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Brooks and Capehart on Biden’s new infrastructure plan, Georgia’s voting law

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including President Biden’s infrastructure plan, the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations amid spikes in infections, and Major League Baseball's reaction to Georgia's new voting law.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With the release of President Biden's infrastructure plan, states reopening, and boycotts brewing, we look to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.

    That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Hello to both of you. So good do see you, as always, this Friday.

    And there is, as always, a lot to talk about.

    Jonathan, I want to start with you on the president's big infrastructure plan, over $2 trillion. What do you make of it? Does it meet the need or does it overshoot?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, if you listen to progressives, Judy, it doesn't meet the need. It doesn't go far enough. If you listen to Republicans, it spends way too much.

    I think the way you described the plan is perfect, actually, because you described it as an infrastructure plan. But the actual name of this package is the American Jobs Act. And that, I think, when you think of what the president proposed in terms of jobs, it all fits together. It all makes sense.

    One of the knocks against the president's plan is that, well, only a certain amount of it is spent on infrastructure. Most people, when they think of infrastructure, they think of roads, bridges, seaports, airports, those types of things.

    But what you see in the American Jobs Act is a broader definition of what infrastructure is. Yes, it's roads and bridges, but it is also wind turbines and solar, green energy things, wiring the country with broadband, having broadband be for 2021 what the interstate system was in the mid-'50s, connecting the country, but connecting the country electronically, and also the electric power grid.

    So, I think the president's going for a big, bold plan. The key question is, can that big, bold plan actually become law?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, Jonathan makes a points. There is more in here than what's traditionally been thought of as infrastructure, hundreds of billions for caregiving for seniors and others. What do you make of this?

  • David Brooks:

    No, I do worry about the debt. We're spending almost $10 trillion, if all the Biden things pass.

    That's a lot. It's just a historical fact that rising debt contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire, the decline of the Spanish, imperial Spain, France in the 18th century, China in the 19th century. History is replete with nations who hurt themselves by going into too much debt.

    Nonetheless, I think, in these circumstances, the Biden plan is worth it. And I say that for a couple of reasons. One, we have simply underinvested in infrastructure and basic research and all such things for decades. And that's just a fact.

    Second, if you ask me to tell the economic story of America over the last 50 years, I would say that we have built a gigantic funnel that has funneled money and resources and wealth to highly educated people in large metro areas.

    This plan funnels money to all the people who are not in those categories. And so I think it rebalances our society in an important way.

    And, finally, Jonathan and I were on a call with Anita Dunn, the president's adviser earlier in the week. And she made the point that listen, we're — we have got to show democracy works. There's a Chinese system out there that a lot of people think that's what works. And we're just in this contest to show that democracy can get big things done.

    So, given the circumstances, I overcome my incredibly high aversion to all this debt.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So Jonathan, does this look like it has a chance of getting — becoming law?


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Judy, right now, no.

    And I say no because the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has already said that he's not going to support it. I have not heard one Republican in the Senate step forward and say that he or she will support it.

    That means the president is going to have to depend on a couple things, one, maintaining all 50 Democrats to vote for this plan. But the other thing is that, in order for all 50 Democrats to have any say over this, the Senate parliamentarian has to rule whether the American Jobs Act, like the Recovery Act, can go through reconciliation, which is just a simple majority vote.

    So, there are a lot of hurdles here. And that's why I say, right now, the American Jobs Act is big and bold. And, as necessary as it is, as it stands right now, I don't see how it becomes law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, your forecast?

  • David Brooks:

    A tad more optimistic.

    I hear a lot of moderates who are supporting it, moderate Democrats who are saying positive things about it. So that's a good sign.

    I think one of the challenges is going to be, this is just going to take a long time. Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to get it out of the House by July 4, which is an ambitious timetable. Then it goes to the Senate. So we're looking at a six-month process.

    And suppose we're generating 900,000 jobs a month, as we just did, over all that time. A lot of people are going to say, why are we spending all this money? The economy's really roaring.

    And so that could drain away support.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, two other things I want to ask you both about. We will try the squeeze them in.

    First to you, Jonathan, on where we are with COVID. We see more people are getting vaccinated, good signs. What, over 100 million Americans now have been vaccinated. But we are also seeing rise in the number of cases. We're hearing talk about vaccine passports, requiring people to show a passport that they have been vaccinated before they can travel or go into a place of work, potentially.

    And you also see states where the governors are opening up before Washington says they're ready for that. Where do you see all this headed?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I feel like Groundhog Day, because I believe I said this a few weeks ago.

    We are so close. We're always so close to getting to the other side of this pandemic, in terms of cases going down, hospitalizations, deaths, businesses being able to reopen. And then states end up doing something to kind of mess it all up.

    And for states to undue their mask mandates, open things wide open again, as cases are going up, as variants are running rampant across the land, when you have the CDC director going off-script and saying that she's extremely worried about what's going to happen, I don't think we're out of the woods yet.

    And I think people are being a little too optimistic about how much they can do because of the vaccines. I, like anyone, would like to get the vaccine and get back to normal. But I would love for things to get back to normal when every — when the country can actually do it in a uniform way.

    And I'm not seeing right now how we're going to be able to do that, in — by the time of the president's goal of July 4.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I think we need to make life a lot better for people who have had the vaccine.

    I think we need vaccine passports, so they can go to gyms and restaurants. And I say that as one who is too young to have the vaccine, which — the last time I have been too young for anything.


  • David Brooks:



  • David Brooks:

    But we have got to induce the people who are vaccine-hesitant to say, wow, it's really great on the other side of the vaccine.

    And one way to do that is to have these vaccine passports, so people can go and enjoy life. The research has now, it's, as far as I understand it, become very clear. You do not get the disease — at least your chances are fantastic — and you do not spread the disease.

    So, if that's the case, then I say to all of you with the shots, party on.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, Jonathan and I think of you as always young, so it's all good. It's all good.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just quickly, finally, we have talked about Georgia's voting law and the pushback against it, but now we have big corporations like Delta, Coca-Cola saying they don't like it.

    And, today, Major League Baseball, Jonathan, announced they are pulling their All-Star Game out of Atlanta. It was going to take place this summer. They're going to find another home for it.

    Is this kind of pressure likely to make a difference in Georgia and other states where they're looking at tightening voting?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, in terms of the law, the Georgia law is the law. And it is highly unlikely that Governor Kemp is going to go back or the legislature is going to go back and say, we will do — we will have a do-over.

    But I do think it's very important for corporate America to take stands on issues that are of importance, not only to their customers, but to their employees. And so, for Delta and Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball to take the stands that they have taken, I think, is very important.

    I think what is also important was the letter from the 72 Black business executives, from Ken Chenault and Ken Frazier, American Express and Merck respectively, the president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, Ursula Burns, a former CEO of Xerox, putting pen to paper and saying, what's happening in Georgia is an attack on democracy.

    And where are the business leaders, all business leaders in raising their voices about this?

    And I think what's happening in Georgia should be a template for all the other states where what's happened in Georgia is happening in those states right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What effect, David, do you see this kind of corporate involvement having?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I spoke very negatively, critically of the law last week, and I'm still very much against it.

    I worry about this. I worry about — we have seen one institution after another in American society get politicized, the church, the press. I worry about corporations suddenly taking political sides. I worry about boards of directors and CEOs who've got a lot of economic power wielding it in ways that's political.

    And so I'm just nervous to see yet another institution gets super political. They just don't do it well. Delta, Coke, Major League Baseball, they all work in China, a country now committing genocide. What standards do we hold people to? So, I'm just a little nervous about people with a lot of power wielding it in this way.

    I just — I'm more comfortable that we settle our differences, even if we hate the results, through politics and through persuasion and through votes and for activism and trying to get people to come out to the polls. I'm just more comfortable with that as a means of social change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A serious note to end on.

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both. And have a good weekend.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • David Brooks:

    You too.

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