Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on funding to fight COVID and Sarah Palin’s political pursuit

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including an emerging bipartisan deal on Capitol Hill to give the White House some of the money it says it needs for COVID testing and vaccinations, and former Gov. Sarah Palin’s pursuit of a vacant congressional seat in Alaska.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan deal is emerging to give the White House some of the money it says it needs for COVID testing and vaccinations. And in the far northern reaches of the country, in Alaska, a vacant congressional seat has brought former Governor Sarah Palin back to the national political stage.

    Joining me to discuss all of this is our Politics Monday duo. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    It is so good to see both of you on this Monday.

    And we have a little bit of news. Just in the last few minutes, we have learned that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has picked up a third Republican Senate vote, and that is Mitt Romney.

    It's a landslide, I guess, by modern standards.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Modern standards.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It looks like she will get at least 53 votes, three Republicans.

    I just want to quote quickly. He said: "While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity."

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Right.

    And this was not a very difficult thing for a member of Congress, for the Senate to say not so long ago, which is, I might not have picked this person. This isn't somebody that I agree with their political philosophy, but there's a president. That president gets to pick. And it's our job to just make sure that person is able to faithfully execute the job.

    That is becoming rarer and rarer. Instead, it is now a party-line vote. So three votes now is actually pretty bipartisan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I mean, most Republicans, Tam — we heard Josh Hawley saying, yes, I like her, she's very nice, but she's completely wrong.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    So three crossovers is about all we have been able to see in the Senate since they went nuclear and did away with the filibuster and sort of lowered the threshold for confirmation.

    But you're right. We have seen a number of Republican senators come forward and say, this is a history-making nomination. She has made her family proud, she has made America proud, all of these things. She will be the first Black woman confirmed to the court. And it now looks quite clear that she will be confirmed to be on the court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And possibly the fact that she won't change the ideological balance of the court has something to do with the fact that she is getting some Republican votes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Correct. It lowers the stakes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, something else to talk about, and that is this — Amy, the news of the COVID funding bill, it's — it's $10 billion. It's less than half what the White House was looking for.

    What does it say about — I mean, at one point, the president's were getting all the money they wanted for COVID.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What's changing here?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    Well, I think what's changing is, COVID is no longer the top issue for Americans. The issue of inflation is the top issue and the economy. And so pumping more money out, even though it is going to directly to the states and localities to handle things like vaccinations and treatments, still a lot for Congress to swallow.

    They wanted to make sure that this money was offset by — you could find the money to pay for this. It's no longer just Uncle Sam writing a check, saying, we will worry about it later.

    I also think it's interesting. We just noted Mitt Romney becoming the third vote there. Mitt Romney was instrumental in making this deal happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    He has become sort of the fulcrum. We have talked a lot about Joe Manchin. Now, on the Republican side, it's Mitt Romney who's willing to actually cross the aisle and also be — he's seen by Democrats clearly as somebody who they can deal with and as an honest broker.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, the administration's been really sweating this. And they're saying they're going to come back and ask for more, because they're really worried about filling some of the needs that are out there.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, one of the big things that this bill is lacking, that this deal is lacking is funding for the global effort to vaccinate the world.

    And it's not just producing vaccines and shipping vaccines, but it's also getting shots in arms. And that has been a real problem and a real concern. The administration is saying that some of those programs are going to have to stop pretty much right away without the funding.

    But what this does contain on the domestic side is much needed funding that the White House has been raising alarms about, for instance — and they haven't really talked about this explicitly that much, but in an interview I did with Jeff Zients last week, the White House COVID coordinator, he explained that they're already getting calls from companies that make those at-home rapid tests.

    Companies are already calling saying they want to shut down production lines because demand has fallen through the floor because people aren't testing right now. Omicron, you couldn't find a test. Everybody was begging for tests. Now they're everywhere. You get them by the gum at the drugstore.

    And the concern, though, is what happens in six months?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And so this money will be there to prop up an industry that clearly the free market will not keep it going, will not keep those lines up.

  • Amy Walter:

    But, as we also know, there are countries that do have vaccines, whether it's China, for example, but their protocols are so strict, that they still are shutting down major portions of that country, which has an impact on this country, right, with supply chains and other items that we get from China.

    So, even when things are theoretically going well, which is supplying vaccines, people getting vaccinated, the rules country by country are going to impact us too.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so much of that is out of control of whoever is calling the shots here.

  • Amy Walter:

    Exactly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Terrible. Sorry about that.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    You didn't mean to have that pun.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Bad vaccine pun.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will just erase that.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But I do want to ask you both about — and I will start with you, Tam, in Alaska, some news.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The former Governor Sarah Palin has stepped out of quiet, I guess, for a while to say she's one of — going to be, what, of 52 people — 51 people running for that one congressional seat in Alaska.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, 51 people.

    It is — but it is a really important seat. It is the congressperson for the entire state of Alaska. So the stakes for the people of Alaska are fairly high. What Sarah Palin has been doing for a while is basically, since she ran for vice president, didn't win, ended up just quitting as governor, she's been sort of a reality TV political star for the last many years.

    Throwing her hat in the ring immediately. Donald J. Trump endorsed her, several other top Republicans too. I don't know that she's a shoo-in. I don't know that it's a guarantee. She has a lot of name I.D., but I don't know that it's all totally great name I.D. in Alaska.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    She's not lacking for name identification.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    No, or an ability to raise money.

    And they're — not only are there 51 candidates, but there's a new system now in Alaska. It's rank choice voting. There's also a top four primary process, so the top four candidates, regardless of party, of those 51 will go on to this run-off. So this is all brand-new.

    This was designed, this new law that was passed by the voters in 2020, in many ways to help moderates, like Lisa Murkowski, so that you can't win a primary or a run-off just by getting a big slice of the base. You have to appeal to a broader slice.

    One thing I want to say about this too which is quite interesting, Sarah Palin, if she were to come to Congress, remember, in 2008, she was an outlier. She comes to Congress, she is now part of the majority, essentially, and the McCain wing of the party has — basically is no longer there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The wing of the man who chose her and…

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, the wing of the man who chose her.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … and propelled held her into national — international prominence.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    I mean, she was Trump before Trump.

    She was a precursor for all of the politics of outrage, both stoking outrage in voters, and also creating outrage among liberals and then sticking it to them and raising money all along the way. Like, she really helped create this model…

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    … that Trump then used to get into the White House and is now — there are numerous people using this model to raise money and potentially be the next Trump.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

    And it's what the party looks like now, and it's what Congress looks like now, the Republican side.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is one House race — excuse me.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, this is one House race that's going to get a lot of attention. And we're all going to be reading up on rank choice voting.

  • Amy Walter:

    We will.

    It's first time it's open in almost 50 years too, so there's a lot of pent-up demand.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's right. Don Young was there for half-a-century.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you both, Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday.

    Thanks.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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