This is a rush transcript of "Special Report with Bret Baier" on January 4, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BAIER: Well, President Biden saying today that this was a pandemic of the unvaccinated. However, the numbers show that a lot of vaccinated people, even boosted people, are still getting this Omicron variant of COVID-19. And there are other communications issues with the CDC continuing.

Let's bring in our panel, Morgan Ortagus, former State Department spokesperson, Amy Walter, publisher and editor in chief of the "Cook Political Report," and Matthew Continetti, senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

Matthew, let me start with you. The new guidance is different than the old guidance. Now you're supposed to get a test after five days if you are fever free for 24 hours. I feel like we need a whiteboard, but this is what they are saying. But the challenge is you have to get a test to be able to do that.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: And you can't get a test. What did Andy Warhol say, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes? In the future, the CDC will issue new guidance every 15 minutes for how they behave if you contract Omicron.

Bret, I think the White House has developed a herd immunity to reality. They need to see the Omicron event as a gamechanger. It seems to be less severe. It certainly can't be controlled. We're far beyond that. And so the White House needs to stop putting Fauci as the face of their pandemic response, and move to having Biden be the face of the pandemic response, speaking in primetime, and talking not as he has been in the previous waves, but really adopting the rhetoric of governors like Jared Polis, a democrat in Colorado, and mayors like Eric Adams in New York, saying it's time to start living with this, and we can do it.

BAIER: Yes. The guidance difference and the communications difference, it's not just Tony Fauci. It's obviously the CDC director who has been out. Take a listen to this.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If you got a rapid test at five days and it was negative, we weren't convinced that you weren't still transmissible. If it was positive, we still know the maximum amount of transmission was behind you. We still wanted you to wear a mask.

If it's positive, stay home for another five days. If it's negative, I would say you still really need to wear a mask. You still may have some transmissibility ahead of you. You still should probably not visit grandma. You shouldn't get on an airplane.


BAIER: And, Amy, they say if you have a negative, it doesn't mean that you don't have the infection. So back to ground zero.


Look, I agree with what Matthew said about President Biden coming out, being the face of this, getting more -- getting attention away from the CDC or Fauci or all the other folks coming on television now whose job as public health official is to give certain advice. But that is very confusing as we move through a pandemic that is not easily contained.

I thought the most important thing that the president did today was he basically said to the schools you need remain open. He said specifically we have given you a lot of money, about $140 billion the government has given states and local school districts to take care of things like ventilation, to do things like testing. Now it's true there is a challenge when you can't buy the tests. But he basically said you have the money. You have to figure it out. Don't close your schools.

And, also, for folks who are vaccinated, don't panic. So trying to do as Matthew had said, which is to say we're moving on. We need to go forward. We need to keep our schools open. And, by the way, the federal government, we have given you the money you need, schools. Now go do it.

BAIER: Well, it's not just Chicago, but that is really a focus because the teachers union there is voting tonight of whether they show up tomorrow. Take a listen.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO: Our schools are safe. Our schools are not the source of significant spread.

PEDRO MARTINEZ, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS CEO: There is no evidence in our schools throughout the whole semester, the whole entire semester, with all the complaints that existed about what we didn't have, the misinformation, that we saw any significant level of any transmission.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that our kids can be safe when in school, by the way. That's why I believe schools should remain open.


BAIER: And at least in recent days, Morgan, the president, the education secretary has been consistent on that point.

MORGAN ORTAGUS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Yes, but we're talking about being two years into a pandemic, two years of parents having unsustainable schedules, not knowing if the school is going to be shut down for a few days or for a week. Most of my friends are parents of young children in dealing with this, trying to keep two careers going. It's just exhausting for parents around the country. And there's really no excuse for two years in to have to demand that teachers and schools stay open and show up to work.

Listen, I think what happened in 2020 when the pandemic hit, the Democrats made a calculated decision, and it was perhaps a smart political decision for them because they won the election, but they made a political decision that they were going to make COVID political, and they were going to run against President Trump based on COVID.

So now you have half the country that feels that this administration doesn't have credibility because they have made it so political. You had every major anchor on television, except you, Bret, downplay the lab leak theory when Mike Pompeo and I told everyone that there was a ton of credibility and gave evidence. Then you had the mask mandate, which now, as we all know, actually these little paper, flimsy clots aren't effective.

You see "The New York Times" writing this morning about the mental health effects of children and of society. These are things that we have been talking about for two years, and suddenly the elites have woken up to the harmful and dangerous side effects on our children and our society at large. And I think that you are going to continue to have people enormously frustrated until this administration wakes up and gets on message.

BAIER: One of the big things about the mandate is that the vaccine mandate for the military is going to go into a number of cases, likely heading all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Just yesterday, we told you about the federal judge who turned down the mandate, basically said it had to be held off. Here's the lawyer for the Navy Seals in that.


MICHAEL BERRY, FIRST LIBERTY INSTITUTE: If the military is really concerned about accomplishing the mission and readiness and force in strength, then why are they kicking people out? Why are they kicking out Navy Seals who should be fighting for our freedoms and fighting to defend this nation instead of fighting for their jobs? It's trampling all over the constitutional rights of our servicemembers.


BAIER: So, Matthew, this is going to come to the justices, eventually.

CONTINETTI: It will. And I think that the issue in the pandemic may be over, Bret, by the time it reached the justices. And just see how the vaccine first strategy is potentially backfiring on President Biden.

BAIER: We'll follow this, obviously. A lot to talk about.

Up next, the impact of big tech censorship and Democrats voting rights legislation on this year's midterm. It is this year, 2022.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: As we remember January 6th this week, and as we confront state level voter suppression, we must be clear they are not isolated developments. The Senate must advance legislation to protect our democracy and safeguard the right to vote.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It appears as if the majority leader is hell bent to try to break the Senate.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D-WV): Once you change a rule or you have a carve out, I've always said this, any time there is a carve out, you eat the whole turkey. There is nothing left because it comes back in full. So you want things that will be sustainable.


BAIER: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer meeting with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. There is no indication, though, that they are changing their idea that they don't want to break up the filibuster, and you would need to do that in order to move forward with the voting rights bill they had planned.

We are back with our panel. Amy, it doesn't seem like there is a big change here. Am I misreading something?

WALTER: You don't seem to be at all, Bret. Manchin made it clear today that he has not changing his mind on the filibuster. And so that means if there is a vote that's going to come up, it will not pass, it will be filibustered, and that will then give Democrats a talking point, but it's not going to get them success. And I think that's not particularly a great message going into election year to try to rev up your base by saying, look, we have control of the Senate but we can't really get these things done.

BAIER: And it's, Morgan, we have videotape, that's the problem for a lot of lawmakers. And this is Chuck Schumer in 2005.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The idealogues in the Senate want to turn what the founding fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship. They want to change the rules in midstream, to wash away 200 years of history. They want to make this country into a banana republic.

It will be a doomsday for democracy if we do.


BAIER: But time passes, Morgan?

ORTAGUS: Yes. I guess I agree with Chuck Schumer there. I think there is going to be a bunch of Republicans political operatives that are pulling that clip that you just showed for ads going into the midterms. Really, I think what the Democrats have to do is say what is our governing agenda? It looks like it's going to be a bloodbath. But is there any way for them to still keep the Senate, right, to not have as big as losses in the House as are projected or expected at this point.

And to do so, they are going to have to get Biden out front messaging more. And they are going to have to have some sort of governing agenda other than just trying to get rid of the filibuster and progressives and moderate Democrats fighting with each other.

There's a lot of noise right now. "Axios" is reporting earlier today that Americans are just turning out of political news, much less so than they did over the past three years, of course, during the Trump years. So you've got this combination of the average American voter being sick of COVID and being sick of politics and no agenda from the Biden administration going into 22. It's a bad combination.

BAIER: Yes, although the SPECIAL REPORT viewers are very loyal, we should point out.


BAIER: Matthew, let's wrap it up with you. The "Cook Political Report," which is Amy's bread and butter, saying that the House ratings for 2022 are leaning definitely towards the Republicans way, at least early. And all of this is setting up to be quite something come November, 2022.

CONTINETTI: I'm not going to dispute Amy's great analysis. I will just say with Schumer, he is so terrified of a primary challenge from his left that he is forgetting about the middle. And the middle, Bret, decides elections, and right now the middle is headed toward the GOP.

BAIER: And Amy, quickly, the retirements for Democrats also signal something.

WALTER: Right.

BAIER: You've got Pat Leahy in the Senate, and basically 24 House Democrats.

WALTER: It's in the house. And many of those are in districts that Democrats are going to have a really tough time holding, including some rural districts in Illinois and Wisconsin.

BAIER: Bobby Rush, Democrat in Illinois, announcing he would retire as well.

All right, panel, thanks so much. When we come back, Tuesday Tweets.

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