What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump’s CPAC appearance and Biden’s immigration policies

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest political news, including President Biden's immigration policies, the debate over COVID relief in the Senate, and former President Donald Trump's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference and his future in the Republican Party.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Welcome back to you both, ladies. Good to see you, and happy Monday.

    Let's pick up where Yamiche left off.

    Tam, I want to start with you.

    CPAC, of course, Trump's first public appearance since leaving the White House. When he left the White House, he was still saying he won the election, falsely claiming that, slamming his critics, slamming his successor.

    How much has changed in his messaging since then? What was your takeaway?

  • Tamara Keith:

    (AUDIO GAP) know the answer.

    Almost nothing has changed, accept maybe the tense of some of the words he was saying. Some of it was in past tense. His criticisms of President Biden were very similar to his warnings about what he thought a President Biden would do back when he was a candidate. And, as you say, he is continuing these false claims.

    One bit of news that he made is that he said he is not planning to start his own political party, not going to create a third party. That would be a lot of work. The question though, is, what is he going to do now? He obviously likes attention. He likes consuming media oxygen.

    But is he going to go after this enemies list that he read off and try to hurt them? And how many of them could he even really hurt? He did make a pitch in his speech for his political action committee raising money. And he could potentially use the money that political action committee raises to go after incumbent Republicans.

    But it is not clear that that is a great strategy for Republicans winning back the majority in 2022.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Amy, we heard from Senator Bill Cassidy in that piece from money. You heard from him two weeks ago. He was asked about Trump's future in the party. And he said: I think his force wanes. He said they're a — the party is about more than just one person.

    Based on what you saw at CPAC and the support and the reception he got, do you think that Trump's force is waning?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, a couple of things.

    First, if you're Senator Cassidy, you have time to wait to see if that force wanes, because he is not up until 2024, as are most of the senators. Only one of them who voted to impeach the president is on the ballot in 2022. It is the House members, of course, who are up next year who are going to see just how much power he still wields over the party.

    The other thing about CPAC, it's often been called — it is the heart of the conservative movement. But many times, it's actually been sort of out of step with where the party's going. Often, the winner of the straw poll, in fact, more often than not, the winner of that so-called straw poll, where people vote on who they want to see as their nominee in the next presidential election, is not the person who ultimately wins it.

    But more important, I think, is what Tamara brought up, which is, where is he going to use the muscle that he has now? Is he going to use it to retaliate, use the money and the power of his still important post-presidency bully pulpit to go after its enemies?

    Or is he going to use all this money that he's raised to go and actually try to win in competitive races, win in — win back control the Senate, win back control of the House? And who's making those decisions for him?

    As I have said on here before, he's a candidate who, as a candidate, very rarely spent money on anyone who wasn't himself. So, the thought of him going in and spending money on candidates when he's not on the ballot, that will be a big change.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Tam, what about, meanwhile, back at the White House today? We saw a lot of news on the immigration front when it came to President Biden and his team.

    Biden is walking a very fine line here, right? He's trying to turn the page on the previous administration, but he's also facing some of the exact same border challenges that his predecessors have. How is he doing at walking that line so far?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It is challenging, as president after president has discovered.

    And the thing is, President Biden on his first day said, here's immigration legislation that I'd like to see go through Congress.

    The odds of that actually happening are pretty low. It's been a generation since Congress has really revamped America's immigration laws. And the reality is that there is only so much that you can do through executive action. And the Biden White House is seeing some of those challenges.

    President Trump and the Trump administration, former President Trump, made changes to the way the immigration system functions. Now the Biden administration is coming in and trying to change it back or make other changes. And they are dealing with some of the very same challenges that both former President Trump and former President Obama dealt with, including unaccompanied migrant minors, teenagers and children showing up at the border, having to figure out how to house them and what to do with them.

    And the Biden administration is facing criticism that it is detaining children, just like the Trump administration did, though there are differences, certainly.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Amy, of course, we know there's a massive legislative proposal on immigration that they are moving forward to trying to move forward right now.

    But there's also this other major piece of legislation, which is this nearly $2 trillion COVID relief plan. There's a deadline attached to that. Those unemployment benefits expire March 14. Where does that stand and how are Democrats going to move this forward?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, it seems as if Democrats are very united on this. It passed the House with all but two Democrats voting for it.

    It looks as if this debate over the $15 minimum wage is now over, with Democratic senators basically acknowledging that they don't have the time to be able to work out some sort of new agreement to get something like an increase in the minimum wage in this bill.

    So, Democrats are incredibly united on this. And that suggests that this is going to be able to pass, that this will be the first major piece of legislation under the president's belt.

    And it's notable, by the way, that, at CPAC, for all the attacks that former President Trump made on Biden, there wasn't a whole lot of talk about this bill. There wasn't a whole lot of pushback on this piece of legislation. Instead, it was focused on the things that Trump really likes talking about, namely, immigration, the border, and some of these culture war issues.

    So, the issue going forward, of course, is that for something that's, right now at least, pretty popular, will Republicans be able to make this issue the fundamental issue as they go into looking at the next election? Or will they be going back to some of these old standards, like immigration, like the culture wars, and, quite frankly, if this legislation actually follows through?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, when it comes to that COVID relief bill, we heard from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying that he expects a hearty debate and some late nights ahead. So, get your sleep while you can, ladies.

    That is Tamara Keith and Amy Walter kicking off the week for us with Politics Monday.

    Good to see you guys.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Good to see you.

Listen to this Segment