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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Liz Cheney, Trump and the GOP

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including internal Republican politics over Rep. Liz Cheney’s House position, former President Trump’s influence on the party, and bipartisanship on President Biden’s plans.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This week in Washington, a host of meetings with the potential to reshape politics and policy, from House Republicans readying to oust their conference chair, to President Biden hosting the big four congressional leaders at the White House.

    It's the perfect time for Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you on this Monday.

    There is a lot to talk about.

    But, Amy, let's start with what looks like is going to happen on Wednesday in the House Republican Conference. The minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, sent a letter today to conference members, telling them for sure the vote on the conference chair is going to happen to oust Liz Cheney.

    And, among other things, he said — and I'm quoting — "Each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future."

    And, of course, he is referring to the perception that Liz Cheney is relitigating the past with her references to President Trump and what happened on January the 6th, saying that it is not the case that President Trump won the election.

    But, quickly, Amy, is there a risk for Republicans in doing this? We know most Americans don't think President Trump won the election.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, there is some irony in there, Judy, to say, well, we — the best way to not relitigate the past is just to all agree that, when someone disagrees, you stick with Trump, right? So we can agree that there is no disagreement and Trump has control over the party.

    All that said, when I talk to folks, Republicans especially, their feeling is that the media and Democrats are pouncing on this split or what they perceive to be a split within the party, that there is sort of an open wound here, and that Republicans do not want to make the 2022 elections about Donald Trump.

    They want to try to move on. And the best way to do that is to not allow the focus to be on Cheney's difference with the president, and the president continuing to go after her. Try to cauterize the wound now. Move on. Talk about Joe Biden. Talk about Democrats. Make the election in 2022 a referendum on the party in power, not the party out of power.

    All that said, Judy, the reality, as we very well know, is that Trump is never appeased. You can appease him now in the short term by saying that Liz Cheney is out because she does not believe that the election was fraudulent, but something else is going to happen between now and whenever that he's going to be disappointed in Republicans. He will attack Republicans.

    And, once again, the leadership, the Republican leadership, is going to be in that uncomfortable position of having to respond.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, what's the thinking here, that you have — you have this president who — President — former President Trump is not going to stop saying that he believes he won the election.

    So, what's the thinking?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think the thinking is that anyone who contradicts him ends up having the nuclear option against them from former President Trump, that he is like a dog with a bone.

    And if you contradict him or criticize him, he is not going to let go of it. He is going to make you miserable. Just ask Adam Kinzinger and Mitt Romney and the late John McCain and everyone else that former President Trump has gone after.

    So, if they just don't talk about it, if Republicans can — whether they agree with the big lie or not, whether they — if they can just move on and not talk about it, not talk about what happened January 6, and try to focus on anything else, then maybe they won't antagonize the former president, because, once he's antagonized, he's not going to stop talking about it.

    He's not going to stop putting out statements. And it looks like he's going to at some point relatively soon start doing rallies. His supporters in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, who have all kinds of other issues, held a rally at The Villages, this Republican metropolis in Florida for seniors, held a rally over the weekend, an America First rally, that was really just a pro-Trump rally to go after everyone who's ever crossed Trump.

    There is energy for that. And President Trump, former President Trump is going to want to soak up that energy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And every week, we get closer to those midterms, even though we know they're in November of next year. It's all about strategy right now.

    But, Amy, speaking of Leader McCarthy, he's going to be one of those four congressional leaders at the White House this week meeting with President Biden. Interesting conversation, we expect,.

    What does a meeting like that actually accomplish? I mean, everybody knows where everybody's coming from.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    I mean, a lot of this, as you know very well, Judy, is about theater. It's difficult to make someone look like they are insanely partisan if they're actually sitting and having really nice and cordial conversation.

    We remember — go back a couple of years — the very fraught conversations that then President Trump had with Democratic leaders. And we all remember the cameras rolling sitting in the Oval Office where Speaker Pelosi and Donald Trump went after each other. And it was very hard then to argue that this was a president that was looking to find a compromise.

    At the end of the day, though, Judy, I do think that one of the things that is a real sort of speed bump in this whole, like, let's bring the two sides together and come to an agreement is not just how much it's going to cost, but how they're going to pay for it.

    And what Democrats are saying is, we're going to go back to that 2017 tax bill, and we're going to roll some of those tax cuts back on corporations and on rich folks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, saying, absolutely not, we're not touching that tax bill, we're going to pay for it, a much smaller bill, with fees, things like gas taxes and things like that.

    So, that, to me, more than just the cost of the new — this new infrastructure bill, is a real challenge to overcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, what does the White House expect from a meeting like this?

  • Tamara Keith:

    This is not the only meeting they're doing.

    In fact, it's coming pretty late in the game compared to some of the other meetings that President Biden and the White House have been having. So, President Biden later this week is also going to be meeting with Republicans who have expressed a willingness to come together and work, try to come to some sort of compromise on a much narrower infrastructure proposal that really focuses on that hard infrastructure, like roads and bridges and all of those things.

    So, whereas last week was the White House week of trying to sell the infrastructure plan, and President Biden and Vice President Harris and everybody else was out on the road trying to sell it, this is the week where they have turned back to Washington, and it's a week of talking about talking about it.

    It's the look like you're negotiating week. And maybe it will lead to something, but maybe it will just look like they're trying.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And very quickly, in the time we have left, Amy, we know President Biden, because we aired a clip of it earlier in the program, is urging Americans who have a job opportunity to take it, addressing criticism that some people are taking advantage of unemployment benefits.

    My question is, how concerned should the White House be about how this economy moves along with those tough jobs numbers last week?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, Judy, it's all about controlling the narrative.

    And where the White House would like the narrative to go is on the fact that it's not just unemployment benefits. It's things like childcare. It's things like vaccines. That's what's keeping people from going back to work. And once the money gets out for those things, people get vaccinated, the jobs will be filled.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, in just a few seconds.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    In some ways, it allows them to say, hey, this jobs report wasn't great. Maybe that means we do need $4 trillion of additional spending. But, certainly, no president wants a jobs — a jobs number like that. And so they are going to keep pushing on this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's a week we are going to be watching, even more than usual.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both for getting us started.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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