'Your World' on the Delta variant

This is a rush transcript of "Your World" on October 27, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: All right, there isn't an app for this, but there's a startling development on this, as we take a look at the political weather and whether there are getting to be maybe more promising, sunnier skies for that massive spending package that Democrats are trying to cobble together and maybe get a framework done as early as tomorrow.

Word at this hour the president is meeting with Bernie Sanders to try to iron out some differences that at least the White House is indicating can be resolved and soon. We shall see.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto. And this is "Your World."

Some fast-moving developments both on Capitol Hill today and at the White House, where we're seeing what at least Democrats are saying are real signs of progress.

Jacqui Heinrich is at the White House with more -- Jackie.

JACQUI HEINRICH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Neil, and good to see you.

Well, here's a good snapshot of where things stand right now. We know Senator Bernie Sanders is meeting with the president right now in the Oval Office. That is still ongoing. This appeared to come together rather quickly, after Senator Joe Manchin said earlier today that he had a meeting with the president last night that was a hastily arranged. He didn't expect to have a meeting and ended up having one.

So that's sort of how the pressure is coming toward the senators and the people on the Hill from the White House, but, also square to that, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden just told Hill reporters the billionaire tax was still on the table. And then, 10 minutes later, the Ways and Means chairman, Richard Neal, said it was out of consideration.

So there are a lot of variables here. Things are moving at warp speed with all of those variables and also the continued claims from the president that the social spending plan they're working on actually costs zero dollars because of the pay-fors.

I asked the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, if having it paid for is a requirement for the White House. And I didn't exactly get an answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEINRICH: So is having it paid for that a requirement for the president?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's been pretty clear that he believes that making the tax system more fair, that ensuring we are taking the opportunity to do that is a part of this package and what he expects to sign into law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEINRICH: So not a yes or a no there.

The White House is still holding out hope that Democrats in Congress can reach an agreement on the president's social spending in time for the president's trip to Europe tomorrow.

But on the Hill, progressives are again vowing to block any vote on the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill until the social spending is finished. One progressive source told me Speaker Pelosi's suggestion that a vote could come soon -- quote -- "definitely caught us off-guard. Not sure if she really thinks she can will this thing through, but the votes are not there."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki had another subtle warning shot for progressives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PSAKI: I mean, this package is for -- would extend high-speed Internet to every American. Are you against that? Would ensure that children don't -- aren't drinking poisoned water? Are you against that?

These are key components of change, of progress that many progressives have expressed support and excitement about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEINRICH: So, it is appearing more likely the president will head to the G20 and COP 26 climate summit without a legislative win in his pocket. Of course, things are still being worked out here.

The White House says they're working with Democratic leaders in Congress to set up the extension for the baseline funding for the hard infrastructure that will expire again at the end of this month if a vote doesn't happen. So that's looking like a backup plan. But the messaging from the White House is, anything's possible, could still happen -- Neil.

CAVUTO: All right, Jacqui, thank you very much, Jacqui Heinrich.

So this issue of a billionaires tax that might have been torpedoed, whatever its real future possibilities here, because Joe Manchin did seem to pivot on this issue, that he was open to some sort of tax on the wealthy, that they should be paying something. The difference was what was being offered here, as a tax on capital gains for the well-to-do, whether they have sold those underlying assets or not.

It gets complicated, but, fortunately, that is the world that Chad Pergram dominates and can express in English better than anyone else I know.

So, Chad, where do we stand on this so-called billionaires tax? That was going to be the means by which they were going to pay for a lot of it?

CHAD PERGRAM, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know right now if it's in or out.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forcing the issue. She wants legislative language later today from committees on the social spending package, but things are far from settled. Pay-fors are the biggest divide in this bill.

The push to tax the elite group of billionaires may enthrall the left, but that appears to be out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): It has not been vetted by any committee, and that it would be very difficult because of its complexity.

None of us in the Democratic Caucus in the House have any problem with asking billionaires for more money. That's fine. But this happened all of a sudden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERGRAM: Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden replied "Absolutely not" when asked if the tax was out. Democrat Joe Manchin opposes the billionaires tax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We have said we have all agreed on a 15 percent corporate tax.

Well, people in the stratosphere, rather than trying to penalize them, we ought to be pleased that this country's able to produce the wealth. I don't like the connotation that we're targeting different people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERGRAM: Bernie Sanders of Vermont says every progressive revenue option - - quote -- "seems to be sabotaged."

What's in the bill will dictate what's necessary to pay for the bill. There is aggravation from members not knowing what's in or out. And this is why progressives won't vote for the infrastructure bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): The issue is, what does legislative text look like, so we know what's there. And then can we get a definitive time on a vote? We need to have this done by next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERGRAM: Tensions between liberal and moderate Democrats are boiling. One senior moderate Democrat groused about demands from what they called -- quote -- "the blanking progressives" -- Neil.

CAVUTO: All right, Chad, thank you very much for that, Chad Pergram.

Let's go to Dan Kildee right now, the Michigan Democrat, House Ways and Means Committee, obviously, in the leadership in the House as well.

Congressman, where are you on, let's say, the billionaires tax?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, first of all, Neil, it's great to have you back.

Welcome back.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much.

KILDEE: It's -- I'm glad to see you back on the air again.

My issue with this is a couple things. One, it's an idea. It's an idea that's been floated. It's not legislative text. That's an issue. But I think there are some other technical questions.

And, as Richie Neal said, look, we're -- it's not like we're averse to taxing those who have done extraordinarily well at a fair rate. But it has to be realistic. Can we tax unrealized gains? Should we tax unrealized gains? Or should we focus our energy on taxing those high income earners with the marginal rate that the Ways and Means Committee increased by 2.6 percent, and with a very high wealth, very high earner 3 percent surtax?

To me, what we did when with the Ways and Means Committee product is more predictable. It's certainly clearly constitutional. And what I can't understand is why is it that we're avoiding just taking what we know will work, and coming up with these ideas that are unclear, when, to a great extent, we're talking about taxes derived from many of the same people?

I don't think people will say, I don't think those who are high wealth earners will say something like, well, I don't mind paying more taxes, but at least you didn't increase the marginal rates. That's not the -- that's not a realistic way to look at this.

CAVUTO: That's interesting.

So it sounds, from what you're saying, Congressman, is that the income tax rate hikes originally proposal in the Ways and Means Committee and part of the overall Democratic package as we knew it is returning. The billionaires tax, that wealth tax, that that is not going to be part of it as things stand now.

KILDEE: If I have my way, and that's been my input.

But, again, this is a moving target, Neil. And this is what it's like. And we have some sympathy for our Republican colleagues a few years ago. With really thin margins and a real diversity of thought within the Democratic Caucus, this makes it very difficult. But we will get there. It's just really -- it's painful.

CAVUTO: Well, then could I ask you about that, Congressman, just back to the overall numbers?

We have been hearing figures in the under $2 trillion range, something like $1.75 trillion, which would be a long way from the $3.5 trillion originally proposed. I know the devil is in the details and things will change likely, maybe a lot.

But is it your sense that the final price tag will be in that under $2 trillion range?

KILDEE: That's my assumption, just based on the conversations that I have had, particularly with folks on the Senate side, that that's where we can go.

And I think, for progressive members, we have to take a step back and just say, look, just think about a couple of years ago. The ability to move a bipartisan infrastructure bill at $1.2 trillion, and then have a significant investment in a lot of these priorities that the Democratic Party has been working on for a long time, even if it's not everything, we really have to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

There can be disagreement about this policy, obviously. But to the extent that Democrats are united, we should be united around what we can actually achieve, and not around a promise that we can't keep. And that's where I land on this.

Let's do what we can. Let's be reasonable and thoughtful and make the compromises we need to, to actually do something for the people that we're working for, rather than tell them what we would have done if we could have gotten it over the finish line. That doesn't do anybody any good.

CAVUTO: Well, Congressman, you know that the president is meeting with Bernie Sanders. And we're told that Bernie Sanders was, according to one source, apoplectic over the downward trend in the overall price of this, some generous Medicare provisions that are likely going to be kept out.

Joe Manchin didn't want to expand Medicare until its underlying financials were better. And so we're told anyway that Bernie Sanders is extremely angry. Should he be?

KILDEE: Well, I mean, he can be angry that it's not going to be what he would have done if he were completely in charge, or if there were 51 senators that shared all of Senator Sanders' view.

But that's not the way our government is organized. I don't get to decide all on my own how Congress will act, and neither does any single senator.

I do think it's a point that Senator Manchin to take heed of that, while Senator Sanders doesn't get 100 percent of what he wants, neither can Senator Manchin. There's got to be some rational common ground that can be found.

CAVUTO: That's very well put.

All right, Dan Kildee, thank you. Very good catching up with you. Thank you as well, sir, for the kind words.

Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee, a very influential, powerful player in all of this, as is this next gentleman, the Ohio Republican senator not running for reelection, Rob Portman with us right now.

Senator, very good to have you.

Obviously, Republicans aren't keen on any of this. They're not going to vote for any of this. Are you encouraged at least by some of the signs that are out there that at least the overall price tag is coming down?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Well, I suppose that's good, but it's a terrible time to raise taxes.

And all of these proposals involve raising taxes, and also increasing spending dramatically and stimulus spending, Neil. And you and I have talked about this before, but this is the wrong time, for a lot of reasons.

One is, it will increase the inflationary pressure we're already feeling. And Republicans and Democrats alike who look at this objectively, including Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary in the Obama years, say this is going to add more to the inflationary pressure.

And then, with regard to the debt and deficit, we are now at a point, as you know, that our debt as a percentage of our economy, which is probably how you ought to look at it, is at historic levels.

So it's a whole lot more spending; $1.5 or $1.75 trillion is being portrayed as something moderate, sort of the compromise.

CAVUTO: Yes.

PORTMAN: Gosh, a billion dollars is -- a trillion dollars is 1,000 billion dollars. I mean, it's just -- it's amazing we're throwing around trillions as if it's nothing.

So, anyway, by the way, I love your home studio. It's great to have you back with us. We missed you.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

You do raise a good thing about how numb we are to these numbers. I mean, $1 trillion, $2 trillion, that used to be the entire U.S. budget, and then some.

But the leaving that aside, those days are gone a long time ago. We're looking at likely a record deficit when all is said and done after this additional spending. And there has been a move by some of your Republican colleagues maybe to bring back a balanced budget amendment or a push like that to keep spending within a certain percentage, or the debt, as you were mentioning, a percentage of the economy's size and the budget's size.

But it never happens. You're leaving. And I know it's been a frustration for you. But do you worry that this will never be addressed?

PORTMAN: I do.

Look, I have got another 13 months and two weeks and two days and four hours, not that I'm counting.

CAVUTO: Yes, I didn't mean to push you out the door. I didn't mean to push you out the door.

(LAUGHTER)

PORTMAN: No, but, look, I'm going to continue to push on this issue of dealing with the long-term crisis that we're going to face if we don't own up to this debt and deficit.

And you're right. This year, we will probably have the biggest deficit ever, depending on how biggest package is, because it's on top of the $1.9 trillion we already did in March, which was the biggest legislative package ever, the highest cost ever.

And now they're talking about this one, which, if it's a $2 trillion, it'll be that. It'll be the biggest. If not, it'll be the second biggest. So, these numbers, they are kind of mind-numbing. But, on the other hand, they're really impactful as to what's going to happen long term to our kids and our grandkids, who are going to get left holding the bag.

So we do need to focus on this, particularly on the entitlement spending. That's where most of the money is now being spent, 70 percent when you add interest on the debt. And that's the fastest-growing -- fastest-growing part of our economy. So we have got to deal with it.

If we don't, we will find ourselves in a financial crisis. And my hope is that, in the context of the debt limit, we will do that. It's the only time we have really ever done it with any success that -- you remember the caps and sequestration and Gramm-Rudman and so on. Those all came out of a debt limit discussion.

CAVUTO: I remember it well.

PORTMAN: So, my hope is we can do that again in that context.

CAVUTO: I didn't think you were old enough to remember that. I know I was.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Let me ask you very quickly.

PORTMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: And I know my producers are going to get furious with me.

Jerome Powell, whether the president in the next few days, a week or two, reappoints him, would you, if Jerome Powell were reappointed, would you vote for him in the Senate?

PORTMAN: Yes, I would, because I think he's better than the alternative.

And I think he does understand the need for us to address this inflation issue. I wish that the Fed would be a little more aggressive in dealing with it, but it's going to result in higher interest rates at some point, which is not something any of us want.

But we have got to be sure that we are not continuing to grow the inflationary number.

CAVUTO: You think he's behind the curve here and should be moving quickly to address this inflation problem?

PORTMAN: I think so.

CAVUTO: But even with that, you would reappoint him?

PORTMAN: It is a terrible tax. It's a terrible tax on middle-class families and on -- it's poor people who are really bearing the brunt of it.

By the way, interesting number, Neil, I just learned, which is that during the last several months during the Biden administration, wages have gone down, not up, when adjusted for inflation down about 1.9 percent. So that's the tax on people already, that they're already feeling.

And so inflation is something that we need to focus on more, in my view.

CAVUTO: Got it.

Rob Portman, thank you very, very much, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: And again, he's talking about real wages.

When you factor in a 5 percent, 6 percent inflation rate, whatever you're getting on the 4 to 4.5 percent wage gains, it's obviously -- you're underwater.

That is a big issue, inflation, in two key races going on in this country, off-year gubernatorial battles in Virginia and in New Jersey. And for the Democrats, it's worrisome in both states.

I will explain after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: All right, they're off-year elections. And, normally, people don't pay too, too much attention to what's going on before a midterm election year, but the battle going on for governor in Virginia, as well as that in New Jersey, all of a sudden those races have both become quite interesting.

The latest now from Rich Edson following developments in Virginia -- Rich.

RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Neil.

And it is a dead heat here in Virginia. Both candidates, the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, campaigning in the southern part of the state today largely conservative with pockets of Democratic voters down here.

We are in Blacksburg, Virginia, home to Virginia Tech and to a Glenn Youngkin rally in just a couple of hours from now setting up in this shopping center here. A couple of hours from here, Terry McAuliffe held an event, talking about the ties that he wants to create between Glenn Youngkin, the Republican, and the former President Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA): He said: So much of the reason why I'm running, because of Donald Trump.

You know what? He's running for Donald Trump. I'm running for you, folks.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCAULIFFE: So I'm excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EDSON: Last night in Northern Virginia in Arlington, President Biden also tried tying Youngkin to the former president, even saying that extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the range of a mob driven to assault the Capitol and it can come in a smile and a fleece vest.

That's a reference to Youngkin's attire. So we asked the Republican a short while ago to respond to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the nice thing is that the president at least recognizes that this is a vast amount of fleece.

The sun is setting on Terry McAuliffe's 43-year political campaign and he's just bringing anybody he can to help. This is about Virginia. This is about Virginians and the issues at hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EDSON: There are two off-year governor elections. One's here in Virginia, the other in New Jersey.

And we have a new poll from Monmouth University. Half the registered voters support Phil Murphy, the incumbent governor, while 39 percent back Jack Ciattarelli. He's the Republican challenger there's. That's an 11- percentage point margin. They find that for the Republican, the big issue, the winner there is taxes. Democrats win on education and COVID, though President Biden now underwater in the Garden State; 49 percent disapprove to 43 percent, according to that Monmouth poll -- Neil.

CAVUTO: Rich Edson, thank you very, very much.

And he was mentioning what's going on certainly in New Jersey, where one poll had the Republican candidate within six points there. So, they have been all over the map. But the trend, by and large, by and large, has been a significant tightening.

Remember back in the summer, the governor had about a 26-point lead over his Republican opponent. So something is going on. And obviously you see what's happening in Virginia.

Now, where do we go from here?

Jessica Tarlov joins us, Democratic strategist, Sarah Westwood of The Washington Examiner.

Jessica, I notice, in both states, the Democrats are pushing the Donald Trump theme and attaching the Republican candidate to Donald Trump, obviously taking a page from Gavin Newsom in California in his recall election battle, where that was effective. But will it be effective in the states? What do you think?

JESSICA TARLOV, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure it's going to be as effective as it was in California, where Gavin Newsom actually outperformed what he had done to win the governorship in the first place.

I think that, in the midst of a pandemic, Californians were not looking for someone who they felt was anti-vaccine, who was anti-mask mandate, et cetera.

But these two governor's races are going to be an excellent litmus test for taking the temperature on where the country in blue states, obviously New Jersey more than Virginia, are on the Biden administration, where it's going and what their policies are doing to local communities.

The fact that Phil Murphy is only 11 points up right now in New Jersey is a pretty serious signal that things are not going as well as they should, and with President Biden being at just a 43 percent approval rating.

In Virginia, the fact that Terry McAuliffe has actually spoken out against the president a couple of times, saying this bill, the reconciliation bill, costs too much at $3.5 trillion, et cetera, shows that even though he had President Biden come and campaign with him, that it wasn't necessarily top of his list. He was desperate to get Barack Obama there over the weekend, but not as much Joe Biden.

So I'm looking to these races as an indication of where we may be heading. Obviously, it's not the be-all and end-all, but a pretty good indication of where the country is.

CAVUTO: Yes.

It's fair to say right now, Sarah Westwood, that Joe Biden isn't helping those candidates. He's underwater in popularity in both states, a little closer in New Jersey, but he is not a big draw. I'm just wondering, between that and this inflationary spike that average voters have been seeing of all sorts, whether that's something for Democrats to worry about.

SARAH WESTWOOD, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I don't think it's something that Democrats anticipated when both of these races got under way. I think McAuliffe is probably more guilty of this than Phil Murphy.

But McAuliffe in particular had really tried to nationalize the race and look beyond the borders of Virginia, make Youngkin sort of the face of a Republican Party that he argued was too extreme to govern. And he did that back in the spring and summer, when Biden was still benefiting from the honeymoon period, when Biden and Democrats nationally were still polling well.

Now the ground has really shifted underneath President Biden. His approval rating is plummeting in Virginia and nationally. And McAuliffe hasn't really shifted his strategy to acknowledge that. He's continuing to bring in big names from the Democratic Party to stand alongside him, continuing a message about Youngkin being the face of extremism, which really is an ill fit for someone as moderate and centrist as Youngkin.

That might have been a better fit if someone like Amanda Chase, for example, had won the primary and been the nominee for the Virginia gubernatorial candidate, but McAuliffe hasn't really changed his strategy to fit the moment, while Youngkin has maybe provided a road map for how Republicans could overcome what's clearly going to be the Democrats' midterm strategy, which is arguing that Republicans have become too radical, because Youngkin has stayed hyperfocused on Virginia issues.

He's had extreme message discipline. He's talked about kitchen table issues, but also shown a willingness to embrace the culture war issues in a way that is sort of productive and less hyperbolic as some other Republicans have.

And that could be the road map for Republicans moving forward. And so I think McAuliffe has made a mistake by continuing to try to nationalize this race and make it about a broader conversation than just Virginia.

CAVUTO: All right, ladies, I want to thank you both very, very much.

A quick footnote on New Jersey. As a New Jersey resident, I'm just fascinated by this. The Democratic candidate, let's say the Democratic governor, for the most part in the last, what, now 30-plus years has not won reelection in the state since Brendan Byrne back around 1977.

The Republican governors have, from Chris Christie, Christine Todd Whitman. You could go back even further, where Republican governors get real reelected, but it doesn't apply, it doesn't apply to Democrats. It's just a fascinating footnote on all of that.

We have a lot more coming up here, including the push to get your kids vaccinated, now that an FDA panel says it's OK. Now, are you OK with that? After this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: It's not only the president has had a problem with the fairness of the free market. So has the pope.

The president and the pope are going to be speaking with each other on Friday. I want you to meet the priest now who has a problem with both men, but particularly Pope Francis.

I hope he doesn't lose his job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: All right, the vaccine rush is on.

I'm talking specifically for kids maybe as young as 5. An FDA panel went ahead and approved Pfizer's vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. Right now, a similar vaccine made by Moderna is getting ready for a studies by the same FDA panel. So, we will see where that goes.

To Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health, the director.

Doctor, good to have you.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Glad to be back with you today, Neil.

CAVUTO: Let's talk a little bit about the need for kids to get vaccinated. How do you feel about that?

COLLINS: Well, kids don't get the same level of risk of severe disease as adults, but they're not free of it.

Sadly, more than 7,000 -- I'm sorry -- 700 children have died of COVID-19 since this pandemic began. And even the kids who don't get as sick as that can get other complications, like something called MIS-C, which can be pretty serious.

So we shouldn't ignore the fact that kids are also at risk, especially with this Delta variant that's so contagious. So, if you could avoid having your kid get sick with this, you would like to do that. And, of course, this is also a way to reduce transmission in classrooms and in families at home, if the children are not getting infected.

And we know now they certainly are. So I think the question for parents -- and parents are pretty smart about this -- is, OK, that sounds like a benefit. What are the risks? And that's what the FDA panel spent all day yesterday debating, and ultimately concluded 17-0, with one abstention, that this is a vaccine that should be offered to parents for their children ages 5 to 11, that the benefits are considerably greater than the risks.

CAVUTO: Because a lot of parents come back and say, as you have probably heard, Doctor, I don't want to risk this on my kid. The chance of he or she getting this is relatively small, the chance of them even affecting anyone else small, so, not worth it.

What do you say?

COLLINS: Well, again, I think one needs to look at the data. As a scientist, that's always what I think the right answer is.

And, actually, the risk of your child getting COVID-19 and getting seriously ill is substantially greater than the very small risk that might be associated with the vaccine. So, if you want to be quantitative about it, you would come to the conclusion that the vaccine is a good deal, and it will do something to help your children not end up in the hospital, as many kids are right now, in the pediatric ICU.

I think we kind of got a little numbed to the risks to children because it was clear they weren't getting hit as hard as adults, but they are still getting hit.

CAVUTO: There are a lot of people who are cynical about vaccines.

And just for full disclosure here, I tested positive for COVID. And a lot of people said, well, Neil, you were -- you were vaccinated fully. You still got it.

I tried to explain to people, look, I'm among the immunocompromised who make up this half of the population that is getting it again, but that it's not a reason not to get vaccinated. Yet people cite that and the Colin Powell issue, even though he was 84 years old and dealing with myeloma, that it doesn't matter.

How do you tell them, or do you even say anything now for those who are dead set against vaccines to get vaccinated?

COLLINS: Well, I hope nobody would feel dead set at this point.

We have had an awful lot of conclusions being drawn without really looking at the evidence. Again, I'm not a political person. I'm basically trying to look at the data. We know a lot about the vaccines now. They have been out there for quite a while. We know a lot about this disease and how dangerous this can be, as more than 700,000 people have lost their lives, including today another 1, 500, like three or five jumbo jets crashing every day.

This is still a very serious illness. And yet, when you look at the vaccines...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But you know what they say, Doctor. And I don't want to jump on that point.

They are saying right now that, now that new infections have dropped more than 50 percent from their highs, a little more than -- not their highs, but their post-pop highs, if you will, it's beaten, there's enough other resistance going on here, whether it's herd immunity, that we're not at the point we have to keep pushing vaccinations.

I believe otherwise, but you're the doctor. What do you say?

COLLINS: Well, I appreciate your posing it that way.

I do think we're in a better place than we were six or eight months ago. And hooray -- I mean, weeks ago -- and hooray for that, that we are seeing a decrease. But this is still a very serious situation. We still have more cases in the United States than almost any other country in the world right now. It's not time to get complacent.

And for people who are still unvaccinated, this Delta variant is out there looking for you. And you have a serious likelihood, if you get infected, of having consequences, both acute, but let's not forget about long COVID, this problem that happens to about a third of the people who get this virus, that they simply don't get better like you would expect in a couple of weeks.

Some of those folks, months later, are still fatigued, they have brain fog, they can't work. You don't want that one either. The vaccines are your insurance policy.

One other thing I would say. People, I think, are prone to say, hey, it's my body, it's my decision, stay out of my business, I will decide.

Remember, it's not just about each one of us. It's also about whether we're going to be the one who gets infected and gives it to somebody who is immunocompromised, for whom the vaccine doesn't work, and potentially gets them in real trouble. This is a moment we have got to think about our neighbors and love your neighbors. And the vaccine is a way to do that.

And freedom, you know, is about rights, but it's also a bit about responsibilities to each other. And I think you can make a strong case here that the vaccines are part of that.

CAVUTO: Yes. You might be fit and fine and not worry, but your exposure to someone else makes them still vulnerable, but very good point.

Dr. Francis Collins, very good catching up with you. I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Always glad to be with you, Neil. Any time.

CAVUTO: Thank you.

In the meantime, Alec Baldwin and that gun. The very latest we're hearing out of Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Jonathan Hunt.

JONATHAN HUNT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And, Neil, the district attorney saying today that Baldwin himself remains a potential target for criminal charges.

We will give you the details on that and where the sheriff says investigators found the bullet that killed Halyna Hutchins after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Is it your sense that the final price tag will be in that under $2 trillion range?

KILDEE: That's my assumption, just based on the conversations that I have had, particularly with folks on the Senate side, that that's where we can go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: All right, Dan Kildee is one the big powers that be in the Democratic Party and in the leadership in the House saying that it will be under $2 trillion when all is said and done.

That sounds like a steal and a deal. It's a long way from $3.5 trillion, but, still, that's serious change.

Charlie Gasparino, what do you think?

CHARLIE GASPARINO, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Neil, I think any amount of spending right here is sort of way over the top.

Listen, we don't need a spending package right now. This is all about political compromise. If you talk to any business -- business owner out there, they will tell you they can't get stuff on the shelves. They can't get delivery supplies delivered to them if they are restaurants. They're worried about inflation, which is creeping up.

And any additional spending from this federal government is going to just make that inflation aspect even worse. So, I mean, the best they could do - - and I really believe that this is this is what's going to happen -- if they could -- if they would walk away from this and all the crazy tax increases, long term, the markets will go up, because eventually people figure out that the inflation threat is not going to be as great.

The bonds won't gap out as much. And that is -- that is really what's what's worrying this -- what's hampering this economy right now, Neil. It's not that we need more spending. We're coming out of -- look at all the numbers. We're coming out of COVID. Numbers are going down. Hospitalizations are going down.

The vaccines, they work. And you know that. And thank God. And I'm just telling you that that's the best stimulus package you can have, getting people back to work. Now, you got to get them to the job, because we need people to unload those ships that are out in the Pacific Ocean...

CAVUTO: Yes.

GASPARINO: ... so we get supplies on the shelves for Christmas.

This bill does not address that. So I think the best net positive for this, Neil, is this not to happen. And I think -- I'm not alone in that. Man, if you talk to a lot of economists across the board...

CAVUTO: Well, we shall see.

They have cobbled -- they have cobbled something together, so we will keep a close eye on it.

But, Charlie, thank you very, very much.

Charlie Gasparino on that.

This other big news development following out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Alec Baldwin and that gun, let's get the latest right now from Jonathan Hunt -- Jonathan.

HUNT: A first news conference today, Neil, from the sheriff and the district attorney investigating the shot that killed 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and a lot of news out of it.

The sheriff confirming that it was indeed a live round, in other words, a real bullet that was fired from the gun being held by Alec Baldwin. That bullet went straight through Halyna Hutchins and was found by investigators lodged in the shoulder of Joel Souza, the director, who was standing behind her at the time and was injured.

I asked the district attorney, in the light of the revelation that it was indeed a real bullet, are criminal charges any more likely? And is Alec Baldwin himself, as the man who was holding the gun and the producer on the movie, a likely target?

Here's that exchange with the DA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: All options are on the table at this point. I'm not taking -- I'm not commenting on charges, whether they will be filed or not or on whom.

So, the answer is, we cannot answer that question yet until we complete a more thorough investigation.

HUNT: Well, there is the potential for Alec Baldwin himself to face charges because you have not ruled them out?

CARMACK-ALTWIES: No one has been ruled out at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Now, the sheriff in that same news conference said there was -- quote -- "complacency" on the set surrounding the handling of weapons.

So, I also asked the DA, Neil, if complacency could lead directly to criminal negligence charges. She said there is a bridge that leads in that direction, but it will take a long investigation before they are ready to decide whether there should be any criminal charges against anyone here.

In the meantime, family of Halyna Hutchins very likely to pursue a civil suit. That's going to cost someone likely millions of dollars -- Neil.

CAVUTO: Jonathan Hunt, thank you very much for that.

Meanwhile, you have probably heard the attorney general United States, Merrick Garland, was up on Capitol Hill. Let's say it was a little rocky. And that's probably an understatement, right?

Aishah Hasnie.

(LAUGHTER)

AISHAH HASNIE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Neil.

Yes, that is definitely an understatement. Republicans calling the A.G. a vessel for the politicization of the DOJ and calling for him to resign.

Much more from the Hill right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: The attorney general on Capitol Hill today, and let's just say you got a little nasty.

Aishah Hasnie with more from Capitol Hill -- Aishah.

HASNIE: Hey, Neil. Good afternoon to you.

That's right. The A.G. spent pretty much nearly all of the almost five hours of testimony trying to smooth over this October 4 very controversial memo that he put out, but it just wasn't working.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It is unprecedented, to my knowledge, in the history of this country. And I call on you to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HASNIE: The big takeaway today, Republicans were able to get the A.G. to finally explain what they call the vague language in his memo, specifically where it reads the DOJ would protect people from -- quote -- "forms of intimidation and harassment."

What does that mean? Well, Garland finally explains that these are federal crimes and could include a number of things, including online messaging or making calls, as long as there's an intention to harass.

So, several senators also raised some red flags over a DOJ press release that accompanied the A.G.'s memo which mentions the National Security Division might get involved in school board investigations too.

Now, on Afghanistan, Garland said that he's strengthening the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. And on the Southern border, he struggled a bit to answer what he had learned from Border Patrol agents on his recent trip down to the border. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): They never mentioned to you that they have got a problem with being overrun by asylum seekers?

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I know from reading the news media that Border Patrol agents feel that way.

GRAHAM: I mean, it's not about reading the paper. You were there talking to them.

GARLAND: Yes, I don't recall that's -- I don't want to...

GRAHAM: OK.

GARLAND: ... tell you about a conversation that I'm sure happened.

GRAHAM: I'm just stunned that that didn't -- that you can't recall that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HASNIE: And Garland, Neil, also addressed some conflict of interests allegations having to do with his son-in-law and the company that he works for. He simply said he did not feel he needed to seek an ethics opinion on that matter -- Neil.

CAVUTO: All right, Aishah.

All this craziness has started since you started getting this assignment. That's just...

HASNIE: It's my fault. I bring it wherever I go.

CAVUTO: It's all on you.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Man, oh, man, it doesn't stop.

Aishah, thank you very, very much.

Meantime, you have heard that the president is going to be meeting with the pope. And man, oh, man, is Father Robert Sirico angry, not at the president, the pope.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: President Biden will be meeting with the pope on Friday.

But my friend Father Robert Sirico, the president the Acton Institute, has problems more with the pope these days and the pope's views on capitalism.

Apparently, Father, he's not a big fan. That's what got you. Could you explain?

FATHER ROBERT SIRICO, ACTON INSTITUTE: You know, I don't mind people not being a fan of capitalism or disagreeing.

What's frustrating is, especially from a pope, is I don't think he understands. He's calling for people to have food. How does that happen? Do we just wish food into existence? Or do we open bakeries? And that's the question. If you're going to open a bakery, if you're going to open a food shop, that's a shop where people go shopping, where commodities are exchanged.

And when the pope says we're reducing food to the level of a commodity, I want to ask, what's wrong with that? You have to produce it before you can...

CAVUTO: Well, he's saying specifically that the free market, Father, hurts the poor.

SIRICO: Yes.

CAVUTO: He has similarly said that those with means have not been doing enough in the past to help those who don't.

And that kind of rung very familiar to Joe Biden's line on the rich paying their fair share and this common theme that the wealthy on this planet aren't doing enough. What did you think of that?

SIRICO: I agree that we're not doing enough. We will never do enough. As long as there's one poor person, we're not doing enough.

But we also know that the poor, we're going to have with us always, right? I think Jesus said that. And the question is, how do we do this? And this is what I think is not being engaged at this level, especially the level of a pope that is so -- it contrasts with what John Paul II said about profit and the way profit indicates that you're planning things properly.

We want to plan the economy properly. And the best way to do that is to allow the most creative people to produce what they can produce and to enable people to rise out of that. I mean, if the free market system really starved people, we would have less people on this planet since the invention of the free market, rather than more people.

And that's what's frustrating to me. And, by the way, I have no problem with the pope meeting with President Biden, because Jesus ate with sinners as well. So, I think you have to do this.

CAVUTO: You're talking about the president's views on abortion and all of that. And that's an interesting point.

But I'm just wondering.

SIRICO: Yes.

CAVUTO: The pope's views generally have been to the left of his predecessors.

SIRICO: Yes. Yes.

CAVUTO: Do you think that's accurate?

SIRICO: I think that is accurate.

I think that -- remember that economic positions are not doctrinal positions.

CAVUTO: Got it.

SIRICO: So, this pope can have a different perspective of economy to the predecessor.

CAVUTO: Got it.

SIRICO: I think, by the way, that this pope is probably more to the left of Joe Biden even.

CAVUTO: All right, we will watch very closely. Father, I'm sorry for the limited time.

Robert Sirico, the president of the Acton Institute, just saying, when it comes to the pope, there are some issues there that he doesn't agree with.

I don't think he can get fired for saying that, but we will see.

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