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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 9, 2022

1/9: Face The Nation with Margaret Brennan
1/9: Face The Nation with Margaret Brennan 45:48

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner 
  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams
  • Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state 
  • David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: Omicron's winter wave continues to threaten the unprotected.

We will talk exclusively this morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Across America, temperatures are plunging, COVID cases are spiking, and the Biden administration is struggling to communicate just where we are with COVID and how best to fight it.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Having COVID in the environment here and in the world it is probably here to stay. We're going to be able to control this.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the criticism of the administration's messaging on COVID justified?

We will talk with the new mayor of New York City, Democrat Eric Adams. His city is an epicenter of the Omicron surge, and facing the challenge of keeping kids safe in schools. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb will also be with us.

Plus: With the clock now ticking in a midterm election year, congressional Democrats are feeling the pressure to get things done fast, first item up, reforming voting laws.

(Begin VT)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky): It's not a voting rights bill. It's a sprawling, sweeping takeover of our democracy.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: But same old problems. Republicans are not on board.

Outside Washington, some states have passed laws restricting ballot access. Others have expanded it.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed former President Trump's attempt to tamper with the results of the 2020 election. Now he's overseeing controversial new voting laws in his state.

Election expert David Becker will also be with us.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

It was a sobering first full week of the new year, marked by soaring COVID infections, miserable weather in most of the country, and painful memories evoked by the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection.

But it is a new week.

And we want to turn our focus to what is ahead in 2022, particularly in an election year.

And there is perhaps no better guest than the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Good morning to you, Madam Speaker.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-California): Good morning. Good morning to you, and happy New Year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Happy New Year.

I don't think any of us wanted to start with this Omicron surge that we are seeing happen. And I know, in Congress, you are seeing infections spike as well, N95 masks now being given to staff.

How will this surge impact the work that you are able to do in the coming weeks?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, before I go into that, I just want to say that I come here on this Sunday morning fresh from the service celebrating the life of Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Two presidents of the United States spoke. The leadership of the Congress, the vice president was there, governors, everyone. But nothing was as eloquent than the voices of his -- the voices of his children who spoke about their father.

So, being here in this on the Senate side, I have to begin by praising and remembering Harry Reid.

COVID is -- it is the center of it all. It's about the health of the American people, of course, but it's also about its impact on our economy, the education of our children, the safety of everyone at work or in school.

So, the -- I look forward to our taking advantage of advances in science on this, that there is a pill that will be able to intervene early -- in early stages. And we want to have the resources available to do that.

The issues before the Supreme Court will be very important, as two bills -- excuse me -- two cases there, one about health care workers, one about the president's mandate for going beyond health care workers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: So, there is a good deal, whether it's legislation for more resources, whether it's the court's decision and the rest. And, also, it's just about our own taking personal responsibility to stay safe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say legislation for more resources, $6 trillion has already been spent over the course of this -- has been allocated over the course of this pandemic.

Are you saying that you need more coronavirus relief? And will that go in the spending bill when government funding runs out next month?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, the -- again, we have to protect the investment that is there. Most importantly, we have to protect the health of the American people.

Now, the administration has not made a formal request for more funding, but it is clear from the opportunity that is there and the -- again, the challenge that is there from the resilience of this virus.

And viruses are -- the more they spread, they are transmitted, the more they mutate. So the good advice, for everyone to get vaccinated, to be masked, to have spatial distancing, and the rest, and to be tested, tested, tested, continue to be important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you have this government funding deadline, February 18, I believe it is...

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: ... you have that opportunity to bundle together perhaps some other things here.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you try to extend the child care tax credit at that time, since it has expired?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, that's a different bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: That is in the Build Back Better legislation.

In the appropriations bill, which is to keep government open, we are in those negotiations now under leadership in our House of Rosa DeLauro, our distinguished chair of the Appropriations Committee, and we must find a solution.

Now, I'm an appropriator. That's my culture in Congress appropriations and intelligence. And I believe that, left to their own devices on both sides of the aisle, that the appropriators can get the job done.

The -- something like additional funding can be in there. It can be fenced off for emergencies, as would be COVID.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: The child tax credit, we have to have that fight, that discussion in the Build Back Better legislation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you won't be pulling that out as any kind of stand- alone or any kind of attachment at this point?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, I would hope to. But in order to do this -- in order to pass the Build Back Better, it's under reconciliation, we only need 51 votes.

The bill that is the reconciliation, the appropriations bill requires 60 votes in the Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: So, we have to do what is possible there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Senator Manchin has made clear it's not possible at this point.

It sounds like you are trying to revive those talks. Are you -- where is that? Have you spoken to the senator?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, I have spoken to the senator over time.

I do think there's an agreement to be reached. It's so important for our country, whether we're talking about right now the need for child care for moms and dads whose children may or may not be in school. Child care is so important all the time, more important even now, when we're talking about universal pre-K and child care, and we're talking about the child tax credit, we're talking about home health care...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: ... all of those things, expand the Affordable Care Act to include those who were not expanded under Medicaid in some of those states.

But in addition to that, we see weather. And that weather it's telling us that we must do what is in the bill to address the climate crisis, which is causing so many unusual natural disasters, not all of them from climate, but exasperated by it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

Well, the White House is putting its shoulder behind this push for voting rights and election law vs. Build Back Better, in the coming days, at least.

I want to ask you, when you look around the country, there are many states that are changing their own election laws, and it could increase the chance for partisan interference when it comes to certifying an election outcome.

Have you thought about that scenario for these midterm races? Would you commit to seating an elected person if their election is not certified in the state that they are elected out of? I mean, regardless of the outcome, will you seat them?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, first, let's get the bill passed.

I think that the order of things is very appropriate. There's nothing more important for us to do than protect our Constitution and our democracy.

What the Republicans are doing across the country is really a legislative continuation of what they did on January 6, which is to undermine our democracy, to undermine the integrity of our elections, to undermine the voting power, which is the essence of a democracy.

So, we have to do that bill. There is no more important bill. That enables us to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are not the votes in the Senate for that at this point. So I'm -- how will you handle...

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, we just have to keep working on that. We just have to keep working on it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But have you thought -- have you thought about that scenario? Because it is a potential scenario for these upcoming races, where you have this dispute at the state level. How will you handle that?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, it isn't a question of how we will handle something a year from now.

What is important right now is how we protect and defend the Constitution and the voting rights. What they are doing -- and you pointed out very clearly, and I thank you for that -- that they are not only suppressing the vote, suppressing the vote; they are nullifying elections, saying, well, it doesn't matter who gets more votes. It matters who the three people we appoint to analyze that, what they decide.

We cannot let that happen. And in this legislation -- thank you for taking us down this path. In this legislation, there are stiffened penalties for what they are doing to election officials...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: ... what they are doing and threatening elective officials.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well...

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: This is a very major threat on our democracy.

This legislation is the most important. And we have to keep working in order to get the job done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Because it is as vital as any legislation we could ever pass.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are going to be talking about election integrity later in the program.

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for your time this morning.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: It was my pleasure to be with you.

Happy New Year to you. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Happy New Year.

Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to COVID-19.

Data continues to suggest that the Omicron variant is less severe than others. But the CDC warns that the surge will stress the health care system in the coming weeks, the most vulnerable, children, who are either too young to be vaccinated or who are just not vaccinated at all, along with those over age 65.

Here's Mark Strassmann.

(Begin VT)

MAN: Those people are not in line. Don't give them one!

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): It's the same scene all over, Americans on a scavenger hunt for COVID tests.

AUTOMATED VOICE: At this time, we are sold out of COVID tests.

MARK STRASSMANN: Empty shelves, long lines, Colorado, Indiana, even Massachusetts, home to one of America's highest vaccination rates.

And yet, somehow, Florida, long a bullseye for the virus, managed to let up to one million COVID tests expire in a warehouse. One critic called it heartless.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida): There wasn't a lot of demand for them. They have been sending them out as requested.

MARK STRASSMANN: COVID anxiety and COVID testing are both spiking now that the holidays are behind us. This is Glynn County, coastal Georgia. Six times as many people lined up for tests the first week of January than the week before.

Omicron now surges everywhere with astonishing speed. Contract tracing is virtually worthless. Consider this. It took six months for the U.S. to report its first four million cases. The last four million took one week.

This is Southeast Georgia Health System near Savannah. Its COVID patients more than doubled in one week.

MACEY FLOYD (Nurse, Southeast Georgia Health System): Every bed is taken. The E.R. is full.

MARK STRASSMANN: Nurses like Macey Floyd keep running a COVID marathon.

MACEY FLOYD: I don't know when a finish line will be. I don't see one. I think COVID is something we're going to be dealing with for a while.

MARK STRASSMANN: Even more worrisome, the CDC says pediatric hospitalizations have hit a pandemic peak, mostly children under 4, too young for the vaccine.

In this week's COVID follies, the CDC's ever-evolving, consistently confusing guidance. Nearly two weeks ago, the agency halved its isolation recommendation for infected people from 10 days to five, then rejoin the world without passing a test first.

Its new guidance? Taking that test is up to you.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY (CDC Director): If that test is positive, people should stay home for those extra five days.

MARK STRASSMANN: The American Medical Association is having none of it: "Those recommendations are not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus."

Experts predict Omicron's surge across the U.S. to peak soon, but no question our next couple of weeks will be rough.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann reporting in Brunswick, Georgia.

We go now to former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer.

Good morning to you, Doctor.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB (Former FDA Commissioner): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said we'll be running past the Omicron wave by February. Do you stand by that trajectory? And do we get to breathe a sigh of relief at that point?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Hopefully, we do,

I mean, many people, including myself, have predicted that Delta would be the last major wave of infection. Then Omicron and came along, which was -- represented sort of divergent evolution, I think surprised us that the virus was able to mutate so heavily and evade the immunity that we have acquired.

But if you look what's happening across the East Coast right now in New York City, Washington, D.C., Maryland, probably Florida as well have already peaked, maybe Delaware and Rhode Island. You're going to start to see that in the statistics this week. You're going to start to see those curves, those epidemic curves bend down.

You are already seeing that in New York City and Washington, D.C. The risk right now is to the Midwest, where you have rising infection, where they aren't in the thick of their Omicron wave yet. And you have states that had high hospitalization rates going into this. They had a lot of Delta infection. They had been coming out of their Delta wave, so their hospital census was already high.

And now they're seeing Omicron infections pick up. On the good side, hospitalizations are down relative to cases, but cases are up substantially, so it's pressing hospitals. Many of the hospitals on the East Coast are going to reach or surpass their previous hospitalization totals.

New York City is probably the city that's best equipped to handle it. They're about at 55 percent of the hospitalizations that they saw during that devastating first wave. But in other states, they're more pressed. They're close to 100 percent of the hospitalizations they saw in previous

waves.

Finally, on the good side, length of stay is down substantially, so length of stay has gone from four days to 1.6 days in the survey by Kaiser, for example. So that's allowing hospitals to turn over beds. But the sheer velocity of the spread right now and the number of hospitalizations is pressing them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, the speed of this is just incredible.

What should parents do over the next two to three weeks? Because the unprotected are those ages 4 and under. We know it's just not realistic for parents to not drop their kids off at day care tomorrow or not send their kids to preschool.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, there's a lot of risk right now.

I think you have to look in on what the precautions are in the settings in which you're putting your children and try to encourage those who are taking care of your children in those settings to put in place measures to try to protect them.

The risk is to young children right now. If you look at New York City, for example, fully 55 percent of the hospitalizations, the pediatric hospitalizations are children ages zero to 4, and they only represent 26 percent of the population. So, we're seeing a lot of hospitalizations in those younger age groups, where the children are largely unvaccinated...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: ... 5 to 11 as well, where vaccination rates are very low. Only 16 percent of 5-to-11-year-olds have been fully vaccinated.

I think the old rules apply. Try to encourage social pods in those settings, hand hygiene. I think masks can be helpful where they can be worn. It's hard with the very young kids.

Trying to keep kids distanced. The best thing that schools could be doing right now is serial testing. Again, hard to do with the very young kids, although you can do pooled samples, like saliva tests. And also keeping them in social pods, so, if you have a class of 10 trying to break it down, so all the kids aren't intermingling, so if you have a single introduction, it's not going to take down a whole class.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the CDC guidelines -- we've talked about this for years now -- they continue to be changing. They continue to be murky.

Can you help -- if I tick through some of these basics, can you help give us some clarity here? The U.K. says 10 to 13 percent of people will still be infectious from COVID on day six. On day six in the United States, the CDC says you can go back to work, you can go back to school, but they tell you don't go to a restaurant and don't travel.

What do you do on day six, Doctor?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Right.

And, look, the CDC'S guidance recommended that you wear a mask for five days after your isolation period, recognizing that a certain cohort of people are still going to be showing the virus.

I think what underlies the CDC recommendation there is a recognition that this is an epidemic that's not being instigated, spread, if you will, by people who get diagnosed, isolate for five days, and go back into public circulation day six. While a certain percentage of them will still be

infectious, they're not driving the pandemic.

What's driving the pandemic right now is the fact that we're probably only diagnosing somewhere between one IN five and one in 10 actual infections, and there's a lot of people walking around with mild illness or asymptomatic infection who don't know it who are spreading it.

So, if you start from that premise, and if CDC was sort of up front about that premise, what it really tells you is that, if you're -- if you're someone who's isolated for five days, and, on day six, you're going to go back to work, you need to be mindful of what the setting is that you're reintroducing yourself into.

Are you taking care of people who are vulnerable at home? Are you going into a health care setting or another setting where there's vulnerable people? And, if you are, you need to be more vigilant. Maybe use a diagnostic test to make sure you're no longer shedding virus. You certainly wear a mask in that circumstance.

But I think, if CDC was more granular, more descriptive in what they were actually doing and why...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: ... and the fact that they recognize that there's going to be a certain number of people who are infectious, people could take more actions on their own.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If people can find a test.

The Biden administration will begin distributing them to households. The reporting is, by January the 15th, they will start shipping out 500 million of them. That's not really going to help people on the East Coast right now who are trying to find in the midst of this surge a way to test like you're describing.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, look, it's unfortunate. We started this late. We should have done this earlier.

You're right. These tests are going to be distributed as this epidemic is declining in many parts of the country, not all parts of the country. So, for certain parts of the country, the tests are going to get there in time or in time for the peak infection.

I think they would have been better served by directly subsidizing the tests and having them delivered through normal retail channels, like pharmacies, rather than shipping these through the mail. We need to start to normalize the supply chain for the tools that people need to protect themselves from this pandemic.

It's not just the diagnostic tests, but also the vaccines and the therapeutics. We need to start thinking about how we distribute these through normal retail channels, where people are used to accessing health care services, and not these government-directed channels, which are going to make it more challenging for people to get these in a timely fashion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were very clear last Sunday that you will not be protected if you're wearing a cloth mask because this is an airborne virus.

Given how transmissible this is, what counts as an exposure these days? Does the 15 minutes at six feet of distance mean anything, or is you walking down the street and passing someone by going to expose you just the same?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, look, I certainly don't think, in an outdoor setting, it represents the same level of risk. And that's been consistent all the way through.

But the reality is that your risk is binary. You can have a casual encounter and contract the illness. You can have a prolonged encounter and not. CDC, with those kinds of recommendations about 15 minutes of cumulative exposure or things like that, with six feet of distance, they're trying to gauge, on average, where the highest risk of exposure occurs, and

it occurs with prolonged exposures in confined settings with people who are infected. We know that.

But the reality is, with an airborne illness like that -- this, if you're in a setting, a confined setting...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: ... that has poor air circulation, it doesn't matter if you're six feet or 10 feet. You're going to be at risk of contracting it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, which is why...

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: And this isn't like radiation, where you have a cumulative risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, which is why the mask matters so much.

Dr. Gottlieb, thank you for your time today.

We'll be right back with more Face the Nation. Stay with us.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces appear poised for an invasion.

Tonight, U.S. and Russian officials will begin talks, with the Biden administration already saying they're open to limits on NATO military exercises or missile placement in the region, if it will help defuse tensions.

Our Holly Williams reports from Ukraine.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: Good morning.

Here in Eastern Ukraine, they have been fighting against Russian-backed separatists since 2014. And trenches like these now carve up this part of the country. The conflict has turned farmland and villages into killing fields. And more than 14,000 people have lost their lives, according to the Ukrainian government.

Now, this winter, there are fears of a Russian invasion. Tens of thousands of Russian troops, up to 100,000 Russian troops, according to one count, are massed along Ukraine's border. And alarm bells are ringing in Washington.

Now, according to some, a ground invasion involving tanks and artillery and armored vehicles is unlikely until the ground here freezes over. But, here in the trenches, they have told us they think that it could happen at any time.

The big question is what Russia's President Vladimir Putin is thinking and what his true objectives are. He claims that Russia is a victim of Western aggression. And he's demanding security guarantees in return for defusing these tensions, including rolling back NATO troops from Eastern Europe.

But here in Ukraine, some people have told us that President Putin is essentially playing a game of chicken, a Cold War-style game of brinkmanship, that is ratcheting up tensions, trying to extract concessions from the U.S. and its European allies, and thereby perhaps extending

Russian influence here in Eastern Europe.

Now, last year, the U.S. government gave Ukraine nearly half-a-billion dollars in military aid, including anti-tank missiles. And President Biden says that, if Russia invades, the U.S. will respond with -- quote -- "severe consequences," economic consequences, but he has ruled out sending in U.S. combat troops -- Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Holly Williams in Ukraine.

We will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

We turn now to the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

Good morning to you, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: Good morning. Good to be on with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.

You have said that somewhere around 70 percent of hospital beds in your city are currently occupied. Are the hospitals close to be overwhelmed?

ERIC ADAMS: No, not at all. My daily briefings with my health care professionals -- I had one earlier today -- they stated that we are stable. And they're doing an amazing job. And those heroes and sheroes who are the nurses and doctors and hospital employees, we just need to really commend them for the job. And we're watching this closely. And we're going to make sure we respond and pivot as Covid continues to do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we look -- we wish you luck with that.

You have the largest school district in the country in your city, of course, and you have been very clear you are keeping schools open. To do that, you've giving out N-95 masks, required staff be vaccinated, everyone's got to be masked, you've got air purifiers, you have routine

screening, but you're not requiring a negative test before students return to the classroom. That's something they're doing here in the District of Columbia.

Are you confident you can keep the level of transmission low?

ERIC ADAMS: You know -- and it's so important that you laid out the things that we put in place, because Covid is a formidable and moving target, and we have to pivot and shift based on that. And our policies have been rooted in, I need my children in school. And if my medical professionals tell me, Eric, we have to do a mandated vaccine, we're going to do that. But, right now, we have brought over 1.5 million tests in our schools, as you indicated, N-95 masks, as well as other resources and tools. And we have been doing an amazing job because of one thing, coordination and communication with our UFT and other agencies involved. And I believe we're doing the right thing for our children, having them in the safest place, and that is in the school building.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That -- you're talking about the union there.

But you've kept schools open, but the plain fact of the matter is, people are still going to get sick. And I know you have had some staff shortage as a result of that. Attendance in school this past week was about 70 percent. So about 300,000 out of a million students missed class.

Are you going to have to elongate the school year to make up for all this?

ERIC ADAMS: You know, I'm so glad you said that because I think many people are missing it. There was an amazing article in "The New York Times" that stated this is the first time we spent more time and energy around protecting adults than the future of our children. I'm troubled that we almost had a two-year loss for our children. They're behind in math, behind in English. We're going to sit down with my new chancellor and state it, how do we start doing the catch-up. Because remote options are not really being used and can't be used correctly for those children who don't have access to high-speed broadband, need the meals that they need.

I know we have to look at a different way of living with Covid each time a new variant comes out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

ERIC ADAMS: And one area is education.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you do have these staffing shortages, as many schools are seeing around the country. The federal government says they're giving out plenty of money for you to hire people to come in, but how do you get someone to take a job as a teacher right now, in the middle of a pandemic, at a low wage?

ERIC ADAMS: Well, we need them in. And our teachers are paid accordingly to a great union contract, and they get the support that they deserve. And we need to attract people to do what I like to say, teaching is a calling. We're not just trying to make sure we fill a job applicant. No, we want the best in front of our children.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ERIC ADAMS: And what we have done successfully here in the city is pivot and shift based on the needs and how Covid is changing. We must learn to live with Covid, and we have to do it in a safe way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we may have to live with it, but for the infection rate, when I look at the New York State Department of Health report, which I just did, it said, potential increased severity of the omicron variant may also play a role in increased rate of hospitalizations for children under age 11.

What makes you confident that omicron isn't causing bad outcomes in kids when the state makes this point?

ERIC ADAMS: Well, let's look at something else the state -- the city has stated. A child is four times more likely to be hospitalized if they're not vaccinated. So, I am saying to my parents and the people of New York, get vaccinated and get booster shots. We don't have to feel helpless, like the beginning of this virus in 2020. Science and global communities came together. We now have the tools that we need. So, let's empower ourselves with the vaccination and booster shots.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ERIC ADAMS: If we do that, we will bring down those hospital rates, and that is what I'm encouraging parents to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But some parents are just not vaccinating their five to 11-year-olds, at that younger demographic. But what about kids who are four and under? They don't have an option to take a vaccine, and that is where you're seeing the fastest growing infection rate according to the New York State Department of Health.

Are you going to keep daycares facilities open? Are you going to keep pre- schools open when those kids can't be vaccinated?

ERIC ADAMS: Yes, we are. We're going to continue to do what we're doing, coordinating with our health care professionals. When you start to disrupt the stability of childcare, of daycare and education, it has a rippling impact throughout our entire city. Parents can't keep their children home. They have to work.

The economy is also part of this crisis that we're facing. And with the proper balance of creating a safe environment inside our daycares, our schools and other locations, or parents can go and do the job they need to do. And that is what I must face in the city. We have to insure the financial eco-system is healthy, as well as our children and our families are healthy at the same time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Mayor, we'll be watching. Thank you for your time this morning.

ERIC ADAMS: Thank you. Take care.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Around the world we have reached another milestone. There have now been more than 300 million reported infections since the pandemic began.

Our Elizabeth Palmer reports from Bangkok.

ELIZABETH PALMER: Good morning.

The Beijing Winter Olympics games are going to start in less than a month now, and China is desperately trying to keep Covid at bay, but the outbreaks haven't stopped.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH PALMER (voice over): Most recently in Tiangjing (ph), commuting distance from Beijing, an army of health care workers are testing the city's 14 million residents after two omicron cases were confirmed.

In the northern city of Tiang (ph), state media showed government food deliveries to some of the 13 million citizens in lockdown since December 23rd. Other heavy-handed tactics include welding shut the doors of anyone suspected of having been exposed to the virus.

In Serbia, there were demonstrations in support of the world's top-ranked tennis player and native son, Novak Djokovic. His visa was canceled when he arrived unvaccinated in Melbourne for the Australian Open. He's now grounded in his hotel. Some tennis fans and most anti-vaxxers are furious as an Australian court prepares to decide whether he'll be allowed to play or be sent home.

Finally, omicron is surging in Europe, with more than 300,000 new cases yesterday in France alone. In Britain, hospitals are at capacity. But there are, at last, very early signs that the surge has peaked, at least in London. While Israel is now offering a second booster, that is a fourth vaccination, to the vulnerable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH PALMER: Consider vaccine inequality, though. The world's richest countries have now given more booster shots alone than all the vaccines administered by the world's poorest countries put together.

Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Elizabeth Palmer, thank you.

We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Since the 2020 elections, Georgia has become ground zero in the fight over election integrity. The state's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger joins us now from Atlanta.

Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to remind our audience, you became known nationally in the wake of that election because you refused to succumb to pressure from President Trump when he specifically asked you to, quote, find 11,780 votes. President Biden, of course, won that state by 11,779 votes.

Now you're up for re-election, and you are being primed by a Republican congressman who objected the even certifying the president's victory.

I wonder, do you fear that in the future Republicans officials in your state may try to change the outcome of an upcoming election for purely political purposes?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Well, the person I'm running against, Congressman Hice, he's been in Congress for several years. He's never done a single piece of election reform legislation. Then he certified his own race with those same machines, those same ballots, and yet for President Trump he said you couldn't trust that. That's a double-minded person. And as a pastor, he should know better.

So, I'm going to run on integrity and I'm going to run on the truth. I don't know what he's going to run on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to that point, is the level of what's at stake here the possibility that an election outcome in your state could be manipulated?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: The laws that we have in place, there have been concerns raised. But, no, the results will be the results. And those will be the results that will be certified. You cannot overturn the will of the people. And so that won't matter. But, at the end of the day, I will be re-elected and he will not be.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let me ask you about something that the former president claimed this week, which, once again, he says there was fraud in Georgia. He says people were being paid $10 for their ballots.

I know that asking a third party to drop off your absentee ballot, something called ballot harvesting, is illegal in the state of Georgia. But I wonder, has there been any evidence that any of those ballots were actually fraudulent or cast by ineligible voters?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: It is an ongoing investigation. What I can tell you is that we just got that information in November 2021, a year after -- over a year after the election. So we'd liked -- wish we would have gotten it a whole lot sooner. But we've opened up an investigation. But there's – no one has alleged that those are fraudulent ballots

Those were lawful voters and the allegation is that then they were collected and delivered by a person. But that's one thing that I do think we need is to make sure that nationwide there should be a law that bans, you know, ballot harvesting. I don't think that ballot harvesting is good. The only person that should touch your ballot is you and the election official. So I think that's one solid, election reform measure.

Number two, I think that we should have a constitutional amendment, a U.S. constitutional amendment, that only American citizens vote in our elections. And I think we should also have photo ID. We now have photo ID for all forms of voting in Georgia. We have --

MARGARET BRENNAN: Only U.S. citizens do currently vote in elections, but go on.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: But we don't have a constitutional amendment. Now you see cities are trying to push non-citizen voting. And I believe that only American citizens should be voting in our elections. And that's supported by a wide variety --

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: A wide majority of all Americans, just like photo ID is supported by all demographic groups and a majority of both political parties. And that's what they've been using in Minnesota for over 11 years for their absentee balloting. So that's another, you know, solid, common sense federal reform measure, if they really want to get series about election reform.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I assume there you're referring to the president and the vice president, who will be traveling to your state in the coming days. They are doing so to campaign for two laws, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Right. And the --

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Freedom to Vote Act actually does promote a national standard for states that have an ID requirement for in-person voting. You could use a bank statement, a utility bill.

I wonder, why do you think Republicans --

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: It does not have -- it does not have photo ID. And photo ID is the most secure way of using and making sure that you can identify who the voter is. And I think that's very important. And then they also want same-day registration. And that's just -- you know, very difficult for any election official to manage. And I think that undermines trust in elections. And right now we need to restore trust wherever we can.

In Georgia, we've been fighting this theme of, you know, stolen election claims from Stacey Abrams, about voter suppression, and in 2020 it was about voter fraud. Both of them undermine voter trust.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They may both undermine voter trust, but I'm sure you draw a distinction between someone who doesn't hold any kind of office and the president of the United States actively putting pressure on you to find and manufacture votes. They're not equivalent.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Well, January 6th was terrible, but the response doesn't need to be eliminating photo ID and then having same-day registration. And if you don't have the appropriate guardrails in place, then you're not going to have voter confidence in the results.

In Georgia, we've actually increased the number of days of early voting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: We have more early voting now than New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, I -- I understand. But when you were talking about Stacey Abrams, I was just acknowledging that there is a difference, that she didn't call on people to attack the state capitol when she was questioning the outcome of the 2018 gubernatorial race.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: The president is the top, you know, official that we have in our country. And, obviously, that position of power is just much higher than a candidate running for governor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: But, be that as it may, when people lose races, I think the proper thing to do is admit that you lose. And if you want to run again, by all means do so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood.

Georgia has a painful past with racial discrimination. And until 2013, states, like Georgia, had to seek some federal pre-clearance where it came to changing their election laws. I won't get into all of the details of it, but this is one of the provisions that the White House says is so important in the John Lewis Voting Right Act.

Do you see any merit in the idea that there needs to be more federal oversight in states that have a history of racial discrimination?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Georgia has moved so far ahead. We're not where we were in 1965. And you look at -- we hare more early voting than all the --

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this was in place until 2013.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: I know. And I think that we have shown that Georgia has fair and honest elections. We have record registrations. We have record turnout. Anyone that wants to vote in Georgia has tremendous opportunities to vote early, vote with no excuse absentee voting, with photo ID, and then also show up on Election Day. And I'll compare our record against other states.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: In fact, we were just recognized by Heritage as the number one state for election integrity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well -- by Heritage. And I think the public will hear a different version when they -- when the president goes to your state, and that's why we wanted to talk to you today.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will go directly now to the director and founder for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, David Becker.

Good morning to you, David.

DAVID BECKER, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION AND RESEARCH: Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If -- I want to talk about a number of things, but is there anything there that the secretary laid out that you would like to respond to? I know specifically on voter ID and what he referred to as ballot harvesting, you have some views?

DAVID BECKER: Well, I mean, I think there -- there's room for disagreement in the states on a variety of the administrative policies around elections. How many ballots a third party might be able to deliver from a place like a nursing home, how ridge an ID system has to be and what kind of failsafe is there to make sure that eligible voters don't exclude it because -- don't get excluded from voting because they don't happen to have ID.

But I think what we're really worried about at this -- in this moment in time, right now, because of the lies being spread by the losing presidential candidate, are the efforts to sew confusion and chaos into the vote counting and certification process. That's what I'm really working on and looking at in the states. And it's something I know Secretary Raffensperger and his colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, around the country are looking at.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we mentioned that earlier with the speaker of the House.

But looking nationwide, 25 states enacted 62 laws that expanded voting since 2020. Nearly all of them have Democratic-controlled legislatures. Nineteen states enacted 34 voting restrictive laws. All of those had GOP- controlled legislatures.

When you look at that breakdown, what does this say to you? And when it comes specifically to Georgia, is it really the case that what they have done is Jim Crow on steroids, as President Biden refers to it, because the secretary of state there says that's not what he's seeing?

DAVID BECKER: Well, I think what you're seeing -- obviously, that's not the sign of a healthy democracy. And our democracy is in crisis right now. I'm as concerned as I've ever been. And certainly in those states where

Republicans control majorities in the legislatures, those majorities are being fueled by the lies from the losing presidential candidate of their party. We are now over 400 days after what was, by any measure, the most secure, transparent, scrutinized and verified election in American history, more audits of those ballots than ever before, ore court scrutiny and verification of the outcomes than ever before, including judges appointed by the losing presidential candidate himself.

And so in states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, and, yes, even Georgia, we see election policy being considered in a way that's not entirely constructive. It is partisan. It's based on some false premises about how well the election was run. The facts are, in Georgia, and in those other states and throughout the country, the election was run exceedingly well. It's remarkable how well it was run with resources being scarce, with the highest turnout we've ever seen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

DAVID BECKER: And in the middle of a global pandemic.

So, in Georgia, it's true, compared to most of the other states, Georgia actually has pretty accessible voting policies. But that being said, the legislature removed some powers from Secretary Raffensperger, who he and his staff did a remarkably good job in 2020. They have injected some chaos into the counting certification process that doesn't need to be there. But in other states like Texas it's even worse, where the voting laws are much more restrictive and there's even more chaos being injected into the process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, because of what's happening at the state level, the White House is making the broader argument that there needs to be more federal election law crafted. They are putting their shoulder behind two bills, and we're going to hear from the president in the coming days about the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Right Act.

The White House says these are absolutely essential. They don't have the votes to pass either of them. But on the premise here that there needs to be more federal oversight, do you agree?

DAVID BECKER: I think that there could be some value right now given the unprecedented attack on our democracy, and the fact that tens of millions of American citizens have been led to believe, fueled by lies, that our system does not have integrity. And just to be clear, we have the most integrity in American elections than we've ever had in American history at this moment in time, and that will continue to grow.

But there could be some use for some federal standards. There's a lot of good things in those two bills. But as you noted, it's highly unlikely that either has even 50 votes to pass the Senate. But if there could be a truly bipartisan effort to look at the crisis issues in our democracy and try to find ways to resolve them so that we don't have confusion and chaos in the post-election period, that the person who gets the most votes is declared the winner under systems that are transparent, that would be really good.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

So one of the ideas that was floated in the past week was trying to update the Electoral Count Act. So that's something that -- even some of the Democrats on the January 6th committee, including Congresswoman Lofgren, had supported updating that kind of archaic law, which was at the heart of some of the premise of disputing January 6th. But both of vice president and the Senate minority leader both really shot that down this week.

In fact, Senator Schumer said, clarifying the Electoral Count Act is a distraction and so, this is a quote, it's sort of like saying, well, I'm going to rig the game, but then I will make sure you count the score accurately. What the hell is the point if you rig the game to count the score accurately?

Were you surprised to hear that kind of language from the Democratic leader, and should it be reformed, the Electoral Count Act?

DAVID BECKER: Yes, well, there's, obviously, a lot of politics being played right now in terms of getting whatever bills that can be passed moved in the next year as we enter the mid-term elections. But I agree with many experts and members of both parties that it would be good to clarify and revise the Electoral Count Act of 1877 -- 1887, rather, and to make it clear that the joint session of Congress is purely a ceremonial session.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

DAVID BECKER: They are just counting the vote. It's really -- it's really like the Oscars. They're not voting on who won best picture, they're just announcing who won best picture.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly. Exactly.

DAVID BECKER: And, similarly, that's what the joint session (INAUDIBLE), and I think that would be really available.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly.

Thank you, David Becker, for your perspective, as always.

We'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

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