A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, September 12, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR (voice-over): COVID crackdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are overwhelmed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As cases soar, the president orders sweeping vaccine mandates.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sparking a fierce response.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If the federal government can get away with doing this, what’s going to come next?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Democrats at odds over Biden’s plan to rebuild America. Can they cut a deal? We debate the path forward with the two most powerful senators on each wing of the party, Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin.
Plus: high-stakes recall.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is a profoundly consequential race.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Gavin Newsom fighting to keep his job. How will the recall shape America’s largest state?
And 9/11 20 years later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty years feels like an eternity, but yet it still feels like yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A nation reflects.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We remember your loss. We share your sorrow.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week,” a week where we have remembered the toll of those attacks that transformed our country 20 years ago.
President Biden led the commemoration yesterday with ceremonies at Ground Zero.
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KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are gathered today on hallowed ground.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And the Pentagon.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president returns to the White House this week to address what may be the greatest threat to our country since 9/11.
For 18 months, the COVID pandemic has consumed our country. And now, even though 75 percent of American adults are vaccinated, it’s become a pandemic of the unvaccinated, with more than 100,000 cases a day for four weeks, last week, roughly a quarter-million new cases reported among children, the highest total yet.
But Biden’s plan to mandate vaccinations at workplaces across America is facing swift and severe resistance, drawing attacks and threats of legal action from at least 19 Republican governors.
We’re going to begin there this morning with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Dr. Murthy, thank you for joining us this morning.
The president resisted issuing mandates for months.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Good to be with you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you.
The president resisted issuing mandates for months, and the administration repeatedly explained that he lacked the legal authority for sweeping mandates. So what changed?
MURTHY: Well, George, so let’s talk about where we are and what the president announced.
Fortunately, we have made a tremendous amount of progress over the last eight months. I want to remind people of this, because it can get lost in the news about the Delta variant alone. But, because we have 200 million people, George, with at least one shot of the vaccine, we are in a much better place than we otherwise would have been.
With that said, Delta is a tough foe. It’s thrown curveballs at us, and we have to be prepared to respond. And that is why the president announced an ambitious and a thoughtful plan that he announced earlier this past week, which is intended to help us get through the next phase of this Delta variant.
Now, to be clear, the requirements that he announced are not sweeping requirements for the entire nation. These are focused on areas where the federal government has legal authority to act. So, 17 million health care workers who do — who operate in institutions which work with Medicare and Medicaid will now be required to get vaccines.
We also know that the workplace requirements he put in place for workplaces that have 100-plus workers, that those will affect about 80 million Americans.
Here’s finally what we know, George. We know that these kinds of requirements actually work to improve our vaccination rates. Tyson Foods, for example, which put in a vaccine requirement recently, saw that it’s vaccination rate went from 45 percent to more than 70 percent in a very short period of time. And they’re not even at their deadline yet.
So, this is the next step, George, in a series of steps that have to be taken to help protect our country from COVID-19 and help us get through this pandemic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve seen the opposition. I mentioned those 19 Republican governors.
Here’s Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.
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DESANTIS: How could we get to the point in the country where you would want to have someone lose their job because of their choice about the vaccine or not?
I just think that that’s fundamentally wrong.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to that?
MURTHY: Well, George, first of all, we have to put this in context.
There are requirements that we put in workplaces and in schools every day to make sure that workplaces and schools are safe.
For example, George, when you and I went to grade school, we likely had requirements for vaccines that we had to fulfill in order to participate in the classroom. That was part of keeping the classroom safe.
And I have worked for years in hospitals and we had requirements to get vaccinated so we can protect our patients from infection.
These are steps that we take every day that OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, oversees. So this is not an unusual phenomenon. What it is, is, I think, an appropriate response for us to recognize that if we want our economy to be back, and we want our schools to stay in session, we’ve got to take steps to make sure workplaces —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But —
MURTHY: — and learning environments are safe. And these (inaudible) —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But most legal —
MURTHY: — to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Several legal experts have said this is a novel use of the OSHA authority. Are you confident it’s going to withstand constitutional challenge?
MURTHY: Well, certainly this wouldn’t have been put forward if the president and administration didn’t believe that it was an appropriate legal measure to take, and they believe it is so based on the authority that Congress has actually given under the OSHA Act which, in fact, provides and not just provides, but, you know, tells the Department of Labor and the administration that they have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe for workers and that’s what this measure does.
If anything we’ve learned, George, over the last 18 months is that the COVID virus is a dangerous virus. It makes our workplaces and our schools far less safe than they should be. So this is an appropriate action, we believe, and it’s certainly from a public health perspective, most importantly, will help keep workers safe and that will ultimately help our economy as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve seen calls from Senate candidates like J.D. Vance out of Ohio calling for mass civil disobedience. Are you concerned this might harden the opposition to vaccinations?
MURTHY: Well, George, here’s what I think we have to remember, and it’s especially important that we remember this on a day like today, the day after the 20th anniversary of 9/11. This has been a long, difficult pandemic. I know that there has — it has generated a lot of anger, a lot of fatigue, a lot of impatience, you know, among folks in the community over time, and that’s absolutely understandable, but what we cannot allow, George, is for this pandemic to turn us on each other.
Our enemy is the virus. It is not one another, and what we have to do is approach this next phase of the pandemic response recognizing that we’ve got to listen to each other before we rush to judgment. We’ve got to support one another in our decision-making and during times of crisis.
9/11, George, reminded us that we have the capacity to do that. As difficult as times may seem right now. After 9/11, George, I remember that day very clearly, and I remember people reaching out to strangers to support them. I remember being people traveling across the country, George, to volunteer in New York City. That is the spirit of America that I know and love, and we still have the capacity for that kind of approach and it’s what we’re called on to implement in a moment like this when we have to get through this very difficult pandemic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president seems to be getting it from all sides. There’s also criticism from some who say he hasn’t gone far enough. Like Dr. Leana Wen, who stated that the president should have gone even further and imposed restrictions on interstate travel, saying that vaccinations should be required for any kind of interstate travel. Some are suggesting that we should find a way to mandate vaccines for 12 to 17-year-olds. Your response?
MURTHY: George, I think if you look at the substance of what the president announced, there’s a tremendous amount in there, and a lot of very aggressive actions that will help us increase the number of people who are vaccinated, protect those who are sick and ultimately get us through this pandemic.
We will always be looking for more measures that we can take, George. That’s as it should be. That has been our commitment from the beginning. But I do think that the series of measures taken here present a strong step forward, and they will ultimately help protect our communities, and that is the singular goal here. It’s to protect us from COVID-19. It’s to help us get through this, keep our kids in school, keep our economy going, and give us the peace of mind that so many people have desperately wanted since this pandemic began.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, how do you see the trajectory of the pandemic over the next several months?
MURTHY: Well, George, it’s interesting that you ask. You know, there’s — the prediction game is a tough one, and there are many people who have been humbled over the last 18 months trying to make predictions. I do think that what happens over the coming months, George, really depends on what we collectively do as a society in the weeks ahead.
Do we reach out to our family and friends and urge them to get vaccinated? Do we step up and use our masks in indoor public settings recognizing that there’s good scientific evidence that it helps reduce the spread of the virus? Do we ensure that in our schools we are taking the layers of precaution that we know help keep our kids safer from masks to regular testing to improved ventilation? If we take those steps, George, I think we can make a lot of progress in the months ahead, but it really does depend on us and what we do together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Murthy, thanks for your time and your information this morning.
MURTHY: Thanks so much, George. Take care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about this now on our round table, joined by Chris Christie, the CEO of the Democracy for America Yvette Simpson, Sarah Isgur a veteran of the Trump Justice Department and now political analyst for “The Dispatch”; and Roland Martin, CEO of the Black Star Network, host of the daily digital program, “Roland Martin Unfiltered”.
And, Chris, let me begin with you. You served with a lot of these Republican governors who have come out against these mandates from President Biden. Are they on solid ground? How do you explain their actions?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I — there’s three things about what’s happened this week that concern me, and I’m someone that’s been advocating from the beginning that everyone should get vaccinated and I think it’s a mistake not to.
First one is I think there are shaky legal grounds here. When you look at the OSHA statutes that are being used, I think they’re really on shaky ground as to whether they can force this or not. So, it’s subject to legal challenge.
Second, let’s remember that the politicization of these vaccines started back in the presidential campaign, and it was started by Vice President Harris, you know, who said that I will not take a vaccine that’s approved by Trump or Trump’s regulators. That put us in a totally different area that allowed it to be politicized and that politicization is continuing now.
And, third, I really do think that your question to the surgeon general was on point. This is going to harden opposition. Sometimes when you’re a leader, you have to go in and use a sledgehammer, and I’ve been known to do that when I was governor.
Sometimes it’s appropriate, but this one was not the time to do it. We have to be persuasive. We have to continue to persuade, and I know that takes time —
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to the response that that wasn’t working? And that when you look at the mandates, whether it’s the Veterans Department, whether it’s DOD, whether it’s workplaces like Tyson’s that Dr. Murthy cited, that when you have the mandates, they work?
CHRISTIE: Look, working for the government and ordering government workers to have a mandate, there is one thing. Extending that to two-thirds of all the jobs and make it either get vaccinated or not, it’s also contradictory logically, George, because what they’re telling us is by all the data that vaccinated people are very, very well-protected from anyone who’s unvaccinated and who has it.
Yet they’re saying to us, we have to do this to protect you. Well, that’s protecting the unvaccinated from the unvaccinated. They’re making choices.
YVETTE SIMPSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I disagree about the OSHA finding. I think OSHA is supposed to protect workplace safety, and we know that right now, COVID is one of the most dangerous threats to workplace safety because when people are working together — and we know with this delta variant, it’s made people much more sensitive when people working together, even if they’re vaccinated, they come into contact with somebody without a vaccine, they could get the delta COVID variant.
CHRISTIE: That’s not what the data says.
SIMPSON: So, I would disagree.
I also want to push back a little bit on blaming the political nature of this on Kamala Harris. She does not deserve that. The reality is, is that, at the time she made that comment, Donald Trump was trying to push Hydroxychloroquine, and bleach injection on people’s eyes (ph) —
CHRISTIE: It’s not what she’s talking about. She’s talking about vaccines. She was talking about vaccines.
SIMPSON: And since that time, your party continues to push the fact that folks should not be wearing masks, that folks should be pushing back against this. So, the politicization of this is way more in the Republican camp than it could ever be from one comment that Kamala Harris made last year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, I want to bring this back to legal ground as well. Some experts — legal experts agree with Governor Christie that the OSHA statute is being stretched too far. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has upheld vaccine mandates in the past.
SARAH ISGUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This isn’t a question about the vaccine mandate. That is going to be upheld, no question legally. The precedent going back more than a hundred years.
The question is whether OSHA has the authority to do this under their emergency powers. That is much different.
Now, there’s a whole legal weirdness to this where it’s going to skip a district court that we’re used to going to. It’s going to go straight to the circuits. Then, it’s actually all going to go to one circuit. So, you may have 17 governors bring this, and it’s still going to be one single case that we’re all going to then watch.
I think this will look a lot like Obamacare in terms of what it’s going to do on the Republican side. Everyone is going to be able to move behind this not on the substance. People are going to be for vaccines, for vaccine mandates even if a company does it themselves, but they’re going to be against OSHA doing it, the Biden administration doing it.
I think something the Biden administration politically did here incorrectly was wait. I think there’s a lot of why didn’t this happen three months ago if it was so important? Either you didn’t think you had the legal authority or you didn’t think it actually was an emergency. Either way, it’s going to hurt them legally.
ROLAND MARTIN, #ROLANDMARTINUNFILTERED HOST: No, they didn’t do it three months ago because they did what Chris said. They simply tried to persuade. And the numbers change when 98 percent of the people in ICUs are unvaccinated, when people who are having heart attacks are dying because they can’t get treated, they say, we have to move.
Companies were making decisions as well. If we look at the history of this country, it was corporate America that forced America to do the civil rights movement because, you know why? Because government was moving too slow.
And so, there are too many people in this country who are stuck on stupid, who don’t want to own up to what’s going on right now, and when you have 670 plus people — thousands of people who have died, 41 million who have gotten COVID and we’re having problems in children now dying, somebody has to lead.
And you know what? Leaders take the hit and make the decisions, which is why he was elected.
And so when the data changes and you want to save people, you go there.
Now, Republican governors want to stand out there and say this is wrong. Fine, DeSantis, you’ve got to run for re-election. Governor Greg Abbott, in my home state, who is embarrassing us with his decisions, he has to run for re-election. Let’s then see what happens whether these people stay in.
But if we keep seeing folks die, I dare say, leaders lead, and the rest of the folks who want to fight this, they can just simply fight it if they want to in the courts, but too many people are dying in America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Seems like we’re beyond the point that Dr. Murthy was lamenting, turning on each other over the vaccines.
YVETTE SIMPSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
MARTIN: Well, but the thing is, if you or a family member has had to bury somebody, you’re dealing with it. I had a — I had a — I had a — the head of the Black Morticians (ph) on my show, 130 funeral home directors have died from this. Pastors are dying. Bishop Harry Jackson, who preached in the Oval Office with Trump on Easter Sunday died of COVID several months later. This is real, and at some point, leaders need to stand up and say, enough is enough.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, emotions — emotions don’t change the law.
MARTIN: Death does.
CHRISTIE: No, emotions don’t, and neither does death, it doesn’t change the law. Congress changes the low, Roland. Emotions don’t change —
MARTIN: But, guess what, you challenge it and we see if it works.
CHRISTIE: No, no, no, emotions don’t change — emotions — no, no, you don’t act lawlessly as a leader and say, let’s let the courts do it. I understand that everybody wants — and we had this conversation last week on a different topic. The law is the law and OSHA —
MARTIN: But who decides all this —
CHRISTIE: Look, and — and the president, for three months, said — and he — and he didn’t not do it because he didn’t think he needed to do it. He affirmatively said, I don’t have the legal authority to do mandates. Now he’s changed his mind.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but his original position was that he just didn’t want to go there. He was trying to resist it as long as he possibly could.
CHRISTIE: But, George, he said something — yes, he said that. What he also said in an answer, I don’t have the legal authority to do this.
CHRISTIE: He said that.
SARAH ISGUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And in that sense a looks a lot like DACA, where President Obama said he didn’t have the legal authority, and then he did it anyway. This administration has done that with the eviction moratorium, where they knew they didn’t have the legal authority through the CDC —
MARTIN: And what happened?
ISGUR: And the courts struck it down. And what they — their political thought, I believe, was, that we can do this, and we’ll get it for 30 days and that’s worth it. I think that’s exactly what (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well — well, I was just going to say, isn’t — isn’t — isn’t the gamble, and we have to move, and I know you guys are going to come back on another time, but isn’t the gamble that in the meantime more people will get vaccinated, they’ll have to get vaccinated, we may —
ISGUR: That’s right. But acting lawlessly and unconstitutionally, that’s a risk in and of itself to undermine the rule of law.
SIMPSON: Where was that restraint when Donald Trump was president? Like, you all allowed Donald Trump to get away with literal murder. He stretched the bounds of the law constantly —
ISGUR: And he was subject to 20 nationwide injunctions in four years, rightfully so often.
SIMPSON: And for different — and for different aims, not to save people, but to destroy and divide.
MARTIN: George, acting —
SIMPSON: So the reality is, is we need this test right now. OSHA can be and should be tested.
ISGUR: You shouldn’t undermine the rule of law to do it.
MARTIN: Act — acting lawlessly —
SIMPSON: Law evolves with time.
MARTIN: Acting lawlessly to —
SIMPSON: This is a very different circumstance.
ISGUR: Not the Constitution.
MARTIN: Acting lawlessly unconstitutionally (ph) is determined by the courts. When they make the decision, they’ll make a decision. That’s what —
CHRISTIE: Except when you —
MARTIN: But you still move until they make the decision.
ISGUR: He has a duty to take care —
CHRISTIE: Except when the executive says he doesn’t have the authority, and he’s acting lawlessly —
MARTIN: If you don’t like it, sue.
CHRISTIE: Look, Yvette, you don’t mind about the rule of law being violated now, but when the rule of law is violated for something that you — for something — for something that you —
SIMPSON: I’m a lawyer, I do mind if the rule of law is violated.
CHRISTIE: But when the rule of law is violated for something you support, you’ll be screaming at this table about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got to — we’ve got to take a break. I know you guys are going to come back in a — in a minute but we’re going to move on right now.
Coming up, Senators Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders, they’re going to debate the president’s Build Back America plan. Can they reach a deal? What are the consequences if they don’t? That’s next.
QUESTION: The White House knows well the president’s poll numbers have dropped. Do you acknowledge that the public now has some doubts about the president’s handling of the virus?
PSAKI: What we can acknowledge and you’ve seen in a lot of these polls is that the number one issue, number two issue, number three issue for many Americans is COVID and what we’re doing. I’ll also note that, in all of these polls, support for the president’s handling of coronavirus continues to be the majority of the American public.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Facing the toughest stretch of his presidency, President Biden’s approval rating has gone under water for the first time. How deep is the hole and what does it mean for his packed fall agenda?
We’re going to ask Senators Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders after this analysis from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.
After holding steady for the first six months of his presidency, Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen quickly. The questions are, why the drop now, and will it bounce back?
One obvious cause could be the U.S.’s much criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan, since the timing certainly lines up well.
Biden’s approval rating was 50 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average on August 15th, the day that the Taliban reached Kabul. It has since fallen by around five points to 45 percent.
But Americans usually have a limited attention span for foreign policy, and most voters did think the decision to withdraw was the right one, even though they didn’t like the execution. So Biden’s numbers could bounce back once the news cycle moves on.
But it’s possible the reason is something else, the delta variant. If you look closely, Biden’s numbers had already begun to decline in July as the number of U.S. COVID cases increased sixfold over the course of the month.
Meanwhile, approval of his COVID handling has slipped from 62 percent on July 1st to around 52 percent now. If Biden’s approval rating is tied to COVID, well, it’s tough to predict the next turn in the pandemic, although the models tracked by the CDC do think the current wave is near its peak.
But keep in mind, this is all pretty normal once a president exits from his honeymoon period. From Truman through Trump, the median president lost five points off their approval rating in the first year in office, and then another seven points in the second year.
To be honest, I could really go either way with this one. But if I had to guess, I think I do buy that Biden’s lower numbers are the new normal for Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate for that. Let’s talk about its impact on the presidency.
(inaudible) we’re joined by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Senator Manchin, thanks for joining us this morning. You know, you’ve called for…
MANCHIN: Thanks for having me, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve called for a strategic pause on the president’s Build Back Better plan, the $3.5 trillion plan, but party leaders from the president to Speaker Pelosi to Leader Schumer have all rejected that call for a pause.
Schumer says it’s “full speed ahead” in the Senate. It can’t pass the Senate without your vote. So where do things stand right now?
MANCHIN: Well, George, I’ve been very clear, I think, and I think a strategic pause is necessary right now. We have the unknown, and the unknown is everything you have been talking about, COVID, what’s going to happen with COVID, what it will do to the economy.
No one is talking about inflation or debt, and we should have that as part of the discussion, and then the geopolitical, what’s going on around the world and what type of challenges we may face.
So the unknown is there, and we don’t know what that’s going to — going to partake. What we do know is that, basically, the need for this, the emergency to do something in the next week is not there.
We’ve done $5.4 trillion, George, over the last year and about a year and a half, $5.4 trillion, and a lot of that money is still going out the door. There’s no one going to be left behind for the rest of this year and most of next year.
So the urgency, I can’t understand why we can’t take time, deliberate on this, and work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in January, you proposed spending $4 trillion on infrastructure. So what changed?
MANCHIN: Well, you’re talking about — it was about $4.5 trillion they had, talking about. Is that what you’re talking about, with the president’s…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, you were saying…
MANCHIN: … Build Back Better plan?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said about…
MANCHIN: Having both of those put together, and I said from day one, these are two completely different categories. The one we have in front of us right now that’s already passed in a bipartisan way with 19 Republicans, George, is the hardcore infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, Internet, water, sewer, all the things that have been neglected for the last 30 years.
the president went out and campaigned on this. He went out and sold this thing. We all got behind him. We had a bipartisan deal. And I think it’s the greatest thing that we could do. That’s the one that has the urgent — and emergency that we have. Let’s get that one done. It’s sitting over in the House right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if the bill is fully paid for and doesn’t add to the deficit, the unknown that you’re concerned about, one of them is inflation.
That’s not really a concern, is it, if the bill is fully paid for?
MANCHIN: Well, George, basically, if the bill is fully paid for, why did they put $1.7 trillion of borrowing power in the language?
And, next of all, it’s only run out for 10 years, OK? So if — some of the things we know will never go off. So don’t you be — you should be more accurate what the real number is going to be.
I’m just saying right now, George, we’re at 28.750 billion dollars — $28.75 trillion. And it goes up $4 to $5 billion every day. No one’s even talking.
Inflation. People are talking to me in West Virginia about the price of gas, the price of everything they buy, including their groceries, how it’s affecting them.
So I think we need to see what we’re doing right now and the effects we’re having. No one is saying they’re losing their benefits, because they’re going to extend up through next year. Why are we rushing for this one week? Why do we have to have everything done in one week?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has the support of Republican senators, but it’s also drawn the opposition of progressives, who don’t think it should happen unless there’s also progress on the bigger reconciliation.
But here’s a tweet last night from Senator Bernie Sanders, who is coming up on the program next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “We’re not going to build bridges just sort of people can live under them. No infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.”
Are you concerned we’re going to end up with nothing?
MANCHIN: I just respectfully disagree with Bernie.
I have never seen us, in the legislation — I never thought the purposes of our — the progress that we make in legislation was basically hold one hostage over the other. You have a bipartisan bill in the most toxic atmosphere that we have ever had politically. The president has pushed on this. And he says, we’re going to do this bipartisan.
It’s in the House right now. We could pass that one, and we can still go on to reconciliation. We can debate it. We can discuss it. We can have hearings on it, make sure, whatever we do, we do it and do it right and don’t put more out there that’s not needed, or basically put ourselves further in debt. We can have those discussions.
But why would you hold something that’s as needed as this, as far as the hard infrastructure, that’s been basically neglected for 30 years, and just sit back and say, well, we can’t do that?
If you don’t need bridges fixed or roads fixed in your state, I do in West Virginia. I need Internet in West Virginia. I got water and sewage problems. I have got all the problems that we have addressed in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And that’s the one that has the emergency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what’s your bottom line? How long should the pause last? And what’s the most you would accept in a final reconciliation bill?
MANCHIN: Chuck — I know that, George, everyone’s putting a timetable and putting a hard cap.
Shouldn’t we — first of all, the reason we’re on reconciliation — and I voted to go on reconciliation because I believed that the 2017 tax codes were weighted to the high-end wealthy. I believe it was weighted unfairly about the working people. And I thought we needed to make some adjustments.
But I’m not going to make adjustments on how much I want to spend. I’m going to make the tax adjustments on what I think keeps us competitive, looking at the global rates, looking at things that we’re doing, making sure the wealthy are paying, making sure all corporations are paying something to have the privilege of doing business in America.
I think all that needs to be done. And we ought to see what kind of money that spins off and then basically match that up with the highest priorities and needs we have. That’s all I have asked for. And we haven’t had that — we haven’t had an honest debate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Manchin, thanks for your time this morning.
I want to bring in Senator Bernie Sanders now.
Senator Sanders, thanks — thanks for joining us as well.
You just heard Senator Manchin right there. He said he just respectfully disagrees; we shouldn’t hold this bipartisan infrastructure package hostage to the reconciliation bill.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I think maybe the converse is true, that maybe Senator Manchin is holding the reconciliation bill hostage.
As you know, George, from day one, the president of the United States, the speaker of the House, Majority Leader Schumer have made it clear we’re going down a two-track approach. Both bills are going together.
I happen to think that Joe Manchin is right. Physical infrastructure is terribly important. But I happen to think that the needs of the human beings of our country, working families, the children, the elderly, the poor are even more important, and we can and must do both.
Look, everybody in America, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, understands that, for the last many years, the very richest people in this country and the largest corporations have done phenomenally well, while the working class and the middle class of this country struggle, and we have got close to 600 million (sic) people sleeping out on the streets.
Elderly people in America can’t afford to put dentures into their mouth. They have no teeth in their mouth in some cases, can’t afford hearing aids, can’t afford eyeglasses. Working families cannot afford child care for their kids. Young people cannot afford to go to college.
And then on top of all of that, the scientific community is telling us that we’re looking at a cataclysmic crisis in terms of climate. Oregon is burning. California is burning.
People are drowning in New York City. Detroit, flooding. Siberia, largest fire on Earth. Drought all over the world.
The United States must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. This is a crisis.
So what polling tells us is working families all over this country understand that now is the time for Congress to address the long neglected problems facing working families. Now is the time to have the wealthy and large corporations — we’ve got billionaires in this country who don’t pay a nickel in federal income tax.
So, I think we can do all of this. We can do the physical infrastructure. We can do the reconciliation bill, create millions of good jobs, and finally tell the American people that we are going to stand up for working families. Not just the rich and the powerful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess the question I have is, how? There’s no margin for error in the Senate. If you vote against it, it doesn’t pass. If Senator Manchin votes against it, it doesn’t pass.
I mean — so, you’re likely, if you both stick to your positions, you’re going to end up with nothing.
SANDERS: That is a possibility, and I think that would be a disaster for the American people. But you’ve got the president of the United States, you’ve got leadership in the House and the Senate. You’ve got — you know, this is not Joe Manchin versus Bernie Sanders.
I would surmise that over 90 percent of Democrats, over 40 Democrats in the Senate would prefer to spend what I propose $6 trillion because they understand the needs facing working families and climate are so great.
So a major compromise has already been made, and there is a real danger, a real danger that this bill will lose, that the infrastructure bill will lose in the House because you’ve got many people there, and I support them, who are saying, you know what? We had a joint agreement. We’re going to go forward together.
Deal with physical structure, deal with the needs of working families. Let’s do it. Let’s create the jobs.
Let’s deal with an expansion of Medicare. Let’s deal with climate. That’s what we’ve got to go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is no — is no bill — let’s say, you know, Senator Manchin is — wouldn’t put a timeline on it, but he’s come out for about $1.5 trillion for the reconciliation bill. Is no bill better than $1.5 trillion?
SANDERS: Look. What the issue is here is when you have an overwhelming majority of working families in America who want us to do that, when you’ve got the president, when you got over 90 percent of the people in the House, over 90 percent of the senators want to do it.
The real question you should be asking is, is it appropriate from one person to destroy two pieces of legislation?
Look, Joe Manchin has a right to get his views heard. He’s a member of the United States Senate from the great state of West Virginia. He has to sit down with all of us and we’ll work it out.
Now, we did. As you know, we had the same exact problem in the American rescue plan, which to my mind was enormously successful in getting us out of the economic recession that took as a result of COVID.
And Joe Manchin and others are going to — Republicans are going to have to say, well, why are we not extending this $300 direct payment that working payments are now receiving? Do we really want to rescind that when we have cut childhood poverty by half?
So I don’t think Joe wants that. I think we’re going to work it out, but it would really be a terrible, terrible shame for the American people —
STEPHANOPOULOS: So —
SANDERS: — if both bills went down. And that is a real danger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So bottom line, there is going to be a deal, both bills are going to pass?
SANDERS: I believe they will, yes. I think we have the same problem with the American Rescue Plan. We worked together, we did, and I think we’re going to do it again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, the roundtable is back. Plus, a closer look at this week’s California’s recall election.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There’s little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home, but then there’s disdain for pluralism and their disregard for human life, and their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Stark words there from former President Bush tying domestic terrorism to the threat from terrorism abroad as well.
Sarah Isgur, it seemed like one of the consistent themes that we saw from President Bush, from President Biden, from the other speakers over the course of the weekend is the fact of how far deeply we’ve been divided in the last 20 years since 9/11.
ISGUR: There is more to the sadness in the memorial this year than, I think, the previous years because we remember what it was like that day, but we also remember how united we were afterwards, that feeling of purpose that we had that has not just been lost; it’s the opposite, we are — we are in such a deeply polarized place.
ISGUR: That polarization, by all the data we have, was happening before 9/11, but it has so dramatically increased in the past 20 years. You know, we talked about the vaccine mandate in the last section. And everything that we talk about now divides us, even when we are under such an existential threat as a worldwide pandemic. There was no post-9/11 moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roland Martin, the warnings — I was speaking with the secretary of homeland security on Friday. The FBI director said it consistently, number one terrorism threat right now in the United States, domestic terror.
MARTIN: Absolutely, and also, to be very specific, white domestic terrorism. The Trump DOJ, what did they do? They stepped away from that. Wray was saying it. You had people who were saying we must confront this. When you look at the Southern Poverty Law Center, you look at what the NAACP is saying, and so many others. When you look at the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, against African-Americans, it is real, and the problem is when you have political leaders who are encouraging that because that also translates into votes for them.
And so, when you saw, with President Bush talking about that, and I was glad to see President Biden and the other real former presidents actually show up, as opposed to going to do commentary for a boxing match, that’s what leaders do. They stand united as a country. And you have to have more of that.
But white domestic terrorism — and we have to specify that for that reason — it is a sickness in this country, and it must be confronted on the federal level, the state and the local level.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, he was referring of course to former President Trump, who also went to a police station in New York yesterday, complained again about the rigged election.
You gave a major speech at the Reagan Library this week where you said it was time to face the realities of the 2020 election, renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth-deniers. So you’re on a collision course with former President Trump?
CHRISTIE: No. I’m — I’m on a course to try to make sure that my party become — remains, rather, relevant in the political conversation in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Maybe it is “become.” Aren’t — you’re seeing more and more Republicans are now saying — they’re buying into the conspiracy theorists.
CHRISTIE: Listen, in the end, I do think that it’s moving in the other direction. I mean, I think it will continue to move in the other direction. And what that speech was all about was to repeat what I said with you on election night.
You know, at 2, 3 a.m. on election night, when the president made the speech that he made, President Trump made the speech that he made, I said it was unfounded and that there was no evidence of anything like what he was talking about, and he needed to stop. And…
CHRISTIE: … since then.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Since then, it’s taken hold among Republicans.
CHRISTIE: It’s taken hold amongst some Republicans, George, but I think what you’re — what you’re seeing…
CHRISTIE: What you’re seeing over the course of time, as this continues to move past election night and the emotion of an election, is that more and more people are seeing that that’s not true.
And by the way, it’s also incumbent upon all of us in the party who don’t believe it’s true to speak out. Because you’re not going to convince everybody overnight, the same way we were having the conversation about vaccines, and you’re not going to convince certain people of certain things.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with friends of mine who are smart, good people who aren’t vaccinated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you getting blowback?
CHRISTIE: I mean, listen, a little bit, but much more praise than blowback for the speech. And so, you know — but in the end, that’s not why I gave the speech, to either get praise or worry about blowback. You say what you believe. That’s what I try to do here every week when I’m on. And I said what I believed on Thursday night, and it’s what I’m going to continue to believe.
SIMPSON: I just think, for four years we watched Republicans either be silent or be complicit in the building of the monster that is Trump. And even post-Trump there are still Republicans who are bolstering him, supporting him. So I feel like too little, too late.
The reality is, is real leadership is stepping up to the man at the time he was in the seat and saying that “We won’t budge,” and there was none of that.
And, unfortunately, I don’t know what the future of the Republican Party is. There are so many folks who are now swinging closely. We think about the 47 states that have legislation trying to keep people from voting based on the big lie that we know was not true.
We think about January 6th and the insurrection that happened on the structure of democracy itself and democracy, and there are Republicans who don’t want to have an investigation into that. So this Republican Party is way far gone, and unfortunately, too little, too late.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on. Let me — I want to get another Republican perspective here from Sarah Isgur.
You know, you’re seeing a debate there. Chris believe the party’s, over time, moving in his direction. Yvette disagrees.
ISGUR: I think that perhaps we will finally see what we didn’t get to see in 2016, where there were 17 candidates; nobody dropped out, so that you could have the one-on-one versus Donald Trump. Perhaps it looks like Donald Trump is going to run again. We’re certainly told that by all of his advisers and by all accounts from him.
If it is Chris Christie versus Donald Trump in the Republican primary, Republicans will have a choice. And certainly Donald Trump is in ways that his weakest that he’s been since he left the White House. And, in other ways, certainly, what he has said and Trumpism has picked up within the party.
It will be up to Governor Christie to make the case that there is somewhere else to go. But I do think, if Trump runs, he may be alone in that lane. And that could be helpful.
MARTIN: I’m sorry.
The Republican Party, they made their choice.
SIMPSON: That’s right.
MARTIN: And I appreciate the speech, Governor, but the reality is this.
You have to admit, Sarah, you have to admit the role that you played in putting the person in leadership who is driving conspiracy theories. It’s one thing to condemn them after the fact, but you have to own up to the role that you played in putting the person in power.
ISGUR: We both ran campaigns against him.
MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no.
CHRISTIE: First off, I don’t have to admit anything to you.
MARTIN: Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I finish?
CHRISTIE: First off, I don’t have to admit anything to you.
And, second, I ran against Donald Trump in 2016.
SIMPSON: You also coached him for the debate, sir.
MARTIN: Here’s the deal. You ran against him.
But when a person has principles, morals and values, they do not support them even if you lose.
MARTIN: And what they say is — and what they say is, I choose patriotism and the country over party and power.
MARTIN: And the problem was, too many Republicans chose power and riding with Donald Trump, as opposed to patriotism and America.
CHRISTIE: I will sleep fine tonight with you judging my morals.
MARTIN: Well, guess what?
SIMPSON: It’s not just him.
MARTIN: As a voter who has 13 nieces and nephews, what I also want to see in America are Republicans and Democrats who have the guts to stand up to narcissists, to folks who lie, to folks who sit here and led a country in the wrong direction.
And what that man has unleashed on this country, any Republican who stood with him has to own it and accept the role that they played.
CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, that’s fine.
I will accept the role that I played in the 2016 election running against him. And I will accept the role…
MARTIN: But you helped him prepare for the debates.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let him finish his point now. Let him finish his point.
CHRISTIE: Excuse me.
And I will accept the role that I played in my belief that Hillary Clinton was not the right person to be president. We all get to make choices, Roland, in this democracy. I made my choice. I’m on record of my choice. And I’m not walking away from my choice.
But it does not preclude me from being able to be critical when the person that I did support does things that I am against. And so this false choice that you’re trying to set up…
MARTIN: It’s not false.
CHRISTIE: … it’s a false choice, and one that the American people are not going to buy either.
MARTIN: It’s unleashed…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roland, let me just press one other point.
Right now, I would argue that the fact that so many Americans can’t buy into simple facts is probably the biggest existential threat we face to our democracy.
So, when somebody speaks up for that, isn’t it something to be praised?
MARTIN: Facts are critically important.
But, again, when you support someone who said fake news, who when you were truthful, and then pushed that, then when you have the networks and the conservative radio talk shows, that whole echo chamber driving that, that’s the problem.
I am a native of Texas who is still registered there, and I’m dealing with Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, who is consistently lying and making things up. And you’re dealing with that.
I’m dealing with people who are changing textbooks. And, as a…
ISGUR: But do you think that you’re going to persuade people…
MARTIN: Well, here’s the deal.
I have a very basic principle since I have been a journalist. If you do good, I will talk about you. If you do bad, I will talk about you.
MARTIN: One second.
ISGUR: You think you’re persuading other Americans right now?
MARTIN: At the end of day, I will talk about you.
And somebody has to say what others are afraid to say.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, you get the last word.
ISGUR: If you want to persuade the half the country that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 to move to your side, then you have got to stop villainizing them.
You have got to stop having these conversations where everyone who is…
MARTIN: I’m going to speak truth.
ISGUR: … not with you is against you.
And when someone says that Donald Trump did something wrong, you may want to consider praising that and trying to use that to persuade the people who are not going to be persuaded by…
MARTIN: Too late. Too late.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to have to be the last word. This debate could obviously continue. I’m sure it will in coming weeks.
When we come back: California Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall election Tuesday. We’re going to have the latest on that race when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
“THIS WEEK” TRIVIA: What federal agency was established following the 9/11 attacks?
ANSWER: The Department of Homeland Security.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESDENT: By acting together, we’ve created a new and single Department of Homeland Security. We’ll be sending the world a signal that the Congress and the administration will work together to protect the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: The recall process has been weaponized because they know in that traditional race, you show up in unprecedented numbers and they can’t win.
LARRY EDLER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: For the first time in our state’s history, 170 years old, people are leaving California.
Reckless management. Businesses are leaving. They’re taking the middle class jobs with them. We need to turn this around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: California Governor Gavin Newsom and GOP challenger Larry Elder campaigning ahead of this Tuesday’s recall vote. It will determine who will lead America’s largest state.
Zohreen Shah, our resident expert on California politics, has this take on what’s at stake.
ZOHREEN SHAH, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California may be one of the bluest states in the country, but on Tuesday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom faces only the fourth gubernatorial recall in U.S. history.
NEWSOM: This is a profoundly consequential race, not just for 40 million Americans who live in America, but for Americans all across the country.
SHAH: California’s long history of direct democracy aims to empower citizens to recall votes, ballot initiatives and referendums, but is often influenced by special interests. Every governor since 1960 has faced at least one recall attempt and just 1.5 million signatures were needed to trigger the vote against Newsom.
Last November, a judge extended the signature deadline amidst the pandemic. That same night, Newsom was caught disregarding his own COVID-19 restrictions inside a luxury restaurant, infuriating people and sending signatures soaring.
NEWSOM: Well, I want to apologize to you because I need to preach and practice, not just preach and not practice.
SHAH: He faces 46 challengers, most relatively unknown, all hoping to pull off the same upset as Arnold Schwarzenegger when he ousted Democratic Governor Greg Davis in 2003.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: I know that together we can do great things.
SHAH: COVID restrictions largely triggered California’s recall efforts, but Newsom is now campaigning on it as a public safety issue. His leading Republican opponent, Larry Elder, has made restoring individual freedoms a central part of his campaign.
ELDER: When I get elected, assuming — assuming that there still are face mask mandates and vaccine mandates, they will be repealed right away.
SHAH: Newsom also warning Texas’ new abortion law could be the future of California if a recall were successful.
NEWSOM: Imagine the judges a Republican governor will appoint. Imagine the ability to use the line item veto to cut expansion of reproductive rights and health care for women.
SHAH: But the biggest potential national outcome, Newsom’s replacement could fill any political vacancy with a Republican, leading high profile Democrats to rally for the governor.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Larry Elder has already said that if he gets the chance, he will replace any Democratic California senator with a Republican. He will tip that Senate from barely Democratic to Republican.
SHAH: Raising the stakes of next year’s midterm elections.
ROB STUTZMAN, GOP STRATEGIST: It would have a shakeup on American politics and probably affect strategies heading into next year’s elections.
It’d be a devastating, emotional blow to Democrats.
SHAH: No matter how many votes are cast, if more than 50 percent vote that Newsom should be recalled, he’s out. Then the opponent with the most votes, even if it’s just a few percentage points, becomes California’s next governor.
SHAH (on camera): A lot of people say this is not a democratic process. Do you think it’s unconstitutional?
NEWSOM: No, I leave that for other people. But, at the end of the day, look, this is the second recall effort of the last three governors. They’ve weaponized this process. The consequences are profound, not just for the governor, but for the state.
SHAH (voice over): In an exclusive interview Saturday, Elder refused to directly answer whether he will accept the election results.
SHAH (on camera): What would it take for you to start a legal challenge over the results on Tuesday?
ELDER: So many people are angry with what’s going on in California.
So many people are going to vote to have him recalled. I’m not worried about fraud.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Zohreen for that.
And that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT,” and I’ll see you tomorrow on “GMA.”