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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s leadership after Trump

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including Joe Biden's next move after the Electoral College cemented his presidential victory Monday, President Trump's unlikely concession and how Republicans will react.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just hours after members of the Electoral College cemented his victory, president-elect Joe Biden is addressing the nation tonight.

    With that just around the corner, we turn to our Politics Monday duo for analysis. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter" and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you. So much happening today in the news, but let's start with what is going on with this Electoral College, Tam, and Joe Biden.

    The election was over a month ago, but, ever since then, it has been nothing but turmoil, protests, the president's tweets, lawsuits, one after the other.

    Where does — and so finally, today, his victory is cemented. But where does all this leave Joe Biden?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, in his remarks tonight — we have gotten some excerpts — he is going to try to convince the American people that it's time to turn the page, to move on.

    He's going to argue that the American institutions held, despite President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election. But, as you say, President Trump has been making a lot of noise.

    There have been numerous lawsuits. All of them have failed. And, essentially, at this point, President Trump is moving the goalposts, saying that he is going to keep fighting on beyond the Electoral College, even though there was a time when his campaign aides and others said that the Electoral College was the thing that they were waiting for.

    But it just seems really unlikely that President Trump is ever going to concede in any recognizable way, and that he's just going to continue on this path.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy, what does this mean in the short term and medium term, if you want, for president-elect Biden going into a situation where the president preceding him is just nonstop denying that he is legitimate?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    To me, the issue isn't so much, will Donald Trump concede? Will the president concede, because it seems, as Tam said, unlikely that he will ever admit that he lost this race or that his loss was not tied to something nefarious that, as she has also pointed out, has not proven to be true.

    So, to me, the bigger question is, how do members of Donald Trump's party, how do Republicans respond to this? We are starting to hear now, as reporters are wandering around Capitol Hill and talking to senators and members of Congress, saying, OK, now, now do you see Biden as the president-elect, now that the Electoral College has weighed in?

    And we're starting to hear members of the Senate say, well, given that this threshold is now completed, the lawsuits are all completed, it looks like Biden is now officially the president-elect.

    Where we're really going to see the next challenge, Judy, is, the 6th of January, there is a joint session of Congress where these votes are read out in front of Congress. It is possible for a member to dispute this.

    You need a member of the House and a member of the Senate to do that. If you get that, we know that there is at least one or two House members, Republicans, who want to dispute the Electoral College outcome. They would need someone on the Senate side. Then we would have to go through debate in both houses and another vote.

    It won't overturn the election, but what it would say is, there is still some cache among Republicans to dragging this out. And it would suggest that that the idea that they want to unify, fix these divisions, well, that's going to be a bigger challenge than we had thought before.

    And for president-elect Biden, who has made that the cornerstone of his incoming presidency, it would suggest that he has got a ways to go.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's my question, Tam.

    I mean, how is it, after all these members, what is it, 120, 140 House Republicans, signed onto a lawsuit that said, essentially, the election was conducted illegitimately, it was not done on constitutional grounds. They're not going to suddenly turn around, these members, or even members of the Senate who were saying they agreed with the president there was something fishy about Joe Biden's win.

    How are they suddenly going to turn around and work with him as if he is legitimate?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, those 126 members signed on to something that they knew wouldn't succeed, that they knew had virtually no chance that the Supreme Court was going to throw out results of a free and fair election, a free and fair election that also elected them.

    So, part of that was a loyalty test. Part of that was proving to President Trump that they are loyal. In terms of what this means for Joe Biden governing, of course, he ran on the idea that he was going to be able to work with Congress, and, in particular, with senators who he served with for a long time.

    As Amy said, we are starting to see some Republican senators say, yes, Joe Biden is now the president-elect, Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, John Cornyn from Texas, sort of dancing around this a little, saying, well, there were some isolated instances of fraud or irregularities, and states should look into that, but none of this could overturn the result, so we need to move forward.

    There are going to be early and often — tests early and often for Joe Biden, with the Senate working — we don't know for sure that it will be a Republican Senate, but if it a Democratic Senate, it is going to be by the narrowest of margins.

    And everyone acknowledges that, if COVID relief passes in this lame-duck session, they're going to need to do more once Biden becomes president. So, there will be many tests.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. And…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, one test that is coming up — go ahead, Amy. Yes, go ahead.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, that is what — I think we might be on the same wavelength, Judy. I don't know.

    But that's one thing sort of looking to is this question about whether leadership, in and of itself, is enough to sort of break this polarization. Obviously, President Trump didn't invent polarization. This has been bad for a long, long, long time.

    The question is whether it is enough to have a president who says, not only do I want to work with the other side, but I'm not going to fan the flames of division.

    You have noticed that, throughout this whole process of President Trump testing every single norm, testing every single place, institutional norms, Biden has not said much. In other words, he hasn't met every tweet with another tweet. He hasn't upped the factor of punching and punching back harder. That was sort of the Trump mantra.

    So, is that enough, do we think, to bring the two sides together? Probably not.

    But turning down the heat may be enough to at least give cover to those folks who want to get some stuff done. It's unlikely we're going to see big, sweeping legislation either way, whether Democrats have control of the Senate or not.

    But, at the very least, a leader that says, I'm not going to play with division, I'm not going to continue to divide us, we will see if that can at least start us into more bipartisanship.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just 30 seconds.

    Amy, I do want to — I'm sorry.

    Tam, I want to ask you about the prospects for this COVID relief bill that I talked to Senator Manchin about earlier. Does it look like they can reach agreement, at least on part of it, enough to get aid to people who need it?

  • Tamara Keith:

    What I will say about any sort of deal in Congress is that big deals often go along more easily than small deals.

    And deals that bump right up on a deadline, like getting home for the holidays and not wanting to go home for the holidays without extending unemployment benefits or the moratorium on evictions, that kind of hard deadline can make magic happen in Congress.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    Every time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I know that a lot of people…

  • Amy Walter:

    Every time.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I know a lot of people are counting on it. I watched that news conference today. Both Republicans and Democrats said, we have got to do something by Christmas.

    So, we will see if it translates into something — into something real.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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