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Sen. John Barrasso on Biden’s relief plan and Trump’s role in the Capitol attacks

The Biden administration and Senate Republicans continue to debate the merits and details of the president's $1.9 trillion relief plan. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the third-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we discussed earlier, the Biden administration and Senate Republicans continue to debate the merits and details of the president's $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan.

    Senator John Barrasso is the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate. And he joins us now.

    Senator, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    What do you make of the efforts by 10 of your Republican colleagues to meet with the president to try to hammer out something that all sides can agree on? Do you think it will bear fruit?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, I hope that it does.

    And I think it was a good idea to meet together in a bipartisan way, Judy, because we still need to do more to help people get back to work and to help kids get back to school and to put the virus behind us, to getting more shots into arms.

    You know, what the president has proposed, $1.9 trillion, is an awful lot of money. And the concern that Republicans have is, it includes many things that are unrelated to coronavirus relief. You know, we just passed a $900 billion bill that was signed at the end of December, and so much of that money hasn't gone out the door yet.

    So, we want to make sure that that is out there effectively doing its job, and then I think we can better prepare to see what additional needs there are.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As I'm sure you know, Senator, President Bush is arguing that it's — the greater mistake would be to do not enough, when so many people are suffering.

    You have, what, 18 million Americans, at least, who, as of this month, are still receiving unemployment benefits. How concerned are you about people who were earning in the middle-class range, but are now well below that or out of work altogether?

  • John Barrasso:

    Well, I get home to Wyoming and talk to people every weekend about that very thing.

    And what I'm hearing at home is, they say, look, there are people that really need help and we need to target that help. But when I see President Biden including in his proposal sending relief checks out to families where you can make over a quarter-of-a-million dollars a year, people don't want to see that sort of thing.

    In Wyoming, where we have help wanted signs out, small business owners who are struggling say, if we have mandatory doubling of the minimum wage, they're going to have a harder time making payroll and could have to close their doors.

    When they see that one of the things in the president's proposal is to pay unemployment bonuses, which would make it more — basically, the math says you do better by not working than by working, it gets — it's harder to get people back to work.

    And the other thing that Republicans are very concerned about is these bailouts for big cities and blue states and places that really have a history of bad behavior when it comes to managing their finances, unrelated to coronavirus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I'm sure you know that many of these cities and states say that that money goes toward people who are working on the front lines, police, first responders and others.

    But we are going to continue to be looking at that.

    I do want to also ask you, Senator, about something that the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said in the last day about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

    He said — and I'm quoting — "Loony lies and conspiracy theories are dancing for the Republican Party and our country."

    He went on to refer to her view that perhaps no airplane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, saying that horrifying school shootings where children died were pre-staged.

    Do you agree with him?

  • John Barrasso:

    Well, yes, I find her statements disturbing. That's not the future that I see for the Republican Party. I know the House is going to have to make its own decisions on what path they take.

    But all the time that is spent on her is distracting from the work we need to do for the American people of getting people back to work and kids back to school and the coronavirus behind us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Senator, I also want to ask you about another member of Congress. And that is your fellow Republican Liz Cheney, who represents the state of Wyoming, your home state.

    She has come under attack from other Republicans for voting to impeach President Trump. You had a Republican congressman go to Wyoming to say she shouldn't be reelected.

    Do you think she should be removed from a leadership role in the House, based on what she's voted — what she's done?

  • John Barrasso:

    No, I support Liz Cheney. We work closely together on issues impacting Wyoming.

    I will tell you, I have a different position on impeachment than she does. This is now coming to the Senate. And I believe that it's unconstitutional for us in the Senate to go through a trial of impeachment of somebody who is no longer in office.

    And the fact that the chief justice of the Supreme Court isn't going to preside tells me that it is not a legitimate process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe the president bears any responsibility for what happened, though, Senator, given that he urged that crowd to go fight, not to show weakness? What do you think his role was in all this?

  • John Barrasso:

    Well, I wish he had chosen his words differently.

    But the House has now moved ahead with impeachment, and that is coming to the Senate. We have a trial starting next Tuesday in the United States Senate; 45 members of the Republicans have already voted that it's unconstitutional to impeach somebody who is no longer in office.

    And at home, the people of Wyoming believe in fairness. What happened in the House was a rush to judgment. It was a snap impeachment without a hearing, without an opportunity for defense. And so I think that was rushed, and I think that the president is going to be acquitted when it comes to the United States Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And do you think future presidents should be making similar statements?

  • John Barrasso:

    Well, I think that, first, in terms of past presidents, we shouldn't be impeaching people who are no longer in office or trying them in the Senate for impeachment.

    In terms of future presidents, to me, impeachment is about removing someone from the office to which they hold, removing a president from office. That, to me, is the way I read the Constitution, and that's what I think impeachment is all about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we will leave it there.

    Senator Barrasso, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • John Barrasso:

    Thank you, Judy.

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