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'We are in a race against time, and we have to get more people vaccinated': Fmr. WH COVID-19 Task Force Member

Joe Grogan, Former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Fellow at USC Schaeffer Center, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the latest on the Georgia Senate races, COVID-19 vaccine distribution and more.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to turn now to our next guest, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and fellow at USC Schaeffer Center, Joe Grogan. Grogan is also a former White House COVID-19 Task Force member. So Joe, we were just listening about that Georgia Senate race. So I want to start there.

Changing demographics are part of the reason, or one of the reasons that Georgia is becoming less and less red. I'm wondering if you think that this state could become reliably blue, something like what we saw in Colorado, or Virginia. What are you expecting from today's election?

JOE GROGAN: Well, it is close as you said. I think it's a little bit early to put it permanently in the blue camp. I mean, I think you'd call it purple right now. It's really close down there today with these two Senate elections going on. And to your point, it kind of is for all the marbles to define the first two years of Joe Biden's presidency. If the democrats get these two seats, you will see a much different trajectory for this presidency than otherwise. I think you would expect Schumer to pull the filibuster almost immediately. And they will be getting more left of center nominees confirmed by the Senate.

Some of their nominees they've held back, I suspect they've held back because they want to see how this election goes. And some of them would not expect to get confirmed if the republicans hold on to it. But others they can ram through. I mean, they have not started with a middle of the road cabinet selection process. Some of these candidates are pretty far to the left and are not consensus candidates and would be very difficult to get confirmed in a republican Senate.

KRISTIN MYERS: While I have you here, Joe, of course I have to ask you about the other huge news story coming out of Georgia, which is your former boss, President Trump essentially on the phone with the Georgia Secretary of State asking him to essentially find about 11,800 votes essentially to overturn the election results in that state. Some folks are calling it illegal, others said at minimum it's downright unethical. I wanted to ask you what your thoughts were on that call.

JOE GROGAN: Well, one of the great things about no longer being in the White House is that I don't need to follow each and every phone call or press conference that the president does. So I honestly did not follow each and every word. I didn't read the transcript. I read some of the media coverage about it to be honest with you, but not in great detail. It was probably not the smartest call for the president to be on. And unfortunately he shouldn't have been on the phone. But somebody in the White House put him on the phone for that call. And they're regretting it because somebody unethically taped it and then released it, which was not really the greatest outcome for the president. But frankly, he shouldn't have been on that call.

KRISTIN MYERS: So speaking of trying to overturn the election results, I mean fair enough what you're saying. You're not following every single call that the president is making or joining on. But tomorrow during a joint session of Congress, it's largely expected that several republican senators, Senator Loeffler is one of them, plan to object the certification of the electoral college votes. And I'm wondering if you think that it might just be better for the country, and for the economy, and for businesses, we hear business leaders signing on to letters to get Congress to move past these election results.

Would it not just be better for Congress to really focus their efforts elsewhere other than this piece of political theater and really to focus on pressing matters like passing higher individual stimulus checks for example and really making sure that there is a smooth transition to the next administration so that this country can continue onward and upward, especially as we leave this pandemic behind?

JOE GROGAN: Well, it's fair that Congress has a lot of more pressing matters that could be focused on. They always do. They always focus on a lot of the issues that are not really germane or that important to the American people. It's one of the features of Congress. I mean we spent two years worrying about our Russia interference in the Trump versus Clinton election. We had an impeachment hearing and trial going on as coronavirus was ramping up at the beginning of this year, which was a tremendous distraction for the country for not just the president and his team, but also for the Congress.

So you're right. I mean, the president-- the excuse me, the Congress could always focus on issues that are more pressing. They frequently get dragged into political fights. But I do think moving forward beyond this, the country Republican and Democrat will benefit if we have greater faith in our electoral system and greater electoral integrity.

I for one come from Albany, New York, where it's a machine town. The democrats have been in control since World War II. It's widely understood that they've stolen elections between World War II and today and that they have had dead people vote in many elections. It would be great if everybody in America understood that their elections, whenever they want to vote, their votes would count and those ineligible voters would vote.

But I agree with you that it is time to be looking for-- to be looking towards the Biden administration. And republicans and conservatives should be figuring out, A where they can work with him on issues of consensus and issues we could both agree on. But on those issues that conservatives and republicans really care about and where they need to push back, it's be great if republicans were focused on that.

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to as I mentioned to everyone, at the start of this interview, you were a member-- a former member of that COVID-19 task force. So I want to ask you about vaccine distribution. Public health officials saying that we are a little bit under where we would like to be. There's discrepancies about whether we should be following the UK model. I'm wondering right now as we don't have a federal or national plan for vaccine distribution, if you think that right now that we've been hobbled in our vaccine distribution, if perhaps it's needed for the federal government to come up with some sort of national plan and strategy to most effectively get that vaccine in as many arms of people who want to take that vaccine as possible.

JOE GROGAN: Well, I think it's incorrect to say that there isn't a national plan or strategy. There is. As a matter of fact, the federal government has purchased all the vaccine. And they're in charge of ordering its distribution at various points. I think that's one of the key faults in where we are. The media has reported that we have five million vaccinations. That's actually not true. We've got five million shots in arms. And you need two shots in order to be fully vaccinated according to the terms of the FDA emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

They need to rip the band aid off and push more of this vaccine into the commercial channels and just let it go. We are in a race against time. And we have to get more people vaccinated. We spent a lot of time worrying about prioritization and not worrying about distribution. We have a huge private sector infrastructure in this country. Our pharmacies are commercial distributors.

People get vaccinated for the flu every year in this country, and it is not as top down and centralized as this distribution is. It's time for them to make a fundamental pivot. I noticed today that the president will be chairing the Coronavirus Task Force meeting. And I would assume that this would be topic number one is why are they so far behind. I think it's one, the states are not capable of distributing it according to the federal plan as dictated. There is more money flowing now to the states because Congress appropriated it.

But number two, they have to get more money, excuse me, more vaccine flowing into the commercial channel and get more human beings vaccinated regardless of the prioritization schedule that the federal government would want in an ideal world. Because we don't live in an ideal world. And we have to get more people vaccinated.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. Wish we had more time to chat. But unfortunately we have to leave that there. Former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and fellow at USC Schaeffer Center, Joe Grogan, thanks so much for joining us today.

JOE GROGAN: Thank you.