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Biden administration speeds up vaccination timeline, infrastructure plan may follow suit

President Joe Biden once again changed his vaccination goals Tuesday, shortening the timeline for all American adults to be eligible to get a vaccine. And, a Senate rule change may allow him to move forward on infrastructure without Republican support. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins are here to share the latest in Washington.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Today, President Biden once again moved up his vaccination goals, shortening the timeline for all Americans to be eligible to get a shot.

    Our Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins are here with the latest.

    Hello to both of you.

    Yamiche, to you first.

    Tell us more about what the president is saying about moving up this vaccination timetable.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden laid out a really ambitious timetable.

    And he talked about the fact he feels like we're heading in the right direction and that there are enough people getting vaccine, getting vaccinations, and that there are people that still need to be vaccinated, but that we should not be letting up.

    At the White House today, he had a message that said, yes, we're doing well, but, also, you have to do your patriotic duty and continue to social distance and wash your hands.

    Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

  • Pres. Joe Biden:

    Now's not the time to let down. Now's not the time to celebrate. It's time to do what we do best as a country, do our duty, our jobs, taking care of one another. And we can and will do this, but we can't let up now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, there is President Biden laying this out, saying this is essentially a wartime effort, that people need to be looking at vaccinations as being not only good for the country, but also good for their neighbors and good for themselves.

    I want to lay out a little bit about what the president said in terms of a timeline,as well as the goals he says his administration has already reached. All eligible adults will be made eligible to get the vaccine by April 19.

    Now, that had been proved up from May 1, which is when we thought American adults, all American adults were going to be made eligible for the vaccine. Also, the number of Americans vaccinated to date since President Biden has taken office is 150 million.

    Now, let's remember, the goal is 200 million before April 30. That's when he hits the 100-day mark in his administration. Also, he said, 75 percent of all Americans over the age of 65 — that's that critical group of seniors who are most at risk of really having complications with the virus — they have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

    But he said over and over again, if you're a senior who hasn't gotten the vaccine, you should continue — you should really go out and get it and you would also tell your neighbors to do that. And, again, he couched it as a patriotic duty, saying you have to do this for your country.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    And then, separately, Lisa, there was news from the Senate last night giving Democrats some hope that the filibuster rule, there may be a way to get around it. Tell us about that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    This is news from perhaps the most important person in the Senate these days, the Senate parliamentarian, who has told Democrats that, in fact, there is an open door to a way around the filibuster, to using this door more often.

    Let's just remind people, this is called budget reconciliation. And what that means is, it's a process triggered by the budget resolution, in which you need just 50 Senate votes, not 60, in order to pass legislation.

    Now, it's generally been limited to just one time per each budget year, because it is connected to the budget. But Democrats had an idea. What if we can amend a budget, and then can we use budget reconciliation for that amended budget, so multiple bites of that apple each year?

    And I am told by sources familiar that — in fact, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, announced that the Senate parliamentarian told him, yes, that, in fact, amending the budget process is just as good, and they can try to use reconciliation again.

    So, what does all this mean for legislation and for Democrats? What can they do? I want to spell this out, looking at a graphic. Before this, Democrats were thinking of having one reconciliation bill this fiscal year, 2021, and another in 2022.

    So, for this year, they had slotted in and already passed, as we know, the COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. And the thinking right now is then that the infrastructure and climate change bill could be the one that they would use reconciliation, the 50-vote margin, for with the next budget year that starts in October.

    Now, what this really means is, they get two more chances — look at this — two more reconciliation bills that would only need a 50-vote margin in the Senate. Of course, Democrats have 50 votes. They have not decided if they will use reconciliation for any other issues, but there is a lot on the table. All of it, however, has to meet other limitations.

    It has to have a budgetary effect, but this is a very big deal for Democrats limited by the filibuster, a possible way around it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins making the complicated seem clear.

    And back to you, Yamiche.

    So, what does this mean for President Biden, for his agenda, for the bills that he wants Congress to pass?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I can tell you, for President Biden and maybe for our viewers, it means that Lisa might be explaining to people more and more what reconciliation means, because the Biden administration is looking at the reconciliation, this decision on reconciliation, and saying that means we can get more bills passed.

    So, right now, as Lisa laid out, it was infrastructure and climate being the next big thing. But that means they could also go for immigration. That's, of course, a big issue that Democrats and Republicans have wanted to pass legislation on. This means that the president could do it alone with only his party.

    Of course, he still has to have Republicans — he still has to have Democrats who are progressives, as well as Democrats who are moderates, agree. But the idea that even if the president says he wants to reach out to Republicans, that means that he might not need them for the next bills.

    Now, on infrastructure in particular, why would he have to go through reconciliation? We heard Republicans talk for so long during his predecessor about infrastructure. Well, it's because President Biden want to pay for his plan with a big hike in the corporate tax rate, wanting to go from 21 to 28.

    That means that Republicans are saying, you're trying to undo our 2017 tax cuts. And that is not something that we can get on board with. That's why you're hearing Republicans say, we don't want to be a part of this infrastructure bill.

    Also, they are saying that Democrats are expanding the idea of infrastructure because they're dealing with racial equity and home health aids and so many other things. But that's what it means. Reconciliation means that we might be having much more conversations on the wonky term reconciliation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's OK for the two of you to use it. We welcome that.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Lisa, pick up on what Yamiche is saying.

    What are you hearing from the Hill about the corporate tax increase proposal?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    It's been a remarkable news week, considering that both the House and Senate are outside of Washington for the most part. There has been news, very important news on this infrastructure and other plan.

    Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has made it known he is not in favor of raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. And, also, Senator Mark Warner, thought of as more of a moderate or more kind of someone who would go along with the Biden team more often, said he is not going to tell reporters where he — what he thinks, but that he does have concerns about the Biden plan in general.

    So, this is a 50-50 Senate majority. They need every Senate Democrat. And there are two that have concerns. So this is going to be a long slog to get this very large bill across the finish line.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A long slog, and we thank the two of you so much for making it all so much clearer.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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