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by NEW DAY
 Published on Wednesday March 10, 2021 - 7:54 PM
POLITICS
 
Texas Ends Mask Mandate, Fully Reopens Businesses Today; Biden Victory on His 50th Day in Office
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[07:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: We don't have a queen or king, and we also don't have these weird speech rules.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: I wouldn't worry about Piers Morgan. I'm guessing he's going to land on his feet after an outburst like that that sometimes gets rewarded. Brian, thank you very much.

I see you thinking about trying it. I see what you're doing.

New Day continues right now.

BERMAN: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day, and it will be a historic day in the U.S. Congress. You're looking at live pictures of the U.S. Capitol where later this morning, we do expect final passage of the $1.9 trillion relief package.

This is a monumental piece of legislation that will have a huge impact. A new round of direct payments, the largest ever to Americans, but it does much, much more than that. Child tax credits, more money for schools, health care on and on.

The president will sign it ahead of his first primetime address to the nation tomorrow night. And then he'll hit the road to sell the plan, which may not be that hard. We have a brand-new CNN poll which shows strong bipartisan support for the bill and especially what's inside it.

CAMEROTA: The president's primetime address will mark one year since the official start of the pandemic. Today, nearly one in ten Americans have been fully vaccinated, but there's still a long way to go for herd immunity.

And public health officials say people need to remain vigilant. Yet, masks and social distancing now no longer required in Texas. Coronavirus restrictions in that state were lifted at the stroke of midnight. So we'll talk to President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, in just a moment.

But, first, CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill on this historic vote. How is this going to play out today, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect one last stop up here on Capitol Hill for the COVID relief bill. It will get passed out of the House of Representatives, where Democratic leadership is confident that they have the votes that they need. And even despite the fact that they have a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

Of course, this bill is something that Democrats are hoping to tout, that the president is hoping to go on the road and sell, and that is because of what it includes. $1,400 checks for Americans making $75,000 or less, an expansion of the child tax credit in a way that they hope they will be able to expand well into the future, not just for the next year. Of course, that will take some conversations with Republicans.

The bill also includes more money to get Americans vaccinated, more money to get small businesses off he ground, despite the fact that they've been dealing with COVID restrictions in their states.

So the House of Representatives will begin debate on this bill around 9:00 A.M. this morning. They'll debate things for two hours. Then they will have that final vote. It will go to the president's desk to be signed into law and that will all come before those unemployment benefits expire in just a matter of days, over the weekend, so Democrats getting in under the wire.

This has been their goal all along to make sure that Americans didn't have any gap in those unemployment benefits. John?

BERMAN: All right, Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, he is the Chief Medical Adviser of President Biden and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, as always, thank you so much for being with us.

This week marks one of those really important anniversaries, right? It's been a year since the WHO declared this a pandemic. It's been a year since restrictions went into place. I imagine you've never had a year quite like this. What's the most important, significant thing you've learned?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I mean, a lot of important things, John, but one of them is the incredible capability of this virus to just do things that you would not have anticipated.

I mean, if you had turned the clock back a year and when we had a decision of shutting down travel from Europe, which was a year ago tomorrow on the 11th of March, I never would have imagined, even though I've been through multiple outbreaks of different diseases, the thought that you would have 525,000 people in America to have died in about, you know, infections in this country would have really been unimaginable.

So this virus is a very formidable enemy, if you want to be metaphorical about it. It's just extraordinary.

BERMAN: And it still is.

FAUCI: It still is. Things are going much better in the right direction, particularly because of the scientific advances that allowed us to have now multiple, highly efficacious vaccines.

[07:05:08]

But we're not out of the woods yet. Even though we really want to be and we're going in that direction, but if you look now, even every day, although the infections are coming down, it's kind of plateauing a bit, which is giving a little anxiety there. We hope that it continues to come down, but the deflection of the curve that was sharply going down is now starting to plateau a bit. So we have to keep an eye out on it.

That doesn't mean -- you know, I get very discouraged about it. Keep going in the right direction. Keep making step-by-step towards some form of normality. But it's got to be slow and prudent.

BERMAN: How and when will you know if we've passed the threat of a new surge?

FAUCI: You know, John, you never know for sure, but you can get a good idea when you see the infections continuing to go down, day by day, day after day, more and more going down. Simultaneously, with the other side of the coin, as more and more people get vaccinated. So we're averaging now 2 million or more people getting vaccinated each day. So every day that goes by without a surge, at the same time that more and more people get vaccinated, then we're getting closer to being safe from another surge.

You never can put your guard down completely, which is the reason why, although everyone wants to get back to normal now, it's a totally understandable, including myself and my family, but the fact is, when you look at this virus, and what it's done, you've got to be very careful and pull back in a very measured way, and not just turn the switch on and off.

But we will know, I think, John, probably, as we get into the spring and very early summer, you know we'll have enough vaccine to vaccinate everybody by the end of May. Then we've got the logistic challenge of getting it into the arms of individuals. Once you get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, that is a very, very strong defense against there being another surge.

BERMAN: I don't know if you're a Cancun guy or a Miami Beach guy, but how concerned are you about spring break?

FAUCI: You know, I am, John. You know, we've discussed this on your show a few times in the past. Whenever you get a situation where you're going to have people traveling to go to a separate location where there's going to be congregant setting, a festive atmosphere, it's totally understandable that people want to do that. But that's something we've really got to be careful of. We want people to have a good time on spring break, but don't put your guard down completely. Just be prudent a bit longer. We are going in the right direction, we are almost there. I mean, spring break is a classic time, as we all know, we've probably all been through it in school, but we've just got to be really be careful this time and be prudent about it.

BERMAN: We know from the Biden administration that they say they will make their decisions based on science. What's the science behind not saying it's safe for people who have been vaccinated, received two doses, to travel?

FAUCI: You know, that's a very good question, John, and the CDC is carefully heading in that direction. You note, when Dr. Walensky made the announcement a day or two ago about the fact that when you have a couple of people, two or three or more people in a family setting, both of whom are vaccinated, even if it's someone from another -- a friend, it doesn't have to be a member of the family, that was the first in a multistep process that they are going to be rolling out. They're being careful, understandably. They want to get science, they want to get data.

And when you don't have the data and you don't have the actual evidence, then you've got to make a judgment call. And I think that's what you're going to be seeing in the next weeks. You're going to see little by little, more and more guidelines getting people to be more and more flexible.

The first installation of this is what can vaccinated people do in the home setting. Obviously, the next one is going to be what you're asking. What about travel? What about going out? What about getting a haircut? What about doing things like that? That's all imminently going to be coming out.

BERMAN: In terms of the boosters, where are we right now in making determinations about how to give people boosters against different variants, whether it's one booster per variant or some kind of cocktail?

FAUCI: Great question, John. And what we're seeing, which is good news, is that the vaccines that we are using now seem to be working quite well against most of the variants. For example, the 117, what we're calling the U.K. variant, if you look at the antibodies that are induced by the vaccines that we're using now, the Moderna, the Pfizer, et cetera, et cetera, those antibodies are quite effective against 117.

[07:10:03]

When you look at the other one, the South African isolate, the 351 isolate, when you look in the test tube, it looks like it diminishes somewhat the efficacy, but there was a recent study showing that one of the mRNA vaccines look at the antibodies, they do quite well against the South African.

So I think we need to be careful, don't be overly optimistic about it, but I think what we're seeing is that boosting with just the wild-type various vaccine, wild-type means the standard one, not a variant, can actually protect you against a variant.

Having said that, we are also starting tests now where you're making a vaccine directed specifically against the variant. So you're going to see two ways of going at this. Boost against the regular virus, which will have a spillover and protect you against the variant, or specifically boost against the variant. I think both of those are going to be promising.

BERMAN: I got a couple more questions and I'm running out of time here. When you see Texas lifting its mandates, when you see pictures from Idaho of kids burning masks, and the same being called for in Texas, what's your reaction to that?

FAUCI: It's concern, John. I mean, we understand people's need to get back to normal and we are going in that direction. But when you start doing things like completely putting aside all public health measures, as if you're turning a light switch off, that's quite risky. We don't want to see another surge, and that's inviting one when you do that.

BERMAN: We know that you had threats to you and your family over the last year, and for much of the last year, you had security. Has that changed at all? Or what has the change been over the last 50 days for you personally in terms of your security and safety?

FAUCI: Well, certainly, the threats come and go, you know, it just depends. It's really amazing, John. I could say something to you that somebody doesn't like, like you shouldn't be removing mask mandates. And then all of a sudden, you get a bunch of threats, because people don't like what you say. It's just extraordinary. I mean, it's just -- I've never experienced anything like this before, for sure, and hope never will again after this.

But the situation is right now things are really going well. The Biden team is working very, very hard to get the science to be right up on the forefront. I mean, we have meetings with the team consistently and constantly. And it's always, what are the data, what are the evidence, what do we need to do? Have we done anything wrong? If so, let's correct it. It's a completely different kind of atmosphere.

It's always, looking ahead, about how we can do better with the main focus on the public health aspects of it, without distractions about the other things that we knew from before.

BERMAN: Well, here's to the next year being a much better year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you for what you've done. Thank you for being with us this morning.

FAUCI: Thank you, John. Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right. So the huge relief package that we expect to be signed into law the next 24 hours. How are Americans feeling about what's inside it, and what about the president's approval? We have a brand-new CNN poll, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

CAMEROTA: The House of Representatives will begin debate this morning on President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill. It is expected to pass along party lines.

A new CNN national poll finds that the majority of Americans support this relief bill, 61 percent, right there. And while it's a major victory for President Biden on his 50th day in office, his approval rating is just 51 percent. That's only slightly higher than President Trump at this point in his first term.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN Political Analyst David Gregory. Great to see you, David.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So the scope of this act is being likened to the new deal. Nancy Pelosi says it's the most consequential thing she's seen in her 33 years, except maybe with the Affordable Care Act, but she thinks that this one will have an even bigger impact. So what's the significance today?

GREGORY: Well, it's a huge legislative victory. It's his first major piece of business. It's a lot of political Capitol on the line. And so the president has an opportunity to not only notch a victory but go out to the American people and say, look, I'm delivering something for you during a crisis, and that should matter to you.

And it is big in scope. It's also something that the progressive wing of his party is very excited about. Yes, there were some areas of compromise, but, primarily, this includes a lot of things that progressives want to see government do. And wherever you're a president in position to directly deliver checks to the American people, talk about it, do a road show promoting it, that's a good thing.

But the only negative is, the partisanship in Washington, which pre- dates President Biden, that is the overhang that will impact the rest of his legislation and gives you some insight into how Republicans plan to position themselves.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that. Because this bill, this act, is popular with the American people. So we showed 61 percent. But when you dive into the details, it's even more popular. I mean, if you ask Americans, do you like the larger tax credits, some 85 percent do, if you ask them money for returning students to the classroom, 77 percent of Americans. This is as bipartisan approval as it gets in this day and age.

And yet, as you point out, you hear from all sorts of different Republicans, who say they don't like this at all. And they're using different arguments. Liz Cheney's argument is -- she called it, quote, a real tragedy, because she believes that if it were more targeted, it would have had broad bipartisan support. Is that true? Could anything have had bipartisan support right now?

GREGORY: No, I don't think she's right about that. And I think Republicans, conservatives, are holding that up as a way to say, look, we would never support something that's this big in the dollar amount and this sweeping in terms of what it's doing for people.

[07:20:08]

So I think we should point out a couple of things about why it's popular. First of all, I mean, the obvious thing is, the government's giving away a lot of money and support to people who have really been hurting. That's going to be popular up and down the ideological chain.

The other piece of it that you underlined I think is really important. That's giving schools more support to get back to business. I think for a lot of people in this year of the pandemic, the fact that kids have not been in school has just, a huge blow. Because it impacts families in so many different ways and, of course, it impacts workers as well, whose kids are not going back to school.

So the idea of that kind of light at the end of the tunnel, I think, becomes really important, and makes this popular. The economists are going to debate whether this is too much gasoline on a kind of hot economy, whether there's inflation down the road. That will become more apparent.

The politics of this right now is what you said, it's popular, the president's achieved something big and he has used a lot of political Capitol. He doesn't have an unlimited amount, by the way. He's got about a year to get some things done before we're in full election mode.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, great to get your analysis. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: The war within the Republican Party intensifying, fueled this morning by former president -- the former president. He's taking aim at the Republican fundraising efforts with the goal of ousting lawmakers who opposed him.

Joining me now is CNN Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman, she's a Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.

You've got fresh reporting on this, Maggie, the battle between the former president and the RNC. And you say seconds ago, because I read this kind of stuff, you say, the president's attempts at a hostile takeover of Republican money are walked back a little bit.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A little bit, John. So the president issued a statement, you know, we've now gotten very used to these statements that he is putting out from what he has fashioned as something of a self-styled government in exile from Florida. But, first, he put out a statement saying, don't give to RINOs, Republicans In Name Only, give to my PAC.

Then there was a flurry of activity between him and his advisers and senior Republicans and he sort of walked it back last night. Of course, I support Republican and republican committees, but I don't support RINOs, still give to my PAC.

A lot of people who support him and who are inclined to give low- dollar donations are only going to hear the part about giving to his PAC. Is this partly about ousting Republicans who didn't support him or favored impeachment, yes, but it's also about the fact that there is a giant pile of money available to him through low-dollar donations with very few restrictions on how he can spend it. So those are the two animating forces here.

BERMAN: How does he want to spend it? I understand -- I mean, he can pay himself a salary, right?

HABERMAN: In theory, he could pay himself a salary. People close to him say that that has not been under discussion. In theory, he could pay his children salaries. Now, it does not appear that that's been under discussion at the moment. But it is worth noting that, historically, he has a habit of happening relatives on some form a payroll with his political committees and using the committees to, you know, spend money at his properties, which indirectly enriches him.

BERMAN: Alisyn reliably informs me this morning -- and I just didn't believe her, because I know how much the former president hates mail- in voting, obsessed with the idea of mail-in voting being fraudulent. Alisyn reliably informs me that he voted by mail in Palm Beach. How can this be, Maggie? There it is. There's the application for a mail- in ballot. How can this possibly be?

HABERMAN: As you know, John, the president has a long -- the former president has a long habit of saying something and doing something different. In this case, he has a long history of voting by mail. Over the last couple of years, he also has a habit of listing a place where he was not actually living at the time, which was Mar-a-Lago, when he was voting. Now he is. But by doing this by mail, it meant that he didn't have to go in person and cast a ballot in a local election. It is going to raise obvious charges of hypocrisy.

It is also a reminder for Republicans who do want there to be at least some discussion about reforming election laws and changing election laws and there's a debate about what that should look like or could look like, but that's not what he's talking about at all. He just broadly talks about the system as tainted, a system that he himself uses.

BERMAN: Reporting this morning that new focus on the former president's real estate, particularly in Westchester County, the Seven Springs Estate, what's the interest there?

HABERMAN: The interesting there is the question of whether he basically falsified or inflated the valuation of the property in a way that could have impacted his tax benefit. And this is going to be something that you're seeing prosecutors look at in terms of other properties, as well. But that is one that they have keyed in on in recent weeks.

[07:25:00]

Look, Cy Vance is the Manhattan district attorney, is in very early stages. They're interviewing witnesses or looking at witnesses who the office makes clear are not targets of prosecution, like people who work for former President Trump. But it does seem very clear that they are moving towards trying to make a case. And we will see what that looks like.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, great to see you, thanks for being with us this morning.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. We have breaking news. CNN just learned new details about how Meghan Markle is fighting back. It has to do with Piers Morgan and his storming off the set. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Breaking news. CNN has just learned that Meghan Markle, the duchess of Sussex, launched a formal complaint with ITV Network following Piers Morgan's on-air comments about her mental health. Morgan stormed off his morning show on Tuesday amid very heated discussions about Markle.

CNN's Max Foster live in Windsor, England, with all the breaking details. What's the latest, Max?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: There were huge amounts of complaints to the British regulator Ofcom about Piers Morgan's comments, really, about the duchess following that interview with Oprah Winfrey.

[07:30:07]

They were very personal attacks.