, not just family, neighbors, everybody. That's the only way
South Louisiana's going to get through this.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Now Louisiana's government leaders are pleading for help. Governor John Bel Edwards,
who's in Washington this week, says unmet housing needs from Ida could top $2.5 billion.
So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has approved more than $220 million
in housing assistance.
But local leaders say it isn't just the money. They're simply in desperate need of housing
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson pressed FEMA for more temporary housing in
a call last week.
ARCHIE CHAISSON, President of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana: Clean them and send them.
ROBY CHAVEZ: About a quarter of the houses in his parish are completely destroyed.
ARCHIE CHAISSON: At one point, it was going to be 45 to 60 days before we got some of
the stuff in place. And I can't bridge a gap that long. I can't let people -- in one particular
case I always use, we have an employee who works every day for us, busts his butt 14
hours a day, and goes to sleep in a bridge house that we have, because he lost everything.
I can't continue to ask him to do that for another 30 to 60 days. I need something on
the ground now.
ROBY CHAVEZ: In the meantime, nonprofits are filling the gap. The organization SBP is helping
residents like Debra Hartman salvage what's left of her childhood home.
DEBRA HARTMAN, Louisiana Resident: It's things that I have known all my life. My grandmother
rocked us in that rocker, and now we have to throw it away.
ROBY CHAVEZ: Building back will be nearly impossible with no insurance, a fixed income,
and an 80-year-old mother with Alzheimer's.
DEBRA HARTMAN: I have heard people say they have lost everything, but I never knew what
it felt like to actually lose everything.
ROBY CHAVEZ: And it's neighbors like Hartman that Britanny Gauno worries about most in
a region where the recovery has all but stalled.
BRITANNY GAUNO: It's just other people, Like, we're fine, but to people that aren't blessed
in the ways that we are blessed, like, they're not eating every day. You never know what
you got until it's gone. And it's just sad. It's just sad.
ROBY CHAVEZ: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Roby Chavez in Southeast Louisiana.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The first draft of history is being written about the final chaotic days
of Donald Trump's presidency and the earliest days of Joe Biden's.
In a new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, they reveal
the alarm and the lengths that then-President Trump's top advisers went to, to prevent him
from acting on his worst impulses.
The title of the book is "Peril."
And they join us now.
And we welcome both of you to the "NewsHour."
Bob Woodward, Robert Costa, welcome back to PBS.
ROBERT COSTA, Co-Author, "Peril": Good to see you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, before we talk about some of the details of the book, Bob Woodward,
this is your third book looking at Donald Trump.
How is he different, was he different at the end of his term than he was at the beginning?
BOB WOODWARD, Co-Author, "Peril": He's always shocking and different, but also always the
And this -- in a way, the reporting on Trump is a quest. Who is he? What does he really
care about? What is he doing? What is his political appeal to so many people in the
country? And just, if you zoom in on the reality now, it's -- the idea that he and Nixon -- when
Nixon left and resigned, he didn't do around and campaign. Trump is campaigning.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is campaigning. And I want to ask you about that.
Robert Costa, so much important reporting in this book, including about -- as I just
mentioned, about how Trump's advisers at different points, at many points were trying to keep
him from carrying out acts that would have been -- either violated the Constitution or
been purely illegal.
And there's one example in here I want to ask you about. It was 2020. The attorney general,
Bill Barr, he was being asked by the president to OK an order that would, in an instant,
take all 10 million American citizens who were the children of undocumented immigrants,
because he said, let's just, in one fell swoop, say they won't be.
And I won't get into all the details about why. But there were people around the president
who agreed with him on this. The attorney general said no.
Help us understand why some went along and some didn't.
ROBERT COSTA: The answer to that is complicated, because these characters in "Peril" and during
this moment in American history are complicated.
In many ways, our reporting shows Attorney General Barr was an enabler of President Trump,
a political ally. He actually went to President Trump in April 2020. We have the whole scene,
and saying he needs to reform his behavior. He uses some words we can say here on PBS
about trying to corral the president more towards the political center, toward political
He was enabling President Trump, but he was also, on issues like birthright citizenship,
trying to pull him away from the more far right elements of the Republican Party.
But whether it was Barr or others, we keep seeing in our reporting no one was able to
contain President Trump. And that's why Chairman Milley decided to take some kind of behind-the-scenes
actions to make sure catastrophe didn't happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we, in fact, have already done some reporting on elements of your book
that came out about General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Bob Woodward, who got
in touch with his Chinese counterpart to say, no, we're not planning to come after China.
But there are other pieces, stories in the book about General Milley that suggests he
was genuinely worried about the president.
BOB WOODWARD: Yes, he was.
This idea -- I mean, Trump has said that what Milley did was treasonous. We found no evidence,
zero evidence of that. He's trying to protect the country in moments of crisis four days
before the election. Milley gets intelligence that the Chinese think we're going to attack
This is one of the hairiest moments for somebody in the military, that the adversary might
think we're going to attack them, which could invite a Pearl Harbor strike, first move on
the other side.
And so, in the panic -- and, I mean, it was a crisis -- to talk to the Chinese counterpart
and say, no, no, we don't mean that. We are not going to attack you. And he says some
things that have been interpreted, like when he said, we're not -- if we're going to attack
you, I will call you.
Well, what he means, in context, if you look at -- I'm sorry we remember this -- page 129
in the book, what Milley is saying to General Li China is, look, we will be talking. There
are tensions. But this is not a time when we're going to attack you.
And interesting, and maybe important to history, General Li said, I believe you. I accept you
at your word in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And when it comes to Attorney General Bill Barr, whether it's Lindsey Graham,
a number of people who were advising this president, at the time, it looked like they
were unquestioning going along with him.
You -- in your reporting, they're telling you, well, I had different ideas.
How do you know when to believe them?
ROBERT COSTA: It's not about believing them.
It's about charting what they do, what they say. Actions matter in politics and policy.
And you see with Senator Graham, it's not about us believing him, because we see him
twist and turn in our story at many times. He's at one time saying President Trump's
going way outside of the bounds on the election. And, other times, he's saying this man must
run in 2024.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to -- and you referred, Bob, just quickly, a minute ago to President
Trump. Do you think he will run again?
BOB WOODWARD: Yes.
Our reporting shows -- and he's been kind of baiting people and say, oh, I'm not going
to announce yet, but telling his supporters, you will be happy with what I do.
This -- but nothing is certain here.
ROBERT COSTA: Well, that quote from Brad Parscale, in July 2021, he privately said, based on
our reporting, the former campaign manager for Trump in 2020, that, if he runs again
- - and Parscale and others around the president believe he will -- the former president -- he
will run because of vengeance.
That will be the motivating factor. And the people around President Trump and his supporters
now are people like Steve Bannon, who told the president, we need to kill the Biden presidency
in the crib.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, of course, part of the book is about President Biden.
Bob Woodward, you have got really interesting reporting here about his relationship with
his closest advisers and what they are trying to keep him from doing. They don't like him
doing unscripted events. And there are points where Republicans and others are looking at
this White House and saying, they're keeping the president back. They're keeping him from
what he wants to do.
BOB WOODWARD: Well...
JUDY WOODRUFF: How did you end up reading that role?
BOB WOODWARD: I mean, they may be trying, but I think Biden's going to do what he wants.
And we show him in private meetings regularly being the question man, be very tough on people.
Where did that come from? Are you sure? Give me the data.
He is somebody who was a tough boss. At the same time, in Afghanistan, which is so important,
Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, and Austin, the secretary of defense, in March
formally made proposals to President Biden, slow down the pullout. Do it in increments.
And this, of course, is the criticism, saying Biden should have done that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Less than 30 seconds.
President Biden, so much on his plate right now. Based on your reporting, does he understand
the Congress, the U.S. Senate that he served in, but that it's changed since then?
ROBERT COSTA: He has adapted.
You see this man of the Senate. They call him old Joe, some of his closest friends in
the Senate, because he was there for 36 years. He's adapted to a changing Democratic Party.
One of his closest allies we show in the book is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, his
primary foe in 2020, who came close to the nomination, now working in tandem with him
on infrastructure. It's actually the centrists at times, like Senator Manchin in West Virginia,
who are causing President Biden the most headaches.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Costa, Bob Woodward.
The book is "Peril." Thank you both. And congratulations.
ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
But, before we go, I have a special shout-out for a member of our team who is moving on.
He is senior broadcast producer Mike Melia, who's actually grown up at the "NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: He's been one of the people in my ear every night we are on the air.
We all thank you, Mike, for 18 years of extraordinary contributions, and we wish you the very best
at your next home. We're going to miss you.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
And for all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, and we'll see you soon.
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