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Cabinet nominees face Senate grilling as Biden prepares to meet with Canadian leader

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Several Biden Cabinet nominees are facing confirmation hearings today as the president holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. CBS News senior White House correspondent Weijia Jiang joined CBSN with the latest.

Video Transcript

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: All right, let's bring in Weijia Jiang for the latest from the White House. So Weijia, as you know, the Biden Administration is distributing millions of to counter vaccine fear and misinformation in communities of color. So this is a really important outreach effort. What more can you tell us about it?

WEIJIA JIANG: Yeah, Vlad it really is because even in the beginning days when we were talking about vaccine trials, you know, manufacturers were very open. Or I should say researchers too, were very open about the fact that they were having a hard time diversifying the people who were willing to get these trials. And so now there is a hesitancy, even though ultimately they were able to get the data pool that they needed, they say, to show that it is, in fact, safe for everybody. But the administration is pledging about $17 million to different organizations to counter this sort of skepticism and misinformation, to try to make sure people go get the vaccine when it is their turn.

This is something that the President himself stressed again yesterday. So 15 organizations advocating for Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans will receive funds to boost their educational outreach. Because again, it's all about making sure people understand why it is safe to take and why they should do it to protect not only themselves but everyone around them.

- So earlier, Vlad and I were talking about just how busy it is on Capitol Hill. There are a number of confirmation hearings taking place. President Biden has been on the job for a little over a month now. He's still awaiting some crucial confirmations, though. Many of his nominees will likely be confirmed. But he is getting some pushback for certain picks, particularly for the Office of Management and Budget, Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, and the nominee of Health and Human Services.

Can you-- I don't know how much of a pushback he's getting for some of those. But could you just give us a sense of how things are going in terms of the confirmations and who may be facing the biggest challenge?

WEIJIA JIANG: Well, it really is the OMB director nominee, Neera Tanden, as you mentioned, who has a huge hurdle to get over. And in fact, it doesn't look like it's going to happen if you look at simple math, because she needs the numbers to be confirmed, and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has already said she's not going to get his vote. And so there are different names being floated, including the woman who was nominated to be her deputy. And that is Shalanda Young.

She was already staff director for one of the House committees. So she's very well known on Capitol Hill. And of course, you know, her experience has led to her being nominated for a deputy role. And she is currently outstanding to replace Tanden if it comes to that. But it's not only her.

I mean, these other vacancies may not be controversial. And they are expected to happen a lot easier than her. But they haven't happened yet. So that's the point here, that we are in extraordinary times. And these things are taking a long time. And that means there are openings for secretaries of education and HHS, which during a pandemic is going to be difficult for the President if he doesn't get those filled. Even though there are acting positions, I mean, you look at what happened with the school's messaging. And it was a real mess, because you had different people, different officials saying different things, including President Biden. So that's just one example I can think of where an education secretary really could have led the way and paved the way for all these schools to reopen, which, of course, is one of the President's main goals.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: So Weijia, let me ask you about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. President Biden is going to be meeting with him in a delegation of Canadian officials at the White House today for a virtual meeting. What can we expect the two leaders to discuss?

WEIJIA JIANG: So this is the President's first meeting, even though virtual with a foreign leader. And senior administration officials have told us that the real goal here is to reestablish the relationship and to reinvigorate the road map for how to move forward and how these two countries can work together, because we're coming off of four years, where the relationship was weakened. In fact, we watched it play out in public. President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they weren't shy to talk about their differences and to criticize one another in a way that people weren't used to, because that was the way that the president operated. And he felt that that put the country in a position of strength.

But others, including President Biden, believe you are strong when you are able to be a leader. In order to do that, he thinks that you really have to nurture relationships. So they'll be talking today about that in addition to the pandemic, in addition to NATO contributions, and threats to democracy that we have watched play out in Burma, for example. And they'll talk about the Keystone pipeline, which they already have communicated about because of course, the president rescinded that permit, a major project that would have built a pipeline from Canada to Nebraska because of environmental concerns and because of cost concerns. But certainly they'll talk about that because it was a huge disappointment for Canada to lose that project when the president took office.

- All right, Weijia, thank you so much.

WEIJIA JIANG: Sure.