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Deal Announced on COVID Relief Bill; Interview with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); FBI Examining Communications Between Members Of Congress & Capitol Rioters; Detroit Mayor Backtracks After Refusing Thousands Of Doses Of J&J Vaccine Because It Wasn't "The Best"; Biden Admin. Tells Facilities For Migrant Children To Reopen To Pre-Pandemic Feels. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 5, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thankfully, that day, they found someone. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Adrienne, great report. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Kate Bolduan. AC 360 starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, John Berman here, in for Anderson, and we do begin with breaking news: what could be an end to the Senate impasse over the President's COVID Relief Bill.

At issue: the size and duration of jobless benefits and the objections of one Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin. For nine hours today, Democrats did not have enough Democratic votes to pass their bill. That seems to be over, we think.

In a moment, we're going to speak with one of the senators fresh from the floor. First though, let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles with the very latest. Ryan, a deal? What are you learning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. It does seem as though there's been a breakthrough here with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

We are being told by a several Democratic aides that Manchin has agreed to the extension of unemployment benefits through the COVID relief package through September, the beginning of September -- September 6, I should say for $300 a week.

The plan that Democrats had originally proposed would allow those benefits to go through the end of September. There is also going to be a tax credit available to people that receive this benefit up to the first $10,200. That was also an issue that Manchin was concerned about.

Now, Manchin was considering supporting a Republican alternative to this provision that was offered up by Rob Portman of Ohio, that would have cut off the benefits through July at only $300 a week, and also not provide that tax credit.

So this appears to be enough for Manchin to cut off those benefits a little less than a month earlier than what Democrats had originally intended.

But this was a long day, John, of a lot of anxiety for Democrats that were concerned that they were not going to be able to cut this deal with Manchin and he was singlehandedly holding this process up.

Republicans attacked Democrats earlier in the day saying that they did not want this to be a bipartisan plan and were then holding up the whole process.

Keep in mind, John, we haven't even begun the process known as voter- rama, which is necessary through the reconciliation package where senators are allowed to offer up amendments on the floor to be voted on. That could still go on for several hours.

So we're still a long way away from the finish line, at least from the Senate side on this COVID relief package, but this is a significant development is now Democrats have the votes they need to push this measure forward -- John.

BERMAN: Democratic votes they need. I just want to make that crystal clear for everyone. This was a Democrat, Joe Manchin, who was standing in the way of this, and just to be clear, Ryan, at this point, he is a hundred percent on board as we sit here at 8:02 p.m. today? A hundred percent on board, and what did he get for the nine-hour delay?

NOBLES: Yes, that's a good question. I mean, we still haven't got the full details of the negotiations yet. All we know is what was on the table and what they agreed to. And, you know, the principal difference was the timing for when these unemployment benefits would end.

You know, the Republicans were saying that they were concerned that the length of the benefits that were being allowed, may keep people from going back into the workforce if they were still allowed to get these unemployment benefits, that they may choose not to go back to work, especially as the jobless numbers were starting to come down. We know that was at least part of Manchin's concern.

But essentially, it was just a couple of weeks' difference between the original Democratic plan and what they've settled on. This is certainly better for Democrats than what the Republicans were originally proposing.

And we also know, John, that if the Republican proposal had been agreed to, when this bill went back to the House of Representatives, which it will still need to do, it would have been met with pretty stiff opposition from the Democrat House leadership and Democrats on that side.

So this seems to be a major breakthrough, and as far as we know, John, you know, we still have a long way to go in this process, Senator Manchin doesn't have any issues with any other parts of the bill, but then again, we didn't know about this particular issue until this morning.

BERMAN: Now, we thought we thought he was fine with what was there this morning. So who knows at this point? Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Joining us now Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, Senator Merkley, thank you so much for being with us. Do you have any information, any more information on the deal that Leader Schumer is about to announce?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): It sounded like it pretty much had the two changes it looked like to me, and this was on a very quick glance, was the time went from September -- end of September to September 6th, so cutting three weeks off, which essentially means that there's time to come back right at Labor Day and decide whether the unemployment is such that we need to continue extending it further.

So, it gives us an ability at that moment after the Senate and House have normally been out for a couple of weeks in August to get it done. So that's an important lead from the Portman amendment, which would have said, hey, we're going to cut this off, just as legislature starts to break and we might be leaving people stranded. So the idea here is we will not leave people stranded.

It also appears that there was an additional income cap added for the tax deduction that would go to those who are on unemployment to help compensate for moving from $400 to $300. So those appear to be the changes.


BERMAN: And you'll vote for this?

MERKLEY: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. This is the right deal. This is, in essence, what Senator Carper was proposing earlier with some slight adjustments that address some of Senator Manchin's concerns. So a compromise has been forged.

BERMAN: How comfortable are you with this reality that I think the Democratic Caucus faces now in the Senate that Joe Manchin has a one- man veto over everything you're trying to do?

MERKLEY: All 50 of us in the Democratic Caucus have a one-person veto, and it tells you the level of challenge it is to work together. Our basic philosophies are the same. Let's rebuild America from the ground up, from Main Street up. But we're all going to have a series of things that we would do differently.

And some of that leverage is exerted early and clearly in the fashions that adjust the bill, and then sometimes there's some last-minute surprises.

And when that happens, we work through it as we have tonight. BERMAN: How do you assess how much though you, as a progressive, has

had to give up? I know, you were in favor of increasing the minimum wage because of the Parliamentarian, that's not part of the senate version of the bill, although I think some Democrats would like to try to force it in. But that's gone.

The unemployment benefits. I know that you have a deal tonight, but I think you probably wanted $400 a week as opposed to the $300 a week. So, you've had to give up a lot. Do you feel like progressives are giving up more than the moderates?

MERKLEY: You know that tax deduction is going to do a lot to compensate for the difference between $400 and $300. There were major things that I wanted in this bill. I wanted a major effort to stop utility cut offs because families should not be stranded without electricity or water or broadband as we try to recover from this nightmare of COVID. I didn't get it.

But I'll tell you, this is a huge bill for America. This is so essential, not only does it have the unemployment, it has the direct payment to individuals with this $1,400 and the previous $600. We are at the $2,000 mark that we were aiming for.

This has so much helped in housing. The vaccination effort will accelerate with this bill. We have a lot of help for state and local government.

This is about rebuilding America from Main Street up and we can quibble over the details, but it is a huge winning compilation of support for ordinary Americans.

BERMAN: Eight Democratic senators voted against putting an amendment on this to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. How do you feel about that? I mean, what does that tell you about the possibility of getting a minimum wage increase in the future?

MERKLEY: Well, clearly, we're going to be back on this topic. There are various strategies about the minimum wage, how you phase it in over time, how many years does it take to get to $15?

Oregon has a plan. My home state has a plan where rural areas, where wages are much lower, but living expenses are much lower that it creates a parallel, but lower minimum wage.

There must be a way to bring 50 of us together, hopefully a hundred of us together, but a lot of us together. Nobody can live on $7.25 an hour. I would challenge anyone who votes against a minimum wage to try doing that.

And so, we don't want to create a shock to the economy. We'll figure it out. We've got to be back, and we've got to get this minimum wage passed.

BERMAN: So, President Biden obviously ran on -- in his Inaugural Address, he talked about the importance of unity and bipartisanship. This bill that you're voting on has exactly zero Republican report that we know of at least tonight. So, what does that tell you about the possibility for bipartisanship?

MERKLEY: Well, it makes us very aware of McConnell's philosophy of power. And we saw this when he was in the minority under Obama. His strategy is delay and obstruct, delay and obstruct, never reach a deal. Make it as hard as possible. Don't let there be any successes while there is a Democrat in the Oval Office.

I think this is a deeply corrupted vision of power that goes against the purpose of the vision of a Congress coming together to solve problems for America, not to paralyze Congress in order to create pain so that you have a better leg up in the next election.

So, we're seeing it -- we are seeing it again. We see the McConnell strategy. We see that he has complete control of his caucus, and we know this show. We've seen it before.

We will keep reaching out. I know the President will keep reaching out, but when push comes to shove, McConnell says make sure they don't succeed, and we just will have to overcome that.

BERMAN: You know, you look surprisingly energetic and sprightly for someone who may have a long night and weekend ahead of you. Just how frustrated are you?

Everyone was so mad at Ron Johnson last night for calling for the reading of the bill that took 11 hours. What happened today took nine hours. These nine hours delay today because of Joe Manchin. Just how frustrating is it?

MERKLEY: You know, I was thinking about how when Ron Johnson did that. I said, well, there goes my anniversary weekend with my wife out in Oregon, and so it already looked pretty gloomy, and then of course, this this puts a seal on it. I will not be with her. She knows that the Senate is a creature that continuously disrupts our lives. But we will make that up in a week to come.


MERKLEY: Meanwhile, getting this done. I know I feel -- I do feel energized right now because we are on the path to get this done this weekend. Maybe we get it. Maybe it'll be Sunday morning, maybe we will go through Saturday night as well as Friday night.

I don't know, but we're going to get it done, and we're going to deliver it on time for the March 14th timing so that unemployment doesn't collapse. It's going to help in tremendous ways across America.

And it's been a while since I've just felt like, okay, now this is work well done. And so, if we don't get it done this weekend, then you will see a very depressed Jeff Merkley on Monday morning, but I think we are. I think we're going to succeed.

BERMAN: Well, look Senator Merkley, thank you for being with us. Happy anniversary. You know, I hope Senator Johnson and Senator Manchin send a nice gift out west. Appreciate you being with us. MERKLEY: Thank you so much, John.

BERMAN: All right perspective now from two White House veterans, David Axelrod, a CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama; and David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

David Axelrod, we think we have a deal. We think there is a deal and we think that this will get things started up again, but there's been this nine-hour delay, all because of Joe Manchin, you know, Merkley was dancing around it a little bit saying we all have this veto power, and that's true to an extent, but only one senator appears to be wielding it now willingly and that's Joe Manchin.

What did he get out of this? Why is he doing this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he is in a unique position. He comes from a state that voted for Donald Trump by 40 points. He is a moderate and he is very clear about that.

He has been consistent about his concerns on this unemployment issue and he is someone who wants to promote dialogue between Republicans and Democrats.

And so he is going to be a constant thorn in the side of progressives in the Democratic Party. I mean, he is -- and today, he was in his full Manchin-hood here in holding up this bill, but he did get a minor concession.

I do think that Manchin also doesn't want to be the guy who takes Biden's program down and we know the President spoke with him today. And West Virginia will be a big winner in this package.

So I don't think he wanted to take the package down, but I think he wanted to put his imprint on it. And apparently, he has put his imprint on it, and they are going to move on from here.

BERMAN: David Gergen, this really did come as something of a surprise to everyone who had been covering this. They didn't think this was going to happen today.

The majority party, Chuck Schumer is not supposed to be surprised like this. The Democrats aren't supposed to have this happen to them. The party in power is not supposed to have this happen to them at the last minute. So what does this tell you about what things are going to be like in the Democrat -- barely Democratic Senate?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's increasingly hard to govern. But I do think, John, with 70 percent of American people supporting this bill and the President himself, and some 60 percent just really supporting the overall administration, and I think it's unimaginable that there won't be a deal.

They will find a way to do this. They're not that far apart on unemployment issues. Those are important issues. As the senator mentioned, I think actually he is the same kind of camp

that John McCain was, so he can be more difficult in many ways. But that is the centrist or moderates as David Axelrod calls him, are really valuable in the Senate, we need to rebuild a center of American politics.

So I think -- I don't think that he will sustain this fight. I think Chuck Schumer will have to pay more attention. I do think now, when once they get through the Relief Bill to get it passed, it's going to be harder to get the next bills done especially the expensive ones.

There's going to be a sense we just spent $2 trillion on this relief package, on top of $3 trillion we spent during the Trump years. How much more can we borrow as a people?

BERMAN: Mitch McConnell is going to be texting you shortly with something that reads roughly more difficult than John McCain. Question mark. But be that as it may.

Guys, stick around. I have much more I want to talk to you. We're going to pick up after a quick break.

We're also expecting to hear from the Senate Majority Leader shortly. We'll bring that to you when he speaks.

Also ahead, the mess that one big city mayor made over COVID vaccines when he tried to play favorites over which ones to get and because you might have the same doubts he did, we've got some expert advice to clear things up.



BERMAN: More now on our breaking news. We're expecting to hear from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer any minute after a breakthrough in the Senate negotiations over President Biden's signature policy goal -- that nearly $2 trillion COVID Relief Bill.

At the center of this all, a key Democratic powerbroker in this 50/50 chamber, Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, we think he is now on board with an amendment to this that deals with jobless benefits.

Back with us, David Axelrod and David Gergen. And Ax, I start with you because you worked with President Biden, you know him well and he came into office, he ran on the relationships that he had with Republicans and his ability to work across the aisle.

His Inauguration speech was filled with calls for unity, but this COVID Bill, we don't think has any Republican support. So is this on him? Or is this more on everyone?


AXELROD: Well, look, you know, I've seen this movie before, and if there's a strategic decision that, you know, we don't want to give major victories to the President that is hard to overcome.

I think if I were valuing various things in the White House right now, the most important thing is to get this virus under control, get these vaccines out, and get the economy moving again, and delivering relief to people.

And so I think that is -- you know, they are prioritizing action and progress. And, you know, the thing that I've been interested in watching, and this is the Joe Biden that I know, you know, he hasn't personalized his commentary on Republicans. He's been very careful about that even as he was pursuing this reconciliation. He was meeting with Republicans at the White House to talk about infrastructure.

And so you know, I think that he is playing this right. I don't think you want to be held hostage by the Republicans and have progress retarded at a time when the country desperately needs it.

On the other hand, you're leaving the door open and you're doing the things that you're showing respect. Now, there are Republicans who are going to say, hey, he promised bipartisanship. This isn't bipartisan, but those are Republicans who aren't really rooting for bipartisanship, because they want to run the issue against him.

But there are people in that Senate I believe he can work with on other issues, and I think he will.

BERMAN: The support for the bill in the country is bipartisan, at least right now. It's got about a 62 percent approval rating across the country, the COVID Relief Bill does.

And David Gergen, the President has a 70 percent approval rating on his handling of COVID, overall, I mean, how much legs do you think that will have? The duration of that? And does that put some risk on the Republicans?

GERGEN: Some. Some. And I do think, David, was right, that President Biden has set his priorities properly. He kept his focus where he needs to. He did not make one of the mistakes that Obama was accused of making that was doing too little too late on an economy that was in trouble. He moved early with a major bill.

But John, I think overall, it is extremely disappointing to see for the first big measure. One that as you say has a wide majority support across the country, a President who enjoys widespread support across the country, for Republicans to sit there and not a single one to go along with this is very disappointing.

I remember when I first went into one of the White Houses and got a call from Senator Moynihan, it was a student of these things, and he pointed out that starting in 1934, the Social Security and going right up through the 1960s and 1970s, every major piece of legislation got super majorities in the Senate, every piece of major legislation over 50 to 60 years.

And now we're down to, you know, scrapping over one little piece of the unemployment. It's important for people who are unemployed, obviously, but in the overall scheme of things of politics. We were promised something better by the people who campaigned. I know Joe Biden is working on it. The Republicans need to join him on working on that.

BERMAN: David Axelrod and David Gergen -- Ax, you've got something you wanted to --

AXELROD: Yes, I just wanted to say, look, the real challenge is going to come when you get outside of reconciliation. You've got a lot of important legislation coming up, and will they stick with a filibuster or not? Or can they forge a coalition with Republicans? If they can't, he is going to have to make that decision.

BERMAN: Yes, that in fact was going to be my next question. This could very well be the last thing that gets passed, that Biden wants to get passed easily, and this isn't easy at all. And that tells you something.

David Axelrod and David Gergen, thank you both very much.

Next, a stunning report on lawmakers, their social media postings and whether they helped fuel the insurrection. Keeping them honest, when we continue.



BERMAN: An alleged Capitol insurrectionist made his first court appearance today. That in itself isn't unusual, about 300 already have. This suspect, though seen here in a MAGA cap in the middle of the melee, is a former Trump State Department political appointee and was still on the job when this picture was taken.

His name is Federico Klein. He is charged with among other things, assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon and violently entering the Capitol grounds, which are still ringed in fencing and razor wire two months after the siege, which would be bad enough if the threat were merely from outside forces, but it's not.

Mr. Klein was a member of the executive branch. Irony of ironies, a State Department spokesman today said he even assisted in the department's transition team. He was an insider.

And the concern is, there are other insiders who even if they didn't storm the barricades gave aid and comfort and encouragement to those who would and did and might do it again.

Listen to what Colorado Democratic Congressman Jason Crow told Anderson last night.


REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): When I sit back and think about this, you know, what's really sad is that I actually wouldn't be surprised if Members of Congress were involved and complicit in some of the riots. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: You really wouldn't.

CROW: We actually saw in the morning of -- I wouldn't be. I just wouldn't be, which, you know is a sad testament to, you know, the state of affairs in Congress right now, to be honest with you and the state of affairs in our politics that there are some depraved people that serve in that chamber, that to this day incite violence and further conspiracy theories, and shows zero remorse for what happened on January 6th,

There are overwhelmingly really good people that want to serve, that are trying to do the right thing on both sides of the aisle that are there to work and roll up their sleeves and do the work of the American people. But there are a handful of people that do not belong. That is the bottom line. And that are a disgrace to their districts, to our country and obviously to the institution of Congress.


BERMAN: It's chilling stuff, all the more so now that we're getting a look at the more than 1,900-page report that Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has put out.

It documents the social media postings of Republican members who voted to overturn the election results. Ninety three pages are devoted to the one time QAnon supporter, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who these days spends her time on stunts, like calling for adjournment first thing in the morning.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I call for a motion to adjourn.

I would like to motion to adjourn, Madam Speaker.

I also today, Mr. Speaker, make a motion to adjourn, so Democrats can think a little bit harder.


BERMAN: Before Congressman Greene's main issue became taking the rest of the day off or putting up anti-transgender posters across from a Congresswoman who happens to have a transgender family member, she was appearing on Facebook Live videos such as this one clipped in Congresswoman Lofgren's report saying quote, "The only way you get your freedoms back is its earned with the price of blood."

Or on Page 816, retweeting a story on the former President's promise of a quote, "wild protest" on January 6th, the Congresswoman adding quote, "I'm planning a little something on January 6th, as well."

Congresswoman Greene was stripped of her committee assignments almost entirely by Democrats because Republicans would not discipline her, nor have they disciplined Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks with 122 pages of postings in the Lofgren report and this very public, very loud incitement. [20:30:09]


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


BERMAN: 122 of those sentiments in Congresswoman Lofgren's report, but not even close to the 176 pages for Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. He's the one whose own relatives campaigned against him. He's also the one in this picture late last month with alt right accused white nationalist and alleged Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, who tweets, great meeting today with Congressman Gosar. America is truly uncancelled. But Congressman Gosar did more than just say hi, he also gave the keynote speech in Orlando at Fuentes America First Political Action Conference. And while the next day at the more mainstream CPAC Conference, he did announce, quote, when we talk about white racism, he didn't seem to have any problem the night before being the warm up act for this.


NICK FUENTES, FAR-RIGHT POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: While I was there in DC, outside of the building, and I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building, and I saw the police retreating, and we heard that the politicians voting on the fraudulent election at scurried in their underground tunnels away from the Capitol. I said to myself, this is awesome.


BERMAN: Congressman Gosar has not been disciplined by his party for keynoting for that guy. Congressman Brooks has not been disciplined by his party for inflaming a mob. Congresswoman Greene has been disciplined by Democrats but defended by the vast majority of House Republicans 199 to be exact. No one who supported the big lie has paid any price at all within the party. Only Republicans who called it out have from behind a barbed wire fence.

Joining us now, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California. Congresswoman Speier, first of all, thank you for your patience. We've been following a lot of breaking news with what's going on in the Senate. You see this report for your Democratic colleagues Zoe Lofgren and we know the FBI is examining communications between the rioters and members of Congress. As of now, there's not any indication, we have seen no evidence that a member acted unlawfully.

But, you know, there would be one point when that would be unthinkable. How concerned are you about potential coordination between members of Congress and those who attack the Capitol?

REP JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Thank you, John, for having me on. I don't think we know the answer to that question yet. Certainly, these thousands of pages now of comments by these members show that they are willing to incite. The question is where they aiding and abetting? And I think that those answers will come to us later. What we see now in Congress among many of these Republicans is they are auditioning as apprentices for Donald Trump's, you know, next gig, maybe it's an effort to overthrow the government again, I don't know. But it's important for all of our listeners to appreciate that it was a bipartisan group of members in the House that voted to impeach, it was a bipartisan group of members who chose not to overthrow the elections in both Arizona and in Pennsylvania.

So, we've got to focus on the fact that these are outliers. These are people that, frankly, probably don't belong in Congress, because they are there to inflame an outrage. And I worry, as I'm sure many of my colleagues do, that they are simply fanning the flames for the next effort of a mob attack on Congress of the United States.

BERMAN: They might be outliers. But how surprised would you be frankly, if evidence does turn out that they were coordinating in some way with the people who stormed the Capitol?

SPEIER: Well, it won't be surprising certainly many of them showed up at the rally with incendiary language. One of them talked about shooting out -- shooting your way out there fight language constantly. They have this sense that somehow, they're revolutionaries that are harkening back to 1776. While the 1776 are revolutionaries were trying to resist the monarch and to start a democracy. They're interested in elevating an autocrat to the presidency of the United States.

BERMAN: You've said that this attack took you back to Jonestown. And for those viewers who are unaware that as a young congressional staffer, you are investigating human rights abuses in Jonestown when you were shot five times. So, how did this experience impact you when you walk around the Capitol?

SPEIR: Well, John, I was in the gallery when this happened. So, I was lying on the floor of the gallery when the shot rang out in the speaker's lobby, and my heart sank. And I remember placing my cheek on the marble floor and it was really cold and the sense of resignation that somehow, I could survive the travesty in Jonestown. And here in this tabernacle of democracy, in my home country, I may lose my life. It's hard for me to articulate the sadness that I feel about what's going on in our country right now. And we can't allow this to become normal. There's nothing normal about it.


BERMAN: I can ask you one policy question based on what we're seeing in the Senate tonight. It does appear that they have a deal to move forward with a vote on the $1.9 trillion relief bill and involves a deal over jobless benefits. In so far as you know about the deal. What you know about the deal, which is $300 a week for people who are unemployed, I guess, through the first week of September. Are you comfortable with the changes that have been made with the House bill?

SPEIER: I will absolutely vote for it.

BERMAN: Do you like -- did you like the fact that Joe Manchin is held it up? Do you like the fact that he seems to be dialing back some of the things you want it?

SPEIER: Well, it's not optimum. But it is, in fact, still an incredible lifeline for Americans across this country who are holding on. I mean, they will embrace $300 just like they would embrace $400. The schools need the money. The schools have to get back into business, our kids need to get back in the classrooms, cities and states need to be able to keep their employees in place, the law enforcement officers, the first responders. So, there is so much in this bill that is desperately needed. And we need to recognize that the Republicans were quick to use reconciliation to give $2 trillion in cuts to the richest people in the country. All we're trying to do is give a hand up to those Americans who are the working stiffs who are just trying to get back into the game.

BERMAN: How much frustration are you hearing among some of the more progressive members about some of the changes or compromises that have been made the minimum wage, the $15 minimum wage is no longer part of it. The unemployment benefits will be less than you were asking for.

SPEIER: Well, we're disappointed there's no question about that. But let's talk about the minimum wage. Already 29 states in this country have passed minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage now. The minimum wage will be increased. In my area in California, we have In-N-Out Burgers where they are offering $18 an hour to flip hamburgers. So, it may at some point want to be regionalized because there are high cost areas and lower cost areas. But the various companies know that you cannot hire people for a wage that is poverty. And if you are hiring people at a poverty wage, then all the taxpayers in the country are picking up the tab in terms of providing them food stamps, and other benefits.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier extra points for bringing up In-N- Out Burger. I'm now very hungry. Thank you for being with us tonight. I appreciate that.

SPEIER: Thank you John.

BERMAN: The White House occupied with another problem tonight. Negative perceptions about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine this time fueled by a Democratic mayor. The story and what if any differences there truly are among these lifesaving drugs, when "360" continues.



BERMAN: This evening, the Biden administration is also occupied with containing the damage caused by the negative comments of a Democratic mayor about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine after he initially refused thousands of doses of it.


MIKE DUGGAN (D-DET) MAYOR: Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best and I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The White House and health officials are all in agreement. All three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. prevent severe disease and that you should not compare efficacy rates of different vaccines tested at different times in different environments. Today, a top White House adviser insisted this all was a quote misunderstanding and Mayor Duggan released this statement as well. He said quote, I have full confidence that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is both safe and effective. We're now making plans for Johnson & Johnson to be a key part of our vaccine expansion of vaccine centers that are looking forward to receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the next allocation.

Unfortunately, this incident could feed persistent negative perceptions about the one dose vaccine Our Randi Kaye has more on the confusion that has surrounded these vaccines, particularly now that many people have a choice.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With all the questions about the J&J vaccine and how it stacks up against the other COVID vaccines. The bottom line is this, all three of the approved vaccines on the market right now in the U.S. should prevent the virus from killing you. Pfizer's vaccine, which requires two shots is 95 percent effective against the virus, Moderna, which also requires two shots is 94 percent effective, J&Js vaccine, just one shot was 66 percent effective in a global trial, but proved to be 85 percent effective against severe disease. And like the other to 100 percent effective against death, meaning nobody who got these vaccines died from COVID.

(on-camera): Why isn't AstraZeneca approved for use in the United States?

PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: My understanding was the FDA is asked AstraZeneca to do additional phase 3 trials.

KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Peter Hotez, who studies vaccines say there was some confusion about AstraZeneca's results, including one partial study showing a smaller first dose of the two dose AstraZeneca vaccine bumped the efficacy from 62 percent to 90 percent.

HOTEZ: 62 percent using the standard doses and 90 percent with a low dose followed by a standard dose. So, that was one of the concerns that the 90 percent number was a low number of people enrolled. I think they wanted the result of a phase 3 trial conducted in the United States.


KAYE (voice-over): And if you're wondering how each of these vaccines stack up against the different variants now proliferating, Dr. Hotez says these four vaccines work really well against the original strain and the UK variant. The South African variant is more challenging. He says he thinks Moderna will partially protect against that strain, and that Pfizer works well against it, though it produces fewer virus neutralizing antibodies. So, the level of protection is still unclear. And Johnson & Johnson's vaccine --

HOTEZ: That was actually tested in South Africa. And there is a reduction in its level of protective efficacy, but there's still some, it was around a single dose around 57 percent protective immunity. So, reduction in partial protection.

KAYE (voice-over): AstraZeneca, he says was only about 10 percent effective against the South African variant. The good news is vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Pfizer not only protect you, but also seemed to help stop the spread of the virus.

(on-camera): So the three of it?


KAYE (on-camera): And not Moderna?

HOTEZ: No, likely Moderna does as well, I just we haven't shown it yet.

KAYE (voice-over): Data from Israel shows two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 92 percent effective at preventing infections, including people who don't show symptoms.

HOTEZ: Potentially, if we get enough people vaccinated, we can help virus transmission. I think we can vaccinate our way out of this epidemic.

KAYE (on-camera): What's your advice to people when it comes to getting vaccinated?

HOTEZ: You're not going to have a lot of choice in terms of what you get, get what you can, all of these vaccines are going to save your life.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


BERMAN: Perspective now from Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, always great to see you. You know, you heard Randi's piece, we heard from the Detroit Mayor who's backtracked at least a little some. But this confusion over the efficacy rates of the various vaccine. How can it be fixed?

ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, John, thanks for having me on. It is confusing to a lot of people. And it's unfortunate, because we are comparing apples to oranges when we say 95 versus 85, tested at different times with different levels of community infection, tested in different places against different variants. The Johnson & Johnson is really the only one that's truly been tested against the South African variant of the Brazil variant, and it holds up in terms of preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

So, I think we have to remind people, all three of these are terrific vaccines, I would be happy taking any of the three, I've been recommending to my family that they get any of the three that becomes available.

BERMAN: And they prevent you from dying, you know, with 100 percent efficacy, which is the one that really matters in that case. So even more states today, came out today and said they're going to roll back restrictions immediately or in the coming weeks. Dr. Fauci says he's worried that could lead to another spike. What do you see happening?

JHA: Yes, this is unfortunate, you know, because we're so close to the end zone here. I mean, by mid-April, most high risk, people should be getting vaccinated, should have at least one shot in by end of April into May, a lot of Americans are going to be vaccinated. So, that's a much more reasonable time to start scaling back kind of mid to late April.

Right now, a lot of vulnerable people haven't gotten vaccinated, infection numbers are still quite high. And these variants are circulating, that combination just does not make it a smart time to do what Texas and Mississippi are doing.

BERMAN: So, a new CNN analysis of federal data found that the U.S. could reach herd immunity by summer through vaccinations alone, and it could be even sooner when factoring in individuals who may have some natural immunity from prior infection. Do you think that's realistic?

JHA: I do, we will have plenty of vaccines. So that's the good news. I think any American who wants a vaccine should be able to at least sign up for one and start getting their first dose in May. So, if that vaccination goes well, through June and July, we should have enough vaccinations for herd immunity. The problem, John, is going to be that there's still a minority of Americans who are skeptical, and we're going to have to engage with people and really help them understand how safe and effective these vaccines are. That's the challenge of May and June ahead.

BERMAN: What about kids? You know, what about those of us who have roommates who are, say 13 or 14 years old, and they're not going to get vaccinated until the fall at the earliest depending on how the testing goes? I mean, what happens with that huge part of the population that will be going to school, mingling with parents, other people who won't have the vaccine?

JHA: Yes. So, I think older kids, let's say 16, 17, 18 year olds, I do think at some point over the summer, many of them get vaccinated. Anybody over 12 and either kids over 12, again, I believe we'll have enough data by mid to late summer to vaccinate them. Younger kids, it may be very maybe the fall or even winter. The good news is they of course don't get sick if they get infected. And my hope is that everybody else does a good job of getting vaccinated. Infection rates come so far down, that kids are protected just through that herd immunity.


BERMAN: One more question. Dr. Fauci said before he would be comfortable lifting restriction restrictions, he'd like to see the case right down to less than 10,000 cases a day. Is that realistic at this point? I mean, I don't think we were at 10,000 cases that we've been there since like last March at this point. I mean, is that lower than we can reasonably expect to get to anytime soon?

JHA: No, I think we can get there. And the reason is vaccines were just vaccinating, vaccinating, vaccinating, we got to keep going on that. I do think we can get there. Once you get to about 10,000 cases a day, you probably about 100 to 250 people dying a day. That's the kind of annualized average for it for the flu. At that level, I think we can tolerate a little bit of risk. We have to continue to be careful. But we can start opening up a lot more. It may take us a few months to get to that level. I think for me, the key metric is let's get all high-risk people vaccinated, and then we can start relaxing some of the public health measures.

BERMAN: Dr. Jha, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

JHA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, the Biden administration facing a growing number of migrants on the southern border seeking entry into the United States, we're going to take you to a shelter in Texas, where the hopeful many of them children are crowding in. That's when "360" continues.



BERMAN: New developments tonight on the southern border as the Biden administration is racing to find space for a growing number of families and unaccompanied children attempting to cross. A Department of Homeland security official tells CNN quote, we're apprehending more kids than we can release. This is a memo obtained by CNN shows the administration has notified facilities caring for migrant children in this country that they can open back up to pre-pandemic levels because of the rising number of minors crossing the border. The Biden administration is now taking criticism from both sides of the aisle for the situation something the White House calls a challenge, or critics call it a crisis.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has the story.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week, Father Roy Snipes has welcomed about 100 migrant families a night to seek shelter in this South Texas church, overflowing from another shelter down the road.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE) LAVANDERA (voice-over): No longer are migrant children being separated from their parents. These families are allowed to wait in the United States for their asylum cases to be heard in court. We met 21-year-old Kenia, the shelter asked that we protect her identity. She left Honduras two weeks ago with her son and cross the Rio Grande into the U.S. a few nights before.

(on-camera): Why did you decide to come now?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Many migrants are still being turned away at the southern border. But the growing reality for the Biden administration is that there's a perception in Central American countries ravaged by crime and natural disasters, that it's now easier to make the journey north and cross the border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insists this isn't a crisis, but a challenge.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are working as hard as we are not only in addressing the urgency of the challenge, but also in building the capacity to manage it. And to meet our humanitarian aspirations in execution of the President's vision.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border is growing. In January, Customs and Border Protection reported about 7,500 families were taken into custody and 5,800 unaccompanied children. During a major surge exactly two years ago, Border Patrol encountered 5500 children in one month. The Department of Health and Human Services told facilities to open bed space for minors to pre-pandemic levels, which is just under 14,000. There are now about 7,700 children under HHS care. And the concern is that number will rise quickly in the coming weeks.

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): The way we're going I think it's going to become a crisis.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Now some Texas Democrats are warning the Biden team about what's unfolding.

CUELLAR: They seem to be on a commission without due respect, to start releasing and show that they're compassionate. I want to be compassionate. But I also think people should be compassionate to our communities on the border.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): At the same time activists are also pressuring Biden to undo what they see as damage from the Trump administration.

LEE GELERNT, ACLU LAWYER: People are willing to give them a break in the beginning. But I think that break will soon be over if they don't move very quickly.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In the south Texas shelter, several migrants told us they saw many children traveling to the border alone.

(on-camera): How old are these children that you saw?


LAVANDERA (on-camera): They would act like they were part of a family to protect them from?


BERMAN: Ed, terrific reporting as always. You know, some Republicans on top of all this are accusing the Biden administration of letting migrants who have COVID-19 into the country. What's the reality here though?

LAVANDERA: Right, this stems from information this week that 108 migrants have tested positive since the end of January. So, in the Brownsville area, and this is one of the hotspots of these migration patterns. So you're talking about three migrants per day roughly. And the reality is that it's a complicated situation and that it's falling on local officials and local charity organizations to conduct the COVID testing of these migrants.

In fact, one of the charities the Catholic Charities organization down there in the Rio Grande Valley has received thousands of tests in recent weeks, and it's those volunteers that are administering these tests, but they are also providing hotel space for anyone to test positive. The question that we have and haven't been able to get a clear answer to at this point is just how many of those migrants have been put into those hotels. A local official say that they're not able to force these migrants to do that, they're strongly urging them to do so.


And then one other thing complicating, this is the city officials have also told us, they've gotten false positives on a lot of these tests. So, all of this very unclear and kind of speaks to what is definitely starting to change rapidly on the border.

BERMAN: Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" Anderson's digital news show. You can catch a streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at or watch it there and on the CNN app anytime On Demand.

Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME."