'Fox News Sunday' 12/19

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This is a rush transcript of "Fox News Sunday" on December 19, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Bret Baier.

President Biden set to address the nation on the state of the pandemic as omicron is on the rise and as his agenda faces major setbacks in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We have talked, we have talked, we have talked. It's time to put it on the floor and vote.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm engaged. Yes, we're engaged. I'm engaged.

BAIER (voice-over): Senator Joe Manchin, one of the last holdouts delaying the president's signature social spending bill while Senate Democrats pushed a moderate to get behind the nuclear option to overcome a stalemate on voting rights.

We go one-on-one with Senator Manchin, only on "FOX News Sunday".

Then --

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We expect to see the proportion of omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks.

BAIER: First delta, now omicron hitting hard ahead of the holidays causing concern for health care systems impacting schools, Broadway, and the NFL.

We'll ask National Institutes of Health director, Dr. Francis Collins, about what some are calling becoming viral blizzard, and sit down with the governors of two states to discuss how they're getting ready -- Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland and Democrat Phil Murphy of New Jersey.

Then --

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has said himself that he is planning to run for reelection in 2024.

BAIER: The White House facing renewed questions about President Biden's plans to run for a second term. We'll ask our Sunday panel about growing calls for him to officially announce whether he's in or out.

Plus, a solemn mission to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery for three decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to honor those people, remember them.

BAIER: All, right now, on "FOX News Sunday".

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER (on camera): And hello again from FOX News in Washington.

The country is facing a swift spread of omicron now in 44 states just as Americans prepared to celebrant the holiday season. Hospitalizations are on the rise and daily confirmed cases rising to more than an average of 127,000 cases.

While a federal appeals court has reinstated the president's vaccine and test mandate for businesses that employ more than 100 people and it could all go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a moment, we'll ask West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin about this development and his ongoing talks with the White House on the Biden agenda.

But first, let's turn to Mark Meredith traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware, with details on what the president plans to tell Americans in an address Tuesday about new steps to fight COVID -- Mark.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Bret, the White House says the president is going to be outlining how the federal government can help communities that are dealing with the rapid rise in COVID cases. He's also expected to double down on his message to unvaccinated Americans that now is the time to get their shot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.

MEREDITH: President Biden along with house experts are warning the pandemic is far from over.

JEFF ZIENTS, CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Your message to every American is clear, there is action you can take to protect yourself and your family.

MEREDITH: While 61 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, the virus continues to disrupt daily life. In New York, the Radio City Rockettes have canceled remaining performances, a handful of professional football, basketball and hockey games have been postponed and multiple schools or moving classes back online before winter break.

On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled the president's vaccine or test mandate for large businesses can go into effect.

The White House celebrating the news, writing: It's critical we move forward with vaccination requirements.

Critics of the mandate plan to take the case to the Supreme Court. Meantime, the White House is scrambling to find a path forward for the president's social and climate agenda. Senate Democrats remained deadlocked over the Build Back Better proposal with moderates warning the country cannot afford to spend trillions more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH (on camera): The White House says it's going to wait until after the holiday break to reengage with Congress on a few things, including spending as well as efforts to address voting rights, but with midterm elections looming, Bret, time is running out for Democrats to deliver on some of their key campaign promises -- Bret.

BAIER: Mark Meredith reporting from Wilmington -- Mark, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Good to be with you, Bret. Congratulations.

BAIER: Senator, you are at the center of this negotiation with the president over his social spending and tax bill, a bill, the Build Back Better bill, that is not coming up in the Senate before the New Year in part largely because of your reservations. Without you, the leadership doesn't have the votes it needs.

So, today, right now, what's the state of play?

MANCHIN: Well, Bret, you know, this is a mammoth piece of legislation and I have had my reservations from the beginning when they heard about it a five and half months ago and I've been working diligently every day, every minute of every day, I've been working on this, meeting with -- whether it'd be the president, President Biden, whether it'd be Majority Leader Schumer and his staff, whether it would be with Nancy Pelosi, all of my colleagues. I mean, from all different spectrums of the political spectrum, if you will, from the right to the left. I've done everything humanly possible.

And you know, my concerns I had, and I still have these concerns and where I'm at right now, the inflation that I was concerned about, it's not transitory, it's real, it's harming every West Virginian. It's making it almost difficult for them to continue, to go to their jobs, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, the cost of utility bills -- all of these things are hitting in every aspect of their life.

And you start looking at -- then you have the debt that we're carrying, $29 trillion, you have also the geopolitical unrest that we have. You have the COVID -- the COVID variant, and that is wreaking havoc again, people are concerned. I've been with my family, I know everyone is concerned.

So when you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I've always said this, Bret, if I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't.

I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there.

BAIER: You're done? This is -- is this a no?

MANCHIN: This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do, and the president has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had.

And, you know, the thing we should all be is directing our attention towards the variant, the COVID that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways, it's affecting our lives again. We have inflation that basically could harm -- really harm a lot of Americans and especially those who are most needy and having a hard time struggling right now.

So I think that's where attention needs to be directed towards immediately.

BAIER: You know, you're getting --

MANCHIN: This has been going on for five and a half months.

BAIER: You're getting all the focus, Senator, but are there other Democratic senators --

MANCHIN: Yeah, and it's not right. Not right.

BAIER: -- who are concerned about this bill like you are? Have you talked to them?

MANCHIN: I'm not going to speak for any of my -- I respect -- they know where I'm -- they know the difficulties that I've been having with this. I've been very concerned about this.

You know, when I first got to the Senate back in 2011, I was having a meeting on Armed Services. And at that time, Admiral Mike Mullen was the chief of the Joint Chiefs -- head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'll never forget in this hearing, he was asked this question, what's the greatest threat the United States of America faces? And I think I'm going to hear something basically military threats we might have around the world. Without blinking an eye, he said the debt of our nation is the greatest threat.

Now, the debt was $14 trillion then, Bret. It's $29 trillion now. Inflation is real. It's not going away anytime soon. We don't know when the end will come.

There's a lot of people hurting right now. This COVID we are fighting on a daily basis and this coming at different angles at us, if you will.

These are serious, serious things. There's a lot of good, but that bill is a mammoth piece of legislation, a mammoth piece, and when it's done even through regular order, it would be a tremendous huge undertaking.

BAIER: So, Democrats obviously are frustrated in your caucus, progressives especially, but they point to what they've been doing since the first part of this. The Senate, the conventional wisdom is the longer it goes, it was going to be trimmed down, but the House passed bill was $2.2 trillion down from Bernie Sanders' $6 trillion, the initial pitch, which was lowered to $3.5 trillion, now comes in at just under 2 trillion.

So your number at the beginning was 1.7. Where is the disconnect that you are now a no? You can't get to yes, if you're a Democrat, you're pushing you?

MANCHIN: Yeah. Well, Bret, first of all, when this all came about and I went and spoke to the leader, Schumer, at that time and I explained -- explained to him where I was and the concerns I had, and at $1.5 trillion is where I thought the most we could do if we just did it and then basically took care of the things that we thought were the highest priorities.

As you recall, Bernie started at $6 trillion, I think he was sincere at what he thinks he needs to be done and the changes he'd like to make are social changes. Then they want to $3.5 trillion. That went down to 2.2 from the House side and even at 1.75.

The thing that never changed, Bret, was basically the same amount of things that they're trying to accomplish by just changing, if you will, the amount of time that we can depend on it. So if you're going to do something and do it, pick what are prized priorities are like most people do and their families other businesses, and you fund them for ten years and you make sure they deliver the services for ten years.

It's hard to deliver service for one year or three years or five years, and how are we going to continue them, unless it's going to put a burden, and less we have to go back and make adjustments. But we should be upfront and pick our priorities. That's the difference.

So it hasn't shrunk in the desire. The intent is always there. And what we need to do is get our financial house in order, but be able to pay for what we do and do what we pay for.

BAIER: The president put out a statement Friday that you still supported $1.7 trillion. He said you needed more time to finalize negotiations and reporters asked you about that and you said: The president put out that statement. It's his statement, not mine.

So, now what you're saying today --

MANCHIN: Yeah.

BAIER: -- makes a lot more sense of why you said that. You're a no.

MANCHIN: Well -- well, Bret, here's the thing. I've tried. I mean, I really did.

And the president was trying as hard as he could. He has an awful lot of irons in the fire right now. A lot of -- a lot -- I said more in his plate than he needs for this to continue when I'm having the difficulties I'm having, and basically the challenges we have from different parts of our party basically pushing in different ways.

So everyone still has the aspirational things they want to do. They said, well, can we still make this fit? We'll just cut it down to two years versus ten years. We'll cut this one down to four years versus ten years, or one year versus ten years.

That's not -- and that's not being genuine --

BAIER: Right.

MANCHIN: -- as far as I'm concerned, with my constituents in West Virginia.

BAIER: The Congressional Budget Office --

MANCHIN: And I've said, if I can't explain it -- yeah, they put -- the congressional -- it's the bipartisan, Bret, Congressional Budget Office has -- they're upwards of $4.5 trillion. $4.5 trillion -- if everything that's still in the bill today, even though they said they've cut it down, still in the bill, would be paid for in full, you're in that $4.5 trillion.

We've got -- again I'm telling you, we've got COVID at us, we haven't tackled that one and finish that. We got inflation, which we don't know when it's going to end, and that's going to take a tremendous toll. And that's what we're concerned about. That's where our efforts should be right now.

BAIER: All right. Last thing on this before we move on. Congressman Alexandria Acosta Cortez tweeted out: People want to "but Manchin" everyone to death, but learned helplessness is not a disposition that inspires confidence or support.

The president has tools at his disposal. Leadership has tools at their disposal. If it's really just one or two votes, Senate should force a vote on Build Back Better.

Understanding, Senator, that it's not just one or two votes. It's 51 potentially with all the Republicans united against the bill.

MANCHIN: Yeah.

BAIER: But what you think she's talking about? And without your vote, this bill dies, right?

MANCHIN: Hey, Bret, the bottom line -- I didn't hear the first -- the start when you said something. I must have cut out. I didn't get the first --

(CROSSTALK)

BAIER: Yeah. She said: People want to "but Manchin" everyone to death. You know, but Manchin says this. But learned helplessness is not a disposition that inspires confidence or support.

MANCHIN: Well, okay, I got you.

Here's the thing, when it's time -- just vote. I've been saying that. Just vote. If that's what people need to show where they are, then vote.

I've been trying to say it, how many different ways I can say it. I go -- the frustration for my colleagues, friends of mine on both sides of the aisle, but my Democratic colleagues who are frustrated, this has been strung out for so long, five and a half months. They're trying to make this adjustment, this adjustment.

They're just trying to make the adjustment for the time to fit the money or the money to fit the time. Not changing our approach, not targeting things we should be doing, making sure that people, basically that truly need it, are getting it. Making sure that we can do things in a much better fashion.

We have things that we can do in a bipartisan way the way the Senate is supposed to work if we'll just let it happen. Just go through the committees, let's work it.

BAIER: All right. A couple things first. There's a lot of criticism that says that you're doing this about environment and climate change. Your critics, your biggest critics say West Virginia has had a reliance on coal industry and that you personally profit from investments in the family coal brokerage that you founded.

MANCHIN: Sure.

BAIER: What's your response to that?

MANCHIN: No, I've heard all of those things and I understand where they're coming from and basically they're trying to get an agenda they wish to have.

The main thing that we need is dependability and reliability. If not, you'll have what happened in Texas and what happens in California. No one's talking about defense of our country either. We just had a committee hearing on do we have the energy that we need to defend our country in a time when we have a conflict or a war -- all these things, and the reliability and affordability.

I have put as chairman of the natural -- Energy and Natural Resources Committee in last two years working in a bipartisan bill, billions of dollars in clean energy technology. We're doing everything humanly possible, we've doing more that's ever been done in the past, and we're continuing to do that.

But you can't let technology be behind basically the needs of -- if technology is not there, we got to make sure that we're able still to rely on United States of America. We have been energy basically independent for the first time in many, many years, 67 years or more.

And we should not have to depend on other parts of the world to give us the energy or be able to hold us hostage for the energy or the foreign supply chains that we need for the products we use every day. That's all I'm trying to do.

BAIER: All right. Senator, Build Back Better is essentially dead as written without your vote, but there's another push for voting rights and changing the filibuster in some way to get voting rights reform through.

Are you open to changing either the rules or the structure of the filibuster to do that?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, voting, just voting is the bedrock of democracy. We should all be concerned about that, Bret. It shouldn't be Democrat or Republican. As an American and the democracy and the freedoms we enjoy becomes because we have an open process of electing our officials, and believing, and making sure it's secured. So we should be working on that together.

And next of all, if you can make the Senate work better, the rules are something we've changed over the years; 232 years, there's been rule changes. But there's never been a change with the filibuster, the rights of the minority.

And I made no commitment or promises on that. I am working on trying to make the Senate work better, bringing bills to the floor, amending them, having debates, understanding, being transparent to the public, what you agree or disagree.

BAIER: So, the 60-vote threshold stays. You are in the seat of former Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia.

MANCHIN: Yeah.

BAIER: The 60-vote threshold stays under what you're proposing, maybe some redemptions or reforms. Is that what I'm hearing?

MANCHIN: What you're hearing is basically, can we work on the rules that make the Senate work rather than the deadlock we have right now. Everyone thinks that end-all do-all is basically in the filibuster. It's basically in how we operate and proceed every day of the Senate, which we're not doing. That's what needs to be changed.

BAIER: Last thing, vaccine medic. You had Friday, a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals allowing President Biden's vaccine requirements for large private employers to move forward. You've been clear you've been against mandates on businesses.

What's your reaction to that and what you think is going to happen?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, my reaction is President Biden has been doing every thing humanly possible to get vaccines and making sure people understand how serious this is. I've had all of my vaccine shots and my booster, too. My whole family has.

I recommend and basically plead with every West Virginian, every American to do so.

But with that, I've said first public dollars. We're working for your tax dollars. Then the government employees, the military, all the services that we depend on by what we're supporting through our public dollars, should be that mandate which the president put out as an order. I agree 1,000 percent with him.

I did not agree on the private sector of 100-plus members -- employees of a business or more. I thought businesses really should make those decisions. They have done and they want to do keep their employees healthy. They should be able to make the decisions.

It shouldn't be the government has to make every decision in the private arena. That's all.

But now, the courts -- the courts have spoken. That is the law. I pray to Good Lord that everyone abides by this law and get vaccinated.

Please, get vaccinated.

BAIER: Senator Manchin, as always, good to talk to you and merry Christmas.

MANCHIN: Good to talk to you, Bret. Merry Christmas with you and your family and all those who are watching. God bless.

BAIER: Up next, states are seeing spikes in COVID as the omicron variant spreads. We'll get the latest on the state of the pandemic and talk with governors on both sides of the aisle about what this means for schools, travel, and mandates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Pfizer, one of the chief vaccine makers, Friday predicted the COVID pandemic could last until 2024, just in time for the next election.

Joining me now, Dr. Francis Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday".

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: Nice to be with you, Bret, it's my last day as NIH director, glad to join you for part of it.

BAIER: We appreciate your last stop being here. Doctor, on that note, it does seem like we're going backwards here.

COLLINS: Well, Omicron is certainly providing a very serious challenge. This variance virus with its 57 mutations is certainly a difficult one for us to cope with because it is so contagious, more than Delta, more than Alpha, Beta, all of the other previous variances pale by comparison in terms of the rate at which this one is spreading, doubling every two to three days first in South Africa, now in parts of Europe and the U.S. is on that exponential curve right now.

So we are in for a world of trouble, I'm afraid, in the next month or two. But there are things people can do and I hope we can talk about that, because this is not one of those situations where we're just helplessly facing the oncoming virus. We have things we can do, and especially those are vaccines and boosters and being careful about masking again. And I know people are sick of hearing this, but the virus is not sick of us, it's thrown us a new curveball and we got to be ready to hit it.

BAIER: Can you definitively say that Omicron is less severe?

COLLINS: I cannot say that for the U.S. I have seen data as recently as yesterday from South Africa -- and let me just say that South African scientists have been incredible transparent about everything they know, and what I saw yesterday does seem to indicate that in South Africa, there is less hospitalization and the people who are getting hospitalized are less likely to be in the ICU.

But remember, that's a different population that's generally younger. Most people in South Africa already had Delta, so they have some immunity from that. They don't have boosters there, so we have that on our side. I just think we ought to be careful not to extrapolate from what we've seen, but I'm hopeful that that is an indication that while incredibly contagious, this virus is maybe a bit less likely to make people really sick and, obviously, that's something we've got to hope for or our health systems are going to be overwhelmed.

BAIER: You know, the NFL is already postponing week 15 games due to COVID outbreaks in the league. The NCAA teams are changing things, the NBA, the NHL has postponed. Here's the issue. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, they have vaccination rates at 95, 97, almost 100 percent, so what do you say to the people -- and some of those are boosted -- many of those players are already boosted. What do you say to people who look at that and say what happened to vaccination being the solution to getting back to normal life?

COLLINS: Bret, I'm glad you're asking that because while vaccination does not prevent the possibility of a breakthrough, it greatly reduces that. It certainly has for Delta. And for Omicron, if you've had two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, you are somewhat protected against the breakthrough infection. If you have a booster, you're much better protected, up there around the sort of 85 to 90 percent rate.

So there -- vaccinations are going to be very much part of our solution here, and everybody should take advantage of them, but they're not perfect. This is where I get upset because people point to anecdotes of somebody who got sick even though they had been vaccinated and say, "There, you see, it doesn't work." That's way too simplistic.

If you've gotten sick after vaccination, the chances are you're going to have a pretty mild case. You'll have the sniffles maybe or sick for a day or two with a fever but you won't be in the ICU. The vaccinations are really good at protecting against severe disease. We should all take advantage of them.

And it's got to be really, really frustrating in this country with all of its technological advance that we still have about 50 million people who haven't even gotten started on vaccinations.

BAIER: Yes.

COLLINS: How did that happen? How did we get all of this so mixed up with social media, misinformation, and political insertion into the discussion? This is the thing for me on my last day as NIH director that I find particularly frustrating.

BAIER: Yes. Dr. Collins, we always hear follow the science and, you know, science is observation, description, experimentation and explanation, but it seems that a lot of health policymakers have been trying to silence opposing views.

In a newly released set of emails received from Freedom of Information Act between you and Dr. Fauci in October 2020, you reference the Great Barrington Declaration, that was a group of epidemiologists and public health scientists who wrote, quote, "We have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of prevailing COVID-19 policies. Continuing current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long term public health."

In this email to Dr. Fauci and Cliff Lane at NAH, you write, quote, "Hi Tony and Cliff, see" -- and you connected the Great Barrington Declaration link. "This proposal from three fringe epidemiologists who met with the Secretary seems to be getting a lot of attention -- and even a co-signature from a Nobel Prize winner Michael Leavitt at Stanford. There needs to be a quick and devastating public takedown of its premises. I don't see anything like that online yet. Is it underway? Francis."

Did you write that?

COLLINS: I did write that, and I will --

BAIER: Why?

COLLINS: -- stand by that. Let me explain. What was being proposed there was basically saying, let's not worry about mitigation, let's just let this virus rip. This is, of course, before we had vaccines and, basically, these -- I will call them fringe epidemiologists who really did not have the credentials to be making such a grand sweeping statement -- were saying, just let the virus run through the population and eventually then everybody will have had it and we'll be OK. Hundreds of thousands of people would have died if we had followed that strategy, so I'm sorry, I was opposed to that, I still am and I am not going to apologize for it. There are times when people make crazy proposals on the basis of pseudoscience, and that needs to be called out.

BAIER: Right. But I guess it just follows this track with the early days downplaying or try to discredit the lab leak theory from Wuhan, why spend the time doing that when we're talking about observation, description, extermination, and explanation? I mean, now it seems like the lab leak is a real possibility.

COLLINS: Well, Bret, I'm really sorry that the lab leak has become such a distraction for so many people, because, frankly, we still don't know. There is no evidence really to say. Most of the scientific community, myself included, think that is a possibility but far more likely this was a natural way in which a virus left a bat, maybe traveled through some other species and got to humans, and there was no lab leak involved. We won't know until -- unless China decides to open up about this, which they have not done, and shame on them for that.

BAIER: Dr. Collins --

COLLINS: But this has been a huge distraction.

(CROSSTALK)

BAIER: Basically keep it -- everybody should take this seriously, is your bottom line message?

COLLINS: Yes. Yes, we've got to remember, this is the enemy. It's not the other people in the other political party. It's not the people on Facebook who are posting all sorts of crazy conspiracies. This is the enemy, we in this country have somehow gotten all fractured into a hyper-polarized, politicized view that never should have been mixed with public health. It's been ruinous and history will judge harshly those people who have continued to defocus the effort and focus on conspiracies and things that are demonstrably false.

Shame on all of us that we've gotten into this kind of pickle. We could still turn this around but, you know, it's Christmas so let's think about that. Let's think about how our weary world could maybe start rejoicing because we have a gift coming to us on Christmas Day that ought to be better than any of the things we're talking about right now. But, boy, do we need to get together.

BAIER: Yes. Dr. Collins, merry Christmas, happy holidays and thank you for the service to the country.

COLLINS: Thanks, Bret. Merry Christmas to you, too.

BAIER: Joining us here in Washington, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Governor, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: Good morning.

BAIER: You just heard that conversation and you are seeing COVID spikes in Maryland, are you considering major changes, another lockdown possibly?

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, (R-MD): No. Look, we are concerned about the rising cases. We've got hospitalizations up about 150 percent over the past two weeks and we're taking steps to try to, you know, provide more support for our hospitals, and we're putting more into testing. We're pushing monoclonal antibodies and we're trying to do everything we can to get the last 9.2 percent of our population vaccinated. We're encouraging boosters, but we're not anticipating any lockdowns at all. We're not considering that.

BAIER: What's the stat that you look at? You've got hospital officials saying that 93 percent of hospital beds across your state are full. It's not -- Covid's not the dominant condition there --

HOGAN: Right.

BAIER: But it's still affecting things.

HOGAN: Right.

BAIER: What -- what do you look at? I mean people are looking at cases. Do you look at hospitalizations, deaths?

HOGAN: The main thing that we have focused on, Bret, from the very beginning, for nearly two -- two years now has been hospitalizations and deaths. That's really what we're trying to -- it's not just about case rates and positivity rates, it's about hospitalization, keeping people safe. That's our main jobs as -- as governors.

And so our hospitalization -- you're right, our hospitals are -- are fairly full with other things, but that extra 10 to 15 percent of Covid cases loaded on top of it is what's helping cause some of the problems that we're having with shortages in some of our hospitals and we're working to address that.

We're -- look, honestly, we're -- we're pretty concerned about this omicron variant in that even though it seems to be less virulent and less dangerous, it's like four times more contagious. So, you know, the percentages, we're still seeing -- I would say in the next couple of days, omicron is going to be the dominant variant in our state. And we are anticipating, over the next three to five weeks, probably the worst surge we've seen in our hospitals throughout the entire crisis. But we don't expect it to last for long. We're hoping it starts to taper off fairly quickly. But we're -- we're facing a pretty rough time.

BAIER: Prince George's County, the school district Friday became the first major school district to announce this extended system-wide shift back to remote learning.

HOGAN: A huge effect (ph).

BAIER: Which is a big deal.

HOGAN: It's a big deal and a terrible mistake, and something we're very opposed to. You know, we -- and we -- our duly elected school boards in these counties have the powers to make those decisions. Unfortunately, I don't have that power as governor. But we're going to make it very clear that we think it's a mistake.

We all want to keep our kids safe, but we've got protocols in place. There's a hundred cases in Prince George's County out of 131,000 students. You know, if there's a particular outbreak in a classroom or in a school and you -- you want to ramp up testing and make sure we keep those people safe by shutting down an entire school system of kids that have already struggled with distance-learning for the -- for -- for nearly a year, it's just outrageous and wrong.

BAIER: What's your take on his federal appeals court ruling on the mandate for vaccines for businesses with more than 100?

HOGAN: Yes.

BAIER: Where do you think it goes? What -- what do you do with it?

HOGAN: I don't -- I don't think it's -- I don't think it's going to stand. I think the courts are -- are going to, you know, stop it from happening. And we've -- we've been able to -- and we're one of the most vaccinated states in America. As I said, we're 90.8 percent of everybody 18 and over is vaccinated in our state and 99.9 percent of our seniors without mandates.

Look, I'm -- I'm focused on, you know, convincing people that this is a great way to keep yourself and your family and your neighbors safe, but mandates aren't working. They're sort of having the opposite effect and people are digging in their heels and saying, you can't make me do it. We'd rather encourage people to go out and get vaccinated. And it seems to be working in our state. We're either the best or second best in nearly every category.

BAIER: I want to talk about a couple other issues, one is crime.

HOGAN: Yes.

BAIER: Baltimore now has had seven consecutive years with more than 300 homicides. Just had a police officer ambushed Wednesday, on life support, Keona Holley.

Some of your tough crime proposals have faced resistance in the Democratic majority state legislature.

HOGAN: Yes.

BAIER: Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby has called your renewed call to action a political stunt, asking, how has he been unwilling to develop a long-term solution to address the root causes of crime in our city? Why is his only solution to crime more police and mandatory minimum sentences?

You've been in office since January 15th. How do you respond to that?

HOGAN: Well, I would -- I would say she's completely wrong, and she's a big part of the problem. So we have a prosecutor in Baltimore City that refuses to prosecute violent criminals, and that's at the root of the problem.

But, you know, we've put massive amounts of -- we've put -- we've invested over $1 billion into -- into public safety in Baltimore City.

We -- you know, I'm not the mayor, I'm not the prosecutor, but I have started a national refund the police initiative. Defunding the police is about the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Marilyn Mosby was in favor of that idea.

We need more police. We need more investment. We've just invested another $150 million in the state and local police. But also have tough crime bills, which this -- the leaders in Baltimore City have been opposed to for tougher mandatory sentences for people that commit violent crimes and commit crimes with a gun. And the big problem is, we passed it through our senate, 70 percent Democrats, our state house has refused to, and I'm going -- we're going to continue to put pressure on them. You know, we had 17 people shot on Friday in Baltimore City. It's - I t's out of control.

BAIER: I've got 15 seconds.

HOGAN: OK.

BAIER: If former President Trump runs, or he doesn't, are you considering running for president?

HOGAN: You know, I'm stay -- going to be governor until January of '23 and then I'm going to take a look at what the options are after that.

BAIER: Do you think Republicans can win with former President Trump at the top of the ticket?

HOGAN: I think -- I think that'd be bad for the party and, you know, bad for President Trump and bad for the country. So, I don't think he's going to run and -- and I would -- my advice would be for that he didn't -- did not run.

BAIER: Governor Hogan, we appreciate your time.

HOGAN: Thank you, Bret.

BAIER: Thanks a lot.

Up next we'll talk with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who's taking stock after surveying a surprisingly tough re-election bid there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Coming up, the White House faces more questions about the president's 2024 plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I can only say what -- and reiterate what Jen has said and what the president has said himself, that he is planning to run for re-election in 2024.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: We'll ask our Sunday panel about the Democrats' road to keep the White House, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Some 13 Democratic governors are seeking re-election in 2022 with Covid precautions overshadowing much of their time in office and midterms coming as opposition to more mandates across the country is on the rise.

Joining us now, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, who will take over as chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2023, post-midterms.

Governor, welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Good to be with you, Bret. Thanks for having me.

BAIER: You know, Governor Hogan just mentioned the spike in numbers in Maryland. You, in New Jersey, have a spike in Covid cases as well. You've said everything is on the table if these numbers continue to rise. What does that mean for New Jerseyans?

MURPHY: Listen, this -- this virus has humbled all of us. Every time you think you've got it figured out, it -- it takes a turn you don't expect. And eight out of 10 of those turns are negative. So, you've got to -- you've got to leave all those options on the table.

Right now we think we have the right package in place in terms of a layered approach to -- to -- to deal with this, but our numbers are going up. The omicron variant is -- is real. We've already been battling the delta variant. This is unrelenting. There's an enormous amount of fatigue out there as it relates to this virus. By the way, I get it. I've got -- I've got that same fatigue, but we've got to stay vigilant and we will stay vigilant.

BAIER: You know, you've locked down before and this is, as you said, serious. Would you consider locking down the state of New Jersey again?

MURPHY: You -- you have to leave it on the table, but I don't see it, Bret, honestly. Among other reasons, we have a very high degree of vaccinations. Folks are getting boosted, which clearly gives another layer of protection against this. I was in the biggest mall in North America yesterday, a very high rate of masking, which is a good thing. I mean we -- we largely have folks, as fatigued as they are, they're largely accepting of what you need to do to push back at this. And -- and for the time being at least we think that's -- that's going to -- that's -- that's going to work for us.

BAIER: You mentioned the fatigue and the frustration. Now you have these federal courts weighing in on this new vaccine mandate for businesses over 100.

Your reaction to that and where do you think that's going?

MURPHY: Yes, my reaction is not as strident perhaps as others because the - - the notion that you've got to get vaccinated or you've got a testing option, that's what we have right now for state employees, for educators and the -- the take-up is very high. And the -- the rate of transmission, thank God, so far, has been low. So I -- I don't -- I don't -- I don't think this is as -- as radical as others may think. And I -- and, for the most part, I think it's consistent with what we've been standing for as -- as a state.

BAIER: Governor, I asked Governor Hogan about crime. I'll ask you as well. You had a man gunned down early Saturday morning in Trenton. That's the second deadliest year on record, tied with a total of 37 murders in 2013, three less than last year's record of 40. The Trenton mayor says it's a national trend. Some 30 percent increase in violent crimes.

How do you get a hold of it?

MURPHY: Yes, I -- I would say a couple of things. Number one, it is a national trend. We're not immune to that. Secondly, I -- I separate very clearly violent crimes from common sense gun safety and gun safety laws. We are hyper aggressive, unrelenting of the violent crime front, whether it's legislation, whether it's law enforcement or a combination of each.

On the other hand, we -- we can't continue to see kids with guns shooting at kids and other sort of just open loopholes that we know that we can close. And I think we have to separate those and we do in New Jersey, and we'll continue to be bearing down on both fronts.

BAIER: To quick things. Governor, I mentioned you're going to head up the DGA in 2023. This follows this close call in November for your election.

What message did you take from how close that was in traditionally blue New Jersey with 1 million more Democratic voters than Republicans?

MURPHY: Yes, a couple things. Number one, thank God we put the policies in place that we did, that we built the coalition that we did, otherwise we would have been swept away along with other Democrats.

I think the message, Bret, for me is, we've got the right substance, but we have to get into kitchen tables much more deeply than we've gotten into. Folks have to understand why we stand for what we stand. How it impacts their lives, their kids' lives, their futures. I think that is where the gap is. And I'm committed in New Jersey to closing that gap. And I think, nationally, the races that we've got in 2022, we've got to make sure that folks understand why government is a force for the good.

BAIER: Yes.

MURPHY: Why the policies that we stand for are -- are good for them -- for them personally and for their families.

BAIER: Nationally, President Biden, you can't deny it, is politically weak according to pretty much every poll if you go down the issues. Understanding the president has said he's going to run for re-election in 2024, if he didn't, would you consider running?

MURPHY: Now, listen, my nose is pressed against the Jersey glass, morning, noon, and night. I'm -- I'm honored to be able to help out of these governors races around the country, but my commitment and my focus is entirely New Jersey.

BAIER: All right, I'll take that as a no for now.

Governor Murphy, thanks for talking with us.

MURPHY: Good to be with you, Bret. Thanks for having me.

BAIER: Up next, we'll bring in our Sunday group to talk about the news Senator Joe Manchin just made here on FOX NEWS SUNDAY, dealing a lethal blow to the president's signature social spending bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): If I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That is a no. Senator Joe Manchin breaking news on this program just moments ago, the massive social spending bill, tax bill, Build Back Better is dead as written without Joe Manchin's vote.

It's time now for our Sunday group.

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, Gerald Seib of "The Wall Street Journal," Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, and former RNC communications director Doug Heye.

Gerry, just moments ago, we had Bernie Sanders weigh-in, calling for a vote on the floor of the Senate on the Build Back Better Act, quote, let Mr. Manchin explained to the people of West Virginia why he doesn't have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.

Big news this morning.

GERALD SEIB, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, it is big news. And, you know, Senator Manchin said, I'm happy to have a vote, but now we know how he would vote if that happens.

Look, this doesn't mean Democrats can't deconstruct in a reconstruct Build Back Better next year. In fact, that's probably what will happen, I would guess.

But what became clear over the last couple of weeks, and perfectly clear today, was Senator Manchin's problem is, a, he thinks it's inflationary by definition, and, b, he thinks there's too much budget gimmickry. It's long- term programs with short-term financing. So, they're going to have to figure out a way to fix that second problem if they're going to reconstruct this. But I -- I'm sure that will be the effort now.

BAIER: Mo, this is a big blow to the administration, but how big, politically? They tied these two bills together. They did have a win on infrastructure, but they're going to have a loss here as written.

MO ELLEITHEE, GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE: Yes, look, if -- if you track the president's approval numbers over the course of the first year, the first half he was doing great. That's because he had tangible things he could point to, shots in arms, money in your wallet, referring to the relief package. They were getting ready to add the third leg of that, jobs in your communities, with the infrastructure package, but then that got delayed.

And that got tied to this. And suddenly they lost track of the narrative, which suddenly just became an argument over a big pile of money. Most people didn't even know what was in the bill. It was just a big pile of money. They got the infrastructure bill. They can now focus on those three legs of success as they head into the new year.

This is a blow. This is something that they did not want to see happen, but they still have the elements there of a message of producing results for the American people. If they can do what Gerry suggested and take some of the most popular elements of Build Back Better and reintroduce that as the next step, then I think they've got something that they can sell to the American people.

BAIER: But, Jen, that's going to take time to break all of that up and, in the meantime, the president, the administration facing upside down poll numbers on a number of different issues and a Covid surge and a mandate concern around the country.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, a mandate concern. But I think if I could just follow up on what Mo said, this could be a shot of adrenaline for the Senate. There are statistics that they have not been debating these bills. They've spent only 12 percent of their first year in office debating these bills. People don't know what's in it. They need to get back to debating, break up the bill. There are very popular elements of this bill. A family paid leave, child tax credit. We heard Joe Manchin say that he would be in favor of those, he just doesn't want one big omnibus bill.

BAIER: Which, Doug, has not happened on Capitol Hill for a long time. Regular order has not been regular for a long time.

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, when I worked in House leadership in 2012-14, regular order was something we talked about a lot and didn't always happen. But with Manchin -- and -- and we see the Senate -- Senator Sanders comments today about whether he has the willingness to stand up to special interests, we spend a lot of time focusing on special interests, way too much time on every machination, if not Manchin-ation of what happens in the building behind you.

Here's the reality. Joe Manchin represent West Virginia. Twenty-nine percent of West Virginia voters supported Joe Biden, 60 percent supported Donald Trump. There's your answer, at least for now.

BAIER: But the other reality is that pushing through a massive piece of legislation with this slim of a majority is just not feasible. The question is on voting rights, whether there's some change in there. I tried to get through the specifics of what he's for.

SEIB: Yes, I don't see a lot of budging for -- from Joe Manchin or -- or Senator Sinema on changing the filibuster, even for voting rights. And I think that -- that one of the lessons here, and this has been true for both parties, is there's a tendency to overreach. You think you have a bigger mandate than you do. You act accordingly, then you pay a price. And I think we've seen a cycle of both parties repeating that mistake over the last decade or so.

BAIER: Mo, how do they sell this coming out of this loss? How is it sold?

ELLEITHEE: Well, I think they've got to go back to what we've been talking about, right, focusing on the core, popular elements of the bill, repackaging, and putting it out there, talking about that. Again, they lost months of controlling the narrative by allowing the conversation to be over in number, over a price tag, instead of over with the proposals were. And the Democrats on The Hill didn't help with that. That was what they were fighting over while the White House was trying to get back to messaging.

So, they've got now an opportunity to start fresh in the new year.

BAIER: You know, the president's going to give this big speech apparently Tuesday about Covid and what's coming next. It's interesting he's waiting until Tuesday. If it's that urgent, why not do it tomorrow. But the mandate thing, as we mentioned before, is a big, political issue.

GRIFFIN: Big political issue. I've been watching how it's working its way through the Pentagon. The military is now starting to kick those out who are not getting vaccinated. The courts seem to be siding with the secretary of defense. We've seen some -- some cases. They will go to the Supreme Court. But, right now, Pentagon holding firm and those mandates are standing.

BAIER: All right, panel, thank you. See you next Sunday.

Up next, an update for a FOX NEWS SUNDAY family on a man who found a singular way to honor our nation's veterans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: For the past 15 years, we've made it a tradition here to share the story of the man who created a quiet movement to honor our service members every holiday season. This year, he is the one being honored, and we were invited to take part.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER (voice over): It is an iconic image during the holidays at Arlington National Cemetery, a vivid, green wreath laying on a humble white headstone. It's a tradition that began when Worcester Wreaths owner Morrill Worcester found himself with a surplus around Christmas in 1992. He decided to donate them to a place he's cherished since a childhood visit, Arlington.

MORRILL WORCESTER, FOUNDER, WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA: They're not just tombstones. I mean those are all people.

BAIER: That's Worcester when we met him 15 years ago. By that time, a photo of his quiet annual tribute had gone viral, inspiring droves of volunteers to help lay wreaths at Arlington and cemeteries in their hometowns.

WORCESTER: Where would we be if it wasn't for the military that had our backs? We need to honor those people and remember them.

BAIER: Worcester turned this outpouring into a non-profit called Wreaths Across America, helping support ceremonies in thousands of cities and in American battlefield cemeteries around the world.

WORCESTER: It was going to be that one-time thing, but it was so well received. And I said, you know, we're going to do that for as long as we can. And here we are 30 years later.

BAIER: This year, Worcester will mark his 30th year donating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My grandfather, Morrill Worcester.

BAIER: He was honored this week here in Washington.

WORCESTER: We just barely scratched the surface.

BAIER (on camera): Did you ever think, watching all these people stream and, that it was going to be this?

WORCESTER: No, not at all. I knew that we had kind of struck a chord. Now you can go anywhere in the United States and you ask about Wreaths Across America and somebody will know that.

BAIER: How long do you think this tradition continues?

WORCESTER: Well, you know, it will continue for as long as America is free.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER: We hope so. It was powerful. This year's volunteers laid 2.4 million wreaths in 3,100 cities. And Worcester made it to D.C. this year despite a recent stroke. A powerful illustration of his commitment to this annual tribute, and we hope he continues to feel better.

That's it for today. Join me weeknights at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for "SPECIAL REPORT" on Fox News Channel. We'll have much more reaction tomorrow to Senator Manchin's big news this hour and its reverberations around Washington.

Have a great week, and we'll see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

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