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Amy Walter and Errin Haines on COVID stimulus relief, Biden immigration policy

The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter and Errin Haines of The 19th join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the rollout of the new COVID stimulus bill, how it benefits women and marginalized communities, and the Biden administration's response to the influx of immigrants at the southern border.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For a look at the political implications of that relief bill, it's time for Politics Monday.

    And I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Errin Haines of The 19th News.

    Hello to both of you. It's so good to see you.

    Amy, it's tough to listen to some of these stories. And we know there are different views of this COVID relief plan and what it's going to mean for American families and for individuals.

    But the question I have right now is in terms of President Biden and what he's able to do going forward. How much can he translate any support he's getting for this into where he goes from here?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, it's a really important question, Judy, because, right now, things are looking pretty good for President Biden.

    You know, he's only been in the job for, what is it now, six, seven weeks. His job approval rating is in the mid-50s, certainly a lot better than, say, where President Trump was at this point in his first term. Approval of the stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, is somewhere in the 60s.

    President Biden's approval rating on handling the pandemic also in the 60s. But we're in the first inning here, and we have got a long way to go, both in terms of the economy, the pandemic, and also the political realities for the president and for his party.

    And, sometimes, Judy, the first inning tells us a lot about how the game is going to go. A lot of times, it tells us absolutely nothing. And so I think what I was really struck by, by some of these stories, for example, the number of people who are saying that they're going to put this money into savings, pay down student loans.

    Obviously, this was intended to be stimulative, right? This money goes right back out into the economy. There's a theory there's this pent-up demand, people are going to start spending, the economy is going to come back, they're going to start hiring.

    They took a big bet, the Democratic — this administration and Democrats who voted for it, that indeed putting this much money into the economy was going to supercharge it. It may. We only heard a handful of voices. And experts believe that it will. But, again, we're still really early on in this process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question, Errin. But it is something we want to know. We want to understand, how is the reception to all this going to matter where as the administration moves ahead with other things it's trying to do, whether related to the economy, related to immigration, climate, and so on?

  • Errin Haines:

    Yes, Judy.

    And I think that that's why you're seeing, as soon as President Biden signed that legislation, he and Vice President Harris — and, frankly, it was all hands on deck, the first lady, the second gentlemen, everybody hitting the road to explain to Americans exactly what was in that pandemic relief package, even as those stimulus checks were starting to hit their accounts, because I think that that money was something that Americans understood right away.

    We heard from some of them just now talking about the things that they are able to do with some of that money, whether it is paying hospital bills or being able to stay afloat with food or shelter here in a way that they weren't able to do, frankly, before they got that check.

    But there are other things that are in that pandemic relief package that they that — that this administration is wanting to make sure that people are aware of, particularly the things that disproportionately could benefit women and other marginalized communities.

    I mean, I'm thinking about the — first of all, the $14 billion for an equitable vaccine rollout, as the president is touting the 100 million shots in the first — in under the first 100 days, I mean, well ahead of schedule on that, although, in terms of whether or not that's been happening equitably, that is still at issue.

    But this pandemic relief package is aimed at trying to make that more equitable, but, I mean, money for school reopening, money for child care. You heard from Mimi, who was talking about how she has struggled to stay in the work force. We know how many millions of women have dropped out of the work force because child care was an issue.

    And so I think, yes, looking ahead, certainly as this infrastructure plan is taking shape, thinking about how that is really going to help Americans on a more permanent basis get to a new normal on the other side of this pandemic, that this pandemic relief package, I think, is maybe an early indication of the direction that the administration plans to go in and what they are trying to show that they can deliver for voters, frankly, whether they voted for this administration or not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amy, of course, one of the other big headaches right now for the administration, as they try to talk up what they have just done with COVID relief, is what's happening at the Southern border.

    As we saw with omnibus reporting earlier in the program, there is a real problem the administration is dealing with. There are large number of unaccompanied children, trying to figure out what to do with them. Republicans are blaming this administration. They're saying this is the Biden border crisis.

    The administration is saying, wait a minute, this all started under President Trump.

    How much does it matter who's labeled or who's tagged with being responsible for this, Amy?

  • Amy Walter:


    Well, unfortunately, we know that the issue of immigration has been used as a cudgel, as a wedge for years in political fights. And it's part of the reason, I would argue, that there hasn't been sort of a push to solve it, because it's a really easy, quick tool to use in a political fight.

    At the same time, we also know that the Biden administration, they campaigned on reversing so much of what Donald Trump did, and — on immigration, and did that immediately right out of the gate, but also sent pretty mixed signals, Judy, about what they wanted — what they were telling on the rest of the world and potential migrants, which is, we don't want you to come. But, if you do, if you're a minor especially, you can stay.

    And so that sort of mixed message is making it really challenging. And we also know, Judy, that the Democratic Party itself — we saw this during the Democratic primary — is pretty divided about what to do on the issue of immigration. Joe Biden spent a lot of time during the primaries getting attacked from his left for things that the Obama administration did that many on the left thought were punitive to people who came here illegally.

    And at the same time, we know that there are many on the left who not only want to do things differently than what Donald Trump did, but wanted to go even further, including things like getting rid of penalties for crossing the border illegally, which Joe Biden pushed back on.

    So that divide is also really important between the — within the party between more activist and progressive forces and the reality on the ground and what is actually happening and how challenging it is, even when you're trying to roll back something that you say is inhumane, how challenging it is to make it actually work.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    And, Errin, watching all this very closely, because however this is this is turning out in the early days of the administration is going to affect the administration's ability to get anything done with regard to long-term immigration reform.

  • Errin Haines:

    You're right, Judy.

    And, listen, I mean, there were a lot of voters in that coalition that elected President Biden and Vice President Harris who wanted to see big, systemic change around the issue of immigration.

    And, obviously, you think back to the 2018 midterms, and you had former President Trump really raising the specter of these migrant caravan hordes cutting headed for the border as an issue to try to rile up, to galvanize his base then. You can be sure that, as the midterms come back into focus next year, you could see immigration, with maybe the pandemic a little bit more in the rear view, immigration coming back into focus.

    People had very strong reactions on both sides to the family separations issue, to what they saw happening at the border a couple of summers ago. And so immigration is still very much an issue that people want to see addressed.

    I mean, they're not so focused on blame as they are wanting to get some answers. And so the Biden administration, frankly, doesn't get to really have it both ways. Just as they inherited the pandemic and they're responding to that, they have also inherited this immigration crisis, and people are also expecting a response there too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nothing quiet about these early days for the Obama — I started to say Obama — Biden administration.

    Thank you both, Errin Haines, Amy Walter.

    And we should say, Tamara Keith away tonight. We especially appreciate Errin being with us.

    Good to have you both. Thank you.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome, Judy.

  • Errin Haines:

    Thanks, Judy.

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