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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on the American Rescue Plan

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the American Rescue Plan, what passage of the massive aid package will mean for President Biden, the risks for Democrats and Republicans moving forward, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's future.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back now to our top political story of the day.

    The American Rescue Plan, as it's named, is in its final stretch toward becoming law, marking President Biden's first significant legislative achievement since taking office nearly 50 days ago.

    Our Politics Monday team is here to analyze what it means.

    That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you. So good to see you.

    And let's start by talking about this.

    Amy, it is about to cross the finish line. What does it mean for President Biden? And does it diminish the win in any way that he didn't get any Republican votes, or doesn't appear to be getting any?

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

    I mean, Judy, it is a big win to get a bill passed in this day and age with everything you wanted in it. Remember, he came out, the administration came out saying, this is a $1.9 trillion package. And it looks like he's going to get a $1.9 trillion package. There are some changes in there. But he pretty much got what he wanted. It was drama-free.

    I mean, there was a little bit of consternation on Friday night about Joe Manchin and the debate over unemployment extension — unemployment insurance extension.

    But, overall, you think how different it is, Judy, than what we have been watching for the last four years, right, where a deal that looked like it was going one way could be derailed just by a tweet coming from President Trump.

    This had all the markings of just sort of a traditional way of moving through a piece of legislation. And the Democratic Party is really united on this. Now, does it mean they're going to be united for everything to come? It's unclear.

    The big risk for Democrats going forward is that they put a lot of their political capital into this, and that it doesn't work. The risk for Republicans is that they all voted against it, and it does work.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, pick up on that. I mean, what does it mean going forward, I mean, the fact that no Republicans voted for it, and the fact you have got other important legislation coming down the pike?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, the groundwork for this win for President Biden — and this will be a big win, and he will do a prime-time address, and he will continue talking about it for several weeks to sort of cement the idea in people's minds that this is a big deal.

    This was hatched on January 5, when those Senate seats in Georgia were won by Democrats, instead of Republicans, and then Democrats got this narrowest possible majority in the Senate, which they were then able to use to make this deal happen, to get this bill over the finish line without any Republicans.

    And you're right. This was a unique situation. They were using budget reconciliation, which is a process that they can't use for every bill. It has to be budget-related. And so, in the future, for things like raising the minimum wage, for instance, or gun control legislation, or infrastructure, which is, I think, where President Biden wants to turn his attention next, his Build Back Better plan, as they call it, all of that is likely going to require bipartisan support, particularly in the Senate.

    These are not going to be things that can get done only through budget reconciliation with the narrowest 50-vote majority.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much coming down the pike, voting rights and the rest of it.

    I want to turn you both to something else that is in the headlines right now. And that is New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, Amy, not only accused of not being truthful about nursing home deaths in his state from COVID, but also, as we know now, a number of accusations from young women that he was — accusing him of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment.

    What do you make of his handling of it? I mean, every time we think the story, the MeToo stories may be go going away, they pop up again. There are now two Republican members of Congress, Madison Cawthorn, Ronny Jackson, who have had their own accusations made about them.

    What do you see happening first, though, with Governor Cuomo?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, I think what we're starting to see in New York, because everything's bigger in New York, it gets a whole lot of attention that maybe the governor of another smaller state wouldn't.

    Andrew Cuomo isn't just the governor of New York. He's a national figure. And he became a national figure, too, because of how much New York was at the epicenter early on in the COVID crisis.

    It's also the first real test for Democrats in this MeToo movement. It's one of their own. Al Franken was at the very beginning of this, the senator from Minnesota who resigned under pressure from many Democrats. But this is really since the Trump era has ended and the Biden era began, here's the first opportunity for Democrats to sort of put down their marker on how they're going to handle allegations of sexual harassment in their own ranks.

    And I think what you're seeing is pressure on the governor, first of all, to agree to the attorney general investigating which he has agreed to. You're starting to see legislators, Democratic legislators, calling for him to resign.

    I think, as this moves forward, depending on what comes forward, you may see more people announcing that. The biggest political hurdle for Cuomo right now — or the biggest question mark is, does he run for a fourth term and can he run for a fourth term? Or is it — are we going to be talking about a resignation before then?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I think, to Tam, a lot of people are asking, is this the kind of thing he can survive? I mean, he says he's not — he's not going anywhere.

    But they have now — these accusations have now reached a level that, as Amy says, a number of prominent state Democrats are calling on him to step down.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And I think Democrats are really still, as Amy said, trying to figure out their footing when it comes to MeToo and other scandals.

    Democrats, certainly, during Al Franken's period in the early part of this MeToo movement, had essentially a zero tolerance policy, whereas Republicans did not have a zero tolerance policy. They have been fairly tolerant of some unfortunate behavior.

    And you have this most recent example, where Republicans have felt maybe Democrats took it too far and questioned whether Democrats would regret the zero tolerance policy. Well, now you have a situation where you have someone who's saying, I'm not going to go.

    And, typically, in these sorts of cases, if someone isn't going to go, then there isn't a mechanism really, other than an election, to get them to go. And that's what you saw in Virginia with Governor Northam and others who were wrapped up in various scandals, a blackface scandal, other scandals.

    Top Democrats were calling for them to resign. Governor Northam and everyone else in top leadership in the state of Virginia stayed. And nothing happened. They just stayed.

    And so perhaps we are seeing another test of, hey, if you're just willing to stick it out and take the pressure, can you just take the pressure indefinitely?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are watching it, and we will see what happens, and we will have more opportunities to ask you about it down the line.

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

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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