White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain reacts to Biden’s speech earlier today where the President urged Americans to get vaccinated because of the rising Delta variant cases.
NICOLLE WALLACE: As if on cue, joining our conversation is White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
Ron Klain, my first question for you, as the president was leaving the speech and the rather lengthy Q&A session afterward, there was a shouted question about Dr. Jill Biden.
What was that about? His response was: "I'm about to find out."
RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Dr. Biden, while she was in Hawaii coming back from Japan from the Olympics, she made some stops there to encourage vaccination.
While she was out walking, she stepped on a sharp object. And so she is going to go to Walter Reed this afternoon and have that object removed.
WALLACE: OK. We appreciate that. I mean, and we just -- it caught our ears. He was almost out the door.
I want to ask you about what the president made abundantly clear, that this is a tragedy, obviously, because we continue to have Americans sick and dying.
But, at this point, the vast majority of all of them, he said, are unvaccinated. How did you come to sort of this passion plea and calling out and singling out for praise people like Mitch McConnell and Kay Ivey and the NFL for their help?
Is that where we are? Do you feel like this president has reached everyone he can convince?
KLAIN: No, look, I think that the president has consistently been reaching out to people to try to persuade them.
But it is not just persuasion, also provide incentives, make it easier for people to get vaccinated.
Look, the most compelling thing, I think, is putting the vaccine within reach of the largest number of people. We have done that with 80,000 sites. It is free, obviously. You no longer need an appointment. You can just walk in and get it any time.
The president talked about more incentives today, whether that it is paid tied off to get yourself vaccinated, get a family member vaccinated, giving people 100 bucks to get vaccinated, and, also, of course, putting some requirements on to try to encourage people to get vaccinated, or else go through rigorous testing regimes and whatnot.
So, we're going to use the full set of carrots and sticks we have here to try to make more progress. We have nearly 70 percent of people with one shot. We need to get the rest of the country vaccinated. That's what we have been trying all six months. That's what we're going to continue to do.
Hopefully, this new Delta variant will make people pay a little more attention and do what they need to do.
WALLACE: Does the president -- we saw a flash of real passion there that he's having to explain that the mask guidance changing wasn't any sort of policy flip-flop.
It was a dynamic nature of a vaccine. I mean, what is sort of the degree of exasperation with the power of disinformation on the right?
KLAIN: Well, I mean, obviously, we are concerned about disinformation.
And, also, we're trying hard to correct it with truthful information, with real information. You heard the president go through that today. And, you know, the number one thing we hear from people who refuse the vaccine is this concern that it was developed too quickly.
And the president again explained the scientific background and history of the vaccine. We hear people say that they're concerned about the side effects. We have talked about that.
And so we are combating disinformation with the truthful information, with scientific information, trying, again, to persuade more and more Americans to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, to protect their families, to protect their communities, keep our economy growing, you know, all the things we all want to see happen.
WALLACE: Do you expect policy escalations? Could you see calling on the sorts of things where you do have control to mandate vaccination attestation to travel by air or train or any other way?
KLAIN: Well, I think we have laid out a set of incentives today.
Obviously, we're always looking at additional policies. Hopefully, these things will get the job done. But I think that we laid out a very robust set of policy initiatives today. And we're hoping that continues to prod the American people to do what they need to do, get the rest of the country vaccinated.
WALLACE: Ron, were there conversations between -- he singled out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has a very notable new -- I believe his campaign fund is paying for PSAs or ads to advocate for the vaccine.
Was that at this president's urging?
First of all, we need to give Senator McConnell credit. He has been encouraging Americans to get vaccinated since the vaccine was first authorized back in December. He has been a strong, consistent, regular voice urging vaccinations.
And he and the president have discussed this previously, months ago, and I just think Senator McConnell has been as strong urging vaccinations as any public figure has been.
WALLACE: Would you like to see him do more, if that's the case?
KLAIN: Look, I would like to see us all do more. Senator McConnell has done -- again, has done a lot more than a lot of other folks have.
What I would like to see is more and more people do this, more voices in both parties reach out and encourage people to get vaccinated. But I think we have our differences with Senator McConnell here, but his vigor in pushing vaccinations is not one of those differences. He has been a very strong advocate for this.
WALLACE: I know this isn't all that you work on.
I have one more question. I mean, the president...
WALLACE: ... made clear to speak to what is on people's minds across the country, across the ideological spectrum.
He made clear that schools will be open in the fall unequivocally, that the safest way to do that is to keep vaccination levels in communities down, so that kids under 12 can't be -- who can't be vaccinated are at the lowest risk possible.
Do you have any information about when kids younger than 12 will be eligible for the vaccine?
KLAIN: Nicolle, I don't have any private information on that.
You know, the medical community has discussed that the clinical trials are still going on. As you heard last week, two of the major vaccine makers expanded those clinical trials to make sure we're going to be safe in terms of side effects. As soon as those clinical trials are finished, the FDA, I know, will review the data quickly.
I really wouldn't want to put a timeline on it. I have heard experts say later this fall, maybe November. But, again, I don't have any private or inside information on that. That's just the public information about the progress of these clinical trials and potential FDA reviews.
WALLACE: Ron, let me get you on the record on the infrastructure deal.
How involved were you? How involved was this president? And how important is this to the agenda?
KLAIN: Well, it is very important to the president's agenda. It is very important to the country.
Look, we have been talking about infrastructure week for a long time. And we have bridges in this country that are cracked, that are unsafe. We have roads that need to be upgraded. We need to get every kid in this America -- America broadband. We need to get all of the lead pipes out of the ground and get every kid in America and every family in America safe drinking water, clean drinking water.
And we need to build electric vehicle stations. We need to start to make investments to build the clean energy economy, the future, electric buses. All these things that are in this package, they're vital investments.
I'm proud to be part of the team here, but the president really engaged directly with members of the House and the Senate, particularly members of the Senate. He met with Republicans, with Democrats, really pushed to get this done.
Obviously, we're still at the first step. The bill is just now getting to the Senate floor. We got to get the bill passed. We have got to get it over to the House. We have got a lot of work left to do.
But I think this is a significant move to address the vital infrastructure needs. And, yes, I do think it's positive that it is bipartisan. It shows that Democrats and Republicans can get together and start to tackle some of these problems.
And I think that's also a hopeful element of this.
WALLACE: Ron, there's now a playbook for the successful legislative endeavors by this White House, the COVID relief package, which was not bipartisan. It was in terms of the support you had out in the country. And the president made that point repeatedly.
And now the infrastructure deal, which, as you said, is bipartisan. Will either one of those approaches be applied to something that many Democrats and even some Republicans find urgent? And that is the need to protect the right to vote and the right to have your vote counted from 389 voter suppression laws racing through 48 states?
KLAIN: Yes, Nicolle, obviously, voting rights is very important to this president.
It's one of the reasons why he ran for president. I was encouraged to see yesterday progress in the Senate. You had conversations between Senator Warnock, Senator Manchin, Senator Klobuchar, who is a great leader on this, Senator Schumer, of course.
Hopefully, they can come together on a package that we can start to move through the Senate.
WALLACE: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, whose desk every problem in this White House, in this country lands, thank you for spending some time to talk to us today.
It's always nice to see you.
KLAIN: Thanks for having me, Nicolle. I appreciate it.