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'This Week' Transcript 1-31-21: Sen. Bernie Sanders,'' Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Always great to see you Dr. Besser.

You heard the governor say any condition could do what West Virginia has done. Nonetheless, it's largely rural. Can this version for vaccine supply actually work upon the nation?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, I do not want to take away anything from West Virginia, they are doing a superb job, but the numbers of people in West Virginia to be vaccinated -- who've been vaccinated pales compared to many of the states with such bigger populations.

And, Martha, one of the things that I believe has gotten lost in the dialogue and the conversation of can the country do 1.2 million or 1.5 million -- do 2 million doses a day? And we're not getting lots of that data.

However, the data that we are seeing, shows that there's a major gap by race, by geography, by area, and when we don't do a better job in getting vaccines to those men and women who are working, who are out there face every single day to put food on the table and to cover their rent, individuals who are going to work to keep our economy going, we can see great numbers, but we could observe the identical kind of disparities that we are currently seeing and the exact same incredible toll in terms of passing.

RADDATZ: It doesn't look like very many states are in fact looking at that. So what actually has been the hold-up with the vaccine in many places? What should have happened that didn't and do you see a plan now that will make this happen faster?

DR. BESSER: Yes, I mean, I see the pieces coming to play. What must have happened was states needed money and desired clear national leadership months and months ago, as it was apparent we were on a road potentially to have effective vaccines.

The -- our public health system has been underfunded for decades. And the idea that the aid -- the public health system may stand up that fast to do something with this scale is something which just can't happen.

So dollars have started to flow. Hopefully, Congress will come forward and provide more money to countries, not only for general health but to get universities in shape so that they -- more children can have learning in place, to get this done to increase our systems. I see developments.

RADDATZ: And Rich, we naturally got word this week of this brand new Johnson & Johnson vaccine but lots of questions regarding its effectiveness compared to Pfizer, Moderna. Why would someone want a vaccine which has roughly a 72 percent efficacy compared to 94/95 percent?

DR. BESSER: Well, I mean, at this point we just have a media release from the company. So I am excited about viewing the data as soon as it comes to FDA.

Among the things which they state in their own press release, and I'll be looking closely at is that it's greater than that when it comes to serious infection. So that means individuals who were hospitalized and died. If it's correct that it protects from this, and that's what our biggest concern is, the idea which you're able to find that level of protection with a single dose will have significant impact.

So I will be looking to find out what's the Advisory Committee to CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, what do they say with respect to how can you use both of these vaccines given that one has a much higher degree of protection that this one?

Another point about that, Martha, though is those other trials were done before variants were beginning to circulate. We don't understand that those same high degrees hold up today. That's one of those things scientists will need to check at. If someone who's been fully vaccinated gets COVID, can you consider that strain and watch, well, was it that the old breed that was circulating or is it one of the newer variants?

These things are always in drama and so a vaccine that early on appeared highly effective may look more like a vaccine now that's coming out in a later trial.

RADDATZ: And a great deal of concerns about those variants, as well. Dr. Besser, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

You heard Governor Justice state that West Virginia's plan could work anywhere. His state is all about number one in vaccine rollout with well over 80% administered. Your condition has administered about 60 percent of the vaccines that you have.

What's the holdup?

And I really do congratulate West Virginia. They did a great job in their own rollout. And I believe the message is that every state has to have flexibility, do something that works for their inhabitants.

We have really done many of the very same things that they did in West Virginia, which will be utilizing our local pharmacies because we are a rural country and they've got access to our rural neighborhood. Secondly, we've utilized the National Guard. 1 thing you learn fast, bring from the logistics experts if you're going to handle the vaccine distribution.

So we've continued to be free (INAUDIBLE). Our about 60 percent.

RADDATZ: Governor -- Governor, allow me to just stop you there.

You -- you speak about the National Guard. They aren't actually helping with distribution, are they?

HUTCHINSON: No, that's right, even though they might down the road once we start doing some of the more mass distribution efforts. But right now they're at the logistics preparation of it.

Now, let me make a point that is very significant. If you would like to be efficient and just receive all of the vaccine out quite quickly, you go to your population center and also have a mass distribution attempt. That's effective. That gets it out.

However, you need to be honest about it as well and you need to balance efficiency . We are a rural state. And we do not wish to do it only in our population center. And that slows the rollout somewhat. Not as effective, but it's fair because it gets it into the minority inhabitants, the rural areas of our nation, it's more honest, and that is what we're trying to achieve.

RADDATZ: But where are the vaccines you presently have? And -- and why are not they getting to the arms of your people in an honorable manner, which I understand Governor Justice would state ?

We're operating in our rural communities, as well as in our urban centers. And if you are at 60 percent, then you're asking where's the 40 percent of these vaccines. When we receive them, the very first dose is in people's arms within 72 hours. That's our objective. That is what we did last week.

Secondly, you have to let for the second dose. When you do so, you're always going to have some stock there to make sure that you have the second dose that's readily available for those that get the initial dose. And that's important because that is the FDA approval. You don't want to leap ahead of that. You don't only want to have one shot, you want the booster shot also the FDA requires. And that allows for a few excess inventory that exists.

RADDATZ: And -- and you were on this show , urged President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to improve testing capability.

Do you think Joe Biden is doing enough? Can you find any change so far?

HUTCHINSON: Well, in terms of the vaccine supply, it has been seamless. And I was thrilled that we had a -- what was it, 14 percent increase in vaccine supply a week. This will be very, very crucial for us. They said they're going to unveil the Defense Production Act. I don't know the facts on this, but whatever they can do to speed up the production, which they are dependent upon our supply chain, our pharmaceutical producers. And so they're leaning .

However, this is not just a state deficit (ph), a national shortage (ph), but a global deficit in distribution. Thank goodness we've got that partnership which is great with the national government. And President Biden and his team is -- is working to assure that partnership and not tear it apart, which I'm quite grateful for.

RADDATZ: And, Governor, I want to produce a -- kind of a sharp turn here to the state of the celebration, the state of the GOP.

You're at the House for approximately six years. You recently said your party is going to have to do some soul searching about Trump's influence going forward. But it's only been about three weeks since there was a siege on the Capitol. You know exactly what President Trump did throughout that period.

House Leader McCarthy proceeds to visit President Trump -- former President Trump only eight days after he left office, refusing to state Joe Biden -- that the election wasn't stolen. Forty-five senators stating impeachment is unconstitutional, censuring people who say differently and others refusing to state the election was not stolen.

What do you think about that?

HUTCHINSON: Well -- well, I think there is a good deal of unique voices. And the Republican leadership has stated quite clearly, including Kevin McCarthy, that President Trump has -- bears responsibility for that which he bought to people, to the Capitol. They went to the Capitol. He bears some responsibility there. It's in his file (ph). He is going to --

RADDATZ: And yet he goes to visit him in a smiling photograph opportunity.

HUTCHINSON: The Senate trial is going to refocus what happened on the attack on the Capitol and it's going to call all Republicans to have a position more clearly. President Trump has helped build the party in the last four decades, I hope he doesn't help to ruin the celebration in the coming four decades. And we need to have a degree of accountability, we also ought to be certain we do not tear ourselves apart as we go into the midterm elections next year and beyond that.

RADDATZ: And one more question about a member of Congress, the new Republican member of Congress, Trump loyalist Marjorie Taylor Greene. Does she is she fit to function and if she be on the Education Committee?

HUTCHINSON: Well, that is -- first of all, the people of her district elected her and that should mean a lot. They elected her and she's going to run for reelection and she'll be liable for what she said and her actions.

And then --

RADDATZ: Given her background --

HUTCHINSON: '' I think --

HUTCHINSON: I'm not going to answer that question as to if she's fit to serve because she believes in something that everybody else does not accept. I refuse that. But she is likely to stand for reelection. I really don't believe we need to punish people from a disciplinary standpoint or celebration standpoint since they believe something just a little bit different.

We have to be certain we don't divide our celebration. I'm more troubled by someone going in and apposing Liz Cheney because she took a different place than many others in the celebration. That is the kind of thing that rips our celebration apart.

We will need to not begin primaring (ph) everyone because we do not like how they handled things during the previous a few weeks post election.

HUTCHINSON: Let's focus on our --

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: -- you shouldn't go after someone because they think about something a tiny bit different. She believes in conspiracy theories, that there are pedophiles running Washington. That's not only a little --

HUTCHINSON: I reject that and --

RADDATZ: -- little different.

HUTCHINSON: I would not vote for her. I would not vote for her.

The second question is, if the House of Representatives make a disciplinary call ? I am not likely to get in the middle of that. They're going to have to make this decision. But whenever you've got a wide diversity of this celebration reject the extreme elements, it is not mainstream GOP, and that's what we've got to get back to.

We have got to really have a regard for those people that encouraged Donald Trump. We need -- because they got a message. They've a concern. But at the same time, we do not need to gloss over the terrible actions that happened in the Capitol. We need to hold people accountable for that. That's critically important.

RADDATZ: Okay. Thank you for joining us this morning, Governor. We really appreciate it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: depends upon how these discussions go. It's not sufficient for me just to come around you and say, I like this, I hope you to support it.

I encourage passing COVID relief with assistance from Republicans if we can get it. But the COVID relief has to pass. There's no ifs, ands or buts.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CO-ANCHOR: A significant shift in tone from President Joe Biden, seeming to admit bipartisanship might not be possible in passing his planned COVID relief invoice.

Incoming Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders has been leading that charge and joins us today.

Good morning. Senator.

The Democrats seem ready to maneuver Biden's COVID relief bundle without Republican support, that has been decreasing lately. Did -- did the president doubted the desire for bipartisanship?

And I believe you're going to see more of it because we proceed down the pipe. You are going to see bipartisanship on infrastructure. There are a lot of Republicans that are outraged by the high price of prescription drugs in this country. We cover ten times more than other countries do for certain drugs. We are going to look forward to working with Republicans.

But now this country faces an unprecedented group of crisis. We've got families who are watching this program today who can't feed their children. We have millions of people who face eviction. We're in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years. We've to behave, and we have to act now.

RADDATZ: And you also --

SANDERS: And we simply don't have -- I am sorry.

RADDATZ: Senator, you -- you -- you've said you can't reach out to Republicans forever and Democrats should utilize the majority, but this morning we're hearing 10 GOP senators have a new plan. So can it be a mistake for Democrats to consider abandoning bipartisanship negotiations so soon?

SANDERS: Martha, the matter is not, you know, bipartisanship or not. The issue is, are we going to tackle the unbelievable set of crises and the pain and the stress which is in this nation.

You know what, I don't care what anyone says, we've to address this pandemic, we've to make certain we are producing the vaccines that we need and find those vaccines to the arms of the people. We cannot have kids in America moving hungry, people being evicted, schools not open. We need to open our schools in a secure way. That is what we must do.

So the question is not bipartisanship, the question is addressing the unprecedented crisis that we face at the moment. If Republicans want to work with us, they have better ideas about the best way best to tackle those disasters, that's great. However, to be honest with you, I have not yet heard that.

SANDERS: Yes, I believe that we do since it's hard for me to imagine any Democrat, regardless of what condition they could come from, that doesn't understand the need to go forward right now in a competitive approach to guard the working families of this country.

Look, all people will have differences of opinion. That is a 1.9 trillion invoice. I've differences and concerns about this bill. But in the end of the afternoon, we are likely to encourage that the President of the United States, and we're going to come ahead, and we're going to do exactly what the America people overwhelmingly want us to perform. The polling is overwhelming. Republicans, Democrats, independents. They understand this (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ: Senator -- Senator, you -- you say you're convinced about the Democrats, but I saw Joe Manchin out of West Virginia this weekend, and he's made opinions after seeing Kamala Harris being interviewed about this support package, saying, no one called me . We are going to attempt and discover a bipartisan pathway forward. I think we will need to do that. We need to work together. That's not a way of working together.

Are you still confident?

SANDERS: Yes, I am absolutely certain. And I will let you know why, Joe Manchin is a chairman, I'm a chairman, Democrats have bulk due to the fact we won two seats with fantastic applicants in Georgia. And, obviously, those candidates won the aid of the people of Georgia but that campaign, in a variety of ways, was a federal effort.

And exactly what those candidates said is, yes, we are going to provide evaluations of $2,000/$1,400 (ph) on top of their $600. Yes, we're likely to expand unemployment benefits. Yes, we are going to cover the needs of families. The whole Democratic Party came together behind the candidates of Georgia. And if politics means anything, if you are going to get any amount of creditability, you do not need your campaign on a series of issues and then after the election when you get power state, oh well, you know what, shifting our mind. That's not how it works.

We make --

SANDERS: '' promises to the people, we are likely to keep those claims.

RADDATZ: And Senator, talking of Georgia, I want to talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene. We have been talking about her this morning.

Can you believe she is fit to hold office?

SANDERS: Look, I believe that the thought that you are talking about members of the U.S. House of Representatives are talking about violence, that is -- it is almost beyond understanding. I believe this is something that the Republican Party has got to deal with.

Look, the Republic -- I'm not likely to provide the Republicans advice. They don't want my guidance. But finally they'll continue being a conservative party that believes in democracy or an authoritarian party based on big lies, conspiracy theories, and, in fact, a motion toward violence. And I expect that the Republicans make the ideal choice and come back on the side of democracy.

Some of your colleagues were rather significant of Robinhood's decision to block its customers from buying more GameStop inventory on Thursday.

What should you say ? What do you believe needs to happen? Instantly, if you can, sir.

SANDERS: In 1 paragraph, I've long thought that the business version of Wall Street is flawed. I think we need to have a very hard look at the sort of illegal actions and outrageous behavior on the part of the hedge funds and other Wall Street players.

Very succinct and appreciate it.

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