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Brooks and Capehart on Biden infrastructure deal, crime plan, Georgia lawsuit

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the potential breakthrough on the road to an infrastructure deal, the justice department's lawsuit against Georgia's voting restrictions, and the president's plan to curb surging violent crime across the country.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now, at the end of a full week of news, we are so fortunate to have the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    It is very good to see both of you on this — as it is on every Friday.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Great to see you.

  • David Brooks:

    Good to see you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot happened this week in Washington, Jonathan.

    But I do want to start with this, do we have one or do we not have an infrastructure deal?

    Yesterday, the president kind of made the unprecedented move of coming out on the driveway with a group of Democrats and Republicans, announced that there was an agreement, but then a couple of hours later, he said there's only an agreement if Democrats — if I get from Congress the spending plan.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I mean, I think there's a lot of consternation clearly right now within the Republican Party, and particularly among those senators, about what happened.

    But the deal, such as it is, last I saw, is still holding. It's still there. I think you have had senators like Senator Blunt, Senator Portman, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who, in the past, said we want a hard infrastructure deal, but I — we see that the president will probably go reconciliation for these other things, and that's fine.

    The rub is the president and the speaker of the House both saying, OK, we will go for this deal, but you have got to do reconciliation also.

    That's why the Republicans are angry. But everybody needs a deal. The president wants one. The Republicans want one, because they need something to go back to their constituents and say, look, this is what we have delivered for you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, the White House, the president, they're saying, well, the president made it clear all along that he was going to want this, but it seems to be a little fuzzy.

  • David Brooks:

    sort of.

    You know, I think everyone knew there were going to be two bills. There was going to be — well, we didn't know. But the White House, to their credit, worked really hard to get this bipartisan compromise, all the calls, all the meetings. It looked like real legislation, the kind of stuff Joe Biden was born for.

    And so we get this deal, against all the odds. It was unexpected. The Republicans knew there was going to be a reconciliation deal. What they didn't know, I think, is that he was going to threaten to veto the compromise if he didn't get the second.

    And so it was that linkage that I think took a lot of Republicans by surprise, and not only the — I mean, ones who really believe in the deal, the Rob Portmans of the world and people like that.

    So, I do think, from what we know, they are right to feel a little aggrieved. Will they walk out on it? Well, Senator Coons from Delaware told Politico this afternoon that, so far, they have had conversations, bipartisan, and they haven't walked out on the deal.

    Now, a couple people, Lindsey Graham and others, one other, have shown some willingness to walk out of the deal. And if they do that, then you don't have 10 Republicans in the Senate, and you can't pass the deal.

    But, like Jonathan says, so far, they're hanging in there. And there's a whole bunch of strategy I can imagine about how they're going to try to sink the reconciliation later. It's a strategist's dream, this complicated procedure.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    But, so far, I think they have damaged the deal, but they haven't killed the deal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But your sense is that it's going to hold, you think?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes, I think it will hold.

    And, really, does anyone think that Republicans are going to vote in favor of the reconciliation deal? I think the reconciliation deal, it's a given that the 50 Republicans aren't going to vote for it.

    What it really is about is trying to hold Senators Manchin and Sinema and maybe some unnamed others to…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Democrats — to ensure that they vote for reconciliation, so that everybody's happy.

  • David Brooks:

    And the Republicans are trying to get Manchin and Sinema to break the linkage and say, we won't sign on unless you do this alone.

    To me, the fun will be when the Democrats start fighting amongst themselves. I mean, say the moderate — this compromise passes. Then we have got the reconciliation. The progressives want this big $6 trillion thing. Manchin probably wants less than $2 trillion.

    And so they all agree on the taxes. They do not agree on where the spending should go. And that's how the bigger thing could fall apart.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of Senator Manchin, he played a critical role in another issue that we saw this week. It seems like it was a long time ago, but it was only Monday, Jonathan…

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … when voting rights came up in the Senate, and the Republicans blocked what the Democrats were trying to do.

    This was after Senator Manchin, same Joe Manchin who's involved in infrastructure, said he would — was on board with a kind of a compromise.

    I guess my question now is, here, today, you have the Department of Justice announcing it's going to sue the state of Georgia over its new voting laws. Where are we on voting rights in this country?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I think, right now, where we are in voting rights is, there's not going to be any quick legislative fix. Everyone was focused on the For the People Act as the immediate thing that could be done to stop or blunt what was happening in the states like Georgia.

    The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is — hasn't even been introduced. So that's way down the road. I think, right now, the focus is going to be on, what can the Justice Department do, what can the administration do to blunt the impact of Georgia and what — and these other states?

    And so that's what we saw today, the Justice Department suing Georgia to stop its law. I think that's where the action. Until the filibuster is done away with, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer comes along and says, OK, here's the For the People Act again, where it can pass by a simple majority, that bill's not going to go anywhere.

    So it's imperative, really, for the Justice Department to weigh in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see it?

  • David Brooks:

    I guess I see it that way, though it's not clear to me why people in Congress can't just scale back.

    I mean, some of the voting rights that were the H.R.1 and all that seemed to me way overly broad. And Manchin had a proposal. Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, had a proposal. Maybe something could be scaled back, but nobody seems to be talking about that way. So we do seem to be going to the courts.

    I guess there's going to be a Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona voting some time maybe next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Soon.

  • David Brooks:

    And, to me, I'm fine with that.

    We heard such different things about the Georgia — Joe Biden called it the new Jim Crow. Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state there, who seems like a legit guy, totally disagreed. And so if the courts decide, does this discriminate against African-Americans, I'm happy to have — make that decision.

    I hate having the federal government involved in state voting procedures. But if one party is trying to disenfranchise a race of people, I think American history has established this is when the federal government gets involved.

    So I'm happy to see — let the courts make a determination, was there intent to discriminate here?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, Democrats are arguing that Republicans are trying to deny people on a massive scale from voting.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right, on a massive scale, which is why Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department's taking the actions — the action that it took today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I guess my question, though, is, whatever the Supreme Court rules, it's — it looks like this is something that's frozen in the Congress. I mean, it's not going anywhere.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes. No, it's completely frozen.

    Until the filibuster — something is done about the filibuster…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our favorite Senate maneuver, the filibuster.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right.

    Until it's reformed or eliminated or what have you, that bill, the For the People Act, is not going to go anywhere.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, another — we talked about what a busy week — this was also the week that President Biden rolled out his plan for addressing in a number of different ways gun crime, violent crime.

    The homicide rate is way up last year over the year before and this year way up again. Does this look like — I mean, it's a multipronged approach, a lot of different initiatives they're laying out there. But does it look like something that could make a difference?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it's tough for a president to control crime. It is mostly an issue — but it's going to be a big voting issue, no question. We have already seen that in the New York Democratic primary, where the crime was the issue.

    Voters, especially in places like Minneapolis, Portland, they are saying this has become a crisis level. People have different explanations for why it is, partly COVID, economic stress, police pullback.

    And so I do think all these things make it imperative to act. I would give the Biden administration maybe a B-minus. I mean, I support gun control. I'm not sure it's a crime or a homicide reduction measure very effectively.

    I'm for some police reform. I'm glad they're using COVID money to allow police forces to increase the number of officers. There's clear evidence that, if you increase the number of police, you get less crime. And — but that has to be accompanied by police reform.

    And so you have got to do a bunch of things all at once to have a just way to reduce crime that's not penalty on the local communities. And that takes involvement on multiple fronts. And I thought this was a vague gesture, more than that kind of intense involvement.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A vague gesture?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I don't know about vague gesture.

    I mean, you are right. Presidents have no impact whatsoever on state and local — excuse me — state and local crime issues. But people look to the president to do something. And I agree with David. The $350 billion from the America CARES Act to localities to do something related to crime is a very good thing.

    But we have to remember that, yes, crime has ticked up this year over last year and last year over the year before. But we are way, way down from the bad years of the '90s.

    And let me just give you quickly — New York City murders, in 1990, 2,262, in 2020, 468, a 79 percent reduction. Robberies in 1990, 100,280; 2020, robberies in New York City, 13,108. That's an 86.9 percent reduction.

    So, crime — yes, crime is ticking up over the last couple of years. But we are nowhere near where we were 30 years ago, when it was really bad.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I should have clarified. Homicides are way up. Violent crime is up a little…

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right, violent crime, right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … and other crime. It's more of a mixed picture.

    But, David, it just — people keep asking, as you say, even though the president can't reach in and control what goes on in handling the crime in individual cities, what example is he setting? What is he saying to lead us?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, I think he's made some progress.

    Yes, I think we both lived through New York in that period. And crime was terrible there. It was terrible. It was something we all lived with and all endured.

    I think one of the things he's done, at least go — take us away from last summer's belief that there was such thing as a free lunch. You could defund the police or reduce the police and not have some after-effect. When a party tells you there's no free lunch, whether it's on tax policy, fiscal policy, criminal policy, they're almost always wrong.

    And so if you just let the police pull back and not get involved, you're going to get more crime. So, we got to do two things at once.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're going to leave it there. Come back and see you guys next Friday.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    All right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Have a good weekend.

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