NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join William Brangham to discuss the latest political news, including the infrastructure deal, Congress' packed summer agenda and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political future after sexual harassment allegations.
I think it's a thunderstorm warning.
Thunderstorms, watch out from above. We'll hope the roof holds.
Amy, what do you make of this initial infrastructure bill that is going through? It does seem to be generating a fair amount of bipartisan support.
It does. I mean when you think back to, say, 2017, and this is really– I don't flow if irony is the right word but President Trump could have gotten a similar infrastructure bill had he wanted to do that. You know, we joked a lot about it's infrastructure week, it's infrastructure week but then President Trump had a bigger package that he would have gotten Republicans on board and many Democrats who would have been happy to vote for more spending here. But for whatever reason didn't want to do the work or whatever else it took to get that through.
And so, now, what you have is a bill that will have President Biden's signature on it instead of President Trumps, but the same elements are there for both, why you could get people on to a Trump bill and on to a Biden bill which is everybody loves bringing home the bacon. So there's real stuff in there that people love talking about.
But I think the other difference between say what would have happened 2017 and what is happening now, there are a number of members of the Senate who especially after January 6th said we need to show the world, and show America as well, but the world that this place can work, that we are not broken. That our legislative process can move through bipartisan work and it can be done in a very civil and thoughtful way and make it through the process.
And, Tam, this was — all of those factors that Amy is describing are true, and then this was also Biden's pitch all along, that I can be the one that can come and bring the two parties together. I mean, that — we are seeing the fruition of that to some extent.
Certainly and as Amy said, especially for President Biden, certainly, there are members of the Senate that this is important too. But for President Biden, it is incredibly important for him to be able to make the case that American democracy can work, that Washington isn't completely and totally and fundamentally broken.
Part of that is a midterm argument. Part of that is central to who President Biden is and why he ran for president and what he wants his presidency to represent. And it's kind of an old school idea, given the incredible divisions that exist in the country and the partisanship and polarization. It's an old school pitch that he's making —
That we come together and actually fix broken bridges and that's what the Senate actually does.
Right, and also just fascinating to watch former President Trump put out statement after statement after statement, not tweets but sort of in the form of a tweet, really just badgering Republicans saying don't do this, don't do this. A few of them have heard him but a large number are saying, well, you know, there are overriding reasons to ignore you.
And one of them is that they have long, Republicans in the Senate have long shown a willingness to buck President Trump, former President Trump on policy, where they aren't so willing to buck him on something that is personal. And for him, infrastructure is not nearly as personal as something like oh, I don't know, what happened on January 6th.
Right. This piece of legislation then moves to the House, of course, and then it's Nancy Pelosi's job to wrangle a broad spectrum within her own party. How does that play out?
It's not just a broad spectrum but it is she has very few members she can afford to lose. We talk so much about the 50-50 Senate but we don't talk about the fact that Democrats only basically have a three-seat cushion.
One thing that Nancy Pelosi does have going for her is she is not new to this game, right? She was speaker in that era from 2007 through 2011. So she has been on this before. Now, this is the smallest majority she has ever had to work with but I think she understands her caw cause in a way that very few politicians I think historically, we're going to look back and say there was nobody who I think was able to manage their caucus as well as she did.
So she understands what the pressure points are. And I also think the members, while they are going to go and publicly complain and go on TV and talk about — well, we need this, and you can't get my vote without that, if Joe Biden fails, so do they. Their majority rests on things getting done and so if he looks like he is not doing the work, if his approval rating starts to slide, it falls on them in the midterm. He's not up until 2024.
Tam, I want to shift gears to the scandal happening in New York state right now. Andrew Cuomo has been incredibly accused by 11 women of some pretty atrocious behavior. One of them came out some what publicly today and detailed these allegations against him being assaulted by him.
How do you see — is he going to survive this?
Yeah, and many of these actions that he is accused of were happening at the same time that he was portraying himself as a champion of women.
Which is just an added blow in all of this.
He is at the moment hanging on and is calculating, seemingly, with his pushback on all of the allegations, his professionally produced video with you pictures him hugging and grabbing people by the face. With all of that, he is calculating as other politicians have successfully calculated in the past, that if he just hangs on, maybe people will forget. Maybe they will just start focusing on governing again.
But there are so many factors working against him at this time. The question is, you know, is he really, really going to hang on or is he hanging on right up until he is no longer hanging on? And that's also its way it works, is that it seems like people are fighting until they're just — until they are not.
You hear Wiley coyote in the clip.
But as Tam is saying, Amy, there are examples, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump —
— who also faced credible allegations of sexual harassment, and —
And they held on, right? The one thing that they have that Andrew Cuomo doesn't is support from their base.
So if you look back, even just a month ago polling in the state showed that more than 50 percent of Democrats said don't impeach Andrew Cuomo. And this is still when the allegations, not the report but still there are incredible allegations there was all of still the investigation into nursing home deaths and COVID. So there was still a lot of stuff there. And he did have the base.
But now post the attorney general's report, more than 50 percent say he should be impeached. So if you don't have leaders on your side, the entire Democratic Party has abandoned you, your legislature run by Democrats has abandoned you, your — literally your right hand aide has abandoned and voters aren't with you, that is — talk about a man being an island. As somebody said, someone on an island and then the high tide is also coming in. So that is super nature-esque (ph).
Right. And allegedly though he is in a fighting mood, seems like he's going to fight this.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, great to see you both. Thank you.
Good to see you. You're welcome.
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