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Sen. Bill Cassidy on Rep. Greene: ‘She’s part of the conspiracy cabal’

Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, is one of 10 Republicans to meet this week with President Biden about the administration's COVID relief bill, and one of only a handful of medical doctors serving in Congress. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Biden's plan, former President Trump's impeachment trial and the future of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is one of 10 Republicans to meet this week with President Biden about the administration's COVID relief bill.

    Senator Cassidy is also one of only a handful of medical doctors serving in Congress. And he joins us now.

    Senator, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    I see there is another letter that your group of senators has sent to the White House since you met with President Biden. Are there areas of common ground you see?

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy:

    There are areas of common ground.

    They asked for $160 billion for vaccinations, research, you name it. We gave it to them. Equaled their amount for mental health, opioid, equaled their amount for nutritional — nutrition, if you will.

    But there are some areas that there are big differences. Education, an area I focused on, we asked them to justify why they wanted $130 billion. They used lot of documents from last year, from eight months ago, before we knew we had a vaccine, before we knew that most Americans would be immune before the fall.

    So, in my mind, their justification rang hollow for that sum of money. Indeed, sometimes, they asked more than the people they were quoting recommended, in one case $15 billion more.

    I will just say, in some cases, it appears they picked a number and tried to fill it up, as opposed to figure out the need to establish a number.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, my understanding on the money for schools, Senator Cassidy, is that they are saying this money is needed for expanded testing, for reducing class size, for hiring more janitors, for improving ventilation, for things like that.

    Are you saying that is not justification for spending $160 billion?

  • Bill Cassidy:

    All those were from last year, like in May.

    By the time the fall opens up, if we vaccinate 1 to 1.5 million people a day, we are going to have most of the American people vaccinated. Now, it's going to take at least until fall for the money to work its way through the system. And those ventilation systems won't be done until next winter.

    So, there is a really disconnect between, one, the need, and, two, the timeliness. I will go back to what Fauci is saying, what the CDC is saying, and what we see with parochial and private schools.

    Scientific evidence, medical science says they can safely reopen now. It is being done in private and parochial. It's not being done where teachers unions dominate the scene.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you about another area, Senator.

    And that is, the president is saying in the last day or so that he's open to the idea of lowering the income bracket for people to receive direct payments. Does that make this more appealing to you?

  • Bill Cassidy:

    Well, it certainly makes sense. We're the ones that raised it.

    Under their original plan, folks making $290,000 a year were going to get a check. Now, we can certainly make a case that the American people need support, but someone making $290,000 a year is probably not among them.

    So, the president has seen the wisdom of some of what we have done. In fact, I think the president would be far more willing to compromise. I think it is — I think it is, frankly, his staff which is less willing to.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, to the argument — I mean, there are even conservative economists, Republican economists, Senator, who are saying it's better right now, given the need, given what this pandemic has done, to go big.

    You have the Republican governor of the state of West Virginia, Jim Justice, saying better to go big, the harm is in doing too little.

    What do you say to that?

  • Bill Cassidy:

    Jim Justice is not an economist. He's a good governor, not an economist.

    CBO is saying that GDP growth is going to be 3.7 percent in 2021. Wall Street Journal polled some economists. I think they said 4.2 percent. That's pretty good growth.

    Larry Summers, a previous Democratic secretary of Treasury, has an editorial in Washington Post today in which he says there is a danger of overheating, unleashing inflation. That would be incredibly damaging to average families, to middle-income and lower-income families, incredibly damaging.

    Now, if you start off with 4.2 percent growth for next year, do you need it to get the 6 percent? And do you unleash inflation? There is a balance here. And no offense against Governor Justice, but I got a liberal economist who has the concerns that I have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, we're going to watch that debate play out.

    Two other important things I do want to ask you about, and one is what is going on next week with the impeachment trial of President Trump.

    As you know, five people died after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Some of the people involved who are being charged are saying they were inspired by President Trump. Should he be held accountable for what happened?

  • Bill Cassidy:

    We will see the evidence that is presented next week.

    I'm a juror. Just like I said in the first impeachment trial, I go into the trial with an open mind. People want you to commit beforehand. That's not really what a juror is supposed to do. It's not what I shall do. I shall listen to the evidence.

    I will make the point the House did not take the trouble to amass the evidence. Under previous impeachment hearings, there have been hearings and reams of documents produced, witnesses deposed. That has not happened here.

    And so that puts us at a disadvantage in this proceeding. But I present myself with an open mind.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Senator, what does it say about the Republican Party that it appears the majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives are not going to impose penalty on Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom you know has made statements espousing conspiracy theories, that they will not punish her, apparently, by taking her committees away?

  • Bill Cassidy:

    She is a distraction.

    Anyone that says laser beams from outer space caused wildfires in California, and the laser beams are controlled by the Rothschild family, is not a serious person.

    We have got incredibly serious issues in our country. We need the conservative movement coming full force to try and get those solutions which are best for our present and best for our future, so that family sitting around the table doesn't read about their job being eliminated by an executive order and feel like there's somebody not rooting for them.

    I'm rooting for them. I'm not going to be distracted by someone who's not part of the conservative movement. She's part of the conspiracy cabal, and that cabal should not be part of the Republican Party.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, thank you, as always, for joining us. We appreciate it.

  • Bill Cassidy:

    Thank you.

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