This is a rush transcript of "Fox News Sunday" on July 18, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
A new wave of COVID-19 across the country, as the delta variant becomes the dominant strain.
WALLACE (voice-over): With vaccinations and case on the rise, the nation's most populous county of Los Angeles reinstates its mask mandate for everyone indoors. And the White House fights disinformation on social media, raising concerns about censorship.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): The government can't censor speech.
WALLACE: We'll talk with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy about the virus, whether we're headed for new lockdowns, and free speech.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're going to get a lot done.
WALLACE: A new timeline for a high-stakes vote on infrastructure as Senate Democrats press for trillions and even more spending on health care, child care, and the climate.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This is generational, transformational change.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It's a wild spending taxing spree, completely inappropriate for the country.
WALLACE: We'll get the state of play from Senator Bill Cassidy, a lead Republican negotiator on the bipartisan bill, only on "FOX News Sunday".
BIDEN: Twenty-first century Jim Crow assault is real.
WALLACE: The president blasts red state efforts to tighten voting laws, calling them a threat to democracy. We'll ask our Sunday panel about the battle over voting rights.
All, right now, on "FOX News Sunday".
WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
It was just two weeks ago on July 4th that President Biden was celebrating the progress we've made in the battle against COVID. But this Sunday, that battle looks a lot tougher.
Americans are once again facing the prospect of renewed mask mandates. The head of the CDC calls the spread of the delta variant a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky citing a 70 percent rise in cases from the previous seven day average, a 36 percent increase in hospitalizations, and a 26 percent increase in deaths.
Meanwhile, President Biden blames misinformation on social media for some Americans' refusal to get vaccinated.
In a moment, we'll discuss all this with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
But, first, Mark Meredith has the latest on new outbreaks, new restrictions, and new controversy about the pandemic.
MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred and sixty million people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated, but health officials warn the COVID war is far from over.
STEVE EDWARDS, CEO & PRSIDENT, COXHEALTH: I never imagined that we would exceed January's numbers.
MEREDITH: The Delta variant spreading quickly across Missouri and around the country. The CDC says cases have risen every day in every state over the last two weeks. At least 16,000 people are currently hospitalized and the government says most people who are sick didn't have to be.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage.
MEREDITH: Overnight, Los Angeles County reimposed its mask mandate. The county is once again requiring people to wear face coverings indoors whether they're vaccinated or not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just kind of think it's disappointing for the people who have gotten vaccinated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're necessary but kind of like ruins the fun a little bit.
MEREDITH: The White House says vaccine hesitancy is prolonging the pandemic. President Biden is now taking aim at social media companies, claiming they're not doing enough to stop misinformation from spreading.
REPORTER: What's your message to platforms like Facebook?
BIDEN: They're killing people.
MEREDITH: Facebook fired right back, writing in a statement Friday: We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts.
MEREDITH (on camera): The White House is now under fire from conservatives and free speech advocates after it said it's working with social media companies to flag questionable content. But the White House insists the government itself is not pulling down any content -- Chris.
WALLACE: Mark Meredith reporting from Washington -- Mark, thank you.
And joining us now is the U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy.
Doctor, there was an average of 29,000 new cases a day over these -- this past week, which takes us back to the level of April of 2020 when the country was in an almost complete lockdown. Is this a new wave of COVID-19?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Chris, I'm concerned about what we're seeing in the country right now. We are seeing increases in cases, particularly in parts of the country where the vaccination rates are low.
The good news is that among those who are fully vaccinated, that's two weeks after your last shot, we're still seeing a high degree of protection there, particularly from hospitalizations and deaths. In fact, 99.5 percent of the deaths that we're seeing right now, Chris, from COVID-19 are among those who are unvaccinated.
So I worry that we are seeing, in fact, significant increases among the unvaccinated. But the good news is the vaccinated are still highly protected.
WALLACE: While cases are rising across the country, the real surge we're seeing now is much more localized. Take a look at this map, Doctor, four states are responsible for more than 46 percent of new cases. Florida alone accounts for one in five of the new cases. So what do you say to the governors and the public health officials in those states?
MURTHY: Well, what I would say to them is what I would say to the general public, Chris, which is this pandemic isn't over, we have to be cautious, and we've got to do everything we can to get people vaccinated. That stands as the single most effective pathway we have to keeping people safe, protecting their families, and ending this pandemic.
WALLACE: You talk about distinguishing between the vaccinated people and the unvaccinated people but Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the country, as of midnight, has imposed a new mask mandate for people indoors, whether they're vaccinated or unvaccinated.
And I wonder, does that send the wrong message? One, that it doesn't follow the science about the fact that vaccinated people are protected and two, the fact that they have to wear a mask too makes the unvaccinated much less likely, gives them much less incentive to get the vaccination.
MURTHY: Well, Chris, it's a good question. And I can tell you that what's happening in LA County is happening in other parts of the country where when counties are seeing rising levels of cases, they're considering what additional mitigation measures to take in addition, of course, to their efforts to get more people vaccinated. And masking, you know, that constitutes one of those mitigation measures. And so I don't think what is happening in LA County is contrary to the (inaudible) we've learned over the past year during this pandemic.
But what's -- what LA County tells us and what other parts of the country where we're seeing rising cases tell us is that even though we've got many people who are vaccinated, we still have many who are not. We have millions of people in our country who are still not protected from this virus and that's why we've got to work hard to get them vaccinated.
One of the big barriers we have, Chris, one of the obstacles to this vaccination is in fact misinformation. We know that about two-thirds of people who are not vaccinated either believe common myths about COVID-19 vaccination or think those myths might be true. And we've got to get people accurate information, Chris, because that's what they need to make the decisions for themselves and their family.
WALLACE: Well, that brings us to your first health advisory as surgeon general. In these months that you've been the surgeon general, your first health advisory was urging social media companies, platforms to crack down on misinformation on their platforms, which led to this response from Republican Senator Josh Hawley. Take a look.
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
SENATOR JOSH HAWLEY, (R-MO): I just think that this kind of coordination between big government and the big monopoly corporation, boy, that is scary stuff and it really is censorship.
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
WALLACE: When the White House is calling out Facebook about what's on its platform, can you understand why some people would be concerned that this verges on Big Brother?
MURTHY: Well, I think -- let's talk about what this advisory is about, Chris, and then the role the government has here. I issued this advisory about health misinformation primarily because as a doctor I'm worried about what people all around the country have access to in terms of information.
I -- for years, I spent time with patients, caring for them, thinking about the decisions they're making for their health, and talking through with them, as a partner, what (inaudible). And many people are confused right now in the country.
They're not sure what to do to protect their children, to protect their elderly parents, to protect themselves. And what all of us have the right to is accurate information so we can make the right decisions for us and for our families. And I (inaudible) because that is not the reality for far too many people. But they're inundated with misinformation. And all of us, technology companies, individuals, health care professionals, and government, have roles that they can play in addressing and slowing the spread of misinformation.
In the case of government, the -- government certainly does not have a role when it comes to many pieces of this but one place where it does have a role is in bringing people together to take action in addressing misinformation, investing in --
VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: -- misinformation. In the case of government where -- you know, government certainly does not have a role when it comes to many pieces of this. But one place where it does have role is in bringing people together, to take action in addressing misinformation, investing in research to help us understand more about the flow of misinformation and how to control it.
And government also has a critical role that it can play in terms of supporting community organizations, including health professionals who are out there trying to get the word out, the truth out, about what science tells us about these vaccines.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You have been meeting with Facebook officials for months and say that you were not satisfied with your response, which led to the announcement this week and the public health advisory. But here's what a top Facebook official said this week, I want to put it up on the screen.
He said: In private exchanges, the surgeon general has praised our work.
The White House is looking for scapegoats from missing their vaccine goals.
And Facebook added that it has removed more than 18 million pieces of COVID information and shut down accounts that spread it.
What is your response, Doctor, to this statement from Facebook that you and the White House, the Biden administration are just looking for scapegoats for your failure? And given the fact that they have pushed back so hard now, what are you going to do? Facebook seems to say they're doing just fine. So, what do you next?
MURTHY: Well, Chris, this isn't about me or a specific social media company. This is about the health of Americans and the reality is that misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms.
Now, I don't question their intensions. You know, I have been in dialogue with a number of technology companies, you know, in good faith efforts to express my concerns to them and the way they had taken positive steps, and some of them have. I've acknowledged, as we should do.
But what I've also said very clearly to them, privately and also publicly is that it's not enough. It's what we are still, despite some of the actions that they have taken, seeing significant spread of misinformation.
When we talk to people who believe some of these myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, about COVID itself, and asked of where did you get that information, many of them point to their social media platforms.
And so, that is where I believe that is part of an all of society approach, we have -- need our technology companies to be a part of that approach, to step up and do more, and do it more quickly, because health misinformation is hurting people's health, it's costing them their lives, and as somebody who's lost 10 family members to COVID-19, I can tell you that that price is just way too high.
WALLACE: But they say, Facebook, that they're doing everything they can.
They say that you and the Biden administration are looking for a scapegoat.
So, what do you now? They, in effect, say we're doing everything we can.
So, can you make them do anything more?
MURTHY: Well, look, you know, I'm the surgeon general. I don't have -- I don't make laws and I don't make regulations. But what I can do is tell the country what's happening in terms of forces that they threaten their health and lay a pathway that we can take to address those factors.
There are pathways that technology companies can take to address misinformation spilling (ph) on their side. I have -- I acknowledge that they're taking some steps and I appreciate that. But I'm also very clearly saying it is not enough.
You know, intention is good but at the end of the day, it doesn't save the life of somebody who was misled by misinformation on these sites who didn't get vaccinated, got sick and lost their life as a result.
So, that's where we got to -- I'm asking these companies to step up and take responsibility for what's happening on their sites. I asked them to look out for the people all across this country whose lives depend on having access to accurate information.
And that's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm happy to talk and work with any stakeholder out there, whether it's a technology company or a community organization.
But at the end of the day, my concern, again, is as a doctor who sees people being misled and taken advantage of by health misinformation all across this country, I think that's wrong. I think it's hurting people. And I think it has got to stop.
WALLACE: Dr. Murthy, thank you. Thanks for your time this morning, it's always to talk with you, sir.
Up next, growing pressure on the Biden administration from civil rights groups to fight the GOP push for new voting restrictions. We'll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the battle over voting rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: They're killing people. I mean -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Biden on Friday charging social media platforms like Facebook are responsible for some of the millions of Americans who aren't getting vaccinated by allowing misinformation about COVID vaccines on their services.
And it's time now for our Sunday group, GOP strategist Karl Rove, Susan Page of "USA Today," and former Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr.
Susan, let me start with you.
What do you make of this new wave of COVID cases and the fight that the administration and the president himself is engaged in with Facebook? Could that Facebook official be right when he said the White House is looking for a scapegoat, is trying to change the subject, because you've got this spike in new cases and they didn't meet their vaccination goals?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: You know, you can see the frustration with the President Biden and with his administration because they've got vaccines that work and they are safe, they are widely available, and yet about a third of Americans won't take the shot.
And you heard in your interview with the surgeon general, he said, I don't make laws, I don't make regulations. They also can't force Facebook to do anything, Facebook is a private company.
So, how do they go about convincing those Americans who have refused so far to get vaccinated to do so? And it's a problem for this administration because the people who are refusing to get vaccinated as a group tend not to support President Biden or trust him, often not support or trust what government officials generally are telling them. And that's why you see things like that extraordinary exchange, really, where the president accused Facebook of killing people.
WALLACE: So, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took up this issue, this new fight this week, and pushed back on the charge that what the White House and President Biden are doing verges on censorship. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't take anything down, we don't block anything, Facebook and any private sector company makes decisions about what information should be on the platform. Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine and the people are dying as a result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Karl, two questions. First of all, is there anything wrong with a White House, this White House, calling out a social media platform like Facebook for some of the posts that are there, that's question one. And two is, why is it -- this goes to something Susan just brought up -- why is it that these vaccines, which President Trump is largely responsible for with Operation Warp Speed, why have they become so political and so polarizing?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, look, there's nothing wrong with the White House saying we want to get -- deal with misinformation. It's another thing to try and shift the blame.
You will notice Dr. Murthy, who is an admirable fellow, he didn't mention a single example of misinformation that was wrong. He had the opportunity to talk to a nationwide audience and we didn't hear him say there's misinformation like this and let me set the record straight. Nor did he refer to a website where they might have made a catalog of the misinformation and the responses.
The administration needs to do more to directly attack this and if President Biden doesn't have credibility with the people who are not being vaccinated, find people who do. Reverend Graham, for example, might have a following among Southern white evangelicals who are overrepresented in the undoc -- in the unvaccinated population.
So the administration has dropped the ball on this. The president can go to Philadelphia and make a speech about voter integrity and make a lot of misinformation statements, but he can't be bothered to give a nationwide address on this, nor can his administration be counted upon to directly deal with this misinformation, which needs to be dealt with on a fact by fact by fact basis.
WALLACE: Well, that comment about the trip to Philadelphia, Harold, brings me up to another big domestic story this week, and that is the continuing, and maybe escalating, battle over voting rights. Here was President Biden this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: This is election subversion. It's the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.
WALLACE: But, Harold, at the same time that President Biden is saying that this is the most direct threat to voting in the history of the country, he's absolutely silent about changing the filibuster, which is the reason that, because of a Republican ability to continue the filibuster, that they are able to block any federal voting reforms.
How do you square stating how serious, almost existential the threat is and then being unwilling to discuss or take any intermediate action?
HAROLD FORD, JR., FORMER CONGRESSMAN (D-TN): First off, happy Sunday morning.
I think that you are compatible still, Chris. I think the president I think is trying to convey to Republicans and Democrats alike that the most successful election, and I define success in election not by whether your candidate wins, that's what you would like to see happen in terms of an outcome but when you have as many people vote as we did in 2020 with as few challenges and problems -- and we saw the court challenges, all of them dismissed -- you have to think it makes our democracy stronger.
Now, for those who are changing some of these rules or laws or amending their state laws, you have to wonder what the intentions are. I'm reminded of what Dr. King said some six decades ago when asked about voting rights and African-Americans, really could have been talk about any American. He said some people don't want some people to vote.
When you have record turnout with record low level challenges, why would you want to change that? I understand we all want our candidates to win but candidates often don't get to pick their voters, voters get to pick their candidates. So, I hope all of these candidates would think about that as they think about changes and if President Biden can't persuade enough Republicans to come along with him in the Senate, maybe he will consider the filibuster change. I'm not in favor of that but it looks as if the rest of the president believes, as grave as he thinks it is, he may be prepared to travel down that path.
WALLACE: Karl, ground zero right now in the fight over voting restrictions is your home state of Texas, and, of course, the big story there is the fact that dozens of states representatives have fled Texas, have gone to D.C., and are basically saying they're going to stay there throughout this special session into next month to block the Texas legislature from having a quorum so they can pass these new voting restrictions.
My question is, on the ground there in Texas, how is this plane? Is it changing any mines, turning people on or off the Democratic argument, or is it just mobilizing both sides and making them angrier?
ROVE: Well, I think right now it's both sides are gaining something out of this but I think, ultimately, this thing works against the Democrats. You said new voting restrictions.
Let me set the record straight. This law does not put in force new voting restrictions. It amplifies previous law that was violated by one county in our state, Harris County, home of Houston, which decided in violation of state law would have 24 over voting and it would have drive through voting for anybody.
In Texas, you can only get drive through voting if you're unable to go into the precinct. That's what HB three, this bill, does.
So if President Biden, who declared that this is 21st century Jim Crow, if he believes that, then he ought to denunciate -- he ought to denounce Delaware, which does not allow 24-hour voting and which also does not allow for drive-thru voting either. Neither does New York, neither does Massachusetts, neither does Minnesota.
I mentioned those states because Senator Gillibrand, Warren and Klobuchar have all jumped into this fight, attacking Texas as racist, and the two things that this law principally does their state doesn't allow.
WALLACE: So in about 30 seconds, Susan, where do we stand here? Because red states are going to continue -- you can call it new voting restrictions or re-imposing what the old rules were pre-pandemic, the president can't get a federal law through because of Republican filibuster in the Senate, the Supreme Court is upholding the law changes, the voting changes in states like Arizona.
So what is -- what does Biden and the Democrats, what do they do?
PAGE: So, here's the disconnect, you can describe it as the biggest threat to voting and to democracy since the Civil War, but Democrats are not in a position to actually do anything about it on the federal level, or in more than a dozen states who continue to tighten voting laws and change the oversight of elections. So what you've got, you've got an issue, not a solution. It's something Democrats will be talking about to the next election.
WALLACE: And, of course, all of these rules could change who actually votes in the 2022 midterms.
Panel, thank you. We have to take a break. We'll see you later in the hour.
Up next, money to fix America's crumbling roads, bridges and pipes faces a key vote this week, but a bipartisan group of senators is still stuck on how to pay for it. We'll talk with a key Republican about the fate of the infrastructure package. That's next.
WALLACE: Coming up, senators worked through the weekend on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. But will they have the votes?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): There's not a single Republican in the House or in the Senate who's going to support this level of taxing and spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We'll ask one of the lead negotiators where things stand, next.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We expect a key vote in the Senate this week on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are hoping to pass an even bigger $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on a straight party line vote.
In a moment we'll ask Senator Bill Cassidy, a lead Republican on the bipartisan bill, whether either of these measures will pass.
But first, David Spunt is at the White House trying to keep up with all the legislative action this weekend.
DAVID SPUNT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.
The Democrats and president believe that spending trillions is key to reviving the middle class. Meanwhile, Republicans say it's a recipe for debt and disaster.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's great to be back with all my colleagues, and I think we're going to get a lot done.
SPUNT (voice over): President Biden promised the American people he'll go big, and he's delivering on that promise with trillions in new spending,
$3.5 trillion to be exact. Democrats call the package human infrastructure, and it includes expanded Medicare benefits, free community college, fighting climate change, and universal pre-k. This is in addition to a second $1.2 trillion bipartisan package that includes improvements to roads and bridges. Prominent progressives called the two plans a mere down payment.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I suspect there are 50 different points of view. As you know, I introduced a proposal for $6 trillion. So I'm going to fight to make that proposal as robust as it can be.
SPUNT: As spending increases, so too does inflation, where economists say right now it's the highest in 13 years with margins razor-thin in the Senate, 10 Republicans need to join all 50 Democrats to advance the bipartisan measure.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): I will just tell you right now, the votes are not there to pass this at this point. And the reason -- the pay-fors, people want them to be legitimate.
SPUNT: Negotiations continue today. And in the coming days, an initial vote on the bipartisan plan is scheduled for Wednesday.
WALLACE: David Spunt reporting from the White House.
David, thank you.
And joining us now from Louisiana is Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.
Well, Senator, as David just mentioned, you have the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, calling for a vote on Wednesday. A cloture vote to end the possibility of a filibuster on that infrastructure bill, which hasn't even been completed yet.
Two questions. First of all, will you vote for cloture on Wednesday? And, two, how confident are you that ten Republicans will vote, which is the number you need, to block a filibuster?
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): How can I vote for cloture when the bill isn't written? Unless you want program failure, unless Senator Schumer doesn't want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.
It can absolutely happen but you need the pay-fors. Senator Barrasso spoke to that. If we get the pay-fors, we can pass this.
That leads to the second issue, we need Senate leadership, Schumer, and the White House to work with us. Right now I can -- I can frankly tell you that they've not. We're competing with their $3.5 trillion plan. They want everything reasonable on their side. Not helping us. Again, we can pass this, we just don't need programed failure.
WALLACE: OK. I just want to lock this down before I move on to the $3.5 trillion. You're saying that if Chuck Schumer goes ahead and puts a cloture vote to cut off the possibility of filibuster on Wednesday that it will fail?
CASSIDY: I just don't know how you have a cloture vote when you don't have the bill written, when you don't have the pay-fors established. And so, if you will, he's asking us to vote on things that they've not cooperated on how we bring it about. So I have to kind of get my mind around, how do we vote on something which is not yet written as we try and get it right. We can get it done, but if they refused to cooperate on the pay-fors, it's not going to pass. They know that.
And so, again, how do you pass -- how do you vote for cloture on something which is not yet ready? I just don't know how to answer that question, Chris.
WALLACE: And, briefly, could it be ready by Wednesday, or are there too many differences and it won't be ready by Wednesday to have a cloture vote?
CASSIDY: I think it could be ready. Again, we need cooperation from the White House and Schumer on our pay-fors.
We've offered pay-fors, Republicans have. Good faith pay-fors that both sides agree are good. And we offer them and the White House takes them and says, no, we want them. We want them for our $3.5 trillion.
Now, if you really don't want a bipartisan package, if you want to kind of make the point that Congress doesn't work because you make it so it can't work, then take all our pay-fors. If you want to actually have it bipartisan bill that the American people strongly approve of, then cooperate a little bit, we can get this done, we just need a little help.
WALLACE: OK, let's assume, for the sake of this interview, that you do get a compromise on the pay-fors and on the bipartisan comprehensive infrastructure bill. At the same time that Chuck Schumer is pushing that on a bipartisan basis, he's also pushing for a $3.5 trillion massive spending program, which he wants to pass on a straight party line vote.
Question, can you separate the two, support the bipartisan compromise on infrastructure while you oppose the $3.5 trillion social spending?
CASSIDY: Absolutely, because the $1.2 trillion infrastructure is over five to eight years, depending on what aspects. The American people universally want. The spending is somewhat on the back end. It won't worsen inflation, it will create jobs. That is very different than what is being offered with the 3.5 trillion, which even Larry Summers, a left of center economist, a Democrat, says in an overheating economy is problematic.
So I think our 1.2 is where the American people want us to be, 3.5 is where the progressive socialist wing of the Democratic Party wants to be.
WALLACE: But are you concerned, Senator, that President Biden and the Democrats are using you, that they are going to be able to claim that they worked in a bipartisan fashion, hold a big signing ceremony for the infrastructure built in the Rose Garden at the same time that they pass the rest of their agenda on a straight party line vote?
CASSIDY: You know, all I can do -- you do what is right, and it's right.
The $1.2 trillion is good for the United States of America. It would be bipartisan, representing the interest of all 50 states, not just those represented by Democrats. It actually addresses pent-up demand for roads and bridges in my state, across the nation, and other things important.
Now, the 3.5 trillion, if they want to go there on a strict party line vote, fueling inflation, making people more dependent upon the government, they can address that. I'm just trying to take care of the infrastructure that our country needs, that my state needs.
WALLACE: So if you add up all of the Biden plans, you had 1.9 trillion for COVID relief, now you're talking about 1.2 trillion for infrastructure and then $3.5 trillion for social spending, that adds up. I didn't know the math was going to be included here. That adds up to more than $6 trillion.
And, Senator Schumer, the Senate majority leader, has been very clear about his intentions, which is to transform the American economy.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It will allow us to pass the most significant legislation, to expand support for American families since the era of the new deal and the great society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, you say you can separate the two and say, look, I'm for this, I'm against that. Do you think that ten Republicans, which is what you're going to need to pass bipartisan infrastructure, can separate the two and not feel, well, they're a little bit complicit because they went for this
$600 billion in new spending on the infrastructure plan?
CASSIDY: So, first, absolutely I think we can if we get our pay-fors right.
That's where we need the cooperation from the White House and from Schumer's office. If we get those, this spending is over five to eight years. It is something which Republicans and Democrats, President Trump advocated for. I think it's something that we can do.
The other spending, which is going to fuel inflation, I mean they're going to transform our economy. They're going to transform our economy back to where it was in the '70s where inflation was so high it ate away middle class families' savings. That's what they're trying to do.
And so we can separate those. One's good for the United States, one's good for the American people, the other is fueling inflation.
WALLACE: I want to switch subjects on you in the minute or so that we have left.
Your state of Louisiana is the fifth lowest in vaccination rates, only 36 percent of people in your state have been fully vaccinated. You're a medical doctor. Your thoughts about that? About the resistance to the vaccine in Louisiana and is there anything you can and plan to do about it?
CASSIDY: A couple things.
First, people are surprised when citizens don't trust government. When you have partisan comments coming out of the White House regarding next Jim Crow laws, are people like Senator Schumer and the White House not cooperating on a bipartisan bill -- oh, here we're going to be partisan but overhear you better trust us. That just doesn't work.
But I would also argue as a physician, you need to -- you need to go back to your health care workers. It shouldn't be the president advocating.
Again, he's -- he's -- he's -- he's depicting himself as uber partisan. You need to have your doctors, your nurse, your physician's assistants, who's speaking to the patients they normally care for, they see at the PTA meeting, they otherwise communicate, this is good, it saves lives.
What I'm doing, I'm trying to educate. Yesterday one of my former students had a nice video, we're choosing between vaccination or accepting higher rates of death. Put it on my social media today. Where pushing that. That's our choice. You choose either to be vaccinated or to accept a higher rate of unnecessary death. That's the way to communicate through your physician, your nurse, your PA, et cetera, not through some uber partisan person who's
-- who asked us to trust them except when they're making incredibly partisan statements.
WALLACE: Senator Cassidy, thank you. Thanks for joining us. It is always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.
Up next, the biggest protest in decades in Cuba push the Biden administration to weigh its options for dealing with an old Cold War enemy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We have to do a lot to get people jobs, to get people with better lives.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Hopefully there will be a few brave Democrats who understand that running the country into the ground, both with taxing and debts, is not a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and his GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell with very different views about passing big infrastructure and social spending bills while the country is facing rising inflation.
And we're back now with the panel.
Karl, as someone who helped run the legislative trains for Bush 43, I want to ask you about the Democrats' battle plan here. Not the policy, but the tactics they're using.
What do you think of Chuck Schumer forcing this cloture vote on a still unfinished bipartisan infrastructure plan for this Wednesday and his continuing effort to link, for Democrats, link -- yes, I'm going to pass bipartisan infrastructure but I'm also going to pass this $3.5 trillion big social spending plan?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I understand the latter, I understand that he wants to have this gigantic expansion of government, the creation of all these new spending programs, of all these new mandatory benefits and so forth. I understand that.
The question with regard, though, to the -- his action of calling a vote this Wednesday when the bill isn't even drafted and agreed upon, he's either got one of two motives. Either he's trying to be helpful by forcing action, or he basically wants to set it up for failure.
Unfortunately, my gut tells me that he's going to set it up for failure.
This is the kind of thing you don't do unless you are -- unless you think that this helps you get across the finish line because very rarely does it get you across the finish line to push something that's not yet baked, that's not yet agreed upon, and it's not even drafted.
WALLACE: Harold, this seems to me to verge on playing to an inside straight in poker. Schumer is talking about I'm going to pass a bipartisan infrastructure deal with Republican help. I'm going to pass a much bigger, triple the size bill with just Democratic votes. I'm going to keep the liberals, the left-wing of the party happy, at the same time I'm able to mollify the centrist moderates.
How tricky is this going to be?
HAROLD FORD, JR., FORMER CONGRESSMAN (D-IN) AND CEO, EMPOWERMENT AND INCLUSION CAPITAL: Very. Look, I think while -- I was encouraged, first off, by Senator Cassidy's comments, that -- that he's -- he sees a path to some sort of compromise around infrastructure. I hope that's right as China is spending trillions on their military, roads, bridges, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, we can't figure out how to spend 1 trillion to try to strengthen our infrastructure and make it possible for us to compete against them better in the 21st century.
I'm not lost sight of what this really is about. Infrastructure is one part, one element in our challenge against the strongest economic power we have faced as a nation.
Russia, in the 20th century, was a great military power, but they were not close to being the economic power that China is. If we want to ensure our kids and grandkids are able to win the 21st century cold war. This is one of the first things we have to do. And I'm hopeful they're able to get it right.
WALLACE: Susan, as I read what Senator Cassidy was saying in the last segment, it -- he was clear, I'm not voting for cloture unless we have a deal, but he was putting as much pressure as he could on the White House and Democrats to say, hey, look, you've got to compromise with us on the pay-fors, how we're going to pay for this 1.2 trillion. And, as he said, it's possible they could do that by Wednesday.
Where do you think -- someone who's been around Congress for a while -- what you think are the prospects as we sit here today for the infrastructure plan and the $3.5 trillion in social spending?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": You know, I thought that conversation was Senator Cassidy was the kind of conversation -- we haven't heard much in the past decade or so here because that was not a redline, that was not a line in the sand, it wasn't my way or the highway, it was, we are close to a deal and we can get there and his concern is on the pay-fors. We know that is -- what's now being negotiated behind closed doors with this bipartisan group.
I think that was reasonably -- nothing's guaranteed, but it was reasonably encouraging when you look to passage of the infrastructure bill. And we've seen -- I mean that -- and that is -- you know what, we shouldn't miss what a test this is for the thesis of Joe Biden's campaign for president, where he made the argument, bipartisanship is not dead, we can still turn to it.
Big test with that.
Big test also on the reconciliation bill. A test of whether Democrats who have zero margin for error can hang together to get through a bill that is not as big as someone and is much bigger than others wanted, but it's what is possible now.
You know, as I said, always better -- always safer to vote for failure in terms of getting things through Congress. But I think the White House may have listened to that interview you just did and be reasonably encouraged that there is a path that they're on that could get them to success.
WALLACE: They better make a deal with Bill Cassidy before Wednesday, though, I'll tell you that.
Let's turn to another big story this week, and those were the public protests against the regime in Cuba.
Here was a comment from President Biden this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Communism is a failed system. A universally failed system. And I don't see socialism as a very useful substitute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Karl, as a practical matter, what can the U.S. do to support the protesters in Cuba?
And, secondly, what did you think of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, who called out President Biden this week for what she called the absurdly cruel U.S. embargo on Cuba?
ROVE: Well, it shows the divide within the Democratic Party. They're a large element. It wasn't just AOC. There were a number of others who said Cuba's in bad shape because the U.S. embargo, not because it's living under a communist regime.
I thought it was difficult -- it was problematic that the president took so long to let the words "communism" and "socialism" passed his lips. The first administration response to this refused to, you know -- were clearly trying not to say those words.
There are things that we can do. We can announce that we will sanction any Cuban officials who are involved in oppressing their people in -- during these protests. We can increase our efforts to have a free flow of information to, in essence, make the Internet available to people in Cuba.
We can even offer to provide vaccine assistance to the Cuban people. You know, much as we provided food in Africa or the Berlin airlift, we can offer the Cuban -- put the government -- the government of Cuba in a bad place and say, we'll provide doses of the vaccine to be administered by American and hemispheric health care workers to help relieve the challenge you face. There are lots of things that we can do.
Words alone are not going to be enough. Words are important. Glad he finally said it. But we need to find now some practical actions to help encourage this growth of democracy in Cuba.
WALLACE: Well, it's going to be interesting to see whether, as you say, it goes from words to actual actions.
Thank you all, panel. See you next Sunday.
Up next, a fascinating "Power Player of the Week." Iran was allegedly plotting to kidnap her from here on U.S. soil for opposing the regime in Tehran. You'll get a chance to meet her. That's next.
WALLACE: Four Iranians were charged this week for plotting to kidnap a dissident from here in the U.S. and somehow bring her back to face authorities in Tehran. We interviewed that brave young woman in 2019 to find out why the regime in Iran is so afraid her. And here's our "Power Player of the Week."
MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: We are banned from singing. We are banned from dancing. We are banned from showing our hair.
WALLACE: Masih Alinejad is talking about laws in Iran that bar women from so-called "indecent behavior."
ALINEJAD: When you go to Iran and stand up for your own dignity!
WALLACE: Now living in Brooklyn, she spent the last 12 years mobilizing women in her home country to fight for their freedom.
ALINEJAD: When I fight against forced (ph) hijab (ph), I'm not fighting against a small piece of cloth. I'm fighting against one of the main pillar of a religious dictatorship.
WALLACE: Hijab is part of the Islamic dress code, women must cover their head in public or risk imprisonment. Seven years ago, Masih started a website called My Stealthy Freedom, urging women to share pictures of their defiance.
ALINEJAD: I got bombarded by photos and videos from women inside Iran holding headscarves, waving it in public and saying, this is our true self.
WALLACE (on camera): And what happens to women in Iran who take off the hijab, who wave this scarf, who sing or dance in public? What kind of risk are they taking?
ALINEJAD: Being a woman means that you risk your life every day.
WALLACE (voice over): But she didn't stop there. In 2017 she launched White Wednesdays, urging men and women to wear that color in protest. The videos people sent became much bolder.
Masih says 29 people were arrested in one day in 2019. These two sisters were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are the voice of women who are in prison for saying not to forced hijab.
ALINEJAD: They know the risk. They know the danger. But they are like the women of suffrages. They want freedom, and they are ready to pay the price.
WALLACE: Which brings us to Masih's story.
She grew up in a traditional family in northern Iran, but she always wondered why she couldn't enjoy the same freedom as her brother.
ALINEJAD: I started my own revolution from my family's kitchen.
WALLACE: By 2009 she was a journalist, but Iranian officials didn't like her constant questioning.
ALINEJAD: I had two options, to stay in Iran and keep silent or leave Iran and be loud.
WALLACE: The revolutionary court has certainly heard her. In 2019, they banned any interaction with Masih.
ALINEJAD: They called me hostile government. They called me a hoar. They called me a prostitute. They called me the agent of CIA, MI6. They even called me the agent of President Trump.
WALLACE: That isn't the worst of it. Authorities interrogated her mother and arrested her brother, and her father stopped talking to her.
ALINEJAD: I don't want to actually show them that they can break us.
WALLACE (on camera): Making this break with your family, with tradition, it comes at a cost.
ALINEJAD: You know, it's not easy. I haven't seen my family for ten years.
It's not easy.
WALLACE (voice over): But there is no chance Masih or supporters back in Iran will stop fighting.
ALINEJAD: That is why I have to be strong. Otherwise, you know, they're going to win the battle. And I'm not going to let them win.
WALLACE: Masih is currently under FBI protection as she continues her campaign sharing defiance videos from inside Iran.
And now some really big news.
Luke Victor Wallace was born Saturday morning. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 5 ounces and a strapping 20 inches in height. He'll make his first TV appearance in person during the Wallace grandkids Christmas greeting. That is, if we can work out a contract. He is making some very tough demands at this point.
And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
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