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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including progress on the infrastructure negotiations in the Senate, former President Donald Trump’s fundraising efforts
For a closer look at the politics of an infrastructure deal and the continuing influence of former President Trump in the Republican Party, it's time for Politics Monday with Amy Walter, the newly named publisher and editor in chief of The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter, and Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR.
We are very proud of you, Ms. Walter.
Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:
Thank you very much, Judy.
I'm very excited about it too.
She's the boss now.
Yes. I can set — everything comes — the buck stops with me.
We are so happy for you.
So, all right, so let's talk infrastructure. We reported on it earlier from Lisa, learned about what is in there.
But, Amy, what does it mean that they have this deal? And does one side or another get credit here?
This is one of those rare things in politics, especially in this day and age, where everybody gets something that they are happy about.
Infrastructure is one of those deals that everybody loves, because — no matter where you are in the ideological spectrum, because it's something you can go home and say to your constituents, look, I did something while I was in Washington. There's something tangible that I'm bringing back.
Everybody who's in politics loves to talk about bringing home the bacon. So it is one of the easier vehicles for bipartisanship.
The question — as you pointed out, the question next is, what happens to the rest of the Democrats' agenda, specifically that $3.5 trillion sort of what we're calling soft infrastructure, more government spending on government programs, where — that's where Democrats need to keep all 50 of their members and make sure that there are votes in the House.
And this is where I think we sometimes forget — we talk about the Senate a lot, 50/50 Senate. Speaker Pelosi only has a three-seat margin. She can't afford many defections.
And progressives in the House are causing — they're raising questions about the main infrastructure bill, and then, of course, bigger questions about the so-called social infrastructure.
Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:
And, already, they have made it clear that those two are linked. You don't get one without the other. That is what Senate leadership has said. That is what Nancy Pelosi has said.
And because those two are linked, certainly, assuming this passes out of the Senate, before they go away for recess, there will be something for President Biden to celebrate. There will be something for everyone in the Senate to celebrate who voted for it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they have made it all the way.
I — there could be a tortured sports analogy about goal lines and other lines. And this is the "PBS NewsHour," so I'm not going to do it.
But they're not there. They're not at the end zone. That's the point.
And, Amy, it's — for President Biden, who talked about bipartisanship, there's a glimmer.
There is a glimmer of bipartisanship.
And, again, this is the second time that — well, when he was candidate Biden, sort of made this bet, right, that has actually paid off, a bet that was against conventional wisdom. The first bet was that Democratic primary voters would reward a longtime insider establishment who didn't want to shake up the system in the way that a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren did, that that's who Democratic voters would pick as their nominee.
Most of the Washington world said, that's not going to happen. He wins. He comes in, he says, we're going to have real bipartisanship. I know the Senate. I have been a member of the Senate for most of my political career. I get how this place works. We're going to make it work. Everybody said, eh, bipartisanship that's old and it doesn't work that way anymore, Joe.
And it looks as if those two bets have paid off. And the big bet is going to come in November. Will he be able to say as well, and this bet I made on getting a big, big, more government spending package through, not only is it helping Democrats, but we're not also battling inflation, which is what Republicans would argue will happen?
A very different kind of spending, or, I should say, fund-raising is what former President Trump has been able to do.
Tam, just in the last year, he's raised $82 million. We're told he's got over — I'm sorry — yes, a million — I almost said a billion. I realize we're talking about different cutouts of money.
Still a lot.
It's not an infrastructure plan. It's just political fund-raising.
But he's got $102 million in the bank right now.
This is a former president. We don't even know whether he's going to run for reelection. What does that say? What does that say about his support?
Yes, he is a former president.
Most former presidents at this point would be raising money for their library or to save the world or any number of things that former presidents do, book deal, something like that. That's not what he's doing.
He — the premise under which he is raising money is, one, to continue to contest the election that already happened, that is over, that he lost, and also to settle scores, to consolidate power behind himself to once and for all say, this is the Trump party. The Republican Party is the Trump party.
And he is raising money by — through the same outrage and that they're trying to hurt your favorite guy Trump kind of headlines in the fund-raising e-mails. And it works, in part because a lot of people are on the continuing payment plan, continuing every month to send money, whether they opt in or not.
They used to call it layaway, but that's right.
And he's taking full credit for it. And, in a way, he can.
The question, though, is, what's he going to do with that money?
He's endorsing candidates, but I don't see him writing big checks yet.
That's the key question.
So, what is he going to do with it?
Well, there we go. What is he going to do?
One thing it's doing, certainly, is, it's saying to other Republicans, be careful crossing me. I have $100 million.
Now, normally, you would look at that bank account, and if I were on the other side, say, oh, my gosh, there's — that's $100 million that he can spend on the midterm elections and bankroll so many candidates.
But we know, after watching the former president for all these years now, he doesn't like spending money on anybody but himself. So, it's not — I don't think we're going to expect to see all of that $100 million bill win to win back control of the House and the Senate.
But I think your point too of we have never seen — it's not just a former president. A president who presided over the loss of the House and the Senate, he lost reelection, still able to raise that kind of money and have that kind of influence on his party is — is remarkable.
Is there a way, Tam, in just a couple of minutes, to measure how much influence he still has?
There have been a couple of special elections. There are more coming up in the in the next couple of days in Ohio. Are we going to learn anything more about his influence from this?
Well, the candidate he endorsed in the Texas special election ended up losing.
Now, the special elections are sort of one-offs, and there's only so much you can draw from it. But there's another special election primary this week. It's a crowded field. And that would be another data point.
The question comes at some point, if his candidates don't keep winning, does the emperor have no clothes? Can he raise a lot of money, but does he not have the influence? We are no — we have nowhere near enough data points to know whether he truly is as powerful as he seems.
But, endorsements aside, there are basically no Republicans in Congress — or maybe there's two — who are willing to say anything to cross him, to contradict him.
So, in that way, he's in control.
So we're talking about fear level.
Yes. No, and it certainly is.
And you see it in the primaries. Even the candidates who haven't been endorsed by Donald Trump aren't out there running against him, as much as they're trying to show, well, I may not have the Trump endorsement, but, believe me, I'm still a Trump Republican.
And so the influence is really going to be the kinds of people that come into Congress in 2023, right? It's not whether they have a D or an R after their name. It's much more about the temperament that they're going to bring, especially when we see how many people are retiring in the Senate. People like Rob Portman…
… Roy Blunt, who are sort of traditional establishment members, could be replaced by more Trumpian figures.
And that changes sort of the possibility for more kind of bipartisan deals like the one that we're seeing right now.
That Rob Portman is very…
Is a key, yes..
… key to negotiating right now.
It's all connected in the end.
It's all — we're bringing it all back.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith.
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