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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on what an economic aid bill means for Biden

Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on economic aid and Biden
Blurb: NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including what an economic relief bill may mean for President-elect Joe Biden, and President Trump's base and his unfounded election claims.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With analysis of the politics behind the COVID relief bill, with the president's continued attacks on the election results and more, we turn now to our Politics Monday team.

    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."

    So, hello to both of you.

    We heard Lisa Desjardins lay out just a part of that 5,500-page deal, Amy, that Congress is apparently tonight coming around to passing. Here we are. It is another deadline, and I hate to be so crass as to ask you to boil it down to winners and losers, but who do you see as the winners and the losers?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, clearly, the winners and losers are kind of in the same camp, and that's the American public and small businesses. Some of — many of them are winners, in that they're finally seeing aid that has been sort of in the works here since earlier in the summer.

    They are also losers, though, because many of them, especially many of these small businesses, just didn't survive the summer and fall, when these negotiations were basically deadlocked. But there are a couple of other sort of political issues here that I think are important to think about.

    You know, the first is that you have, in Georgia, the two Senate races — January 5 is a special election — Democrats have been making the case against the two sitting Republican senators that they haven't done enough on COVID relief.

    Well, now those senators get to go back home and say, guess what? We're bringing a lot of money back to Georgia to help folks who are struggling in the pandemic.

    The other question that I think is going to be interesting is to see what this means for president-elect Biden. On the one hand, this is good news for him, because he doesn't then show up on January 20 with a desk full of a whole lot of economic problems, maybe an economy that has gotten a whole lot worse over the six weeks between now and when he gets sworn in.

    But it also means that he doesn't have this same sort of possibility to push a stimulus bill in his first few days, use it as a vehicle to do a lot of the things he promised on the campaign trail. And a good economy or an improving economy will be good for president-elect Biden.

    At the same time, it makes it harder to convince Republicans that they need to agree to another big stimulus package.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, pick up on that.

    I mean, how — what would you add in terms of the political calculus here, both in terms of the Georgia — the run-offs coming up very early in January and then what it means for Joe Biden, as well as what we're talking about right now for people?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    So, in terms of what Congress is going to pass, in addition to the COVID relief, there is also an omnibus spending bill, a big budget bill, that means there isn't going to be a budget cliff in the first 100 days of Joe Biden's presidency. So he — in some ways, he avoids a big budget fight, which is a good thing.

    And, in theory, there is a cliff in this COVID bill, because after 11 weeks, or whatever it is, sometime in the spring, once again, these additional unemployment benefits and other benefits are going to run out. And if things aren't back to normal, which is unlikely that they will be, there will be this — another pressing moment to try — for Biden to try to push for more of what he wanted, because this bill is far less than what Democrats had wanted and thought was needed.

    But, as we learned this summer, expiring unemployment benefits or expiring additional benefits, it turns out isn't much of a cliff at all for Congress. They have essentially, with this, proven that they can do the bare minimum at the absolute last minute, which is — could be like the slogan for Congress for the last several years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, we could be heading into stalemate situation for a long time to come.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, if you look at where we could potentially be when Joe Biden takes over as president of the United States — you're right, we're still waiting to see who controls the Senate — but even if Democrats control the Senate, it will be by one vote.

    And that makes, in theory, some of these people who came together to help craft this bipartisan package, this Problem Solvers Caucus, more important than ever. And, theoretically, that could mean we see more cooperation, that the folks who aren't on either side of the ideological spectrum say, oh, you know what? We have a lot of power and influence. Let's get together and try to do more of these bipartisan deals.

    And they have, in President Biden, someone who says, absolutely, this is what I campaigned on doing. I would love to do that.

    Now, whether that holds true, Judy, once we get into 2021, Biden is just the president-elect, but the actual president, and the midterm elections are right around the corner, midterm elections where we know the House and the Senate are going to be on the line, I will be very curious to see how long this cooperation lasts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it isn't often that we hear a forecast of people actually getting together and agreeing and passing legislation smoothly.

    But, Tam, you can pick up on that, but I also want to turn just quickly, if you will, to President Trump, because what we have seen, not only is he still pushing the baseless conspiracy theories about the election, but he is talking about things like seizing voting machines, declaring martial law.

    I mean, it's moved into the area of fantasy. Even his own attorney general is saying that shouldn't happen.

    Is this the kind of thing — are we now in territory where the people supporting — where it could hurt the support that he has in some way? How do you see that?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I'm not sure that it necessarily can really, truly hurt the support that he has.

    But, certainly, it can hurt the democracy. It can hurt the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sure.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And President Trump, at this moment, I think it could also hurt his legacy. And it is not clear he is thinking about his legacy — well, it is clear. He is not thinking about his legacy in the same way that any past president has thought about their legacy.

    Many past presidents have thought of sort of a smooth handoff as part of their legacy. President Trump is in the middle of a crisis. This is a moment where, with the coronavirus, he could be taking charge.

    But, instead, he is showing a level of indifference, while, at the same time, tweeting out conspiracy theories undermining one of the pillars of democracy in free and fair elections. And he could be working on coronavirus.

    Heck, this week, he could be out promoting two vaccines and Operation Warp Speed, and we just haven't seen him in days and days and days. Even Joe Biden today said that the current administration deserves some credit for Operation Warp Speed.

    But, for sort of inexplicable reasons, President Trump isn't really taking that victory lap.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amy, how — contrast what we're seeing now with the president and what he is saying and what he is doing, or not doing, around the pandemic with how previous presidents have related to crises moments in this country.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, this is going to be one of the things that we're going to be studying for quite a long time, Judy, whether a better response to COVID from the very beginning would have helped Donald Trump's chances.

    It feels like we have had this conversation so many times over the course of his presidency. And we have had such a tumultuous year, and yet opinions about the president over the course of this year barely budged, in some ways because he never changed the way he operates. In other ways, there's very little that would change people's opinion of him, because it sort of got locked in so early on in his time as a candidate and his time as president.

    The thing to me that I look and think sort of where does the Republican Party go sort of post-Trump, what is Trumpism without Trump, to me, it is kind of what he is doing now, which is always fight, fight for everything. It is not even about winning and losing. It is about never admitting when you do lose.

    And so what worries me, as we go forward and thinking about, as we said, can we put other deals like this together, can we see more cooperation, if the — if the whole point of politics is just to fight, then you're never going to end up with anything that looks like compromise, right, that compromise becomes something that only losers do.

    And so that makes for a very difficult and dangerous place for politics to go for the foreseeable future, which is why we're going to look and see, is Joe Biden going to be able, just by turning the temperature down, not encouraging the fighting, not encouraging the divisiveness, going to be able to sort of, if not change that trajectory, at least slow it down?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, just a very few seconds left, Tam, but we're all watching to see how the dynamics change after January 20.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, and it's certainly worth noting that the House is going to be very narrowly divided, too.

    And House members have even fewer incentives to be seen as go along, get along, dealmakers, bipartisanship. The incentives aren't really there for House members to be bipartisan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That was a big disappointment for Democrats in the House.

    Well, we thank both of you, Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday.

    Thank you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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